A devastating rebuttal…
Mullarkey’s Malarkey: Novus Ordo Blogger affirms “First Among Equals” Heresy
A lot of people these days rush to blog about Catholic theology despite not having much of a clue. (The anonymous Mundabor is a stellar example in this regard.) Instead of bothering to look up what the actual Catholic teaching is on this or that topic, people like to simply go by what seems right to them — which saves them hours of research but exposes their hapless readers to being misled on matters pertaining to their eternal salvation.
A recent example of this can be seen in the case of Maureen Mullarkey, formerly a writer for the Novus Ordo publication First Things. She is one of the few Novus Ordo columnists who have had the guts to denounce “Pope” Francis’ malarkey, and for this we commend her. At the same time, replacing Francis’ malarkey with your own is not the solution, and unfortunately this is exactly what Mullarkey has done.
On Oct. 10, Mullarkey published the post “Notes on Amoris Laititia [sic] & Filial Correction” on her blog, Studio Matters (whose top banner contains painted nudity, so be careful). While the author’s chief intent is to oppose Francis’ reign of error and vindicate the recent “Filial Correction”, Mullarkey throws the baby out with the bathwater, for she contradicts Catholic dogma on several points. In other words, her monograph is heretical.
Let’s have a look at some of the heretical and otherwise unacceptable things she confidently asserts in her article:
The absolutist temper of a monarchial papacy, in which all authority flows downward from the Chair of Peter, is a cherished model among conservative Catholics. Yet it is conservatives who are now closer to the Roundhead position in spite of themselves. (The Roundheads opposed the divine right of kings, insisting that the English monarch could not govern without parliamentary consent.)
(Maureen Mullarkey, “Notes on Amoris Laititia [sic] & Filial Correction”, Studio Matters, Oct. 10, 2017)
It is lamentable to see Mullarkey phrase this in secular-political terms because politics has nothing to do with it. The “monarchial papacy” is not some “conservative preference” but Catholic dogma, one to which all Catholics must adhere at all times, under pain of mortal sin and loss of Church membership. More on that shortly.
Roberto de Mattei, writing from Rome in early 2015, published in Rorate Cæli a [sic] essay that resonates just now. “A Pope Who Fell Into Heresy; A Church that Resisted” summarized the 14th century contest between John XXII and defenders of Catholic orthodoxy over the issue of the Beatific Vision after death. Read it here.
As we pointed out in a recent blog post, the case of Pope John XXII is entirely unlike that of “Pope” Francis, and the first dissimilarity is that Pope John never adhered to any heresy at all, as we can find out easily by consulting pre-Vatican II Catholic sources. Roberto de Mattei is desperately trying to find historical precedent for a “heretical Pope” resisted by the Church so he can continue to hold Francis as Pope while not submitting to him. This is an impious and absurd attempt that promotes schism — and it will necessarily fail.
Returning to Mullarkey:
Singular deference to the person of the pope is the disfiguring aftereffect of conflation of papal primacy with papal inerrancy—on whatever matter the papal druthers plant a battle flag. Among the laity, the fusion exists as a species of idolatry. Papalolotry is today’s word for it. Among the episcopate, the amalgam counts as a courtier’s safeguard against rousing the ire of a king. Few in upper management want to be exiled to an obscure diocese by lordly resentment. At court, the rightful authority of bishops is checked by courtesy and reliance on royal favor. Amenability serves job security and advancement better than debate.
Notice how Mullarkey’s assertions here are entirely devoid of any documentation. She calls “singular deference to the Pope” — which she leaves conveniently undefined — a “disfiguring aftereffect”. Let’s see what the Catholic Magisterium says about that:
But if one wishes to search out the true source of all the evils which We have already lamented, as well as those which We pass over for the sake of brevity, he will surely find that from the start it has ever been a dogged contempt for the Church’s authority. 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. It is clear that contempt of the Church’s authority is opposed to the command of Christ and consequently opposes the apostles and their successors, the Church’s ministers who speak as their representatives. He who hears you, hears me; and he who despises you, despises me [Lk 10:16]; and the Church is the pillar and firmament of truth, as the apostle Paul teaches [1 Tim 3:15]. In reference to these words St. Augustine says: “Whoever is without the Church will not be reckoned among the sons, and whoever does not want to have the Church as mother will not have God as father.”
Therefore, venerable brothers, keep all these words in mind and often reflect on them. Teach your people great reverence for the Church’s authority which has been directly established by God. Do not lose heart. With St. Augustine We say that “all around us the waters of the flood are roaring, that is, the multiplicity of conflicting teaching. We are not in the flood but it surrounds us. We are hard pressed but not overwhelmed, buffeted but not submerged.”
(Pope Leo XII, Encyclical Ubi Primum, nn. 22-23)
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.
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, nn. 16-17)
Mullarkey also claims that “singular deference” to the Pope conflates “papal primacy with papal inerrancy”. But here too it is she who is mistaken: Submission to the Pope is not based upon the Pope’s inability to err, it is based upon the primacy the Pope enjoys as the divinely appointed teacher of all Christians. Even if Christ had chosen not to confer the gift of infallibility upon the extraordinary papal Magisterium, all Catholics would still be obliged to submit to the Pope.
Canon George Smith explained this very clearly in an essay published in 1935:
Herein lies the source of the obligation to believe what the Church teaches. The Church possesses the divine commission to teach, and hence there arises in the faithful a moral obligation to believe, which is founded ultimately, not upon the infallibility of the Church, but upon God’s sovereign right to the submission and intellectual allegiance (rationabile obsequium) of His creatures: “He that believeth…shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned” [Mk 16:16]. It is the God-given right of the Church to teach, and therefore it is the bounden duty of the faithful to believe.
But belief, however obligatory, is possible only on condition that the teaching proposed is guaranteed as credible. And therefore Christ added to His commission to teach the promise of the divine assistance: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world” [Mt 28:20]. This divine assistance implies that, at any rate within a certain sphere, the Church teaches infallibly; and consequently, at least within those limits, the credibility of her teaching is beyond question. When the Church teaches infallibly the faithful know that what she teaches belongs, either directly or indirectly, to the depositum fidei committed to her by Christ; and their faith thus becomes grounded, immediately or mediately, upon the divine authority. But the infallibility of the Church does not, precisely as such, render belief obligatory. It renders her teaching divinely credible. What makes belief obligatory is her divine commission to teach.
…Therefore, whether her teaching is guaranteed by infallibility or not, the Church is always the divinely appointed teacher and guardian of revealed truth, and consequently the supreme authority of the Church, even when it does not intervene to make an infallible and definitive decision on matters of faith or morals, has the right, in virtue of the divine commission, to command the obedient assent of the faithful. In the absence of infallibility the assent thus demanded cannot be that of faith, whether Catholic or ecclesiastical; it will be an assent of a lower order proportioned to its ground or motive. But whatever name be given to it – for the present we may call it belief – it is obligatory; obligatory not because the teaching is infallible – it is not – but because it is the teaching of the divinely appointed Church. It is the duty of the Church, as [Cardinal Johann] Franzelin has pointed out, not only to teach revealed doctrine but also to protect it, and therefore the Holy See “may prescribe as to be followed or proscribe as to be avoided theological opinions or opinions connected with theology, not only with the intention of infallibly deciding the truth by a definitive pronouncement, but also – without any such intention – merely for the purpose of safeguarding the security of Catholic doctrine.” If it is the duty of the Church, even though non-infallibly, to “prescribe or proscribe”doctrines to this end, then it is evidently also the duty of the faithful to accept them or reject them accordingly.
(Canon George Smith, “Must I Believe It?”, The Clergy Review, vol. 9 [April, 1935], pp. 296-309; italics in original; underlining added.)
Pope Leo XIII summed up the Catholic obligation to submit to one’s lawful superiors as follows:
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. In this subordination and dependence lie the order and life of the Church; in it is to be found the indispensable condition of well-being and good government. On the contrary, if it should happen that those who have no right to do so should attribute authority to themselves, if they presume to become judges and teachers, if inferiors in the government of the universal Church attempt or try to exert an influence different from that of the supreme authority, there follows a reversal of the true order, many minds are thrown into confusion, and souls leave the right path.
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)
So much for Mullarkey’s “aftereffect” nonsense. Subordination to the Church hierarchy is indispensable for the order and life of the Church. That is the traditional Catholic teaching.
Does this mean that members of the Church are unequal in rank? Yes, it does. Pope St. Pius X emphasized this point explicitly:
…the Church is the mystical body of Christ, ruled by the Pastors and Doctors (I Ephes. iv. II sqq.) — a society of men containing within its own fold chiefs who have full and perfect powers for ruling, teaching and judging (Matt. xxviii. 18-20; xvi. 18, 19; xviii. 17; Tit. ii. 15; 11. Cor. x. 6; xiii. 10. & c.). It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.
(Pope Pius X, Encyclical Vehementer Nos, n. 8)
As far as the ever popular charge of “papolatry” goes, we will let the famous 19th century priest Fr. Frederick Faber speak, who also knew a thing or two about the Papacy and devotion to the Pope:
But we may forget, and sometimes do forget, that it is not only not enough to love the Church, but that it is not possible to love the Church rightly, unless we also fear and reverence it. Our forgetfulness of this arises from our not having laid sufficiently deeply in our minds the conviction of the divine character of the Church… The very amount of human grandeur which there is round the Church causes us to forget occasionally that it is not a human institution.
Hence comes that wrong kind of criticism which is forgetful or regardless of the divine character of the Church. Hence comes our setting up our own minds and our own views as criteria of truth, as standards for the Church’s conduct. Hence comes sitting in judgment on the government and policy of Popes. Hence comes that unfilial and unsage carefulness to separate in all matters of the Church and Papacy what we consider to be divine from what we claim to be human. Hence comes the disrespectful fretfulness to distinguish between what we must concede to the Church and what we need not concede to the Church. Hence comes that irritable anxiety to see that the supernatural is kept well subordinated to the natural, as if we really believed we ought just now to strain every nerve lest a too credulous world should be falling a victim to excessive priestcraft and ultramontanism [“papolatry”?].
…Only let us once really master the truth that the Church is a divine institution, and then we shall see that such criticism is not simply a baseness and a disloyalty, but an impertinence and a sin.
(Rev. Frederick W. Faber, Devotion to the Church [London: Richardson & Son, 1861], pp. 23-24; italics in original; paragraph breaks added.)
We continue with Mullarkey’s malarkey:
Inklings of futility lurk in the Correctio‘s terms of address to Francis. It opens on bended knee by pledging “filial devotion toward yourself.” Filial, rather than fraternal, is a telling genuflection. So is the signatories’ reference to themselves as “subjects” (“subjects have by nature a duty to obey their superiors in all lawful things”). Wording echoes the tone of Pius X’s comments in 1906 that “the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led . . . like a docile flock.” Francis’ pontificate illustrates the hazards of such cast of mind.
There are no “hazards” in being subject to the Pope, as one must be. The real hazard is accepting a manifestly fake Pope as a true Pope — not in following Catholic teaching on the Papacy: “We exhort you”, Pope Pius IX told the French bishops, “to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors … and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See” (Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7; underlining added).
It really should not be difficult to accept that in relation to the Pope, all Catholics are subjects — not buddies, co-workers, neighbors, or anything else. Alas, it is clear that Mullarkey has stooped to denying the primacy of the Pope. The fact that she quotes St. Pius X (from the encyclical Vehementer Nos, n. 8) and has the gall to criticize his magisterial words suggests she is pertinacious — something we had hoped was not the case. May this rebuttal at least keep others from following her into heresy.
Pope Leo XIII had some unmistakable remarks for Catholics who recoil at the thought of being “subjects”:
By certain indications it is not difficult to conclude that among Catholics – doubtless as a result of current evils – there are some who, far from satisfied with the condition of “subject” which is theirs in the Church, think themselves able to take some part in her government, or at least, think they are allowed to examine and judge after their own fashion the acts of authority. A misplaced opinion, certainly. If it were to prevail, it would do very grave harm to the Church of God, in which, by the manifest will of her Divine Founder, there are to be distinguished in the most absolute fashion two parties: the teaching and the taught, the Shepherd and the flock, among whom there is one who is the head and the Supreme Shepherd of all.
(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)
The Catholic teaching on this is not complicated — Mullarkey simply opposes it. To be clear: She does not reject the teaching because she is Novus Ordo, for even the Novus Ordo Sect has retained this much. Mullarkey is on her own.
One last time we must return to her heretical screed:
The people of God are not children. Rightly ordered in their relationships to one another—include clergy here— neither are they subjects. Certainly not as that word is commonly understood. Catholics are subject to the Gospels and to the magisterium oriented toward them. But neither we nor the episcopate are subjects of a pope in the menial, subservient sense carried by that plural noun. The Bishop of Rome serves as “first among equals,” not as an imperial monarch ascendant over an episcopacy reduced to the status of delegates for papal sovereignty.
Here we have more Mullarkeyan assertions, without even the slightest attempt whatsoever to prove their truth — which only makes sense, considering that they are false.
The people of God are neither children nor subjects? Says who? Certainly not Sacred Scripture, which we assume Mullarkey would at least claim to believe in. The New Testament is full of references to the members of the Church as children (for example, see Jn 13:33; 1 Cor 4:15; 1 Jn 2:18), and we need but remember that we must indeed become like little children if we wish to be saved: “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).
As far as the members of the Church being subject to the Church hierarchy, St. Paul was pretty clear about that: “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you” (Heb 13:17). Besides, Our Lord Himself had told those He sent: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me” (Lk 10:17); and He condemned those who “will not hear the Church” (Mt 18:17). What is going on with Miss Mullarkey?
The author then claims that “[t]he Bishop of Rome serves as ‘first among equals'”, which is unmistakable heresy. “First among equals” is the infamous phrase used by the Eastern Orthodox — “primus inter pares” — in their denial of papal primacy. According to this heresy, the Pope is equal to the other bishops and possesses merely a primacy of honor, not one of jurisdiction as taught by the Church:
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; Denz. 1831)
The pre-Vatican II theologian Mgr. Gerard van Noort explicated the Catholic dogma on papal primacy as follows:
[Papal authority] is a real binding authority which demands as its correlative effect a duty, not simply of reverence, but of obedience in the strict sense of the term. The primacy, then, is worlds apart from any mere function of a presiding officer over his associates or confreres. Such an officer is merely an equal among equals and has primacy over the others only insofar as he directs the order to be followed in debating, voting, etc. Neither is the primacy of the pope simply an office of direction, for the notion of direction connotes counsel and persuasion rather than the exercise of genuine authority.
(Mgr. Gerard van Noort, Dogmatic Theology II: Christ’s Church [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1957], p. 280)
With the primus inter pares heresy, Mullarkey is in “good” company: It was uttered a few years ago by the infamous Vatican press office collaborator “Fr.” Thomas Rosica, who once called the Holy Family “irregular” (in the context of “irregular” being otherwise used to refer to immoral sexual relationships). In addition, the “first among equals” heresy is also Ratzinger doctrine, as Joseph Ratzinger (later “Pope” Benedict XVI) himself explicitly denies the dogma of papal primacy in his 1982 book Principles of Catholic Theology.
Does this look like “First among Equals” to you?
So, Mullarkey is simply wrong: The Pope is a monarch, and the other members of the Church are his subjects. Indeed, the Mystical Body of Christ consists of shepherds and sheep. This is how God set up the Church, and He knew what He was doing. Where is the problem?
The problem seems to be that as Mullarkey does not believe in the Papacy, so she does not believe in the Church either. However, as Fr. Faber reminds us above, the Catholic Church is not a human institution but a divine one, hence human weakness on the part of the hierarchy cannot be used to justify opposition to Catholic teaching. Pope Leo XIII taught this clearly:
…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.)
The Novus Ordo Sect, on the other hand, is clearly a human institution — or worse. Confusing it with the Catholic Church is thus a very serious mistake that has far-reaching consequences. One of these consequences is that people are beginning to look upon (in their minds) the Catholic Church as a merely human institution that is in essence no different from the Anglican Church, the Boy Scouts, or the United Nations, and it can fail just as much as these other organizations can.
Here we see verified once more the truth of what we have said many times on this web site, namely, that accepting someone as Pope has consequences, directly or indirectly. In Mullarkey’s case, the consequences are a rejection of the Catholic dogma of the Papacy. Let this be a warning to all that as long as you accept him as a valid Roman Pontiff, one way or another Chaos Frank is going to get you to embrace heresy. Think about that.
People need to understand that they have gained nothing if, in order to oppose Amoris Laetitia and other instances of Bergoglian surprise theology, they end up believing heresy about the Papacy. One cannot fight heresy with more heresy, any more than one can extinguish a fire with gasoline or borrow one’s way out of debt.
Once again we see that people are tragically willing to espouse anything but Sedevacantism.