Talk about losing the Faith…
Michael Matt of The Remnant:
“Our Pope has Lost the Faith”
Great movie set, horrible theology…
It’s a new year, and we’re ready to make a prediction: By the time Dec. 31, 2019 rolls around, “Pope” Francis will still not be a Catholic, and the semi-traditionalist publication The Remnant will, after numerous articles and videos denouncing him, still hold that he’s nevertheless the Pope of the Catholic Church.
We are quite confident in this prediction because, alas, it is not unwarranted but solidly grounded in newly-released evidence.
On Dec. 31, 2018, the editor-in-chief of The Remnant, Mr. Michael Matt, posted a brief New Year’s Eve reflection about the sorry state of our world, our society, and the Vatican II Sect. At one point he observes:
Our families are broken beyond repair, our priests are predators, our Pope has lost the Faith, our governments are the embodiment of Satan at work. Could there be greater chastisement than us without God?
(Michael J. Matt, “What Catholics Believe [Two New Year’s Resolutions from Michael Matt]”, The Remnant, Dec. 31, 2018; underlining added.)
Notice the underlined part: “our Pope has lost the Faith.”
It is hard to grasp to what — please pardon the directness — idiotic statements intelligent people can be led as a consequence of their obstinate refusal to countenance the notion that the Faith-wrecking and soul-destroying enemy of Jesus Christ currently occupying the Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City is not at the same time His Vicar. But we’ll return to that in a moment.
After encouraging his readers to implore the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Matt adds:
…let us resolve to go back to the basics, to study and teach what Catholics have believed for Millennia–to cement it into our lives and into the lives of our children–so that we may steel ourselves with the armor of the Old Faith and survive what’s to come. Nothing else, it seems to me, really matters as much as recourse to the Queen of Heaven, an unyielding commitment to Tradition and total immersion in the old Faith.
We agree: That is a really great idea! In this post, we’re going to do our part in assisting The Remnant‘s leadership and readership with getting to know traditional Roman Catholic teaching — specifically, concerning the Papacy. For those rolling their eyes now or breathing a sigh of annoyance, make no mistake about the importance of this, for “without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 7). This isn’t optional.
So, let us examine the question: Can the Pope lose the Faith? Here is some of what the true Popes have taught on the matter over the centuries (all underlining added):
Pope Pelagius II
(For) you know that the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have asked the Father for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren [Lk 22:31-32].
Consider, most dear ones, that the Truth could not have lied, nor will the faith of PETER be able to be shaken or changed forever. For although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for PETER alone and wished the others to be confirmed by him; and to him also, in consideration of a greater love which he showed the Lord before the rest, was committed the care of feeding the sheep [cf. Jn 21:15ff.]; and to him also He handed over the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and upon him He promised to build his Church, and He testified that the gates of hell would not prevail against it [cf. Mt 16:16ff.].
(Apostolic Letter Quod ad Dilectionem; Denz. 246)
Pope St. Leo IX
The holy Church built upon a rock, that is Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John who first was called Simon, because by the gates of Hell, that is, by the disputations of heretics which lead the vain to destruction, it would never be overcome; thus Truth itself promises, through whom are true, whatsoever things are true: “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Mt 16:18]. The same Son declares that He obtained the effect of this promise from the Father by prayers, by saying to Peter: “Simon, behold Satan etc.” [Lk 23:31]. Therefore, will there be anyone so foolish as to dare to regard His prayer as in anyway vain whose being willing is being able? 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?
(Apostolic Letter In Terra Pax; Denz. 351)
Pope Pius IX
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.
(Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 16)
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.
(Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7)
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)
Pope Leo XIII
…it can never be that the church committed to the care of Peter shall succumb or in any wise fail.
(Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 12)
These quotes should suffice to make the point. (More are available at our topical page on the Catholic Papacy).
In light of all this evidence, one is tempted to point out that evidently Francis isn’t the only who has lost the Faith. One of the biggest problems of our day is that, good intentions and personal piety aside, we have hordes of self-styled traditional Catholics who really do not adhere to, or even know about, just what the traditional Catholic teaching is on a subject as important as the Papacy.
In any case, what have we learned here with regard to the question of whether the Pope can lose the Faith? It’s not looking too good for the Remnant camp, is it?
Catholic magisterial documents are filled with teaching to the effect that the Pope cannot lose the Faith but is the invincible “citadel and bulwark of the Catholic Faith” (Pius IX, Encyclical Qui Nuper, n. 3), and that that is the whole point of the Papacy to begin with. Being a divine institution enjoying God’s special protection, the Papacy cannot fail. (It can, however, be vacant.)
While it may be possible that a Pope can lose the Faith as a private individual — something the Church has not ruled out — it absolutely cannot happen that the Pope could lose the Faith as Pope (for example, by promulgating heresy as part of his magisterium). But even if as a private individual the Pope could lose the Faith, once the matter becomes public, he would immediately cease to be Pope. That is the clear position of the Church since at least the First Vatican Council (1870) and also that of St. Robert Bellarmine, who “appeared even up to our times as a defender of the Roman Pontiff of such authority that the Fathers of the [First] Vatican Council employed his writings and opinions to the greatest possible extent”, as Pope Pius XI noted in his 1931 decree Providentissimus Deus, in which he proclaimed the good Cardinal Bellarmine a Doctor of the Church.
The problem is that Michael Matt and his semi-traditionalist buddies take the position that Francis has lost the Faith and continues to be Pope, and that his heresies can and do infect his official and magisterial acts, at least ostensibly: Their convenient and unfalsifiable copout is that when his heresies or other errors do infect his magisterium, then it’s not really his magisterium — for that very reason. In other words, Francis’ official teachings are spotless because whenever they’re not, they’re not really his official teachings. Thus they make a mockery of the idea of the papal magisterium as the proximate rule of Faith all Catholics can (and must) safely follow, even when it is not protected by infallibility, as explained by Cardinal Johann Franzelin in a book printed by the Holy See’s own publisher:
The Holy Apostolic See, to which the safeguarding of the deposit of faith and the attendant duty and office of feeding the universal Church for the salvation of souls have been divinely entrusted, can prescribe theological pronouncements — or even pronouncements to the extent they are connected with ones that are theological — as teachings to be followed, or it can censure them as teachings not to be followed, not solely with the intention of infallibly determining truth by a definitive pronouncement, but also necessarily and designedly apart from that aim, either without qualification or by way of limited supplements, to provide for the safety of Catholic doctrine (cf. Zaccaria, Antifebronius vindicatus, vol. II, diss. V, chap. 2, no. 1). Although infallible truth of doctrine may not be present in declarations of this kind (because, presumably, the intention of determining infallible truth is not present), nevertheless, infallible safety is present. I speak of both the objective safety of declared doctrine (either without qualification or by way of limited supplements, as mentioned) and the subjective safety of declared doctrine, insofar as it is safe for everyone to adopt it, and it is unsafe and impossible for anyone to refuse to adopt it without a violation of due submission towards the divinely established magisterium.
(Cardinal John Baptist Franzelin, Tractatus de Divina Traditione et Scriptura, 2nd ed. [Rome: Ex Typ. S.C. de Propaganda Fide, 1875], Thesis XII, Principle VII; our translation; italics removed; underlining added. The entire work is available in English, translated by Ryan Grant, as On Divine Tradition [Sensus Traditionis Press, 2016].)
In 1950, Pope Pius XII reinforced this teaching by rebuking those who would use the excuse that they can dissent from the ordinary papal magisterium on the grounds that “it’s not infallible”:
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me” [Lk 10:16]…
(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 20; underlining added.)
Now, if this Catholic teaching on the doctrinal safety and binding nature of papal teaching were applied to the Vatican II Church, then sheer absurdity would follow because one would then be obliged to hold contradictory positions.
For example, one would then have to hold both that
“This [imperfect] communion exists especially with the Eastern orthodox Churches, which, though separated from the See of Peter, remain united to the Catholic Church by means of very close bonds, such as the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist…” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church On Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion”, n. 17);
“…neither any one of these [heretical-schismatic] societies by itself, nor all of them together, can in any manner constitute and be that One Catholic Church which Christ our Lord built, and established, and willed should continue; and … they cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity” (Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes).
So, which is it?
The recognize-and-resist traditionalists have an easy man-made solution to this: Stick to the old, junk the new. In other words, refuse submission to (the person recognized as) the Roman Pontiff on an “as needed” basis — as determined by you, of course, or at least by your nearest semi-trad newspaper editor or retired lawyer.
The problem is just that this is the very definition of schism: “Schismatics are they who, though baptized as Christians, refuse to be subject to the Pope” (Fr. Henry Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Sheed and Ward, 1935], p. 291; see also Canon 1325 §2). Schism is serious business and expels one from the Church of Christ: “For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 23).
In his New Year’s Eve post, Matt showcases how much he values the traditional Catholic teaching on submission to the Pope and the hierarchy in communion with him:
Let us look on the faces of the occupiers no more, lest the very sight of these demons should cause our faith to fail us. God will deal with them in His good time. Our task now is to survive them.
That doesn’t sound like the “absolute obedience and … joyous and constant adherence to this Chair of Peter” demanded by Pope Pius IX (Apostolic Letter Per Tristissima; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 419), does it?
Matt is frustrated and annoyed to no end because he is engaged in the impossible endeavor of squaring the theological circle. He is desperately trying to be a Catholic in a non-Catholic church and is even on record admitting that the Vatican II Sect is not the Catholic Church (see video here, at 16:42 mark, and see our commentary on it here).
The semi-trads know it’s a fake church, with fake sacraments, fake saints, fake annulments, and a fake magisterium — except for the “Pope”, of course, who couldn’t possibly be fake because then the gates of hell have prevailed, right? Yet the exact opposite is the case: It is only if all this soul-destroying fakery had come from true Popes that the gates of hell would have been victorious, not if it came from charlatans!
This important fact is humorously illustrated in the following set of memes:
So Michael Matt warns against “these demons” who try to “cause our faith to fail”, and by this he means the Vatican II hierarchy, including the man he recognizes as Pope. But wait a minute! Isn’t that the same hierarchy Matt & Co. will point to when arguing against Sedevacantism that we must have a visible hierarchy?! See what their “visible hierarchy” gets them in the end — nothing! (Nay, it’s worse than nothing because “nothing” would at least not entice them to lose the Faith!) And why is that? Because their hierarchy, however visible it may be, is not Catholic, and thus it cannot salvage the visibility of the Church at all!
If it is necessary to constantly struggle against the “Pope” exercising his office lest one be influenced by what he teaches and decrees — lest, in other words, one actually submit to him as “the true Vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christians” (Pope Pius IX, quoted above) — then the church one is in cannot be the Catholic Church.
How many more clues does God have to send to the semi-trads to make them realize that just as a non-Catholic church isn’t the Catholic Church, so a non-Catholic hierarchy isn’t the Catholic hierarchy and a non-Catholic “pope” isn’t, well, the Catholic Pope?! Trying to be a Catholic while recognizing Francis (or any of his Novus Ordo predecessors) as the legitimate Catholic Pope is an exercise in Sisyphean absurdity, and Matt’s candid comment only serves to underscore it.
It is truly tragic to see how after all these years, The Remnant is still trying to keep the true Faith by denying the true Faith. In a manner of speaking, they are still trying to borrow their way out of debt. This undertaking is guaranteed to fail. By recognizing Francis as Pope, they think they are keeping themselves safe from schism, when the exact opposite is the case. In fact, one must wonder whether the following words of Pope Pius VI do not also apply to the recognize-and-resist traditionalists of our day:
How, in fact, can it be said that communion with the visible head of the Church is maintained, when this is limited to announcing the fact of the election merely, and at the same time an oath is taken which denies the authority of his primacy? In his capacity as head, do not all his members owe him the solemn promise of canonical obedience, which alone can maintain unity in the Church and avoid schisms in this mystical body founded by Christ our Lord?
Granted, the resistance trads have not taken an oath denying the Pope’s authority but the substance of Pius’ critique is equally applicable: It seems that they believe submission to the Roman Pontiff consists in nothing (or little) more than accepting his election and saying so.
It will not do to say that all the Catholic doctrine laid out in this post is not applicable to our day for some reason. After all, Catholic doctrine is not relative to a particular era in ecclesiastical history. Being the truth, it has perennial validity, and to deny it is Modernism. The very people who are at other times so fond of arguing that we must stick to what has been believed “always, everywhere, and by all”, may want to remember that this applies to the Papacy, too.
It is now 2019 AD, and the “anything but Sedevacantism” bug does not show any signs of abating. However, people would do well to consider their last end and ask themselves whether they really want “Because I didn’t want to be a sedevacantist” to be the answer they give at their Particular Judgment. Our Blessed Lord asked rhetorically: “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mk 8:36). Losing one’s soul is not worth it even for obtaining the entire world in exchange. As St. Thomas More (played by Paul Scofield) so famously remarked to Richie Rich in A Man for All Seasons: “But for Wales?!”, we must now ask the recognize-and-resist trads the same question: But for Bergoglio?!
In this post, we have done nothing but responded to Michael Matt’s call “to go back to the basics, to study and teach what Catholics have believed for Millennia.” The Remnant‘s editor concludes his New Year’s Eve post thus: “Happy and Holy New Year. And for God’s sake, keep the old Faith.”
Yes, Mr. Matt, keep the Old Faith indeed. Or rather, acquire it first.
Image source: youtube.com (TheRemnantVideo; screenshot)
License: Fair use