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Recognize-and-resist icon vs. Catholic doctrine…

Tradition and the Magisterium:
Refuting the False Claims of Prof. Roberto de Mattei

On April 2, 2020, the semi-traditionalist flagship publication Catholic Family News published an interview with Prof. Roberto de Mattei, an Italian historian who is also the founder of the Lepanto Foundation and editor of the Corrispondenza Romana news site. De Mattei frequently speaks at conservative Novus Ordo and semi-trad conferences and is routinely promoted in the publications of those groups as a guiding light of Tradition in our dark times.

In fact, it was precisely in that putative capacity that Matthew Gaspers, managing editor of Catholic Family News, recently interviewed de Mattei, since the hierarchy of the institution they both claim is the Catholic Church, obviously does not hold the Catholic Faith and therefore cannot be considered a reliable teacher of the same.

It is for this reason that Gaspers & Co. continually have to seek out — and somehow they always find — individuals whom they consider their “real” reliable guides in matters of Faith and morals. Other candidates for that role tend to be “Cardinal” Raymond Burke, “Abp.” Carlo Maria Viganò, “Bp.” Athanasius Schneider, Mr. Christopher Ferrara, and Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. Past favorites, who are now deceased, include Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, “Fr.” Nicholas Gruner, and “Fr.” Gregorius Hesse.

In prefatory remarks to the interview with de Mattei, Gaspers writes:

Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), and especially in light of the many changes that have affected virtually every aspect of ecclesial life, there has been much confusion and debate in the Church regarding the nature of Tradition (the unwritten word of God) and its relationship to the Church’s “living Magisterium”, that is, to the living subjects (pope/bishops) appointed by God as the guardians and teachers of Divine Revelation (Scripture and Tradition).

As He has always done throughout Church history, Our Lord continues to raise up voices of clarity in our day to help anchor souls in His unchanging truth. One such voice is Professor Roberto de Mattei, an Italian Church historian and friend of Catholic Family News who has devoted himself to defending the Faith of all time through writing, speaking, and organizing various events in the public square.

(Matthew Gaspers, “EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Professor Roberto de Mattei on Tradition and Authority in the Church”, Catholic Family News, Apr. 2, 2020)

So here the editor of Catholic Family News declares, in essence, that God has effectively appointed de Mattei as a defender and teacher of the True Faith, something Gaspers evidently cannot say about his very own “Pope” or the “bishops” under him. This confirms once more that the semi-trads’ acceptance of their shepherds ends with acknowledging their titles. They would never dream of actually allowing them to inform their consciences about the Catholic Faith.

And yet, Pope Leo XIII, himself Vicar of Christ and Supreme Teacher of all Christians, taught as follows:

To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

That, too, is part of the unchanging truth of the Catholic Faith which we must believe and profess. It is part of what de Mattei himself calls “the integral doctrine of the Church which comes to us from the successors of the Apostles with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.” Why, then, do Gaspers, de Mattei, and others in their camp not accept it or act in accordance with it?

We know why, of course: Because they refuse to let go of the belief that Jorge Bergoglio (Francis) is the Pope of the Catholic Church. That belief throws a monkey wrench into Catholic theology, for it is not possible to affirm of Bergoglio what the Church teaches about the Papacy. Instead of jettisoning the impossible pope, however, they prefer to bend and twist Catholic doctrine to “make it fit” — except they cannot make it fit, and hence their theology is at odds with traditional Catholic doctrine on the Church, on the Magisterium, and on the Papacy.

We have demonstrated this numerous times in the past:

Beginning the interview portion, Gaspers asks de Mattei about his new book, Apologia for Tradition (Angelus Press, 2019). In it, the Italian academic advances the thesis that the Church’s Magisterium is not a proper source of theology but rather a function carried out by the hierarchy. Gaspers asks him to explain this, and de Mattei answers as follows:

The Magisterium can be understood in two senses: the act of ecclesiastical authority that teaches a truth (the subjective Magisterium) or the object believed, the complex of truths that are taught (the objective Magisterium). In the former, the Magisterium is a function exercised by ecclesiastical authorities in order to teach revealed truths; in the latter, it is an objective deposit of truths that coincides with the Tradition. In moments of crisis, when an evident contradiction is created between the subjective and objective Magisterium, between the authorites who teach and the truth of faith that they ought to guard and transmit, the sensus fidei leads the believer to reject every ambiguity and forgery of the Faith, basing himself on the immutable Tradition of the Church, which is not opposed to the Magisterium but includes it. Ordinarily the Magisterium is the proximate rule of faith, but in the case of a contrast between the novelties proposed by the subjective or “living” Magisterium and the Tradition, primacy can only be attributed to the Tradition, which is always divinely assisted. The “living” Magisterium is divinely assisted only when it speaks in an extraordinary way or when, in the ordinary form, it teaches a truth of faith or morals in continuity with the Tradition.

(Roberto de Mattei, in Matthew Gaspers, “EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Professor Roberto de Mattei on Tradition and Authority in the Church”, Catholic Family News, Apr. 2, 2020)

What the Italian history professor says here is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, he advances quite a daring thesis, namely, that there can be a manifest contradiction between what the Church’s Magisterium communicates and what the divinely revealed truth actually is. In other words, de Mattei maintains that it is possible for the Church’s teaching authority to teach heresy. What evidence does he adduce for such a daring proposition? In the interview, he gives none whatsoever. In fact, if such were a possibility, then traditional papal teaching such as the following would be a frightful danger to one’s eternal salvation: “Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7).

Secondly, de Mattei invokes the sensus fidei — “sense of the Faith” — which is possessed by all the faithful collectively, as the ultimate criterion of truth for when the Magisterium gets it wrong. He claims that it “leads the believer to reject every ambiguity and forgery of the Faith, basing himself on the immutable Tradition of the Church, which is not opposed to the Magisterium but includes it.” Considering, however, that virtually no one — aside from himself and those in his relatively small group of conservatives and semi-traditionalists around the globe — actually repudiates the theological garbage promoted by the Vatican II Church, instead generously imbibing it, it is not clear how de Mattei can maintain that the sensus fidei “leads the believer to reject every ambiguity and forgery of the Faith….”

Has he not taken a look around within his church lately? Where are all those hordes of believers who reject ecumenism, collegiality, religious liberty, Amoris Laetitia‘s situation ethics, opposition to the death penalty, exaggerated environmentalism, or the Abu Dhabi declaration that God wills religious diversity? Outside of the Society of St. Pius X and a few similar groups, who together represent only a tiny fraction of the world’s 1.3 billion people who are officially identified as “Roman Catholics”, they are nowhere to be found. How, then, can de Mattei maintain such a position?

We all know, of course, what is really driving his curious thesis: Since his “Pope” and “bishops” teach all kinds of blasphemous and heretical claptrap and yet he refuses to recognize that they are not valid Catholic authorities, the Italian historian is forced to argue that there can be a difference between the true Catholic Faith on the one hand and what the Magisterium teaches on the other. At the same time, he has to do more than that: He also has to come up with a sort of trump card that allows people to reject the errors the Novus Ordo Magisterium teaches and stick to Tradition instead. He thinks he has found it in the sensus fidei.

Consequently, de Mattei has to argue that the Church’s Magisterium is the rule of Faith only “ordinarily” — and of course we live in very extraordinary times:

Ordinarily the Magisterium is the proximate rule of faith, but in the case of a contrast between the novelties proposed by the subjective or “living” Magisterium and the Tradition, primacy can only be attributed to the Tradition, which is always divinely assisted. The “living” Magisterium is divinely assisted only when it speaks in an extraordinary way or when, in the ordinary form, it teaches a truth of faith or morals in continuity with the Tradition.

(underlining added)

In other words, de Mattei holds that the faithful are required to subject everything the Catholic hierarchy teaches them to a kind of “Tradition Test”, activating their internal sensus fidei to see if it passes muster. And if it doesn’t — well, that’s where all those petitions, protests, and filial corrections come in that the semi-trads like to involve themselves in.

Thus the Italian professor has conveniently arranged his own definitions to serve as the necessary premises for his rejection of whichever portions of the Novus Ordo Magisterium he does not believe line up with pre-Vatican II teaching. To that end, he has carefully made “continuity with the Tradition” a condition for, rather than a consequence of, the divine assistance — which defeats the whole purpose of having a Magisterium to begin with. One might as well argue that Pastor Fred from the Living Waters Fellowship Chapel down the street is also divinely assisted, whenever what he teaches is actually in agreement with Catholicism. This amounts to a meaningless, even blasphemous “God guarantees it when it’s true” doctrine. Is the Church’s ordinary teaching authority really no different in essence from that of any self-styled pastor?

Let’s go ahead and apply our own Tradition Test to de Mattei’s theses. We ask: Is the Magisterium really the proximate rule of Faith only ordinarily and not always? Is it incumbent upon the faithful to discern whether they find themselves in extraordinary “moments of crisis” and, if so, then “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim 4:3) consult “voices of clarity” that have been specially “raised up” by God, as Matt Gaspers would say, “to help anchor souls in His unchanging truth” in opposition to the teaching hierarchy? In other words: Where does the Church teach that when the Magisterium ceases to preach in accordance with the Catholic Faith, then the taught need to consult their own sense of the Faith and, if necessary, ask their local Church history professor and then go by that instead?

Examining the magisterial pronouncements before Vatican II, we find the following, among many other examples:

[Christians] receive their rule of faith from the Church, by whose authority and under whose guidance they are conscious that they have beyond question attained to truth. Consequently, as the Church is one, because Jesus Christ is one, so throughout the whole Christian world there is, and ought to be, but one doctrine: “One Lord, one faith;” “but having the same spirit of faith,” they possess the saving principle whence proceed spontaneously one and the same will in all, and one and the same tenor of action.

To determine, however, which are the doctrines divinely revealed belongs to the teaching Church, to whom God has entrusted the safekeeping and interpretation of His utterances. But the supreme teacher in the Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires, together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff, as to God Himself. This obedience should, however, be perfect, because it is enjoined by faith itself, and has this in common with faith, that it cannot be given in shreds; nay, were it not absolute and perfect in every particular, it might wear the name of obedience, but its essence would disappear….

In defining the limits of the obedience owed to the pastors of souls, but most of all to the authority of the Roman Pontiff, it must not be supposed that it is only to be yielded in relation to dogmas of which the obstinate denial cannot be disjoined from the crime of heresy. Nay, further, it is not enough sincerely and firmly to assent to doctrines which, though not defined by any solemn pronouncement of the Church, are by her proposed to belief, as divinely revealed, in her common and universal teaching, and which the [First] Vatican Council declared are to be believed “with Catholic and divine faith.” But this likewise must be reckoned amongst the duties of Christians, that they allow themselves to be ruled and directed by the authority and leadership of bishops, and, above all, of the Apostolic See….

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, nn. 21-22, 24; underlining added.)

Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9; underlining added.)

[T]his sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith — Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition — to be preserved, guarded and interpreted….

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 18; underlining added.)

These examples from the real Magisterium are rather clear. We invite Prof. de Mattei to adjust his own sensus fidei accordingly.

Returning to the interview, Gaspers asks his interlocutor to give some examples from Church history where, as he maintains in his book Apologia for Tradition, the faithful legitimately used their sensus fidei to resist the Church’s teaching authority. De Mattei responds:

In Baptism and Confirmation, the Christian receives a supernatural light that theologians call the “common Catholic sense” or the “sensus fidei,” the capacity to adhere to the truths of the Faith by means of supernatural instinct, even prior to theological reasoning. The first historical manifestation of the sensus fidei can be considered the Arian crisis. According to the attentive historical reconstruction which Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) made in his masterpiece, The Arians of the Fourth Century, the models of the sensus fidei were St. Athanasius and St. Hilary of Poitiers, followed in later centuries by St. Bruno of Segni, St. Peter Damian, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort. They were illuminated by the Holy Spirit during dramatic epochs of the history of the Church.

In more recent history, Benedict XVI defined the sensus fidei as “that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit that enables us to embrace the reality of faith with humility of heart and mind,” inviting theologians to listen to this source and to preserve the humility and simplicity of the “little ones” who have known this mystery such as St. Bernadette Soubirous and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

(italics given)

Aside from the fact that it is rather strange that de Mattei would quote Benedict XVI, one of the main Modernist influencers at the Second Vatican Council, as a trustworthy authority on Catholic theology, the historical examples he appeals to have nothing to do with people resisting the Church’s Magisterium.

Neither St. Athanasius nor St. Hilary resisted the magisterial teaching of the Roman Pontiff, Pope Liberius, as the historical record shows. St. Bruno rebuked Pope Paschal II for a concession to the German emperor in the investiture controversy that had been obtained under duress — nothing magisterial there either. St. Peter Damian fought simony and sodomy among the clergy and opposed Antipope Benedict X. St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Catherine of Siena exhorted the Avignon Popes to return to Rome, which also has nothing to do with the Magisterium. As for St. Louis de Montfort, it is not clear to the present writer why de Mattei brings him up — his Apologia for Tradition does not appear to mention him at all.

There is a lot to say about all of these historical cases, of course, but since the professor doesn’t enter into them, we don’t see the need to do so either. Rather, what these examples show is that Popes can legitimately be criticized, even rebuked, when their actions are manifestly harming the Church, or when they are giving scandal by their personal behavior. Individual papal commands (not, however, universal laws), if they order what is sinful, can and must even be resisted. However, that has nothing whatsoever to do with publicly rejecting or resisting the doctrines taught by the Pope or by the bishops in communion with the Apostolic See. In any case, does de Mattei think that the pre-Vatican II Popes, whose pronouncements on the necessity of submitting to all papal teaching we quoted above, were not aware of the historical record with regard to St. Bruno, St. Catherine, etc.?

Having given his take on the sensus fidei that can supposedly be invoked to dismiss, reject, or overturn papal teaching, Prof. de Mattei is asked about a closely related concept, the sensus fidelium (“sense of the faithful”). He explains:

Along with the infallibility of the Ecclesia docens [teaching church] in teaching there also exists an infallibility of the Ecclesia discens [learning church] in believing, because neither the corpus docendi [teaching body] which is invested with the power of teaching the entire Church nor the universality of the faithful in believing can fall into error. If the flock of the faithful could in fact err, believing as Revelation that which is not, the promise of divine assistance to the Church would be frustrated…

(italics given)

This is very true, it just doesn’t help de Mattei — or Gaspers, for that matter. This becomes even more clear when we consult traditional Catholic sources on this topic.

We begin with an explanation given by Fr. Sylvester Berry:

Since the Church is immutably one in the profession of faith, the faithful as a body must be free from error, otherwise the faith would not be one, but many [cf. Eph 4:5]. Moreover, the profession of a false faith constitutes manifest heresy and excludes one from membership in the Church. Consequently, if the faithful as a body could fall into error in the profession of faith, the Church would immediately cease to be Catholic and would therefore cease to be the Church of Christ. It is evident, then, that the faithful as a body must be infallible or free from error, at least in the profession of faith.

…a Church tainted with error and the profession of falsehood would be neither glorious nor without spot [cf. Eph 5:25-27]; neither would it be a spouse worthy of Christ…. And would not the error of the mystical Body be justly imputable to its Head and to the Holy Spirit who animates it?…

Passive infallibility bestowed upon the Church primarily for the purpose of preserving unity of faith, also furnishes a rule of faith, since any doctrine professed by the whole Church must be a revealed truth. Practically, however, such a rule of faith is not sufficient for the needs of the faithful, because it requires long and diligent research to discover whether any particular doctrine is held by the universal Church, and also whether it is held as a revealed truth or merely as a pious belief.

(Rev. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ [Baltimore, MD: Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, 1955], pp. 254-256; underlining added. The 1927 edition is available online here.)

So, precisely what does this do for the recognize-and-resist position of Roberto de Mattei, Matt Gaspers, and their colleagues? Do they really think that the vast majority of the people who are officially looked upon as “Roman Catholics” by the Modernist Sect in Rome, constitute an infallible witness to the true Faith? If so, shouldn’t they be joining them instead of maintaining a program of resistance and — some of them — a de facto parallel church? Do they really mean to suggest that the Novus Ordo laity and priests as a whole are currently witnessing to Apostolic Tradition against their erring shepherds? And if not, why bring it up?

Next, we turn to Fr. Edwin Kaiser, who writes:

Though the teaching Church alone is commissioned to instruct, rule, and sanctify, the Church thus instructed, ruled and sanctified is receptively a norm of the divine truth committed to it. That which all the faithful hold as divinely true, divinely revealed, divinely necessary for salvation, must indeed be truly such. Obviously, we are not speaking of subtle or abstruse problems in theology, but only of that which may be readily grasped by the faithful generally. In this sense there is an infallibility of the Church Hearing, derived from the Church Teaching. If the entire body of laity should fall into error, this could only be due to the erroneous instruction on the part of the Teaching Church.

(Rev. Edwin G. Kaiser, Sacred Doctrine: An Introduction to Theology [Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1958], pp. 153-154; underlining added.)

Does Prof. de Mattei really want us to apply this standard to the Vatican II Church? If so, we must ask: What is there that the vast majority of its adherents “hold as divinely true, divinely revealed, divinely necessary for salvation”? Is it anything he, Gaspers, and others in their camp uphold as the “remnant” faithful, such as the Social Kingship of Christ, no salvation outside the Church, or the Mass being a propitiatory Sacrifice? Would the vast majority of them even know what the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are? Do most Novus Ordos even believe in the concept of something being truly necessary for salvation? Do they know what salvation even consists in, what the ultimate goal of every human life is?

This is not to pass judgment on anyone’s soul, merely to point out the objective fact that if we examined what the bulk of “Roman Catholics” today believes, we would hear something about human dignity, freedom of conscience, safeguarding our “common home”, and opposition to the death penalty. And that’s only because of “the erroneous instruction on the part of the Teaching Church”, as Fr. Kaiser says — which proves that the church in question is not the Roman Catholic Church. We would advise Prof. de Mattei not to play that trump card.

The sensus fidelium doctrine is really just the necessary consequence of the fact that if the Catholic Church teaches the true Faith, then the faithful will necessarily believe the true Faith. It is not a “corrective” to an ecclesiastical Magisterium gone crazy that can be invoked by the faithful. It is not meant to reverse the right order of things so that in the end the sheep teach the shepherds:

By certain indications it is not difficult to conclude that among Catholics – doubtless as a result of current evils – there are some who, far from satisfied with the condition of “subject” which is theirs in the Church, think themselves able to take some part in her government, or at least, think they are allowed to examine and judge after their own fashion the acts of authority. A misplaced opinion, certainly. If it were to prevail, it would do very grave harm to the Church of God, in which, by the manifest will of her Divine Founder, there are to be distinguished in the most absolute fashion two parties: the teaching and the taught, the Shepherd and the flock, among whom there is one who is the head and the Supreme Shepherd of all.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

Returning to the interview, Gaspers next turns to the issue of “papolatry” (which literally means “pope worship”), a sort of false (exaggerated) devotion to the Pope, which semi-traditionalists like to accuse sedevacantists of. De Mattei says that “Papolatry occurs when it is believed that everything the pope says and does is perfect and infallible, without distinguishing between the man and the institution he represents.” With that definition, which we are happy to accept, no sedevacantist is a papolater, and presumably no one else in the world is, either.

Thus we can move straight on to Gasper’s next question, which concerns the origins of papolatry. Thankfully, unlike many of his colleagues, de Mattei does not locate it in Ultramontanism. Nevertheless, we must still take issue with his response:

I do not believe that the origings of this false devotion are to be found in the ultramontanism of the 19th century, as many think. The “ultramontanists,” beginning with Pius IX, knew well the limits of papal power. In 1875, in their opposition to Chancellor Bismarck, the German bishops declared that the Magisterium of the pope and bishops “is restricted to the contents of the infallible Magisterium of the Church in general, and it is restricted to the contents of the Holy Scripture and Tradition” (DH 3116). Pope Pius IX gave his full support to this declaration with his Apostolic Letter Mirabilis illa constantia to the bishops of Germany on March 4, 1875 (DH 3117). “Papolatry” was born after the Second Vatican Council: a hypertrophic cult for the person of the pope that developed parallel to the humiliation of the pope. A turning point occurred on November 13, 1964, when Paul VI deposed the papal tiara, renouncing the ceremony of coronation. This was not an act of humility by the pope but rather an act of humiliation of the papacy.

(italics given; underlining added)

Note the underlined portion. De Mattei claims that the Magisterium is restricted to what is infallible — in other words: if it’s not infallible, it’s not Magisterium. But that is not in fact what the quoted text actually says. Here is the full sentence, of which de Mattei quotes only a portion:

As the [First] Vatican Council has expressed the idea in clear and precise words and as the nature of the matter requires, infallibility is a characteristic of the papacy that refers exclusively to the supreme Magisterium of the pope: it is coextensive with the area of the infallible Magisterium of the Church in general, and it is restricted to the contents of Holy Scripture and tradition and also to the dogmas previously defined by the teaching authority of the Church.

(Common Declaration of German Bishops, Jan./Feb. 1875; Denz.-H. 3116; English translation from here. Underlining added.)

Whereas the Italian professor reduced “the Magisterium of the pope and bishops” to only what is divinely revealed and therefore infallible, the text actually speaks only of the supreme, that is extraordinary, Magisterium of the Pope alone. By this misrepresentation of what the text actually says, de Mattei gives the false impression that only what is infallible is magisterial, which allows him and his fellow resisters to draw the much-desired inference that whatever is not found in Scripture or Tradition is not infallible and therefore not magisterial. And if it’s not magisterial, then a Catholic can reject it.

But this is not, as we have seen, the actual doctrine of the Church. In fact, one is pressed to ask if we can’t just get rid of that pesky Magisterium altogether and instead only have Scripture and Tradition, together with that sensus fidei. But, as Fr. Kaiser reminds us, “This divine tradition is communicated to men through the Church’s magisterium” (Sacred Doctrine, p. 128).

And that is the point. Nowhere does the Church teach that the faithful as a whole can or must correct an erring ecclesiastical Magisterium. If Prof. de Mattei thinks otherwise, he can provide the evidence from Catholic doctrine (and not from Church history).

The sensus fidei or the sensus fidelium will not come to de Mattei’s rescue here:

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24; underlining added.)

This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 21)

This is the doctrine of the Church, quite “in continuity with the Tradition”! Or will the Italian historian reject that, too?

For Matt Gaspers, Roberto de Mattei has been raised up by God to teach the Catholic world what the real Faith is, to make up for a defected hierarchy. Here’s what Pope Pius XII thought about that:

…there never has been, there is not now, and there never will be in the Church a legitimate teaching authority of the laity withdrawn by God from the authority, guidance, and watchfulness of the sacred Teaching Authority; in fact, the very denial of submission offers a convincing proof and criterion that laymen who thus speak and act are not guided by the Spirit of God and of Christ.

(Pope Pius XII, Allocution Si Diligis)

For Gaspers to adhere to de Mattei, and to promote him as an authoritative teacher of the Catholic Faith while recognizing Club Francis in Rome as the Catholic Church, is the epitome of what the Church calls “private judgment”, because de Mattei says what he says in opposition to what he recognizes as the legitimate living teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

By the way, the biography page of Prof. de Mattei’s personal web site does not contain the words “Catholic” or “Church” at all. That is unfortunate for someone who is constantly being promoted as the man to turn to when it comes to Church history and even Church doctrine, over and against the Magisterium of the man acknowledged as Pope. According to the biographical summary, de Mattei’s degree is in contemporary history, not Church history.

Furthermore, the page states: “He passed the first round of examinations for the role of tenured professor, at the Associate Professor level in the scientific sector M-STO/02 of Modern History, and became the titular chair of Modern History in the Faculty of Letters at the University of Cassino (1985-2009).” Again, there is no mention of Church history at all, although the same page goes on to inform us that de Mattei has taught “Modern History and the History of Christianity” as an “Associate Professor in the European University of Rome, where he is coordinator of the degree course in Historical Sciences….” Other accomplishments, memberships, etc. are listed as well, and in the interview with Gaspers he states that he also taught at the Sapienza University of Rome.

That Prof. de Mattei is a distinguished and competent historian is beyond question, given all the credentials he has; but for him to effectively usurp the role of God’s appointed reliable guide in matters of Faith and morals, in opposition to the man he acknowledges to be the reigning Pope, that is quite another matter. Recall that Gaspers hails him as one of those “voices of clarity in our day to help anchor souls in [God’s] unchanging truth.”

One might point out, not unjustly, that sedevacantists don’t have teachers with a canonical appointment either, but in our case that’s because there is no one to do the appointing. We are not doing anything in opposition to a reigning Pope, which is what de Mattei and those like him are presuming to do. We call their position recognize-and-resist for a reason.

It is very important to remember that by divine institution there is in fact in the Catholic Church one man who is always the voice of clarity to anchor souls in God’s unchaning truth: He is the Pope. Although the Church doesn’t currently have one, as far as we’re able to tell, nevertheless the principle remains true. Pius XII put it this way:

The Pope has the divine promises; 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.

(Pope Pius XII, Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949)

This doesn’t sound like Francis, does it? For this reason, we said towards the beginning of this article that it is not possible to affirm of Bergoglio what the Church teaches about the Papacy.

In 1930, Pope Pius XI taught in Casti Connubii that “a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord” (n. 104). Likewise, he taught in Mortalium Animos that in the Catholic Church “no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors” (n. 11). And Pope Pius XII pointed out that those “walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth” (Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 41).

These things cannot be applied to Francis because he is not the Pope. Our convenient little “Francis Papacy Test” shows this rather strikingly.

We have said it time and again: If you believe Francis is the Pope, then you must affirm of him what Catholic doctrine teaches about the Papacy. Otherwise, your claim that he is the Pope is hollow and disingenuous.

Try as they might, the semi-trads cannot escape their dilemma: If they are so sure that Bergoglio is the Pope of the Catholic Church, then they must embrace the consequences that follow from that affirmation. If those consequences are impossible to reconcile with the divine promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, then there is only one possible way out:

We can and must affirm that Francis is not in fact the Pope of the Catholic Church.

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