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After Steve Skojec recognizes you can’t resist…

The Battle for the Catholic Ethos:
Peter Kwasniewski tries to save Recognize-and-Resist

On Mar. 26, 2021, the well-known semi-traditionalist lecturer and retired theology professor Dr. Peter Kwasniewski posted a message on Facebook that attempts to salvage the theologically-embattled recognize-and-resist position. The entire post reads as follows:

Is “Recognize and Resist” antithetical to the Catholic ethos? Can quotations from Leo XIII of other popes of the last 150 years rule it out?

Obviously one should not ever want to be in a position of resisting a wayward pope, who is ventilating his private and dubious theological opinions from his chair, or who, while strenuously avoiding the requisites of infallibility, sows confusion and error. That is not our “default.” But it becomes an unavoidable necessity should the situation arise, just as one who carries a gun hopes never to have to use it, but will use it to protect himself and others if need be.

This is why the theological tradition has frequently and extensively discussed what to do about popes who attack the common good, popes who fall into heresy or promote it, popes who make bad disciplinary decisions. The fact that ultramontanism spread a respectful cloak of silence over this part of our tradition is absolutely no reason not to recover it and apply it today; on the contrary, we are more the fools if we fail to do so.

Everything seems to come back to the Vatican I definition of 1870: what it means, and what it does not (and indeed cannot) mean. It tended to be taken in a maximalist way from the start by its proponents, and this theologoumenon was embraced by the popes such as Leo XIII. Newman, among other great lights, took it in a minimalist way and argued that it ought to be so taken if we would not distort the truth. It should make no difference to us that the theological trend is currently maximalist, because opinion doth not a dogma make.

Finally, as I’ve argued in many articles at OnePeterFive, if we are in an unprecedented meltdown, why should we think that digging up quotes from 100 or 150 years ago from papal maximalists — even those who occupy the seat — is going to clarify, much less resolve, our present crisis? Church history does not work like a “color-by-number” exercise, and while we can find principles and parallels, we cannot expect every new challenge to be totally soluble by tools already at hand. That’s the whole reason development of doctrine takes place: the tools are found inadequate and need to be modified or supplemented to meet the new demand. (Although in our case, it would help, first of all, if we didn’t *forget* the tools we already had in past centuries.)

(Peter Kwasniewski, Facebook post of Mar. 26, 2021 at 10:14 am)

It is not clear what occasioned Kwasniewski’s intervention. Novus Ordo Watch has been criticizing and refuting the recognize-and-resist position for years, including the professor’s own articles on the topic, without much of a reaction by him. So why did Dr. K decide to speak up now?

The most likely explanation lies in something posted on Twitter by Steve Skojec of the popular One Peter Five web site one day prior, namely:

In case the image above doesn’t load, the text of Skojec’s tweet is: “So at some point, tradworld is gonna have to deal with the fact that Recognize n’ Resist, while noble and justified, is pretty antithetical to an authentic Catholic ethos. I hate to say it, but the sedes seem to have this one right” (Mar. 25, 2021 at 4:28 pm). Then there is an embedded link to the following Novus Ordo Watch post:

Skojec’s tweet triggered quite a discussion thread, which people can access here. It seems that Skojec has broken through the “Anything but Sedevacantism” pseudo-dogma, and for that he is to be commended.

It is no wonder if Dr. Kwasniewski has been alarmed at this development. Considering that Dr. K’s own contributions have been featured on One Peter Five many times, and taking into account that his language in the Facebook post matches that of Skojec — both use the phrase “antithetical to the Catholic ethos” –, it seems pretty clear that that is what occasioned his public reaction.

In any case, it is only fair that Dr. K’s public Facebook message should receive a public response, and Novus Ordo Watch is happy to oblige.

Let’s go through his arguments step by step. Kwasniewski begins by framing the issue in a way that favors his position from the outset. He asks:

Is “Recognize and Resist” antithetical to the Catholic ethos? Can quotations from Leo XIII [and] of other popes of the last 150 years rule it out?

This way of phrasing the matter downplays what is traditional Catholic magisterial teaching by reducing it to mere “quotations” from the Popes of the past. Even then, however, one would be justified in wondering why, if “papal quotations” are of little perennial authority or relevance, one should pay any attention to the quotations of contemporary laymen contradicting them.

Obviously one should not ever want to be in a position of resisting a wayward pope, who is ventilating his private and dubious theological opinions from his chair, or who, while strenuously avoiding the requisites of infallibility, sows confusion and error. That is not our “default.”

Kwasniewski’s undue framing continues. He spins the entire Novus Ordo magisterium as simply being a pope “ventilating his private and dubious theological opinions from his chair” or “sow[ing] confusion and error” in a conveniently non-infallible way. However, what is not being taken into account is the fact that, pretending for a minute that the Vatican II Church were actually the Catholic Church, all of these errors have been proposed and legislated authoritatively as part of the official magisterium and are therefore binding on consciences and, at the very least, entirely safe to adhere to, even if they were merely optional.

Perhaps we need to remind the recognize-and-resist crew exactly how the entire Conciliar new religion — and yes, they themselves acknowledge it to be a new religion, as when Steve Skojec wrote that “the pre- and post-conciliar variants of Catholicism are not the same religion” — has been taught and legislated from the beginning, namely, in every type of official, authoritative document.

Since they believe the Novus Ordo “popes” to be true Popes, the recognize-and-resisters must acknowledge that the New Religion has been imposed through all of the following official and authortiative means:

  • dogmatic constitutions of an ecumenical council, ratified and solemnly promulgated by the Vicar of Christ
  • pastoral constitutions of an ecumenical council, ratified and solemnly promulgated by the Vicar of Christ
  • decrees and declarations of an ecumenical council, ratified and solemnly promulgated by the Vicar of Christ
  • papal apostolic constitutions
  • papal apostolic letters
  • papal apostolic exhortations
  • papal encyclical letters
  • papal allocutions, sermons, interviews
  • solemn papal decrees of canonization
  • documents and decisions of the Roman Curia approved by the Pope
  • universal disciplinary laws
  • liturgical/sacramental rites
  • approved catechisms

There are probably others, but these are the most obvious, and they certainly suffice to make the point: The Novus Ordo religion is the official religion of this New Church they have created. We are not talking about a handful of erroneous ideas that have slipped through the cracks and are occasionally affirmed off-the-cuff in some unguarded private interview. We are talking about the official acts of the Novus Ordo Church, from the “papally”-approved decrees of an ecumenical council down to the notes taken at the local parish’s catechism class. To assert anything else is simply not truthful. As Steve Skojec once put it, there has been “a reconfiguration of the entire Catholic religion” (emphasis his).

When they are pushed into a corner and are made to admit that, yes, the new religion has been imposed by means of the (supposed) magisterium, quite publicly and officially, the semi-trads instinctively default to saying that that doesn’t matter because it wasn’t taught infallibly and the Church’s magisterium has (supposedly) taught error in the past. Thus we already saw Kwasniewski rush to assert that Francis and his Novus Ordo predecessors have “strenuously avoid[ed] the requisites of infallibility”. But have they really?

According to traditional Catholic theology, the Church’s infallibility extends not only to ex cathedra pronouncements but also to the canonization of saints, the promulgation of universal disciplinary laws, and the approval of liturgical/ sacramental rites. It will suffice to focus on just one of these:

c) The Church is also infallible in canonizing saints, for, as Benedict XIV says: “The universal Church cannot be led into error concerning matters of morals by the Supreme Pontiff; but this would be the case if he were not infallible in the canonization of saints.” In the act of canonization, the Church proclaims the saint a model of virtue; she commands all the faithful to honor him, and exhorts all to imitate his life. If the Church could be mistaken in this matter, the faithful would be led into grievous error by imitating the life of a sinner and by honoring one who is forever estranged from the friendship of God.

d) Before canonizing a person the Church usually demands evidence that a certain number of miracles have been performed through his or her intercession. Since the Church uses her authority to judge of the authenticity of these miracles, she may do so with an infallible judgment if she wishes. This, however, is not the custom of the Church either before canonization or in the act of canonization. The decree concerns the sanctity of the person canonized, not the authenticity of the miracles performed; they are merely an incentive for the Church to exercise her infallible authority in canonizing the person in question.

(Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1927], pp. 509-510)

On Oct. 14, 2018, “Pope” Francis solemnly declared in the canonization ceremony for “Pope” Paul VI (note the authoritative language):

For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and define Blessed Paul VI, Oscar Arnulfo Romero Galdamez, Francis Spinelli, Vincent Romano, Mary Catherine Kasper, Nazaria Ignacia of Saint Teresa of Jesus March Mesa and Nunzio Suprizio to be Saints and we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

(Source; underlining added.)

So, what happened then? Did Peter Kwasniewski accept this decree, this command, this ratification? Did he agree that he now ought to venerate Paul VI and acknowledge him as a Catholic saint? In short, did he humbly submit?

Of course not. Instead, he argued: “Why We Need Not (and Should Not) Call Paul VI ‘Saint’”.

There’s just nothing like the Vicar of Christ solemnly declaring to the whole Church that a prior Pope is now a saint in Heaven and is to be venerated by all, and then a lay theologian “explaining” in an internet post why it really isn’t so and no one should pay any serious attention to the papal decree.

We have illustrated this absurdity in the following meme:

Even if one were to insist that the canonization of saints is not infallible, the absurdity remains, for obviously the judgment of Peter Kwasniewski or any of his colleagues isn’t infallible either.

Infallibility is a popular red herring in all of this, which Dr. K tries to use as his joker. Yet, it really isn’t about infallibility; it is about authority:

When all else fails, recognize-and-resisters like to clear any remaining hurdles for their position by asserting that nothing is magisterial if it is wrong, so they cannot be accused of refusing to submit to the magisterium by rejecting all the errors of the Novus Ordo religion. This contention is particularly amusing since it contradicts the earlier argument that the Church has taught error in the past, and it also makes the Catholic magisterium infallible at all times and by definition — the very thing the semi-trads on other occasions vehemently dispute (and rightly so).

Returning now to Kwasniewski’s Facebook post:

That [resisting a wayward pope’s false teachings] is not our “default.” But it becomes an unavoidable necessity should the situation arise, just as one who carries a gun hopes never to have to use it, but will use it to protect himself and others if need be.

According to the retired theology professor, then, submitting to the Pope’s magisterium is the right thing to do, unless refusal of such submission (also known as “schism”) becomes an “unavoidable necessity.” He thinks he can get out of this clear affront to the Catholic ethos by according it the generous status of “not our default.”

In short: Dr. K believes that Catholics must agree with the Pope for as long as he isn’t wrong. They must submit to him for as long as he doesn’t lead them astray. And who judges that? Each individual believer, of course! Kwasniewski and his co-religionists believe that outside the narrow limits of infallible ex cathedra statements, the Pope is quite capable of leading the entire Church into heresy and error! But what kind of divine protection would that be, and where is that taught in 1900 years of the Catholic magisterium?

Nowhere, of course. In fact, if it had been taught anywhere, surely St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Doctor of the Church, would have known about it. Instead, he taught:

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.)

The traditional papal magisterium is actually quite clear and emphatic on the function and significance of the papal office:

This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful….

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7)

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.

And how fitting it is that this should be so any one can easily perceive. For the things contained in the divine oracles have reference to God in part, and in part to man, and to whatever is necessary for the attainment of his eternal salvation. Now, both these, that is to say, what we are bound to believe and what we are obliged to do, are laid down, as we have stated, by the Church using her divine right, and in the Church by the supreme Pontiff.

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)

But there we go again, pulling out papal quotations from over 100 years ago…

Not that this teaching on the Papacy is an “Ultramontanist” anomaly confined to the 19th century, as Dr. Kwasniewski seems to suggest. One can find the very same clear doctrine in the sixth century, for instance:

(For) you know that the Lord proclaims in the Gospel: Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I have asked the Father for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren [Lk 22:31-32].

Consider, most dear ones, that the Truth could not have lied, nor will the faith of PETER be able to be shaken or changed forever. For although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies that He Himself asked for PETER alone and wished the others to be confirmed by him; and to him also, in consideration of a greater love which he showed the Lord before the rest, was committed the care of feeding the sheep [cf. Jn 21:15ff.]; and to him also He handed over the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and upon him He promised to build his Church, and He testified that the gates of hell would not prevail against it [cf. Mt 16:16ff.]. But, because the enemy of the human race even until the end of the world does not abstain from sowing cockle [Mt 13:25] over the good seed in the Church of the Lord, and therefore, lest perchance anyone with malignant zeal should by the instigation of the devil presume to make some alterations in and to draw conclusions regarding the integrity of the faith — and (lest) by reason of this your minds perhaps may seem to be disturbed, we have judged it necessary through our present epistle to exhort with tears that you should return to the heart of your mother the Church, and to send you satisfaction with regard to the integrity of faith….

(Pope Pelagius II, Apostolic Letter Quod ad DilectionemDenz. 246)

Many more quotations like that are available at our special resource page:

As noted in our recent TRADCAST EXPRESS 130, the recognize-and-resist people effectively believe that what is ultimately keeping the gates of hell from prevailing (cf. Mt 16:18) is not the Pope and his teaching at all; rather, it is those who resist the papal teaching “as needed”! This is theological suicide!

Returning now to Dr. K’s Facebook post:

This is why the theological tradition has frequently and extensively discussed what to do about popes who attack the common good, popes who fall into heresy or promote it, popes who make bad disciplinary decisions. The fact that ultramontanism spread a respectful cloak of silence over this part of our tradition is absolutely no reason not to recover it and apply it today; on the contrary, we are more the fools if we fail to do so.

That Popes can cause trouble outside of their magisterium, that they can go astray morally in their personal lives, that they can issue evil commands to individuals, and that they can make imprudent disciplinary decisions for the Church, can readily be granted, in accordance with the Church’s teaching on these matters; but that includes the following:

…[T]he Church has received from on high a promise which guarantees her against every human weakness. What does it matter that the helm of the symbolic barque has been entrusted to feeble hands, when the Divine Pilot stands on the bridge, where, though invisible, He is watching and ruling? Blessed be the strength of his arm and the multitude of his mercies!

(Pope Leo XIII, Allocution to Cardinals, March 20, 1900; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, p. 349.)

The 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)

How, then, can Prof. Kwasniewski try to slip “popes who fall into heresy or promote it” in with “popes who attack the common good” and “popes who make bad disciplinary decisions”?

In fact, the question of the “heretical Pope” (Papa Haereticus) must be subdivided further into two distinct ideas:

  • a Pope who pertinaciously professes heresy in his capacity as a private individual
  • a Pope who teaches heresy in his official magisterial acts

The first alternative cannot be ruled out absolutely as a possibility; however, if it were ever to happen, such a Pope would immediately cease being Pope because he would have ceased being a member of the Church. That is what the endless controversies about the “heretical Pope” are all about.

The second alternative is absolutely impossible, for it conflicts with the dogma that the Pope is the safe guide in Faith and morals for the entire Church. Although not all of his teaching is always infallible, it is always guaranteed to be safe to follow, as is clear, for example, from the First Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus.

In his De Romano Pontifice, Book IV, Chapter 6, St. Robert Bellarmine stated clearly that “to this point no [Pope] has been a heretic, or certainly it cannot be proven that any of them were heretics; therefore it is a sign that such a thing cannot be”. At the First Vatican Council in 1870, the question also came up, and the council’s doctrinal commission answered it directly, as related by Abp. John Purcell of Cincinnati, who was a participant in the sacred assembly:

The question was also raised by a Cardinal, “What is to be done with the Pope if he becomes a heretic?” It was answered that there has never been such a case; the Council of Bishops could depose him for heresy, for from the moment he becomes a heretic he is not the head or even a member of the Church. The Church would not be, for a moment, obliged to listen to him when he begins to teach a doctrine the Church knows to be a false doctrine, and he would cease to be Pope, being deposed by God Himself.

If the Pope, for instance, were to say that the belief in God is false, you would not be obliged to believe him, or if he were to deny the rest of the creed, “I believe in Christ,” etc. The supposition is injurious to the Holy Father in the very idea, but serves to show you the fullness with which the subject has been considered and the ample thought given to every possibility. If he denies any dogma of the Church held by every true believer, he is no more Pope than either you or I; and so in this respect the dogma of infallibility amounts to nothing as an article of temporal government or cover for heresy.

(Abp. John B. Purcell, quoted in Rev. James J. McGovern, Life and Life Work of Pope Leo XIII [Chicago, IL: Allied Printing, 1903], p. 241; imprimatur by Abp. James Quigley of Chicago; underlining added.)

For Peter Kwasniewski to act, therefore, as though the occasional “heretical Pope” were a completely normal thing in Church history, cloaked only by unreasonable “Ultramontanists” in the 19th century, is simply not in accordance with the facts.

What is Ultramontanism, anyway? The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it as a “term used to denote integral and active Catholicism, because it recognizes as its spiritual head the pope, who, for the greater part of Europe, is a dweller beyond the mountains (ultra montes), that is, beyond the Alps”. Thus the same encyclopedic entry notes a little later: “For Catholics it would be superfluous to ask whether Ultramontanism and Catholicism are the same thing: assuredly, those who combat Ultramontanism are in fact combating Catholicism, even when they disclaim the desire to oppose it”.

Indeed, Ultramontanism is simply Catholicism! The fact that Prof. Kwsaniewski tries to use it in a disparaging or at least negative manner demonstrates that he himself is a Gallican of sorts, for the term “Ultramontanism”, as Donald Attwater’s Catholic Dictionary informs us, was “invented by the Gallicans to describe the doctrines and policies which upheld the full authority of the Holy See” — horror of horrors! The same entry goes on to note that the term was widely used at the time of Vatican I “and still is sometimes, usually by non-Catholic controversialists, [used] to describe a real or supposed exaggeration of papal prerogatives….”

Perhaps Dr. K was simply happy to find a scary-sounding “-ism” to slap on his opponents, but that doesn’t bother real Catholics any more than it did Pope Pius IX:

It is certainly a regrettable thing, Dearly beloved Son, that it is possible to meet even among Catholics men who, while they glory in the name [of Catholic], show themselves thoroughly imbued with corrupt principles and adhere to them with such stubbornness that they are no longer able to submit their minds with docility to the judgment of the Holy See when that judgment is opposed to them, even when common opinion and the recommendation of the episcopate have corroborated it. They go even further, and making progress and the happiness of society depend on these principles, they strive to bring the Church round to their way of thinking. Considering that they alone are wise, they do not blush to give the name of “Ultramontane Party” to the entire Catholic family which thinks otherwise.

(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Dolendum Profecto; in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 332)

But then, that too is just one of those “papal quotes” from loong time ago.

Alas, we must return to Dr. K’s Facebook message:

Everything seems to come back to the Vatican I definition of 1870: what it means, and what it does not (and indeed cannot) mean. It tended to be taken in a maximalist way from the start by its proponents, and this theologoumenon [=theological assertion not derived from divine revelation] was embraced by the popes such as Leo XIII. Newman, among other great lights, took it in a minimalist way and argued that it ought to be so taken if we would not distort the truth. It should make no difference to us that the theological trend is currently maximalist, because opinion doth not a dogma make.

Once again Kwasniewski tries to reduce it all to a question of infallibility as defined in 1870, making it seem as though all subsequent magisterial teachings on the Papacy were simply a one-sided interpretation or application of the dogma of infallibility, of which Pope Leo XIII merely offered one and Cardinal John Henry Newman another. Apparently in Dr. Kwasniewski’s world a Catholic can show the same take-it-or-leave-it approach to the magisterium of the Pope as he can to Cardinal Newman’s writings. How bizarre!

The Pope, we must remind the retired theology professor, has teaching authority by virtue of his office of Supreme Pontiff, for he is “the true vicar of Christ, …the head of the entire Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians”, to whom “full power was given … in blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, to feed, rule, and govern the universal Church” (Council of Florence, Bull Laetentur Coeli; Denz. 694). His teaching is authortiative, binding, and safe because he teaches it. The Pope does not first need an ecumenical council before he can exercise his magisterium. His teaching is not merely an interpretation of what a prior ecumenical council taught, nor is his teaching dependent on what a prior council “authorizes” him to teach, such that he could teach nothing that was not first taught by prior councils.

In 1928, Pope Pius XI made clear that “the teaching authority of the Church, which in the divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that revealed doctrines might remain intact for ever, and that they might be brought with ease and security to the knowledge of men, … is daily exercised through the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops who are in communion with him…” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 9). It is this daily teaching that, although not necessarily infallible, safeguards revealed doctrine, as Pope Pius says.

This is not difficult to understand. If we were living in 1956, surely Dr. Kwasniewski would not be disputing any of this. The only reason he has a problem with it now is because he recognizes a series of manifest apostates as Popes. That, certainly, throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. But the answer isn’t to deny the Catholic teaching on the Papacy, the answer is to deny that the obvious usurpers to the papal throne are in fact legitimate successors to Saint Peter.

Aside from that, it must be noted that whoever thinks the First Vatican Council taught nothing else about the Papacy except for the dogma of papal infallibility, simply hasn’t read its dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus. The beautifully-written text is rich in doctrine and is divided into four chapters:

  1. On the institution of the apostolic primacy in blessed Peter
  2. On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs
  3. On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff
  4. On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff

The complete text of Pastor Aeternus is not very long and highly recommended. Close reading of it makes amply clear that if there is one thing Jorge Bergoglio isn’t, it’s Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Here, try it for yourself!

Thankfully, we have now arrived at Dr. Kwasniewski’s last paragraph. It reads:

Finally, as I’ve argued in many articles at OnePeterFive, if we are in an unprecedented meltdown, why should we think that digging up quotes from 100 or 150 years ago from papal maximalists — even those who occupy the seat — is going to clarify, much less resolve, our present crisis? Church history does not work like a “color-by-number” exercise, and while we can find principles and parallels, we cannot expect every new challenge to be totally soluble by tools already at hand. That’s the whole reason development of doctrine takes place: the tools are found inadequate and need to be modified or supplemented to meet the new demand. (Although in our case, it would help, first of all, if we didn’t *forget* the tools we already had in past centuries.)

One would think that someone who styles himself a traditional Catholic and advertises on his own web site his “intention of dedicating his life to the articulation and defense of Catholic Tradition in all its dimensions”, might have an interest in precisely what that Catholic Tradition is.

Instead of unceremoniously dismissing the papal magisterium as mere “quotes from 100 or 150 years ago from papal maximalists” that are too inconvenient to meet with his approval, he should read and advertise the theological manuals (such as this one) that use such quotes as the very data from which they draw their doctrinal content — and rightly so:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me” [Lk 10:16]; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 20)

But then, in his rejection, or selective acceptance, of the papal magisterium Dr. K is only being consistent. After all, why should he have more regard for the teaching of Popes Leo XIII or Pius IX than he does for that of Francis or Paul VI, whom he likewise acknowledges as Vicars of Christ? If recognize-and-resist is good enough for the goose, why shouldn’t it be good enough for the gander!

We will end this critique of Dr. Kwasniewski’s Facebook post with one more quote from that notorious papal maximalist, Leo XIII:

For He who is the Spirit of Truth, inasmuch as He proceedeth both from the Father, who is the eternally True, and from the Son, who is the substantial Truth, receiveth from each both His essence and the fullness of all truth. This truth He communicates to His Church, guarding her by His all powerful help from ever falling into error, and aiding her to foster daily more and more the germs of divine doctrine and to make them fruitful for the welfare of the peoples. And since the welfare of the peoples, for which the Church was established, absolutely requires that this office should be continued for all time, the Holy Ghost perpetually supplies life and strength to preserve and increase the Church. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of Truth” John xiv., 16, 17).

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Divinum Illud, n. 5; underlining added.)

For Prof. Kwasniewski, this beautiful and clear papal teaching is but a “tool” that has since been “found inadequate” and is now in need of a little aggiornamento: It “need[s] to be modified or supplemented to meet the new demand” of fitting poison-spewing apostates into the Chair of St. Peter somehow — in such a way, however, that no one is actually infected with the content of their magisterium. That, to him, is “development of doctrine”.

Alas, it will be difficult to convince Dr. Kwasniewski of his errors; for if he does not listen to the magisterial teachings of the Roman Pontiffs, why should he be moved by a blog post penned by a sedevacantist?

Tragically, the semi-traditionalists have paid a very high price in order to convince themselves that they have a Pope. They have paid the price of the Papacy itself. Consequently, they now have neither the Papacy nor a true Pope.

People like Peter Kwasniewski simply haven’t understood that yet.

Title image source: composite with elements from peterkwasniewski.com (modified), twitter.com (screenshot), and Wikimedia Commons
Licenses: fair use and public domain

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