Semi-Trads trip over the Papacy…

The Stumbling Block of the Papacy:
Why Bergoglio doesn’t fit

At the dictation of the Holy Ghost, the first Pope, St. Peter, wrote concerning his Lord and Master Jesus Christ:

…it is said in the scripture [Is 28:16]: Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious. And he that shall believe in him, shall not be confounded. To you therefore that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner: And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set.

(1 Peter 2:6-8)

It is fitting that the Pope, being the Vicar of Christ, should have a share in His Lord’s attribute of being a stumbling block to those who do not believe. In our day, this truth is being accentuated with particular force, although in a way that most would, presumably, never have expected.

In a recent post entitled “A Dangerous Experiment: Taking Francis’ Claim to the Papacy Seriously”, we took the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Pastor Aeternus, and replaced each occurrence of the phrase “Roman Pontiff” in it with “Pope Francis”, to demonstrate what one would have to believe about Francis if he truly were the Pope of the Catholic Church. After all, to accept a man as Pope means to affirm of him whatever the Church affirms of the Papacy.

The results of this experiment were grotesque and showed that most people who call themselves “traditional Catholics” and accept Jorge Bergoglio as Pope, do not in fact believe about him what the Church teaches about the Pope. The excuses people come up with to justify their stance are endless, but they all seem to be consistently driven by one single overall motive: to avoid Sedevacantism at all costs. That price, however, is too high; because by taking an anything-but-Sedevacantism approach, they distort and thereby deny the Catholic Faith of which they imagine themselves to be loyal adherents and staunch defenders.

Put in figurative but more practical terms, the recognize-and-resist traditionalists are faced with the problem of the square peg (Bergoglio) not fitting into the round hole (Papacy). Since the two won’t fit, there are only two ways to make them fit if one insists on recognizing Francis as the Pope of the Catholic Church: either modify the peg (by spinning Bergoglio into a Catholic) or modify the hole (by changing and thus denying Catholic doctrine on the Papacy).

In the face of the undeniability of Francis’ open apostasy, more and more people who refuse to let go of the idea that the man really is the Pope, are going with the second option. That is, they would rather deny the office of the Papacy than deny that one particular man actually possesses it. Here is a brief excerpt from one of our podcasts making this very point:


This tragic phenomenon we will evaluate in this post. In particular, we will examine three recent cases of individuals who mean to be traditional Roman Catholics but have, explicitly or implicitly, denied (“stumbled over”) the Papacy as a result of their refusal to abandon the idea that Francis is a true Vicar of Christ. In other words, because they have insisted on continued use of the square peg and were determined to make it fit into the round hole, they left themselves no choice but to clumsily and forcefully adjust the shape of the hole.

The three individuals who have recently engaged in this impossible task are: Nick Donnelly, Hilary White, and George Neumayr.

Nick Donnelly

We’ll begin with Nick Donnelly, a Novus Ordo permanent deacon in Lancaster, England, who owns the web site and is active on Twitter.

For years Donnelly ran his Twitter account under the handle @ProtectThePope, yet a few days ago, on July 17, he notified his followers that he was changing his Twitter name from @ProtectThePope to @ProtectTheFaith. Take a look at his tweet announcing the change (click image to enlarge):

(direct link to tweet)

This change from “Pope” to “Faith” is very revealing: Donnelly had to change his handle because it became manifestly undeniable that protecting the Faith could not be accomplished by protecting (defending) Francis. As the last 4+ years have proved, “Pope” Francis is clearly not the bulwark of the Faith, is not the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. But that is precisely what the Pope — a real Pope — is, according to Catholic teaching:

By the See of the chief of the Apostles, namely by the Roman Church, through the same Peter, as well as through his successors, have not the comments of all the heretics been disapproved, rejected, and overcome, and the hearts of the brethren in the faith of Peter which so far neither has failed, nor up to the end will fail, been strengthened?

(Pope St. Leo IX, Apostolic Letter In Terra PaxDenz. 351)


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)


Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)


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)


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.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4)

As we can see here, in the Catholic Church, protecting the Pope is protecting the Faith because the Pope himself is the divinely guaranteed guardian of the Faith.

Presumably, this was also Donnelly’s own understanding at some point and the reason why he originally set up his handle as @ProtectThePope to begin with. But then Francis came and made a mess, and now Donnelly has stumbled: Instead of leaving his Twitter handle intact and rejecting Francis as Pope — which would have been compatible with Catholic principles –, he decided to retain Francis and instead change his idea about the Papacy. In other words, instead of tossing out the square peg, he decided the hole needed adjustment.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that Twitter does not allow account names longer than 15 characters, else Mr. Donnelly might have chosen @ProtectTheFaithFromThePope as his new handle, which would have illustrated the monstrous absurdity of the notion that Francis is a true Pope, even more clearly.

We must never forget that Catholic teaching on the Papacy applies to each and every Pope equally. Once he is validly elected and accepts the office, even an unfit man, an oddball, or a great sinner is no less of a Pope and is owed no less submission and obedience by Catholics than a St. Pius X or a St. Gregory the Great:

The Church, as St. Leo the Great teaches, in well-ordered love accepts Peter in the See of Peter, and sees and honors Peter in the person of his successor the Roman pontiff. Peter still maintains the concern of all pastors in guarding their flocks, and his high rank does not fail even in an unworthy heir. In Peter then, as is aptly remarked by the same holy Doctor, the courage of all is strengthened and the help of divine grace is so ordered that the constancy conferred on Peter through Christ is conferred on the apostles through Peter.

(Pope Leo XII, Encyclical Ubi Primum, n. 22)


All who defend the faith should aim to implant deeply in your faithful people the virtues of piety, veneration, and respect for this supreme See of Peter. Let the faithful recall the fact that Peter, Prince of Apostles is alive here and rules in his successors, and that his office does not fail even in an unworthy heir. Let them recall that Christ the Lord placed the impregnable foundation of his Church on this See of Peter [Mt 16:18] and gave to Peter himself the keys of the kingdom of Heaven [Mt 16:19]. Christ then prayed that his faith would not fail, and commanded Peter to strengthen his brothers in the faith [Lk 22:32]. Consequently the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, holds a primacy over the whole world and is the true Vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christians.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 16)


…the Church has received from on high a promise which guarantees her against every human weakness. What does it matter that the helm of the symbolic barque has been entrusted to feeble hands, when the Divine Pilot stands on the bridge, where, though invisible, He is watching and ruling? Blessed be the strength of his arm and the multitude of his mercies!

(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, March 20, 1900; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 349; underlining added.)

Not only is this the dogmatic teaching of the Church, it is also verified in ecclesiastical history, as we can see, for example, in the case of the notoriously sinful and unfit Pope John XII:

Nothing in his life marked him for this office, and everything should have kept him from it. He was rarely seen in church. His days and nights were spent in the company of young men and of disreputable women, in the pleasures of the table and of amusements and of the hunt, or in even more sinful sensual enjoyments. It is related that sometimes, in the midst of dissolute revelry, the prince had been seen to drink to the health of the devil. Raised to the papal office, Octavian changed his name and took the name of John XII. He was the first pope thus to assume a new name. But his new dignity brought about no change in his morals, and merely added the guilt of sacrilege.

Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy. There is not a heretic or a schismatic who has not endeavored to legitimate his own conduct dogmatically: Photius tried to justify his pride, Luther his sensual passions, Calvin his cold cruelty. Neither Sergius III nor John XII nor Benedict IX nor Alexander VI, supreme pontiffs, definers of the faith, certain of being heard and obeyed by the whole Church, uttered, from the height of their apostolic pulpit, a single word that could be an approval of their disorders.

At times John XII even became the defender of the threatened social order, of offended canon law, and of the religious life exposed to danger.

(Rev. Fernand Mourret, A History of the Catholic Church, Vol. 3 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], pp. 510-511)

Let no one, therefore, say that Francis is a “bad Pope”. He is not. He is a non-Pope. A bad man who is a Catholic can be Pope, but a non-Catholic man cannot. (This is explained further here.)

Hilary White

Next, we turn to another recent Papacy stumbler, the semi-traditionalist blogger and Remnant contributor Hilary White. On July 16, she sent this tweet:

(direct link to tweet)

Notice that Miss White is questioning Vatican I, not Vatican II. Talk about stumbling over the Papacy!

But then, what should keep her from it, given the “recognize-and-resist” position she espouses? After all, if we can resist one legitimate church council, why not the others as well? This is simply the logical conclusion of the resistance position, where each individual Catholic is ultimately the judge over which magisterial pronouncements to accept and reject, and where each believer determines for himself when the Pope is to be submitted to and when he must be resisted. The end result? Absolute chaos, with no possibility of resolution even in principle, since the Pope has been rejected as the ultimate Catholic authority that can bind consciences and move wills. The Pope is reduced to a figurehead who is “followed” only whenever what he decrees is already in agreement with the personal conviction of each believer. (We elaborate a bit more on this in our response to SSPX-resistance priest Fr. Francois Chazal.)

So now White has simply extended her resistance to Vatican I as well. And for what reason? Because it seemed better to her to throw out Vatican I than to give up the idea that Francis is Pope. (Once again, modifying the round hole was preferred to junking the square peg.) We had warned about this back in April in our response to Steve Skojec’s preposterous recommendation of a “practical Sedevacantism”, the idea that we must say Francis is Pope but act like he’s not:

Thus, while “practical sedevacantists” may very well think of themselves as retaining the traditional Catholic faith, the truth is that they have long rejected it — keeping in mind that rejecting even one dogma rejects the Faith entirely, since the Faith exists only as a whole and not in parts or degrees….

Certainly, the “practical sedevacantist” may perhaps pay lipservice to the traditional Catholic teaching while contradicting it in practice, but such a course of action would not only be dishonest and hypocritical, it would also amount to cognitive dissonance, a state in which one’s actions deny — or at least do not match — one’s thoughts or stated beliefs. Such a state cannot last long for a sane human being. The discrepancy between one’s thoughts and one’s actions will quickly resolve itself into either changing one’s actions to align with the thoughts, or changing one’s thoughts to correspond with the actions.

Since he refuses to abandon the belief that Francis is a true Pope, no matter the consequences, the “practical sedevacantist” thus forces himself to either submit to Francis and become Novus Ordo, or else deny the traditional Catholic teaching on the Papacy. We are reminded of these words of St. Jerome: “…every schism fabricates a heresy for itself to justify its withdrawal from the Church” (qtd. by Pope Pius IX, Encylical Quartus Supra, n. 13).

(“Anything but Sedevacantism! Analysis of a curious Phenomenon”, Novus Ordo Wire, Apr. 25, 2017)

Tragically, White has proven our analysis correct: No longer able to bear the obvious conflict between the teaching of the First Vatican Council on the Papacy and the known facts about Jorge Bergoglio, White is now toying with the idea of abandoning belief in the Papacy altogether. This corroborates the warnings we’ve issued on this blog and in some of our podcasts, namely, that acceptance of Francis as Pope is dangerous and destructive of the very Faith one means to uphold.

George Neumayr

Lastly, we will examine some ideas recently put forth by George Neumayr, who writes for The American Spectator and just published the highly informative work The Political Pope: How Pope Francis Is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives (New York, NY: Center Street, 2017).

On July 14, Mr. Neumayr appeared as a guest on the Tom Woods Show (episode no. 952) to discuss his new book, meaning he spoke in detail about the apostasy of “Pope” Francis. Toward the end of the program, Woods asked Neumayr what he would, ideally, like to see happen in the church now with regard to the “Pope”. Neumayr’s response was explosive and telling: “This might sound glib but the best-case scenario that I could envision would be if the Pope converted to Catholicism” (31:25 min mark)!

Yes, wouldn’t it be helpful if the Pope were also a Catholic? If the head of the Catholic Church were also a member of the Catholic Church? Wouldn’t that make the Catholic teaching on the Papacy — especially Vatican I — so much easier and more meaningful?

As we saw above, the simple fact of the matter is that Catholic doctrine does not allow for the idea of a non-Catholic Pope. It’s impossible, nay absurd. For Neumayr to state something so outrageous shows that he does not know — or, at any rate, does not adhere to — Catholic teaching on the Papacy. How could the Pope be the rock on which rests the foundation of the Church and which the gates of hell cannot overthrow, if he himself denies the very Faith his office is divinely guaranteed to protect?

Neumayr elaborates on his answer and goes on to describe various other possible scenarios he envisions. Although we cannot transcribe everything here, you can listen to the entire podcast at this link. There is, however, one more comment he makes that we cannot pass over in silence (beginning at the audio’s 32:28 min mark):

Catholics are going to have to decide whether they [audio unclear] the Faith over papolatry; whether preserving the integrity of the faith is more important to them than maintaining a sort of phony appearance of unity. The cardinals are going to have to decide whether they’re really defenders of the faith or not. And if they do make that decision, then they have only one choice, and that is to declare to the faithful that the current Pope is a bad Pope, and he must be resisted, for the good of the faith.

Now that’s a new one: The Novus Ordo cardinals are to get together and declare, not that Francis isn’t a Pope, or that they will remove him from office (which they couldn’t do if he were a true Pope, but this had been suggested by semi-trads before), but that he is a bad Pope and ought to be resisted!? Precisely where in Catholic doctrine does Mr. Neumayr find such an idea? Is he making it up as he goes along?

This shows that people have lost all sense of what the Papacy is, even those people who think themselves defenders of the Faith. And no wonder, for if you continually make yourself believe that a square peg can go through a round hole, it is not surprising if after a while you start thinking of the hole as having corners itself.

The Pope is sovereign and supreme. No one can judge him; no one can punish him; no one can even subject him to a trial, and all must submit to him under pain of eternal damnation. We have laid out all this in some detail at the following links:

There is a lot more in the Neumayr podcast audio that we could take issue with here — such as his claim that if Francis doesn’t answer the dubia, there is no way to know whether he is a formal heretic or not — but this will suffice to make our point: Once again an attempt is being made to “defend the Faith” by people denying that Faith. We have no reason to doubt Mr. Neumayr’s sincerity and good will, but that is irrelevant to the cold hard fact that he cannot defend a Faith that he himself does not hold. It is absolutely astonishing to see to what lengths people will go in order to avoid the conclusion that Francis is not a valid Pope. There really does seem to be a veritable “Sedevacantophobia”.

Answering a Common Objection

At this point, someone may argue that there is no danger in accepting Francis as Pope, as long as we reject whatever he teaches that is false. We can simply “take what is good” from him and “reject what is bad”, can’t we?

The short answer is no, we can’t. The longer answer is given by St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church. In his magnificent treatise On the Roman Pontiff, he refutes precisely this very argument:

The Pope is the Teacher and Shepherd of the whole Church, thus, the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.

Now our adversaries respond that the Church ought to hear him so long as he teaches correctly, for God must be heard more than men.

On the other hand, who will judge whether the Pope has taught rightly or not? For it is not for the sheep to judge whether the shepherd wanders off, not even and especially in those matters which are truly doubtful. Nor do Christian sheep have any greater judge or teacher to whom they might have recourse. As we showed above, from the whole Church one can appeal to the Pope yet, from him no one is able to appeal; therefore necessarily the whole Church will err if the Pontiff would err.

(St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; translated by Ryan Grant as On the Roman Pontiff [Mediatrix Press, 2016], vol. 2, p. 160; underlining added.)

Again we see that the true Catholic teaching on the Papacy is all but forgotten in our day. If submission to the Pope consisted in nothing more than a “take what is good, reject what is bad” approach — in which each individual believer has to decide for himself what is good and what is bad, of course –, what would be the difference between a Pope and a Protestant minister? Could we not say the same about “Pastor Fred” at Rainbow Bible Fellowship down the street — take from him what is good and reject what is bad? Is the Papacy essentially the same, then, as the pseudo-offices of heretics? Is the Vicar of Christ and Sovereign Pontiff of the Bride of Christ really just another “Pastor Fred”?

Obviously not. But it is precisely to this that the recognize-and-resisters, especially the Society of St. Pius X, have reduced the Papacy in their stubborn refusal to abandon the idea that an apostate like Jorge Bergoglio could be the head of the Catholic Church. Apparently it is just so much easier to rework that round hole than to throw away the square peg and insist on one that will fit.

But can’t we just “leave all this to God”?

All these considerations likewise refute the so-called “Opinionists”, that is, those who maintain that it is entirely legitimate to accept Francis as Pope, as long as we don’t submit to him. But this would only be a tenable position if submission to the Pope were not required by Catholic doctrine — yet it is, under pain of heresy and under pain of schism. And this makes perfect sense, for it would be absurd to say that the Church could have a faith different from that of her head.

Still, some people sincerely wonder: “Can’t we just keep the Faith and simply not worry about the Pope issue? Whether Francis is Pope or not, we know what we have to believe and how to practice our religion. So can’t we just do that and leave the rest to God?”

At first sight, this might seem like a reasonable position to take, and one can sympathize with those of good will who hold it. There is so much turmoil, so much struggle in souls over everything that has happened, and one cannot help but feel a certain compassion for people who seek refuge in such a “let’s just be Catholic and leave this to God” approach.

However, while those who struggle deserve our sympathy and compassion indeed, this does not make the truth about the matter somehow relative or optional. In a nutshell: The reason why we cannot just “keep the Faith” and ignore the Pope question is that Catholic teaching on papal authority and submission to the Pope is part of the very Faith we need to keep and defend.

You cannot simply cut out a portion of the Faith and decide to only “keep the rest”. If you toss out the Papacy, you are not keeping the Faith, no matter how many other dogmas you embrace. Of course we understand that it takes people some time to “sort things out”, so to speak, and that is entirely legitimate. We do not condemn people who are searching for doing what they need to do: search, investigate, assess. But this does not take away from the fact that there is only one conclusion at which ultimately to arrive.

Consider this analogy: A Protestant man is having some doubts about his religion and is starting to research to see if Catholicism is true. This is difficult for him because he does not have a lot of Catholic apologetics material at his disposal, he has to work a lot of hours to support his wife and eight children, and he is a slow reader. Besides, because of how he was raised, he has a difficult time accepting the Catholic veneration of saints and in particular Catholic teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Do we sympathize with this man’s struggle? Of course we do. Do we recognize his good will, pray for him, try to help him, and wish him well? Naturally. But none of this means that the truth of the Catholic religion is therefore a matter of opinion, that it is not that important, that he can just “accept Christ, try to live a holy life, and leave the rest to God.”

The mere fact that people struggle to come to understand certain things does not do away with the fact that there is something to be understood. And that something is certain and not optional.

“But you have no Authority!”

The same goes for the objection that sedevacantists have “no authority” to require anyone else to be a sedevacantist. Of course we don’t. But then, we do not invoke any pretended authority to begin with. To return to the analogy we just used, Catholics also don’t have any authority to require a Protestant to be a Catholic. But it’s not a matter of authority: Catholicism is true because it is the religion founded by Jesus Christ, not because Catholics “authoritatively” declare it to be true. And just as this lack of authority on the part of individual Catholics with regard to converting Protestants does not render Catholicism optional, doubtful, or reduce it to an opinion, neither does a sedevacantist’s lack of authority make Sedevacantism optional or doubtful, nor does it make Francis’ status into an opinion.

The lack of authority is not a genuine difficulty because it simply does not require authority to point out that the peg is square, the hole is round, and the two don’t fit — and you’re not allowed to change the shape of either.

For those who would like to investigate this whole issue about opinion and authority further, we recommend the following:

These articles will help you rediscover the true Catholic teaching on the Papacy.

Believe in the Papacy, not in Francis

The Papacy is not the problem — anti-Catholic usurpers of the papal throne are. And unless we firmly reject their false claims to the Papacy, we will be led into serious error by them, either directly (by embracing their false teaching) or indirectly (by rejecting their false teaching but then, by necessary implication, denying the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy, which requires that we submit to papal teaching).

The Catholic teaching on the Pope is true, and it is immensely beautiful and consoling: “To you therefore that believe, he is honour” (1 Pet 2:7). At the same time, it is also quite terrible, because the rock of St. Peter, which perdures in all of his legitimate successors (see Denz. 1824 and our post on Perpetual Successors), “to them that believe not” becomes, like Christ, “the stone which the builders rejected, … the head of the corner: a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe, whereunto also they are set” (1 Pet 2:7-8). We must take great care, therefore, that we do not stumble: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder” (Mt 21:44).

The people we have criticized in this post, we have criticized in charity. We do not want to see them ground to powder, so to speak. They have stumbled and fallen, and we want to help them get up. We exhort them, therefore: “Do not believe in Francis at the expense of the Papacy! Rather, believe in the Papacy at the expense of Francis!”

Doubting or denying Catholic doctrine on the Papacy is a very serious sin, even heresy with regard to those teachings that are dogmatic. To all those who are more willing to doubt the Papacy than the legitimacy of the world’s greatest apostate, we say: Why? Why do you let Bergoglio do this to your soul? Why do you let him steal your faith? If Bergoglio causes you thus to sin against the Faith, cut him off! For it is better for you to enter Eternal Life without a Pope than to go to eternal damnation with (a putative) one (cf. Mt 5:29-30).

If this makes you uneasy and the prospect of having no Pope frightens you, this is understandable. However, do not let this be an excuse not to heed the admonitions of our Lord: “Fear not, only believe” (Mk 5:36); and, “…be not faithless, but believing” (Jn 20:27). It is okay to be frightened, but it is not okay not to believe: “…he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16); “Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 Jn 9).

And thus we believe.

We believe in the Papacy and therefore not in “Pope” Francis.

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39 Responses to “The Stumbling Block of the Papacy: Why Bergoglio doesn’t fit”

  1. entirelyuseless

    “But then, what should keep her from it, given the “recognize-and-resist” position she espouses? After all, if we can resist one
    legitimate church council, why not the others as well? This is simply
    the logical conclusion of the resistance position, where each individual
    Catholic is ultimately the judge over which magisterial pronouncements
    to accept and reject, and where each believer determines for himself
    when the Pope is to be submitted to and when he must be resisted. The
    end result? Absolute chaos, with no possibility of resolution even in principle,
    since the Pope has been rejected as the ultimate Catholic authority
    that can bind consciences and move wills. The Pope is reduced to a
    figurehead who is “followed” only whenever what he decrees is already in
    agreement with the personal conviction of each believer.”

    As I’ve said before, this is no different from your own position. In fact, you do not disagree with Recognize and Resist people about what can happen out there in the world. You just disagree about how we should describe what happened. E.g. suppose there were a legitimate Pope. Both you and the recognize & resist people believe the that man who is Pope could say, “Divorced and remarried people are allowed to receive communion.” The only difference is how you would describe the resulting situation: you would say, “that man is no longer the Pope.” The R&R people will say, “That man is still the Pope.”

    But it is the same visible situation, and it has the same visible consequences. If you can take a man who is Pope and suddenly decide that he is no longer Pope based on something he happened to say, that is no different from suddenly deciding that what a true Pope says happens to be false. Since we have the same visible situation, we have the same absolute chaos, with the same impossibility of resolution even in principle.

    • Classical

      You’re wrong. Nobody decides that a Pope isn’t a Pope. It’s by virtue of knowledge, that we see he isn’t one, or that he’s a heretic. Since everyone has eyes to see and ears to hear, and most people have an IQ of that of a rational human being, it isn’t difficult at all to know.
      When he can be demonstrated to defy almost every single principle of the faith, multiple times and without a care in the world, it’s pretty obvious. Even atheists love it, since they know he’s a 5th column hell-bent on destroying Catholicism and turning it into some branch of the United Nations.

      “Divorced and remarried people are allowed to receive communion.”

      No, nobody says he can say that. The Cardinals and bishops would have the right, to ask him, whether he actually believes this obstinately and would clarify why it is heretical.
      If at that point, he chooses to abandon the faith, it’s not by the judgement of the Cardinals or anyone else.
      It’s by his own perversity, that he ceases to be a Catholic altogether and would be striped of every title, work, rank and office even before any formal declaration.

      • Aliquantillus

        I tend to agree with you, but to my mind what you say severely conflicts with the following principle of St. Ignatius de Loyola: “We should always remind ourselves to believe that the white I see is black if the hierarchical Church so decides” (Guideline XIII of the Exercitia Spiritualia). In other words, if we see a contradiction between the words of the present Pope and historical Church teaching, the contradiction is really only in our mind but not in reality.

        • Classical

          He made a mistake. The same way plenty of Saints have supported anti-popes, but not out of bad will. Thomas Aquinas also made plenty of errors in Summa theologica, which are heretical to claim today or just plain wrong, but it’s still used today.

          Remember, he couldn’t summon the entire list of papal documents or Church teachings like we can today in a matter of seconds.
          He also never had to witness someone claimed to be the Pope, attempt to obfuscate almost every single principle of Catholicism.

          Edit: Ignatious was wrong since that quote rejects reason. And one, rejecting reason, also rejects Catholic Dogma in which it’s said.

          Vatican I dogmatic Constitution
          >The same Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the beginning and end of all things, may be certainly known by the natural light of human reason, by means of created things; “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” (Romans 1:20)…

    • Aaron Baugher

      It’s misleading at best to say “based on something he happened to say.” This is way past one chance heterodox remark. It’s a consistent pattern of heresy and scandal that was predicted by his past actions, began on his election, and has only accelerated since.

      I don’t think anyone here would argue that if a pope had consistently taught the Faith for years, and then one day happened to say in an interview, “There is no Catholic God,” we should immediately say, “Look, heresy, not the pope!” In that case, you’d assume he was trying to make a point, and it didn’t come through clearly or needed further explanation. You’d have trust and faith. Bergoglio’s Modernist utterances don’t each come in a vacuum; we know what the message is when he says these things, and what he’s trying to accomplish with them.

      • Aaron Baugher

        But you’re right about one thing: it does look very much like the same thing from the outside. The consequences are very different, though, and that’s why it’s so important to point out the real differences. The R&R position, if pursued long enough, will destroy the power of the papacy, turning it into largely a ceremonial position. The sedevacantist position preserves it. That distinction matters.

    • Novus Ordo Watch

      Your argument is false. Let me explain.

      Of course both positions have to deal with the same data, which is given: Someone who claims to be Pope is endorsing adultery (let’s just use that as our concrete example, but we can substitute any other heresy). To say that that somehow makes both positions essentially the same, however, is unjustified.

      On the contrary: The sedevacantist, adhering firmly to Catholic teaching on the Papacy, on the unity of the Church, on the Magisterium, etc., concludes that the man who utters such a thing cannot possibly be a true Pope, else we would be involved in a contradiction.

      The recognize-and-resister, on the other hand, says, we’ll recognize this man as the Pope anyway, we’ll just reject what he teaches.

      Those are two essentially different positions, and only one of them is compatible with Catholic teaching.

      And as explained in the above post, as well as the linked response to Fr. Chazal, the recognize-and-resist position creates a hopeless contradiction out of which there is no way out, because they reject the principle that the Pope is the final authority whose judgment binds their consciences.

      For the sedevacantist, the only difficulty — at this point — would be how to discern whether a true Pope is once again reigning. However, that out of the way, everything else falls into place. The Pope is owed submission and obedience, and no one can judge him. All you need to know is who is a true Pope. But once you know that, all Catholic teaching about the Papacy applies to him. The recognize-and-resister, on the other hand, will forever reserve to himself the right to reject anything from the Pope that he deems false, unjust, or not a good idea. And so in effect that recognize-and-resister believes that the Pope has to submit to each believer’s judgment, rather than the other way around.

      • entirelyuseless

        I don’t think you understand. “All you need to know is who is a true Pope” will not prevent the chaos. First of all, even if you personally accept that someone is a true Pope, other sedevacantists will not accept that that person is a true Pope, so the chaos will remain.

        Second, even if everyone accepts that someone is a true Pope, that will not prevent the person who is at one moment a true Pope, from saying at a later moment, “It is fine for divorced and remarried people to receive communion.” At that point, you will say that he was a true Pope but isn’t anymore. And so the chaos is back.

        • Novus Ordo Watch

          Certainly, there is a question as to how the true Pope would objectively prove his validity, but my point is that once that question is out of the way, the problem is solved. And this is in line with Catholic teaching. Recognize-and-resisters, on the other hand, do not accept the principle of submission to the Pope, so that even once a man is clearly proven to be Pope, still there is no solution whatsoever.

          Second, I deny that a true Pope would be able to do such a thing. But if he were, yes, at that point we would know he is not a true Pope, at least from that point forward, but that is simply what Catholic teaching requires us to conclude. That doesn’t result in chaos. What results in chaos is everyone acting as though he still were the true Pope and simply refusing him submission.

  2. jay

    If Catholicism is false even in one instance then it is wholly false. If we believe only in part, then we are denying Christ. Even if we are condemned by its law we still must believe in the whole faith as God’s truth. A valid Pope has a very easy job, He just has to follow what came before him. “If it is tradition say no more’.

    • poapratensis

      Check out my post above, and ask yourself if you really want to apply this principle in light of Vatican I. Perhaps the last true pope was Gregory XVI?

      • jay

        Pope Gregory XVI , Inter Praecipuas(#2) ” Indeed, you are aware that from the first ages called Christian ,it has been the peculiar artifice of heretics, that repudiating the traditional Word of God, and rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church, they either falsify the Scriptures at hand, or alter the explanation of the meaning”.

  3. Warren Malach

    Where is a VALID Pope to come from? The prophecy of La Sallette has obviously come true, and does not the TRUE Third Secret of Fatima promise that the Faith would be preserved in Portugal? Where are clergy with valid Orders saying the TRUE Mass from before the 1955 Holy Week “reforms”?

  4. João Crisóstomo

    Is it the liberalism that makes these people have these wrong and even heretical conclusions? Is it liberalism that will make the SSPX surrender to Francis or one of his successor apostates? Is liberalism the R & R thinker?

    • Siobhan

      It’s the Heresy of Modernism, within which liberalism is one of the plurality of Heresies contained in this Modernism-if you will, bc Modernism is a synthesis of heresies as described by Pope St. Pius X. Even the passive imbibing of this Heresy of Modernism into the soul darkens the intellect.
      To your questions-Sarda y Salvany -first is text & second is audio recorded by a sedevacantist.

  5. Aaron Baugher

    Excellent article, perhaps your best yet on the subject. Non-Catholics ask me if the bishops or cardinals can “impeach” the pope. I tell them no, if he’s the pope, he’s an absolute ruler, and they can do nothing against him. However, what they can do is say, “Clearly this man is not Catholic, therefore we currently have no pope, so we must hold a conclave and elect a pope. Someone go get the keys to the papal offices away from Bergoglio.”

    That’s not going to happen, because they basically agree with him, and only object to his methods and speed. But that’s what could happen. What seems more likely is that more of the V2 sect will decide to openly “resist” him, inventing new justifications for that and further weakening the papacy, which is part of his goal anyway.

    I’m glad you made the point that we shouldn’t “bash” the R&R types, because it’s tough to let go of that position. It took me a few years, although most of that time was spent avoiding sites like this and the arguments made here. It didn’t take long once I’d given them a fair hearing.

    • Tom A.

      It took me years to even consider the R&R position and when I reluctantly did, it just didnt seem right to resist a Pope. But once I came the understand the sede theory, it was very easy to accept. When I read John Lane’s Evaluation of Michael Davies the scales fell from my eyes.

  6. poapratensis

    There is a certain hypocrisy here. To accuse Hillary White of holding an “anything by Sedevacantism” position when essentially the brand of dogmatic Sedevacantism espoused here at NovusOrdoWatch could be called “anything but doubt Vatican I” when you already disregard Vatican II is a bit illogical, I think. I am not saying you are wrong. I happen to hold that non-dogmatic Sedevacantism is probably the best explanation for things. But Miss White has a point I think that Vatican I did more or less stake the Church’s claim for credibility on features which are no longer present in Her.

    “The church herself
    by reason of
    her astonishing propagation,
    her outstanding holiness and
    her inexhaustible fertility in every kind of goodness, by
    her catholic unity and
    her unconquerable stability,
    is a kind of great and perpetual motive of credibility and an incontrovertible evidence of her own divine mission.”

    Can anyone here honestly say that the Church has “outstanding holiness?” For crying out loud, the ITALIAN police, no paragons of honesty themselves, are investigating cocaine fueled orgies organized by high ranking churchmen in the Vatican! Does anyone find the propagation of the faith in the world today “astonishing?” Even if one holds a dogmatic Sedevacantist view, that the only true church is found in handfuls of Sedevacantist communities, one cannot admit this! Is there anything approaching UNITY or STABILITY? Or even GOODNESS?
    I happen to hold this whole approach of Vatican I to be more or less contrary to the tradition of Christianity. To me, the credibility of Christianity derives from the testimony (why it’s called the New Testament) of witnesses to miracles performed by God, and nothing less. If Christ didn’t resurrect, it’s all poppycock!

    • Nestorian

      Rejection of Vatican I is heresy for Catholics – full stop. If you reject Vatican I, you are not Catholic.

      Fortunately, you don’t have to be Catholic to recognize the credibility of the Resurrection accounts in the gospels.

    • Herman_U_Tick

      “But Miss White has a point I think that Vatican I did more or less stake the Church’s claim for credibility on features which are no longer present in Her.”

      These features were present for a long time however during which time they were remarkable.
      The catastrophic loss of faith since 1960 is also remarkable (in a bad way obviously) but it is also something which has been prophesied and so can be seen as evidence for the truth of the Christian Revelation.
      The eventual triumphant re-emergence of the Church is prophesied.
      Hang on to your hats.

    • Eric H

      If the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the true Church, exactly as she has taught about herself, then it’s all poppycock.

      You’d be left with a Protestant view of Church history, where the main body that always appeared to the world as the Church of Jesus Christ was doctrinally corrupt. That goes against reason, history, and Holy Scripture, and it makes God a fool.

      You’re correct that the “Roman Catholic” organization we see today is false, unholy, and wicked. It follows that this organization cannot be the real Roman Catholic Church. Simple as that.

      I’ve yet to hear a satisfying explanation of how the Church has not defected. It’s just something that Catholics must believe by a special grace of faith. It’s an ordinary part of Catholic life to have to believe things that you don’t understand, and that your mind would be inclined to doubt if not supported by grace. None of us wayfarers is immune from temptations against faith.

    • Novus Ordo Watch

      What does that have to do with hypocrisy? If Hilary White claims to be a Catholic, she cannot doubt or deny Vatican I. This is a Catholic web site. We assume the truth of Catholic dogma here without (usually) arguing for it. This web site is not meant to be apologetics for those who do not believe the Catholic Church is the true Church. Until now, I had assumed you were a Catholic.

      I suggest you read up on what the Catholic teaching is regarding holiness, unity, and indefectibility, and also what the Church has taught regarding the persecution of the Church in the last days.

      • poapratensis

        If you can reject Vatican II you can reject Vatican I. If you can say Roncalli is a false pope you can say Pius IX is a false pope. By the same logic used daily at this site I demonstrated that Vatican I cobtained what must be an error–it claimed the church’s credibility is proven by features which she no longer has. This means she is either not credible, or that that Vatican I is in error. Unless one can show a growing, holy, stable, and unified church, or course. I won’t hold my breath. Even if you maintain that there is a tiny remnant church that is the true church, is is certainly not growing and not unified. Most sedevacantists are far from unified.

        • Novus Ordo Watch

          Well, not quite.
          First, Hilary White is *not* questioning the validity of the papacy of Pius IX. If she did, she would at least have a position that is consistent.
          Second, of course you cannot simply “say” that such-and-such a papal claimant is a false pope. It has to be based on manifest evidence. The only way you can possibly reconcile Catholic teaching with the empirical facts after Pius XII’s passing is that the Vatican II “popes” absolutely were not Popes. And although the evidence may not have been as clear back in 1965 or so, we certainly have enough evidence now.

          The appearance of a “mystery of iniquity” that will be able to “take out of the way” the one “who withholdeth” (2 Thess 2) is part of Divine Revelation. It is also part of Divine Revelation that God would allow, at some point, a deception so great that, if it were possible, even the elect would be deceived (Mt 24:24).

          Sedevacantists ARE united per se, although not per accidens. This is explained in this post here:

          • poapratensis

            Look, it doesn’t take but the tiniest but certain fact or piece of evidence to prove something. The problem is with the certainess of the evidence. I agree Roncalli has considerable evidence of error, yet most of it is quite debatable, and this, I think, explains why so few people find the sedevacantist hypotheses compelling (there are many). However, that passage from Vatican I is pretty clear, though it is about a trivial matter really. Nobody thinks any of those things about the church, whatever she may look like or be. You cannot say these people have holiness. They are not unified. They are not growing in number or anything good. If the church’s credibility rests on these things declared at Vatican I, than either the church has defected or Vatican I was wrong on this point, which makes Pius IX the first possible anti-pope by the logic of sedevacantism. I happen to think in 1870 all those things could be said of the church, even going back to the first Pentecost, but I cannot honestly say any of those proofs of credibility exist today. Can you?

            Also, nearly every ecumenical council has had objectors. Today’s traditionalists may be more durable than most, but there were most certainly good arguements made. What makes the whole thing believable, to me, is that truth endures while error perishes. I think that the credibility claims made at Vatican I appear to be the latter. Since they were progulmated with all solemnity and no confusing pastoral hypotheses exist for Vatican I, like some do for Vatican II, this is a far greater problem, to my thinking at least.

          • Novus Ordo Watch

            I don’t see how the case of John XXIII should somehow lead people to reject Sedevacantism. If they think the case of John XXIII is debatable, then the right conclusion to draw would not be to reject Sedevacantism but to say that the last true Pope was John XXIII.

            The Catholic teaching on the marks of the Church did not come up at Vatican I for the first time, of course. It has been taught since time immemorial, and so one really cannot make this about Pius IX.

            While I don’t have a cookie-cutter answer for you, I would like to point to what Cardinal Manning said, in 1861, because this is very important and also pertains to the doctrine of the Church in this regard:

            “Then, the Church shall be scattered, driven into the wilderness, and shall be for a time, as it was in the beginning, invisible, hidden in catacombs, in dens, in mountains, in lurking- places; for a time it shall be swept, as it were, from the face of the earth. Such is the universal testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries.”

            Note in particular this last sentence: “Such is the universal testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries.”

            His Eminence further: “The Word of God tells us that towards the end of time the power of this world will become so irresistible and so triumphant that the Church of God will sink underneath its hand…. It will be deprived of protection. It will be weakened, baffled, and prostrate, and will lie bleeding at the feet of the powers of this world…. [The Church] will seem, for a while, to be defeated, and the power of the enemies of the faith for a time to prevail.”

            Citation information found here:

            You cannot reject Vatican I and still claim the title of Catholic.

          • poapratensis

            I do appreciate your answer here, but it is very perplexing to me, mostly because when you are normally very astute about assigning credibility and authority regarding theological matters, all of a sudden you go off the rails when it comes to anything regarding Vatican I and the marks of the Church. Cardinal Manning may be very interesting, it may explain things, and he may sincerely think that the fathers taught and maintained what he says, but it can never outweigh an Ecumenical Council presided by what seems to be a completely legitimate Pope–Pius IX. At least Vatican II has an exit strategy–one can say that both the Pope that convened it and the Pope that promulgated it were both imposters or somehow lost their office. This is precisely the problem with Vatican I. Sedevacantism IS NOT AN OPTION, as you point out. Yet, we are faced with teaching in Vatican I, which nobody wants to address directly, that is evidently in error. According to Vatican I the Church’s CREDIBILITY DERRIVES FROM HER HOLINESS, HER PROPGATAION and GROWTH, among other things, which are NO LONGER EVIDENT IN HER, or at least I don’t see them. No reasonable person can say that the organization is operating in the Vatican in 2017 is holy. Perhaps parts are, but only a remnant. And if the church has been reduced to this remnant, then how can one maintain that she is propagating or growing let alone united? It would seem that the “Manning Hypothesis” that you have suggest here is EXCLUDED as a possibility by the teaching of Vatican I, since according to Vatican I the church could never be in such a state, of if she was, her credibility would be dissolved as a consequence of it. Mind you, only this one error is enough to undermine the entire credibility of the Church as a whole. When an organization asserts 1) that it cannot err under certain circumstances, 2) it then promulgates some teaching which appears to be true at the time but is later shown to be impossible to maintain, 3) the promulgation of the teaching was under the circumstances that assure freedom from error pertaining to 1), then you have a total meltdown credibility wise. I desperately desire an explanation for this. I’ve read all of Vatican I through and most of Trent to see if it could provide any explanation, to no avail. Is it a translation matter (I doubt this, but I’ve consulted English translations only)?

          • Lee

            What teachings of Vatican I do you have a problem with? Present the teaching and explain how you think it contradicts itself. –

          • Novus Ordo Watch

            I don’t know if someone like Bp. Sanborn might have a satisfactory answer here (and he very possibly might) but I personally do not. All I can say is that when all our efforts fail, we must ultimately cede to mystery what God has obviously seen fit to keep hidden from us. It is inconceivable that what has been presented in the Tradition of the Church (acc. to Cardinal Manning) was contradicted or overruled by Vatican I. And I am not aware of Manning retracting or revising anything he wrote 9 years before the council. In fact, it was not until after the council that he was made a cardinal (in 1875, I believe).

            The beauty of Faith is that it is founded on God’s authority and truthfulness, not on our own reasoning abilities. It may very well be that God is sifting the wheat from the chaff in our times. May God grant us grace so that we will persevere in Faith, hope, and charity until the end of our lives.

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