Response to Paul Folbrecht…
Peace in the Crisis?
Catholic Family News Promotes a Dangerous Tranquility (PART 1)
by Francis del Sarto
Last fall the popular semi-traditionalist propaganda outlet Catholic Family News published the first installment of a three-part article series by Paul Folbrecht entitled “Finding Peace in the Crisis”. The thrust of it is the standard recognize-and-resist (R&R) fare: namely, that as grim as the situation is for today’s adherents of the Vatican II Church, it’s not without historical precedent and has even been warned about by the Church in ages past, so there’s definitely no need to panic.
Mr. Folbrecht seeks to reaffirm the belief of R&Rers and convince sedevacantists and other naysayers that the proper way to view today’s crisis is to come to the conclusion that — however unpleasant it may be — Jorge Bergoglio regrettably is the valid Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, meanwhile finding peace in the knowledge that the chaos Francis has unleashed is but another storm in papal history that Our Lord will help us weather. In other words: Hang in there, fellows; this too shall pass.
Naturally, finding interior peace in the crisis is a worthy goal, but we must not do so at the expense of finding the truth (cf. Jn 8:32; Titus 1:1).
Fittingly, Folbrecht heads his article with an incident taken from the Gospel of St. Matthew (8:23-26), describing how Christ calmed a tempest that was so great as to terrify even the Apostles: “And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up He commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.” (Of course, we sedevacantists can straightaway use the same passage, since ultimately God is in control of the current situation regardless of whether the Chair of Peter has a legitimate occupant or not.)
Folbrecht then proceeds to lay out his position, which will be cited here at length in order to allow us to better appreciate the full import of the argument:
“Men are always tempted to think the times in which they live eventful and pregnant beyond any other…”
So spoke Henry Cardinal Manning over 100 years ago. The immediate response to this thought from today’s Catholics is likely to be, “Sometimes – such as now – this instinct is correct.”
And so it is, in a sense. Yet, it is also true that, in a general sense, the problems that beleaguer the Church and Catholics today are nothing new.
Material heresy out of the vast majority of the hierarchy? Sixteen centuries ago, according to the best authorities on the subject, 75-95% of the Church’s bishops denied the divinity of Christ. St. Athanasius, the virtual sole strong defender of orthodoxy among the episcopate, was outcast and later excommunicated.
However, despite this, and other such events (such as the corruption in the human element of the Church at the time of the “Reformation”), this author, like most Traditionalists, personally believes this crisis to be the worst in the history of the Church. Unlike any specific error, even one so grave as to deny the divinity of the Son of God, the scourge of Modernism attacks Truth itself, the foundation of the Church. A heresy with a foundation so broad embedding itself within the hierarchy is bound to have enormous and disastrous consequences, and so it has.
People are confused, losing faith, and erring to both sides in terms of obedience and fidelity to churchmen. This has been true generally since the Revolution began, but has accelerated markedly under the current, disastrous pontificate.
It is human nature to “overcorrect” in a crisis (to either side). And, if there’s one thing Catholicism teaches us in general, it is that the most popular position is rarely the correct one. It may feel good for some to refuse to acknowledge a bad pope as the pope, but such solutions will never satisfy the properly informed intellect.
The answer to the crisis is not to despair, nor to lose faith in the Church (which is divine in form), nor to break formal unity with the See of Peter, which is generally necessary for salvation. The answer is still what it always has been: Recognize and Resist.
We will proceed to show here that we can have moral certainty that Francis really is Pope; that nothing he has done is “impossible” in terms of what the Church teaches about her nature; that this crisis was predicted, and thus should hardly be seen as “impossible”; that the proper response of orthodox, faithful Catholics is, as always, to “Recognize and Resist”; and, finally, that the Church still gives the faithful everything they need to be at peace and to secure their salvation (with the level of certainty that is possible in general).
(Paul Folbrecht, “Finding Peace in the Crisis, Part I”, Catholic Family News, Sep. 17, 2018; italics given; underlining added.)
This passage is a bewildering train of thought as it meanders along, pausing at many a quaint way station, before arriving at its inevitable terminus. Beginning with the Cardinal Manning quote on how people often perceive themselves as living in the most eventful of times, Folbrecht then asserts that today’s Catholics likely would maintain that we are now living in such a time, a time of (nearly) unprecedented confusion.
We add the qualifying term “nearly” here, because while Folbrecht states that “like most Traditionalists” he himself “personally believes this crisis to be the worst in the history of the Church”, this is him circling back around the question after having just asserted that “the problems that beleaguer the Church and Catholics today are nothing new.” So, along the way, he uses the qualifier “in a sense” to denote that the crisis is unique, but in the very next sentence is careful to point out that “in a general sense” it is not unique. (We emphasize this here, because, as will be seen in a moment, this has far-reaching ramifications.)
None Dare Call It Apostasy!
This somewhat confusing assessment is followed by the author presenting a couple of disastrous upheavals from ages past to compare with what is happening today. One is “the corruption in the human element of the Church at the time of the ‘Reformation’”, which is a rather unfortunate emphasis, because it seems to be focusing on moral lapses of some in the Church, rather than on the even more serious doctrinal lapses that followed as the result of the false solutions advocated by Luther, Calvin and other “Reformers”, and which led to major heresies that greatly diminished the number of Catholics and the power of the Church, and led untold souls to perdition.
But his other example is more to the heart of his argument. If Catholics are concerned with the “material heresy” exhibited by virtually all of the post-Vatican II hierarchs, Folbrecht maintains, then they need to recall that there was a similar percentage of fourth-century bishops infected with Arianism.
Aside from the heresiarch Arius and his inner circle of proselytizers, it may be that the bishops who initially held to the heresy did so in the belief that they held the correct Catholic teaching, and this because the true doctrine being disputed by the Arians, namely the consubstantiality of God the Son with God the Father, was often being attacked deceptively, with, as Fr. William Barry writes in the Catholic Encyclopedia, “subtle ambiguities of language that, then as always, were eagerly adopted by dissidents from the mind of the Church” (s.v. “Arianism”).
Yet many of the heresies taught and promoted by today’s Novus Ordo hierarchy are hardly shrouded in cryptic rhetoric such as was used by the Arians in a hotly controverted matter. Rather, they espouse ones that have been condemned for nearly two millennia, a fact that strongly militates against them being held merely in a material fashion, especially considering that as supposed Catholic hierarchs they have a strict obligation to know Catholic doctrine. As we shall see, in some instances even a word as toxic as heresy seems inadequate to convey the full import of what is being promoted by them. (Specific discussion of formal heresy versus material heresy — and beyond — in the case of Bergoglio will come in our response to the second part of Folbrecht’s article.)
When the author gives his main reason for believing the current crisis is “the worst in the history of the Church”, he does so by tying it into one that bedeviled her just a little over 100 years ago:
Unlike any specific error, even one so grave as to deny the divinity of the Son of God, the scourge of Modernism attacks Truth itself, the foundation of the Church. A heresy with a foundation so broad embedding itself within the hierarchy is bound to have enormous and disastrous consequences, and so it has.
In making this statement he manages to mix together truths and misconceptions in equal amounts, leading to a typical R&R confusion of the situation. Yes, it’s true that what we’re fighting against is Modernism as it resurfaced in the Church after the Second World War (1939-1945), and yes, it is more insidious than any individual errors, even the gravest, because it does attack the very nature of Faith and dogmatic truth. And this is all to the good as far as an explanation of the root cause, but only up to a point.
Tragically, what Folbrecht follows it with is a mistake that may be somewhat understandable, but one that leads to a monumental false conclusion. The crucial error comes when he refers to Modernism as simply another heresy. It is not. Rather, it is a gargantuan complexus of heresies and errors, one so famously defined as “the synthesis of all heresies” by Pope St. Pius X in his landmark anti-Modernist encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (n. 39).
In a word, Modernism is apostasy, for Modernists “lay the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers” (Pascendi, n. 3). It is like an acid which, when applied to an object, penetrates beneath the surface, leaving nothing undamaged. Thus it is true apostasy, for if all heresies are brought together into one system, there necessarily are no sound Catholic doctrines left, and the complete negation of the true religion is complete.
Fr. Alphonse Van Hove, a renowned Belgian canonist and professor of theology at the University of Louvain, wrote in the Catholic Encyclopedia concerning what he referred to as “apostasy a fide, or perfidiæ” (that is apostasy in its strictest sense, according to St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 12, a. 1):
Perfidiæ is the complete and voluntary abandonment of the Christian religion, whether the apostate embraces another religion such as Paganism, Judaism, Mohammedanism, etc., or merely makes profession of Naturalism, Rationalism, etc. The heretic differs from the apostate in that he only denies one or more of the doctrines of revealed religion, whereas the apostate denies the religion itself, a sin which has always been looked upon as one of the most grievous.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Apostasy”)
One thing that continues to make Modernism so insidious is that, just as it was a century ago, its adherents today pretend to be Catholics but are not, plotting the Church’s destruction ostensibly from within her hallowed chambers.
Returning to Pascendi, we see St. Pius’ grave warning precisely that their deadly subterfuge demands immediate action from the princes of the Church:
That We should act without delay in this matter is made imperative especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open.
(Pope Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, n. 2; underlining added.)
So, the Modernist, rather than being honest, refuses to admit the fact that he no longer believes as a Catholic. For him the dogmas of the Faith, and indeed, the very Faith itself, are not objective, immutable, and transcendent divine truths but subjective, man-made concepts, ever vacillating according to the vagaries of a given era or experience. Like some amorphous shape-shifter in a sci-fi/horror movie that can mimic being human, what the Modernists seek to pass off for Catholic doctrines are parodies of those truths clearly enunciated by Christ, the Apostles, and the Church down through the centuries.
No truth is fixed and perpetually settled for the Modernists; rather, they contend that its meaning is subject to continual “evolution” as decided by the ethos of the time and the exigencies of human existence. Hence the “Faith” must always be updated to ensure it doesn’t get “outmoded” but is continually adapted to the changing needs of contemporary man.
Hence, St. Pius X declared: “…Modernism leads to atheism and to the annihilation of all religion. The error of Protestantism made the first step on this path; that of Modernism makes the second; atheism makes the next” (Pascendi, n. 39; underlining added). The following is a famous historical cartoon illustrating Pope Pius’ point:
(Descent of the Modernists by E. J. Pace, Christian Cartoons, 1922 / Alamy Stock Photo)
Vatican Modernists Deconstruct the Resurrection
The claim that many in the higher ranks of the Novus Ordo Sect promote textbook Modernism is hardly conjecture, as the following striking example will abundantly prove.
In July 1907, two months before the publication of the encyclical Pascendi, Pope St. Pius X approved the issuance of a Holy Office decree in the form of a syllabus condemning 65 specific Modernist teachings. Entitled Lamentabili Sane, the decree concluded by stating that Pope Pius “ordered that each and every one of the above-listed propositions be held by all as condemned and proscribed”.
Lest anyone dismiss these solemn documents as of little or no importance, in November of the same year, Pius X issued the motu proprio Praestantia Scripturae, warning of the gravity of the situation and increasing the ecclesiastical penalties against anyone who would dare defy his condemnation of Modernism:
…we do by our apostolic authority repeat and confirm both that decree of the Supreme Sacred Congregation and those encyclical letters of ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against their contradictors, and this we declare and decree that should anybody, which may God forbid, be so rash as to defend any one of the propositions, opinions or teachings condemned in these documents he falls, ipso facto, under the censure….
(Pope St. Pius X, Apostolic Letter Praestantia Scripturae; underlining added.)
The condemned Modernist proposition most relevant to our present discussion is as follows: “The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts” (Lamentabili Sane, error n. 36).
As it turns out, this rejection of (the only true meaning of) the dogma of the Bodily Resurrection of Christ is popular among some of the most important figures in the Vatican. Almost three years ago Novus Ordo Watch had examined this topic in some depth in an article worth reacquainting oneself with:
Of course, the Vatican Modernists today — we may call them Neo-Modernists — do not deny the Resurrection explicitly. They do not say, “We do not believe in the Resurrection.” Rather, they subtly change the meaning of the dogma, which, however, is tantamount to a denial thereof, because dogmas must be believed exactly as defined: “Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding” (First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 4 ; Denz. 1800).
(“Deniers of the Resurrection: Walter Kasper, Gerhard Müller, Joseph Ratzinger”, Novus Ordo Wire, Mar. 29, 2016)
This article, “Deniers of the Resurrection”, then proceeds to document where and how the Novus Ordo theological heavyweights Walter Kasper, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, and Joseph Ratzinger have denied the dogma of Christ’s Resurrection. Based on that evidence, let’s now compare samples of what these men have written with the proposition condemned by St. Pius X above.
“Cardinal” Walter Kasper believes that the bodily Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is “no objectively and neutrally ascertainable historical fact”, which is an almost verbatim repetition of the condemned doctrine that the Resurrection is “not properly a fact of the historical order … (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable)”.
This supposed inability for the truth of the Resurrection to be known as a physical reality is similarly seen in the assertion of “Cardinal” Gerhard Müller that “[a] running camera would not have been able to make an audio-visual recording of either the Easter manifestations of Jesus in front of his disciples, nor of the Resurrection event….” This is the boldest of apostate presumptions that he would have us believe, for he is implicitly saying that all that is recorded in Sacred Scripture amounts to personal internalized experiences and that the Evangelists are liars for plainly stating that our Lord broke bread with some disciples at Emmaus (see Lk 24:30) and ate fish with others in Jerusalem (see Lk 24:42-43). For Müller those events must have never occurred; but why should he be believed, given that, by his own logic, there was no running camera to prove Christ was not physically present, either? (Of course, true Catholics don’t let their Faith get derailed by such insidiuous and overtly Modernist absurdities as proposed by Mr. Müller.)
As for Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, long before invalidly ascending the papal throne as Benedict XVI, he was well acquainted with Modernism. Even prior to Vatican II he was showing his true colors. In 1953, a post-doctoral thesis of his that would have permitted him to hold a chair at a German university — the so-called Habilitationsschrift — was initially rejected, requiring a rewrite. The reason given by the director (Fr. Michael Schmaus) for turning it down was that it displayed “a dangerous modernism that had to lead to the subjectivization of the concept of revelation”, according to Ratzinger’s own testimony (Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1998], p. 109).
In this telling incident we can see Ratzinger’s double-mindedness on full display, for it occurred not that long after he had taken the Oath Against Modernism (decreed as mandatory for all clerics and seminary professors by Pope St. Pius X in 1910, and ostensibly rescinded by “Pope” Paul VI 57 years later as part of the early phase of the post-Vatican II “reforms”), which reads in part:
I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely.
(Pope St. Pius X, Decree Sacrorum Antistitum)
With Ratzingerian theology we have a case of subjectivization indeed, at different levels, beginning with the “sincerity” of his oath. No wonder the Holy Office under Pope Pius XII had the newly-ordained Fr. Ratzinger tagged suspect of heresy.
In 1990, once ensconced in what replaced the power structure he had helped dismantle, the now “Cardinal” Ratzinger, as head of John Paul II’s so-called Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in true Modernist fashion said in a press conference presenting the instruction Donum Veritatis that “the anti-modernistic decisions at the beginning of this century … were later superceded once they had carried out their pastoral duty at a particular moment” (June 26, 1990, translated in “Theology is not private idea of theologian”, L’Osservatore Romano 27 [July 2, 1990], English edition, p. 5; alternate translation here).
Take a moment to let that sink in: If, according to Ratzinger, the Church’s pronouncements against Modernism are null and void, he is telling theologians that they now have free rein to believe that “dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously”. They need not write in conformity with the Deposit of Faith but may tailor their opinions according to their own caprices. Oh, and of course, such a declaration conveniently revoked his own pesky excommunication, at least to his mind.
As for his anti-Resurrection remarks, there have been a number, such as: “The sentence ‘Jesus has risen’ thus expresses that primitive experience on which all Christian faith is grounded…” (Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987], p. 184). As Novus Ordo Watch has pointed out:
Fr. Ratzinger tells us that the statement “Jesus is risen” expresses an experience on which our Faith is grounded — as opposed to referring to a historical fact…
That the Resurrection is a historical event in the same way that the Virgin Birth and the Crucifixion were historical events, Ratzinger denies — that’s just not “deep” enough for him, even though this is professed by the entire Church: “Thus the Resurrection cannot be a historical event in the same sense as the Crucifixion is. For that matter, there is no account that depicts it as such, nor is it circumscribed in time otherwise than by the eschatological expression ‘the third day’” (Principles, p. 186). Ah! Even though the Bible relates the facts about Christ’s Resurrection the way it does all the other facts about Our Lord’s life, this isn’t proof for Ratzinger that the Resurrection is a historical fact. Got it.
(“Deniers of the Resurrection: Walter Kasper, Gerhard Müller, Joseph Ratzinger”, Novus Ordo Wire, Mar. 29, 2016)
And what of “Pope” Francis? He claims to believe in the Resurrection, even going so far as to say on Easter 2017: “Jesus has risen from the dead. And this is not a fantasy.” But, of course, Francis wouldn’t be Francis without bringing the most profoundly supernatural occurrence in human history down to the most mundane materialistic social justice concerns imaginable. In a Crux article regarding his address we read the following cringe-worthy tidbit: “The Risen Shepherd, the pope said, takes upon himself the victims of every form of slavery, inhuman labor, illegal trafficking, exploitation and decriminalization, and grave form of addictions, and those abused in their own homes.”
Well, the Resurrection may not be a fantasy for Francis (but not historical reality either!), but then, none of his “esteemed colleagues” cited above refer to it as such, either. It’s a “primitive experience” that “the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts”, etc. When such men are in charge, it’s completely understandable that a Modernist like Hans Küng, who has denied through reinterpretation virtually every dogma of the Church, has never been excommunicated. The Resurrection was not a “historical fact”, and the Virgin Birth was not a “biological event” are claims he makes in his 1992 book Credo, more accurately titled Anti-Credo. In other words, in the Conciliar “Church” (unlike in the true Catholic Church), dogmas are optional for membership. So, it’s perfectly understandable as well that an overwhelming number of Novus Ordo “Catholics” of every rank — a steady 70% in polls taken from not long after Vatican II up to today — do not believe in dogmas surrounding the Blessed Sacrament, where Christ’s Real Presence has been supplanted by some kind of symbolic presence (of course, with the “New Mass” symbolic is a more accurate description of what’s occurring on their tables, but these people are in theory Catholic, and belief in anything other than Transubstantiation is strictly forbidden as heretical.)
Moral Certitude in Defense of Bergoglio’s “Pontificate”?
Getting back to Mr. Folbrecht’s article after a lengthy, but important, digression, we find him rightly saying (as has just been shown) that Modernism has succeeded in “embedding itself within the hierarchy”, but the consequences are even more “enormous and disastrous” than he dares admit. And it is this failure to take stock that ultimately dooms his position from the start, because it is only when the Vatican II revolution is seen for what it is — namely, a descent that ends up in apostasy that was largely orchestrated from the start by people who were apostates themselves — that it is finally realized as constituting not just a difference in degree or severity from heretical crises of the past, but one that is fundamentally different in kind from all others that have gone before.
Yet, despite this period of truly unprecedented strife, Folbrecht takes the position so familiar with those upholding the R&R position that everything is substantially normal in the Church. First and foremost, he tells us, it is imperative that Catholics be firm in their commitment to uphold the legitimacy of Francis’s “papacy”, as nothing he has said or done changes the fact that he is a valid pontiff, and, objectively speaking, it is a mortal sin for the faithful to say otherwise about him.
At this point it’s worth pausing to give Mr. Folbrecht some praise for not falling into the trap that many on both sides of the question sometimes succumb to in rashly accusing each other of the sins of schism or heresy, without taking into account the confusion of the times. He allows that “[i]t seems that many people, even many intelligent and holy [!] people, do not properly consider the import of their position when they claim that Francis is not the Pope (or even doubt it).”
One passage gives readers a taste of what he would have us believe is the only proper approach to that enigma of the Novus Ordo “Catholic Church” and its “pontiffs”:
The answer to the crisis is not to despair, nor to lose faith in the Church (which is divine in form), nor to break formal unity with the See of Peter, which is generally necessary for salvation. The answer is still what it always has been: Recognize and Resist.
(Folbrecht, “Finding Peace in the Crisis, Part I”)
(This “solution” is so belabored by those insisting on recognition for the Argentinian crypto-Communist that one is inclined to wonder whether the trite R&R mantra doesn’t really stand for Rinse and Repeat.)
So this is his reaction to the public unease with the continuing theological outrages being committed in the name of the Holy See by one Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a growing anxiety that is leading more and more people to question whether the purported successor to St. Peter really has any legitimate claim to that title. Folbrecht explains his fear of the ramifications of questioning said claim:
If we cannot have moral certainty of the identities of the popes throughout Church history, we cannot have certainty in anything the Church teaches. This is so because all of the Church’s formal teaching – all formal dogma – comes, either implicitly or explicitly, via a pope. The former (implicit) is the reigning pope’s ratification of an ecumenical council, without which its declarations are not universally valid or binding, and the latter (explicit) ex cathedra pronouncements.
This is a bit rich, coming from a man who insists on recognizing the Vatican II “popes” while resisting precisely their “ratification of an ecumenical council” and its declarations as “universally valid or binding”, to say nothing of their “canonizations”, liturgical laws, or disciplinary measures. But we can set that aside for now.
From the historical perspective before Vatican II, what Folbrecht writes is certainly true as a general principle as far as it goes, but there have been instances where the moral certainty he seems to require was utterly lacking, circumstances where solid assurance concerning said identities was not evident. This has been posited by theologians in the maxim Papa dubius, papa nullus (“a doubtful pope is no pope”). This is specifically supported by St. Robert Bellarmine in his work On Councils, where, when using the Council of Constance [1414-1418; settled the Great Western Schism] as an example delineating the limits of conciliar authority, states:
The Council of Constance was legitimate and approved, but that is not opposed to those things which we said. For it did not define absolutely that general Councils have power from Christ over Popes, but only in a case, that is, in a time of schism when it is now [sic — should read not] known who is the true Pope; for a doubtful Pope is held for no Pope, and so to have power in that case is not to have power against the Pope.
(St. Robert Bellarmine, On Councils: Their Nature and Authority, trans. by Ryan Grant [Mediatrix Press, 2017], p. 252; underlining added.)
Now, he may protest that St. Robert is speaking of doubt arising from multiple claimants to the papacy, yet the fact remains that during the Great Western Schism (1378-1417) for almost four decades the Church did not have moral certitude regarding the identity of the true pope that Folbrecht insists to be absolutely obligatory. So lacking was the certainty in those dark times that even canonized saints such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer were in disagreement as to which of the claimants was legitimate.
In other words, the fundamental question being asked is not whether we can have “moral certainty of the identities of the popes throughout Church history”, but whether we can have moral certainty that, in our specific situation today, a highly questionable claimant to the Chair of Peter, one Jorge Mario Bergoglio, truly qualifies as successor to those we know to be legitimate pontiffs down through Church history. Unfortunately for Mr. Folbrecht’s thesis, as we shall see, it is in no way a given that Francis really meets the criteria the Church requires.
But never mind that. Folbrecht’s contention is what it inevitably must be for someone defending the recognize-and-resist position; namely, that “the problems that beleaguer the Church and Catholics today are nothing new”, a contention we’ve already discredited.
So, “Dr.” Folbrecht is going to help concerned Novus Ordos by prescribing some happy pills for them: Take the recommended dose when scheduled, and resist the all temptations to look for that man behind the “Who am I to judge?” curtain. Follow the R&R regimen as the doctor has set it forth, and you too can finally live undisturbed by your soul-destroying “pope”!
Resignationism (aka “The Ratzinger Option” aka “Bennyvacantism”) Revisited & Rejected
Mr. Folbrecht insinuates that Catholics who do not recognize Francis as the supreme pontiff, or even simply allow that his legitimacy may be doubtful, are not being faithful to the teaching of the Church. In fact, he goes so far as to maintain that to not give him such recognition “would at the least be objectively mortally sinful”.
Further, he quotes two noted Counter-Reformation theologians, the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suarez and the Portuguese Dominican John of St. Thomas, to the effect that such doubters would be guilty of heresy and schism, objectively speaking. Naturally, all that presupposes a great deal by Folbrecht, who, in standard recognize-and resist fashion, conveniently fails to consider any further information that might put some dents into what he must perceive as his ironclad proof texts.
He gives bit of leeway to sedevacantists and those who are not so sure about what to make of Bergoglio’s claim to the Apostolic See, which is not something always seen by those of the R&R persuasion, writing:
It is my experience that most individuals who refuse to acknowledge or doubt Francis’ papacy are not aware of this theological teaching. Once becoming aware of it, there is simply no legitimate, Catholic rationale for denying or doubting the reality of this papacy. That Pope Francis does evil, or teaches material error, cannot justify refusing to acknowledge him as Pope.
Of course, for Folbrecht, “acknowledg[ing] him as Pope” strangely does not include embracing his teaching — that which consists of “material error” –, but that is an error the author does not care to identify or explore in his article.
In essence, Folbrecht is saying that any sin on our part in this regard would necessarily be (at most) venial in nature for as long as it is not committed against better knowledge; likewise, any heresy or schism would only be material (supposedly, just like Francis’s “errors”), not formal. This is a preface to his assertion that he will refute what he sees to be the two ways people are refusing to recognize “the reality” of Bergoglio as pope:
With that preamble, we will discuss how we can have moral certainty that Francis is the Pope. We will cover both of the arguments that are used to deny the reality of his papacy:
- That he was never Pope because Benedict XVI’s resignation was invalid.
- That he lost the papacy due to heresy.
We will not discuss in great detail here the contention that due to a faulty (presumably coerced) resignation, Benedict XVI is still the pope, chiefly because we don’t accept him as having ever been a valid pontiff, which renders the point entirely moot. However, in passing, it’s worth a brief mention, for it has been a convenient stopgap for certain recognize-and-resist writers who, quickly realizing that in contrast to the scorched earth warfare launched against the Faith by Bergoglio, the old school “smells-and-bells” posturing of Ratzinger (aka Benedict XVI aka “Pope Emeritus”) seemed tolerable and almost Catholic. This is about as much as they can hope for these days, and of course, it has allowed them to find a way to avoid taking the logical step toward sedevacantism.
Never mind that Ratzinger, who was one of the Modernist enfant terribles of Vatican II, is on record saying he is still the same radical that he was back in the 1960’s. R&Rs prefer to live in a dream world where he one day became a “conservative”, and since then has advanced to being a standard bearer of Tradition. There are many who still embrace that fantasy belief, although others to their credit refuse to sugarcoat him, as seen here.
So clearly did Francis make his chaotic agenda known, that within months of his “election”, some had already begun constructing this novel diarchy (a “pope” and a “pope emeritus”) theory, and Novus Ordo Watch, after having warned of “two-pope” trouble in a tweet a day before the conclave began, promptly gave it a name: Resignationism. Here’s a brief passage from one of the articles on the subject to fill in a few details and add a further complication to the Bergoglio “papacy”:
Not only, so the claim goes, was Francis’ election invalid because Benedict never validly abdicated, it was also invalid for yet another reason, and that is that the “cardinals” gathered in conclave actually elected Mr. Angelo Scola, the “Cardinal Archbishop” of Milan … before Jorge Bergoglio ever stepped out on the balcony over St. Peter’s on March 13, 2013. Somehow they forced Scola to resign, and of course a resignation obtained by force is invalid, hence Bergoglio could not possibly be Pope.
(“Resignationism 2.0: Enter ‘Cardinal’ Scola”, Novus Ordo Watch, June 2, 2014)
Before getting to the other way in which Folbrecht says people demonstrate Francis’s illegitimacy — “he lost the papacy due to heresy” –, which will be examined in part two of our rebuttal, let’s take a closer look at one of his primary arguments in defense of the current imposter at St. Peter’s.
Are Catholics Obliged to Accept Bergoglio’s Election?
Although “Finding Peace in the Crisis” does not list irregularities in the election of Francis as one of the “arguments that are used to deny the reality of his papacy”, Mr. Folbrecht addresses it nonetheless as he spends a good amount of his article in defending the premise that Bergoglio is “the man elected by and recognized by the Catholic Church as Pope”.
After quoting the noted 20th-century professor of apologetics at Mt. Saint Mary’s seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, Fr. E. Sylvester Berry, on how the dogmatic facts of a legitimate pope and valid papal election can be determined by them being given a unanimity of consent by the hierarchy and faithful, he declares:
There is no question that “the practically unanimous consent of the bishops and faithful in accepting…a Roman Pontiff as legitimately elected” existed upon the election of Francis. In fact, every bishop and cardinal in the Church recognized him as Pope, from the time of his election and introduction to the whole Church. This includes even the bishops and cardinals that have opposed him materially, such as Cardinals Burke and Sarah, and the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X (who, despite their vigorous material resistance, have never severed formal unity with the supreme pontiff).
And in similar fashion he cites the eminent theologian, Louis Cardinal Billot. The part of the passage most pertinent to the current discussion is most likely where the cardinal states:
God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time. He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election. He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.
(italics and bold print Folbrecht’s)
An impressive quotation from Cardinal Billot! Yet Mr. Folbrecht should be more careful about what he cites, for this really does not support his contention, nor that of Messrs. Salza and Siscoe, whose book True or False Pope?: Refuting Sedevacantism and other Modern Errors Folbrecht uses as his direct source.
“God can permit that at times a vacancy in the Apostolic See be prolonged for a long time.” This is precisely one of the points made by sedevacantists that many of the recognize-and-resist persuasion attack as erroneous — even as heretical! (They allege it is a denial of the First Vatican Council’s dogma on the perpetual succession of popes, but this misunderstanding has been refuted by Novus Ordo Watch already, a refutation which is here reaffirmed by Cardinal Billot.)
Following that, Cardinal Billot observes: “He can also permit that doubt arise about the legitimacy of this or that election.” This we have already covered to an extent, noting the theological maxim Papa dubius, papa nullus. So, the second point made by Billot is likewise of no use to Folbrecht, either. Of course, he believes the R&R clincher is the third, which he emphasizes in bold: “He cannot however permit that the whole Church accept as Pontiff him who is not so truly and legitimately.”
Leaving aside the irony in Folbrecht’s tacit conviction that all must agree with what Cardinal Billot states here, whereas the teachings and decrees of a supposed ecumenical council and six successive putative Popes are perfectly fine to reject, the crucial question that the author fails to address is, wherein does one find “the whole Church” in our day?
To understand the conundrum R&R adherents are faced with, we must keep in mind that every single member of the Novus Ordo hierarchy accepts, as he must, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the nature of the Church and its relationship with so-called “Christian denominations”, that is, with heretical sects, such as the Protestants.
It is a truth of the Faith that Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted but one religion to bring souls to salvation: the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (see Pope St. Leo IX, Apostolic Letter Congratulamur Vehementer, Denz. 347; Pius IX, Allocution Singulari Quadam; cf. Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, n. 21). All others have no real right to the name of Christian, and they amount to spiritual counterfeiters. Despite this, it is the teaching of the Novus Ordo Sect that God uses these false churches as “means of salvation”, which is plainly a heresy.
A comparison of the teachings of two official catechisms will help drive home the point that two different churches are at work. First, here is the pertinent passage from the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church (or, more fittingly, The Catechism of Vatican II), which was co-edited by then-“Cardinal” Joseph Ratzinger, and his protégé and fellow-Modernist, “Cardinal” Christoph Schönborn, who has made a career of seeing how many ways he can desecrate Vienna’s historic St. Stephen Stephen’s Cathedral with vile, sacrilegious spectacles.
In the Vatican II Catechism’s section on non-Catholic churches, we read:
818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers …. All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”
819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. ; underlining added.)
It’s beyond the scope of this study to go through all the errors contained in these two brief paragraphs, but as is common with heretics, there’s an admixture of truth and falsehood brought into an unholy union. A few of the more noticeable deviations from orthodoxy include the praising of non-Catholic versions of the Bible, the notion that those who espouse heresies have been given “faith” by God to do so, and that “elements of sanctification and truth” are present in these communities, as though such elements were not necessarily and inextricably combined with elements of debasement and heresy in Protestant sects.
But now let’s turn to something Catholic, The Catechism of the Council of Trent (aka The Roman Catechism), edited by St. Charles Borromeo along with other distinguished theologians of the 16th century. Here is part of what it had to say as regards the article from the Creed “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”:
That all, therefore, might know which was the Catholic Church, the Fathers, guided by the Spirit of God, added to the Creed the word Apostolic. For the Holy Ghost, who presides over the Church, governs her by no other ministers than those of Apostolic succession. This Spirit, first imparted to the Apostles, has by the infinite goodness of God always continued in the Church. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.
So, there is a distinct contradiction between the Trent and Vatican II catechisms. According to the former, whatever claims the non-Catholic sects are making, amount to false pretense. “Arrogating” is the term the catechism uses in this context: to arrogate means to lay claim to something without justification (source). These sects have no right to be called churches, nor do they have the right to edit, translate, publish, or disseminate — much less interpret — Holy Scripture; they have no right to administer any sacraments they may have (such as baptism), promulgate doctrine, conduct worship ceremonies, etc. Only the Catholic Church has been instituted by Christ and is entitled to do these things.
Likewise, the Tridentine catechism pulls no punches with the assertion that unlike the Catholic Church, which is guided by the Holy Ghost, the false so-called Christian denominations are led by the devil, and its members are necessarily exposed to teachings that are extremely dangerous. Again, the term used is pernicious, which is defined as “causing insidious harm or ruin” and “deadly; fatal” (source). (Keep in mind that while the Ratzinger catechism is correct to say that a person who today is unsuspectingly brought up in a non-Catholic “community” isn’t necessarily guilty of the sin of willfully separating from the true Church, that’s still beside the point of them being exposed to deadly doctrines.)
Turning to the Vatican II catechism, it is noteworthy that in no way is it suggested that the devil has any part whatsoever to play in the creation and perpetuation of these “ecclesial communities”. They are not called false in any way. Rather, they are depicted as possessing power which simply “derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church”. This, in turn, leads to the idea that these sects are in a partial or imperfect but nevertheless real communion with the Church, which has the “fullness of grace and truth” (see also “Pope” John Paul II, Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, n. 11).
This is Modernist Novus Ordo ecclesiology: The Protestant counterfeit churches may lack a certain fullness, but this in no way means they should be considered false or dangerous; they are simply only in part what they ought to be fully. The following passage from Pascendi details just how Modernists view non-Catholic religions:
Will they claim a monopoly of true experiences for Catholics alone? Indeed, Modernists do not deny, but actually maintain, some confusedly, others frankly, that all religions are true. That they cannot feel otherwise is obvious. For on what ground, according to their theories, could falsity be predicated of any religion whatsoever? Certainly it would be either on account of the falsity of the religious .sense or on account of the falsity of the formula pronounced by the mind. Now the religious sense, although it maybe more perfect or less perfect, is always one and the same; and the intellectual formula, in order to be true, has but to respond to the religious sense and to the believer, whatever be the intellectual capacity of the latter. In the conflict between different religions, the most that Modernists can maintain is that the Catholic has more truth because it is more vivid, and that it deserves with more reason the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins of Christianity.
(Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, n. 14; underlining added.)
Summing up, here is what the two catechisms teach, respectively:
- Catechism of Vatican II: God uses non-Catholic churches as a means of salvation
- Catechism of the Council of Trent: The devil uses non-Catholic churches as a means of damnation
Clearly, both of these formulas cannot be true, since the Magisterium cannot and does not contradict itself (for a Modernist, perhaps it does, as Trent’s teaching could morph into Vatican II, but then, that’s not Catholic thinking, it’s Novus Ordo thinking). Trent represents the Catholic Church; Vatican II represents a Modernist sham “Catholic Church”.
In his 1868 bull convoking the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX was blissfully unaware what type of ecclesiology would be foisted upon unsuspecting Catholics less than 100 years later:
Now, whoever will carefully examine and reflect upon the condition of the various religious societies, divided among themselves, and separated from the Catholic Church, which, from the days of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Apostles has never ceased to exercise, by its lawful pastors, and still continues to exercise, the divine power committed to it by this same Lord; cannot fail to satisfy himself that neither any one of these 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 that they cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity. For, whereas such societies are destitute of that living authority established by God, which especially teaches men what is of Faith, and what the rule of morals, and directs and guides them in all those things which pertain to eternal salvation, so they have continually varied in their doctrines, and this change and variation is ceaselessly going on among them. Every one must perfectly understand, and clearly and evidently see, that such a state of things is directly opposed to the nature of the Church instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ; for in that Church truth must always continue firm and ever inaccessible to all change, as a deposit given to that Church to be guarded in its integrity, for the guardianship of which the presence and aid of the Holy Ghost have been promised to the Church for ever. No one, moreover, can be ignorant that from these discordant doctrines and opinions social schisms have arisen, and that these again have given birth to sects and communions without number, which spread themselves continually, to the increasing injury of Christian and civil society.
(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes; underlining added.)
Clearly, there is a disconnect that won’t go away.
For more information on this theological issue, please see the following links:
- Intro to Sedevacantism, Part 1: Vatican II’s New Doctrine on the Church
- Intro to Sedevacantism, Part 2: Vatican II’s Teaching on False Religions as Means of Salvation
- Continuity or Contradiction: Should Catholics respect False Religions?
- Dissecting a Misleading Expression: The Catholic Church and the “Fullness of Truth”
Before we conclude this first part of our rebuttal, a basic contention of Mr. Folbrecht’s cited near the beginning of this section needs to be revisited in light of the foregoing. He wrote:
There is no question that “the practically unanimous consent of the bishops and faithful in accepting…a Roman Pontiff as legitimately elected” existed upon the election of Francis. In fact, every bishop and cardinal in the Church recognized him as Pope, from the time of his election and introduction to the whole Church.
We must ask: But what bishops?, what faithful?, and finally, what Church? His argument in defense of Bergoglio’s legitimacy is the consent and testimony of a “church” that considers itself to be in real communion (however impartial) with heretical sects, which it sees as imperfect extensions of itself. But if the very organization Francis represents doesn’t even claim to be the one and only true Church, then that religious entity is in no way able to legitimize him as a true Vicar of Christ, “unanimous consent” or not.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO
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