Retired academic again misleads his readers…

Clueless Kwasniewski cranks out another Load of Howlers on the Papacy

On Jan. 9, 2020, the conservative Novus Ordo web site Life Site published yet another blog post by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, currently the semi-trads’ favorite academic because he continually reassures them that despite all his heresies and other errors, Jorge Bergoglio (Francis) really is the Pope of the Catholic Church — you just can’t follow the man without gravely endangering your Faith (which in turn would render the Papacy not only useless but extremely dangerous, but they never think that far).

Brilliant though he may be on many other issues, when it comes to the topic of the Papacy, Kwasniewski is simply abysmal. We’ve had cause to refute him on this issue several times in the past, such as in the following posts:

Kwasniewski’s latest outrageous post is entitled “Could God permit a heretical pope to remain in office, and why would He?”. The first indication of the theological quality of the author’s musings on this issue is found in what he says in the first two sentences, namely:

Can a pope be a formal heretic but still somehow continue in his office (although he will be prevented from declaring heresy ex cathedra)? In an article at OnePeterFive, Eric Sammons makes a compelling case that the answer is “yes.”

Firstly, that “compelling case” made by Eric Sammons was an utter theological train wreck. We dismantled it with great pleasure here:

Secondly, the divine protection of a Pope extends to much more than the mere inability to proclaim heresy ex cathedra. For one thing, ex cathedra proclamations are protected from any error, not just from heresy. But even outside these rare pronouncements, Christ’s guidance and supernatural protection of the papal office are not wanting.

Pope Pius XII taught that Christ “enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain and confirm it with reverence and devotion” (Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 50). Moreover, the same Pope explained that the divine promises for the Pope are such that “even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved” (Address Ancora Una Volta). In fact, so much does our Blessed Lord protect and guide the Pope that “this sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians” (Mystici Corporis, n. 18).

So already in his opening paragraph, Peter Kwasniewski fails to inspire confidence in his grasp of the issues.

But it only gets worse from there. In his second paragraph, the retired theology professor argues that a heretical Pope wouldn’t be quite so bad:

St. Robert Bellarmine laid out the various possible scenarios well, but there are two objections to the way he reasoned about them. On the one hand, his argument against the possibility that “the pope could be a heretic” is not tight: it would be a terrible trial, he says. But God’s providence could allow even a terrible trial for a time, so long as it did not damage the Church beyond recovery. On the other hand, his argument for the possibility that “the Church could simply recognize the fact of the pope’s abdication” encounters insurmountable practical difficulties: by the time the Church has a formal heretic as a pope, she most likely also lacks the highly virtuous churchmen to carry out such a maneuver. So it seems more reasonable to conclude that the pope could be even a formal heretic.

(Peter Kwasniewski, “Could God permit a heretical pope to remain in office, and why would He?”, Life Site, Jan. 9, 2020)

How negligent of St. Robert not to have considered these powerful objections by Dr. K., huh?! Except Kwasniewski misrepresents Bellarmine’s position.

Yes, it is true that the Doctor of the Papacy stated that “it would be the most miserable condition of the Church, if she should be compelled to recognize a wolf, manifestly prowling, for a shepherd” (De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 30; Grant translation.) And indeed it would be. But that’s not all St. Robert said about it. It’s too bad Dr. K. didn’t quote this portion of the same work:

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

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

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

(De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 3; Grant translation; underlining added.)

A slight oversight by Prof. Kwasniewski, to be sure; but now that he’s being made aware of it, he can always revise his blog post or issue a retraction.

Quite conveniently, Dr. K. makes no distinction between the Pope who is a public heretic in his capacity as a private theologian (as a “particular person”, as Bellarmine terms it) and the Pope who is a public heretic in his capacity as Pope, that is, in the exercise of his papal office. The former scenario Bellarmine judged to be probably not possible (see his Book IV, Chapter 6, where he says it seems to him that “such a thing cannot be”, although he could not prove it to be impossible, hence he discussed the question at length). But the latter scenario — the idea that the Pope could depart from defined teaching in the exercise of his magisterium, whether infallible or not, was judged to be absolutely out of the question, not only by Bellarmine but also by his contemporaries who studied the question and all theologians after Vatican I. Hence, when they discuss the possibility of a “heretical Pope”, they do so only in the sense of the Pope being a heretic in his private capacity, not as head of the Church. Here are some examples:

  • Fr. Matthaeus Conte a Coronata: “…it cannot be proved that the Roman Pontiff, as a private teacher, cannot become a heretic” (Institutiones Iuris Canonici, vol. I, n. 316c).
  • Fr. Joachim Salaverri: “Whether or not the Pope as a private person can fall into heresy?” (Sacrae Theologiae Summa IB: On the Church of Christ, n. 657, p. 240).
  • Fr. Sylvester Berry: “…if a pope, in his private capacity as an individual, should fall into manifest heresy, he would cease to be a member of the Church, and [in] consequence would also cease to be her supreme pastor” (The Church of Christ, p. 229).

Thus, a heretical Pope would be for the Church not simply “a terrible trial for a time”, it would be an utter absurdity, as Pope Leo XIII noted: “…it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside [the Church] can command in the Church” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 15). Since the entire Church rests on the Papacy as its foundation (see Mt 16:18), a Pope who is a heretic in his magisterium would mean the defection and total ruin of the Mystical Body, since, as we have seen Bellarmine teach, “the whole Church is so bound to hear and follow him that if he would err, the whole Church would err.”

Notice also how Kwasniewski slyly included a convenient little caveat in his own position. His thesis is that the Church could indeed suffer the terrible trial of a heretical Pope, but only under the condition that “it did not damage the Church beyond recovery.” But what is that supposed to mean? That the Church can defect as long as a future Pope can eventually fix things? That a Pope can impose heresy on the Church but only such heresies as can still be refuted later? What does “beyond recovery” mean, who gets to define it, and where does the Church teach this?

Don’t bother trying to look this up, folks. It doesn’t exist. Kwasniewski made it up because he needed, on the one hand, to take issue with Bellarmine since he does not share his position, and on the other hand, to concede that a heretical Pope is possible since Francis clearly is heretical. Clearly, Kwasniewski is not studying the Church’s doctrine on the Papacy and applying it to the facts at hand; he is, rather, desperately looking for arguments to support his predetermined and desired conclusion that Francis is a heretic but still the Pope. Kwasniewski does not, as a theologian ought, first find the correct premises and then let the reasoning flow to a necessary and accurate conclusion. Instead, like a lawyer defending his client at all costs, he starts out with the conclusion he wants to see confirmed and then tries to find premises that “lead to” that conclusion. It is a backwards method — one that “guarantees” a predetermined outcome but still gives the impression of being logical and doctrinally sound. One might call it theological shysterism.

Kwasniewski’s other claim, namely, that Bellarmine’s position “encounters insurmountable practical difficulties” because “by the time the Church has a formal heretic as a pope, she most likely also lacks the highly virtuous churchmen to carry out such a maneuver”, is irrelevant since (a) Bellarmine did not believe the scenario of a heretical Pope to be possible in the first place; (b) Francis was never a true Pope to begin with; (c) there is no necessary connection between a formal heretic claiming to be Pope and other prelates’ virtue or lack thereof; (d) whether there are practical difficulties associated with the position is independent of whether the position is true; (e) there can be no greater practical difficulty than a public non-Catholic teaching and ruling the Church of God, for, as we have seen, it would mean the defection of the entire Church.

It’s somewhat ironic how Kwasniewski can claim, in one and the same paragraph, that Bellarmine’s position is false because “a terrible trial for a time” is not impossible, whereas “insurmountable practical difficulties” are! The very notion of a heretical Pope is an insurmountable practical difficulty if one is familiar with the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy. Here’s some of what Dr. K. should have reviewed before misleading countless readers of Life Site:

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

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

You will firmly abide by the true decision of the Holy Roman Church and to this Holy See, which does not permit errors.

(Pope Leo X, Bull Cum Postquam; Denz. 740b)

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?

(Pope Pius VI, Apostolic Letter Quod Aliquantum; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 73)

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.

…[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

How come we never see Prof. Kwasniewski quote these teachings? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

When he does quote something Catholic in his article, it’s canon law, not doctrine:

An obvious objection is that the Church has said no formal heretic can occupy an ecclesiastical office, as found in the 1917 Code of Canon Law: “Any office becomes vacant upon the fact and without any declaration by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself if a cleric: … 4. Publicly defects from the Catholic faith.” But this is a principle of law, not a principle inherent in the natures of things. The commentators say it is “incongruous” that a heretic should occupy such an office, not that it is impossible in itself.

(Kwasniewski, “Could God permit a heretical pope to remain in office, and why would He?”)

That’s a nice try, except it’s flawed. For one thing, we are not merely talking about a Pope who is a public heretic in his private capacity but one who is a public heretic in the official exercise of his office, especially his magisterium. Secondly, the incompatibility between the Papacy and heresy is not merely a principle of law. It’s fundamentally a principle of Catholic dogmatic theology, as we have seen from authoritative sources cited so far. By dismissing it as a matter of mere church law, Kwasniewski is conveniently avoiding the doctrinal issue. Yet all the theologians who discuss the issue, including St. Robert Bellarmine, discuss the question based on doctrine, not on church law. The 1917 Code of Canon Law merely applies the Church’s doctrine to the legal order. So this Kwasniewskian argument, too, turns out to be a dud.

The retired theology professor continues:

The reason it is not impossible for a heretic to occupy an ecclesial office is that the Church is defined not only by belief and loyalty, but also by place and time. Someone who has defected from the Church’s belief and therefore ceased to be Catholic in the most important sense can still, in the stupidly physical sense of the word, occupy an ecclesiastical office: he can sit in a room in the Vatican or in a bishop’s estate, and he can write on official letterhead, and so on. One could approach him and say, “Excuse me, but since you are no longer a Catholic, you should leave the room.” But he will say, “How dare you say I am no longer a Catholic?”

Another powerful argument! No doubt St. Robert and his confreres never considered that maybe the heretic would physically sit in the ecclesial structures, right? Does Dr. K. seriously believe this is some kind of refutation of Bellarmine’s position? Does he think this illustrious Doctor was an airhead?

Supposing that there were no way to physically remove a heretical usurper from the ecclesial structures — though there usually is — one would simply have to imitate the Catholics under Bishop Nestorius when he became a public heretic:

When the most pious Nestorius was sitting [!] on the throne in the assembly of the Church of Constantinople, he arose and dared to say in a loud voice, “If anyone says that Mary is the Mother of God, let him be anathema.” And there was a great shout from all the people and they ran out. They did not want to associate any longer with those who had such opinions, so that even now the people of Constantinople keep away except from a few shallower ones, and those who flatter him. But nearly all the monasteries and their archimandrites, and many of the senators do not join him. They fear lest they be injured in faith, while he and those with him, whom he brought when going up from Antioch, say everything perverted.

(St. Cyril of Alexandria: Letters 1-50, trans. by John I. McEnerney [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1987], pp. 61-62; underlining added.)

This was licit for the faithful to do because Nestorius ceased being the lawful bishop — despite all of his sitting there — the moment he began publicly preaching his heresy. This is confirmed by St. Robert Bellarmine:

Pope Celestine I, in an epistle to John of Antioch, which is contained in Volume One of the Council of Ephesus, ch. 19, says: “If anyone who was either excommunicated or exiled by Bishop Nestorius, or any that followed him, from such a time as he began to preach such things, whether they be from the dignity of a bishop or clergy, it is manifest that he has endured and endures in our communion, nor do we judge him outside, because he could not remove anyone by a sentence, who himself had already shown that he must be removed.” And in a letter to the clergy of Constantinople: “The Authority of our See has sanctioned, that the bishop, cleric or Christian by simple profession who had been deposed or excommunicated by Nestorius or his followers, after the latter began to preach heresy, shall not be considered deposed or excommunicated. For he who had defected from the faith with such preaching, cannot depose or remove anyone whatsoever.”

(De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 30; underlining added.)

The phrase “who himself had already shown that he must be removed” does not mean that Nestorius didn’t immediately cease to be the rightful bishop, only that he had yet to undergo an official process to strip him of the external trappings of the office he had already vacated spiritually — and, if necessary, forcibly remove him from the ecclesial building.

This is confirmed by Cardinal Louis Billot (1846-1931), who writes that a publicly heretical bishop “loses episcopal jurisdiction and the power of excommunication only from the time at which he begins to preach heresy openly” and not only after an official condemnation by the superior (Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, 3rd ed. [1909], Thesis XI, Q. 7; p. 301; our translation).

This is also confirmed by a canonical dissertation written after the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law:

This crime [public heresy or apostasy] presupposes not an internal, or even external but occult act, but a public defection from the faith through formal heresy, or apostasy, with or without affiliation with another religious society…. The public character of this crime must be understood in the light of canon 2197 n. 1. Hence, if a bishop were guilty of this violation and the fact were divulged to the greater part of the town or community, the crime would be public and the see ipso facto [by that very fact] becomes vacant.

[W]hen a bishop tacitly resigns, as in the case of apostacy, heresy, etc., the see becomes fully vacant the moment the crime becomes public. According to a strict interpretation of the law, the jurisdiction of the bishop passes at that moment to the Board [of Diocesan Consultors], who may validly and licitly begin to exercise its power, as long as there is certainty that the crime has become public. In practice, however, it would probably be more prudent on the part of the Board, instead of assuming the governance of the see immediately, to notify the Holy See without delay, and await for such provisions which the Supreme Authority might choose to make.

(Rev. Leo Arnold Jaeger, The Administration of Vacant and Quasi-Vacant Dioceses in the United States [Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1932], pp. 82, 98.)

Whatever “insurmountable practical problems” Kwasniewski may have had in mind for his blog post, they weren’t enough to sway real Catholic theologians when discussing these issues in their treatises.

All the foregoing shows how much hot air, then, is Kwasniewski’s protestation:

Formal heretics, despite their formal heresy, have rarely admitted to being no longer in the fold. And as long as no one else can occupy the office, and the people subject to that office have no power to act, this squatter in the office wields a de facto authority. It is incongruous that someone outside the Catholic faith continues to tell people what to do in the Church — it is, in fact, rather like someone who does not belong to a family having absolute power over the family. But it is not impossible.

(Kwasniewski, “Could God permit a heretical pope to remain in office, and why would He?”; underlining added.)

He then quotes the Novus Ordo 1983 Code of Canon Law to buttress his point, but that argument is obviously dead on arrival.

The remainder of Kwasniewski’s monograph continues the pattern already established: that of making assertions based on what seems right to him with virtually no authoritative documentation cited to back him up.

There is one major error, however, we must correct still. The retired theology professor claims that “the Pope gets his jurisdiction from the Church”. This is not only erroneous but, as we will prove, heretical. We will quote Kwasniewski in full to show the context in which he enunciates this heresy:

Since it is the very nature of the Church that demands the existence of the papal office — in other words, since the pope is not first, simply speaking, but, as a member of the Church, takes up an office of the Church and for the Church — the pope gets his jurisdiction from the Church. The Church is the first and abiding reality with and under Christ, and the pope is consequent to that reality. There are other offices within the Church that are consequent to the Church simultaneously with the pope’s office — that is, there are other offices consequent to the Church that are not consequent to the pope.

(Kwasniewski, “Could God permit a heretical pope to remain in office, and why would He?”; underlining added; italics given.)

The underlined portion is totally false. The Pope receives his jurisdiction from Christ directly, not from or through the Church. Contrary to what Dr. K. asserts, the Church is consequent to the Pope — he is, after all, her foundation: “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). Did Kwasniewski forget this passage already? Pope Leo XIII expounds on its meaning thus:

From this text it is clear that by the will and command of God the Church rests upon St. Peter, just as a building rests on its foundation. Now the proper nature of a foundation is to be a principle of cohesion for the various parts of the building. It must be the necessary condition of stability and strength. Remove it and the whole building falls. It is consequently the office of St. Peter to support the Church, and to guard it in all its strength and indestructible unity. How could he fulfil this office without the power of commanding, forbidding, and judging, which is properly called jurisdiction? It is only by this power of jurisdiction that nations and commonwealths are held together.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 12; italics given.)

The Pope is therefore not consequent to the Church but antecedent to it, in the sense that the entire spiritual edifice rests on him, and he holds it together. That is how our Blessed Lord designed it.

Kwasniewski’s errors are reminiscent of the Febronianism propagated by the Austrian canonist Johann Valentin Eybel (1741-1805), who was condemned by Pope Pius VI:

He [Eybel] has not hesitated to call fanatic the crowd which he saw breaking forth into these words at the sight of the [Roman] Pontiff: “He is the man who has received from God the keys of the kingdom of heaven with the power of binding and loosing, to whom no other bishop can be made equal, from whom these very bishops receive their authority as he himself received his supreme power from God; moreover, he is the vicar of Christ, the visible head of the Church, the supreme judge of the faithful.” Could, therefore (a thing horrible to say), that voice of Christ have been fanatical, which promised [Matt. 16:19] Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven with the power of binding and loosing; which keys Optatus Milevitanus, following Tertullian, did not hesitate to confess that Peter alone received to be communicated to the others? Or, are so many solemn decrees of the Popes and Councils repeated so many times to be called fanatic, by which those have been condemned who denied that in blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles, his successor, the Roman Pontiff, was established by God as the visible head of the Church and the vicar of Jesus Christ, that to him has been transmitted full power of ruling the Church, and that true obedience is due him from all who are considered Christians; and that such is the power of the primacy, which he holds by divine right, that he is superior to other bishops not only by his rank of honor but by the plenitude of his supreme power? All the more must be deplored that blind and rash temerity of the man who was eager to renew in his unfortunate book errors which have been condemned by so many decrees, who has said and insinuated indiscriminately by many ambiguities, that every bishop, no less than the pope, was called by God to govern the Church, and was endowed with no less power; that Christ gave the same power Himself to all the apostles; and that whatever some people believe is obtained and granted only by the pope, that very thing, whether it depends on consecration or ecclesiastical jurisdiction, can be obtained just as well from any bishop; that Christ wished His Church to be governed in the manner of a republic; and that, indeed, for that government there is need of a head for the good of unity, but one who does not dare to interfere in the affairs of others (bishops) who rule at the same time; nevertheless, he has the privilege of exhorting those who are negligent to the fulfillment of their duties; that the power of the primacy is contained in this one prerogative, of making up for the negligence of others, of looking after the preservation of unity by encouragement and example; that the popes have no power in another diocese except in an extraordinary case; that the pope is the head because he holds his power and strength from the Church; that the Pontiffs have made it lawful for themselves to violate the rights of bishops, to reserve to themselves absolutions, dispensations, decisions, appeals, bestowal of benefices, in a word all other duties which he enumerates one by one and derides as unjust reservations and injurious to bishops.

(Pope Pius VI, Bull Super Soliditate; Denz. 1500; underlining added.)

The same Pius VI also condemned the errors of a local synod held in Pistoia, Italy, which included this one:

In addition, the proposition which states “that the Roman Pontiff is the ministerial head,” if it is so explained that the Roman Pontiff does not receive from Christ in the person of blessed Peter, but from the Church, the power of ministry, which as successor of Peter, true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church he possesses in the universal Church,–heretical.

(Pope Pius VI, Bull Auctorem Fidei, n. 3; Denz. 1503; underlining added.)

Notice that not only is Kwasniewski’s position rejected by the Church, it is rejected as heretical. To remain Catholic, the faithful must side with Pope Pius VI and not with Febronius, Eybel, or the Pistoians — or Peter Kwasniewski.

Another way we can see that the Pope does not receive his jurisdiction from the Church but from God directly is that he exercises jurisdiction over the entire Church. This he could not do if the Church were the source of his jurisdiction. “Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him” (Jn 13:16). The entire Church is subject to the Pope — he is not subject to the Church:

Jesus Christ conferred on His Church the supreme power of administering religion and governing Christian society. This is not subject to the civil authority. In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle teaches that Christ established this ecclesiastical power for the benefit of unity. And what is this unity unless one person is placed in charge of the whole Church who protects it and joins all its members in the one profession of faith and unites them in the one bond of love and communion? The wisdom of the Divine Lawgiver ordered that a visible head be placed over a visible body so that “once so established, the opportunity for division might be removed.” Wherefore, although for all the bishops whom the Holy Spirit placed as governors of the Church of God there is a common dignity and in matters of rank there is nevertheless equal power, there is not the same rank in the hierarchy for all and they do not all have the same extent of jurisdiction.

Using the words of St. Leo the Great; “Among the holy apostles there was a similarity of honor but a distinction of power: while the election of all was equal, it was given only to one to have preeminence among the others … because the Lord wanted the sacrament of evangelical duty to belong to the office of the apostles; thus He placed it principally in St. Peter, the head of all the apostles.” He granted this to Peter alone out of all the apostles when He promised him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and entrusted to him the obligation of feeding the Lord’s sheep and lambs and the duty of strengthening his brothers. He wanted this to extend to Peter’s successors whom He placed over the Church with equal right. This has always been the firm and united opinion of all Catholics. It is Church dogma that the pope, the successor of St. Peter, possesses not only primacy of honor but also primacy of authority and jurisdiction over the whole Church. Accordingly the bishops are subject to him.

(Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Commissum Divinitus, n. 10; underlining added.)

To preserve forever in his Church the unity and doctrine of this faith, Christ chose one of his apostles, Peter, whom he appointed the Prince of his Apostles, his Vicar on earth, and impregnable foundation and head of his Church. Surpassing all others with every dignity of extraordinary authority, power and jurisdiction, he was to feed the Lord’s flock, strengthen his brothers, rule and govern the universal Church. Christ not only desired that his Church remain as one and immaculate to the end of the world, and that its unity in faith, doctrine and form of government remain inviolate. He also willed that the fullness of dignity, power and jurisdiction, integrity and stability of faith given to Peter be handed down in its entirety to the Roman Pontiffs, the successors of this same Peter, who have been placed on this Chair of Peter in Rome, and to whom has been divinely committed the supreme care of the Lord’s entire flock and the supreme rule of the Universal Church.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Amantissimus, n. 2; underlining added.)

Does Peter Kwasniewski not know this? Pardon the pun, but Kwasniewski pontificates on matters of which he appears not to have even a rudimentary understanding. Couldn’t he at least have consulted a pre-Vatican II book on this subject before blogging about it? Or was the goal simply to argue for Francis’ validity regardless of what Catholic teaching says?

The First Vatican Council of 1870 confirms all of the foregoing in its dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ:

So we teach and declare that according to the testimonies of the Gospel the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church of God was promised and was conferred immediately and directly upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord. For the one Simon, to whom He had before said: “Thou shalt be called Cephas” [John 1:42], after he had given forth his confession with those words: “Thou art Christ, Son of the living God” [Matt. 16:16], the Lord spoke with these solemn words: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I shall give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven” [Matt. 16:17 ff.]. And upon Simon Peter alone Jesus after His resurrection conferred the jurisdiction of the highest pastor and rector over his entire fold, saying: “Feed my lambs,” “Feed my sheep” [John 21:15 ff.]. To this teaching of Sacred Scriptures, so manifest as it has been always understood by the Catholic Church, are opposed openly the vicious opinions of those who perversely deny that the form of government in His Church was established by Christ the Lord; that to Peter alone, before the other apostles, whether individually or all together, was confided the true and proper primacy of jurisdiction by Christ; or, of those who affirm that the same primacy was not immediately and directly bestowed upon the blessed Peter himself, but upon the Church, and through this Church upon him as the minister of the Church herself.

(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 1; Denz. 1822; underlining added.)

The following anathemas from Vatican I relate to this and make clear that just as St. Peter received his jurisdiction directly from Christ, so do all of St. Peter’s successors, who enjoy the exact same primacy:

If anyone then says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honor but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema.

If anyone then says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord Himself, or by divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in the same primacy, let him be anathema.

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.

(Denz. 1823, 1825, 1831; underlining added.)

Not surprisingly, the position enunciated by the council was also that of St. Robert Bellarmine, whose doctrine it heavily relied on. In Book IV, Chapter 22, the Doctor of the Papacy writes that “the question is whether Bishops canonically elected would receive their jurisdiction from God, just as the Supreme Pontiff does, or on the other hand from the Pope”, and he proceeds to answer that in Chapters 24 and 25, where he proves that “all ordinary jurisdiction of Bishops comes down immediately from the Pope” (Ch. 24). In short: The Pope receives his jurisdiction from Christ, and the bishops receive their jurisdiction from the Pope. It is a real pity that Dr. K. couldn’t be bothered to look this up first.

On his web site, Peter Kwasniewski states that he has “the intention of dedicating his life to the articulation and defense of Catholic Tradition in all its dimensions.” Yeah, that’s it!

Sadly, the retired professor has demonstrated once again that his main goal is not the exploration and exposition of true Catholic doctrine at all but merely the justification and defense of the popular and convenient recognize-and-resist position he already holds. Instead of leaving intact the traditional Catholic doctrine on the Papacy and simply concluding that Bergoglio therefore cannot be a valid Pope, the retired academic prefers to legitimize Francis by denying the true teaching and then refusing him submission. And this he then markets as God’s way of keeping the gates of hell from prevailing.

With “traditional Catholics” like that, who needs Modernists?

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