Response to Robert Morrison of ‘The Remnant’…
Built on Rock or on Sand? “Pope” Francis and the Divine Foundation of the Roman Catholic Church
On Nov. 16, 2021, the web site of the American semi-traditionalist newspaper The Remnant published an article by Robert Morrison entitled, “How the Modernists and Francis Turn Catholic Foundations into Sand”.
It is a justified critique of the Modernist concept of “faith” and Antipope Francis‘ synodal process, which is obviously aimed at changing the Catholic religion even further than the last 60 years have done. “But if everything is open to debate”, Morrison writes, “then we believe based on the consensus of men” and not on the authority of God revealing.
Appropriately, the author quotes the First Vatican Council on the nature of divine Faith:
Since man is wholly dependent on God as his Creator and Lord, and since created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound by faith to give full obedience of intellect and will to God who reveals. But the Catholic Church professes that this faith, which “is the beginning of human salvation”, is a supernatural virtue by which we, with the aid and inspiration of the grace of God, believe that the things revealed by Him are true, not because the intrinsic truth of the revealed things has been perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Chapter 3; Denz. 1789)
Morrison is entirely right, therefore, when he observes that “this insidious process of convening synods [and] commissions to discuss settled matters may not immediately result in changes, but it transfers the matter from the court of immutable Catholic truth to that of fickle and sinful men.”
Unfortunately, the author doesn’t go on to quote what else the same council says on Faith in the same chapter: “Further, by divine and Catholic faith, all those things must be believed which are contained in the written word of God and in tradition, and those which are proposed by the Church, either in a solemn pronouncement or in her ordinary and universal teaching power, to be believed as divinely revealed” (Denz. 1792).
Instead, Morrison slips into the typical recognize-and-resist lingo of “the truths the Church has always taught”, by which he really means “the truths the Church used to teach”, for the fact is that the institution he recognizes as the Roman Catholic Church today — the Modernist sect headed by the very “Pope Francis” he criticizes in his essay — is clearly not teaching the Catholic Faith anymore.
The Faith, we must remember, is an organic whole. It cannot be had in degrees, sliced into parts, or divided into elements: “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected” (Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 24); “There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition” (anonymous author of pamphlet against Arians; quoted by Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9).
Although the object of Faith extends only to those things the Church teaches dogmatically as divinely revealed, this does not mean that a Catholic is permitted to consider as optional, much less reject, those teachings of the Church that are proposed with lesser authority. Such teachings must be assented to, not by the virtue of Faith but by the virtue of obedience to the Church, for she is the Teacher appointed by God and has the right to have her teaching received and accepted:
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)
A detailed explanation of this obligation to adhere to all Church teachings, regardless of whether they are infallible or not, can be found in the following posts:
- Do Catholics have to Assent to Non-Infallible Church Teaching?
- The Doctrinal Value of the Pope’s Ordinary Magisterium
Since our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ established His Church for the express purpose that we would know the truth with certainty and safety (see Jn 4:23; 8:32; 14:17; 16:13), so that “we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph 4:14), it stands to reason that we must cling to her as a child to his mother, safe in the knowledge that her teaching, though not always infallible, can never lead us to spiritual ruin. (The teachings of a counterfeit church, on the other hand, obviously can.)
Since Morrison cannot affirm that the institution he recognizes as the Roman Catholic Church is a safe rule of Faith all Christians can rely upon to lead them to eternal salvation, he must come up with “what the Church has always taught” (=what the Church used to teach) as the solid foundation and ultimate criterion for orthodoxy, yet that is not the traditional doctrine:
For the first and greatest criterion of the faith, the ultimate and unassailable test of orthodoxy is obedience to the teaching authority of the Church, which is ever living and infallible, since she was established by Christ to be the columna et firmamentum veritatis, “the pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
(Pope St. Pius X, Address Con Vera Soddisfazione)
…[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)
Ironically, what Popes Pius X and Pius XII expound there is precisely “what the Church has always taught”.
However, there is more immutable Catholic truth Morrison omits in his essay. Since his intent is to clarify that the Catholic religion is not built on sand but on rock (cf. Mt 7:24-27), it would have been entirely appropriate for him to mention what rock Christ built His Church on, precisely so as to guarantee that the Deposit of Faith revealed by God would be forever safeguarded and taught:
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 will 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.
These holy words of the Son of God to the Apostle Simon-Peter are well known and certainly “what the Church has always taught.” Christ changed Simon’s name to Peter (Greek Petros, from petra, “rock”) to indicate that he would be the rock upon which the Church was to be built. This is confirmed by the Syriac equivalent of Simon’s name: Cephas, which likewise means “rock.” Upon first meeting Simon, Our Lord told him: “Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas (which means the same as Peter)” (Jn 1:42; Knox translation).
The same First Vatican Council relied upon by Morrison for the Catholic definition of Faith teaches the following regarding the rock upon which Christ built His Church:
Moreover, what the Chief of pastors and the Great Pastor of sheep, the Lord Jesus, established in the blessed Apostle Peter for the perpetual salvation and perennial good of the Church, this by the same Author must endure always in the Church which was founded upon a rock and will endure firm until the end of the ages. Surely “no one has doubt, rather all ages have known that the holy and most blessed Peter, chief and head of the apostles and pillar of faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race; and he up to this time and always lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors, the bishops of the holy See of Rome, which was founded by him and consecrated by his blood”. Therefore, whoever succeeds Peter in this chair, he according to the institution of Christ himself, holds the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. “Therefore the disposition of truth remains, and blessed Peter persevering in the accepted fortitude of the rock does not abandon the guidance of the Church which he has received.” For this reason “it has always been necessary because of mightier pre-eminence for every church to come to the Church of Rome, that is those who are the faithful everywhere,” so that in this See, from which the laws of “venerable communion” emanate over all, they as members associated in one head, coalesce into one bodily structure.
(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 2; Denz. 1824; underlining added.)
In other words, St. Peter lives in his legitimate successors, such that the stability of this first rock endures throughout the ages, even to the end of time: “…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” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7). Because the Pope is the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail, the “church of the living God” Christ founded is truly “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15).
Indeed, Vatican I also teaches dogmatically that the divine assistance each Pope enjoys in the exercise of his magisterium is such that he possesses the unfailing Faith our Blessed Lord obtained for St. Peter (see Lk 22:32) and is protected from teaching his own doctrines as the truth of God, lest the faithful should be led astray:
For, the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might disclose new doctrine, but that by His help they might guard sacredly the revelation transmitted through the apostles and the deposit of faith, and might faithfully set it forth. Indeed, all the venerable fathers have embraced their apostolic doctrine, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed it, knowing full well that the See of St. Peter always remains unimpaired by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord the Savior made to the chief of His disciples: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren” [Luke 22:32].
So, this gift of truth and a never failing faith was divinely conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair, that they might administer their high duty for the salvation of all; that the entire flock of Christ, turned away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished on the sustenance of heavenly doctrine, that with the occasion of schism removed the whole Church might be saved as one, and relying on her foundation might stay firm against the gates of hell.
(Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Chapter 4; Denz. 1836-1837.)
The Son of God having set up His divine Church in such a wondrous manner, it is easy to see why “in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 11; underlining added).
It is not surprising, therefore, that anti-Christian forces have long tried to demolish the Papacy in one way or another. In 1884, Pope Leo XIII denounced the Freemasons for “what in secret among themselves they have for a long time plotted, that the sacred power of the Pontiffs must be abolished, and that the papacy itself, founded by divine right, must be utterly destroyed” (Encyclical Humanum Genus, n. 15). While it is impossible to destroy the Papacy, however, great harm can still be done to the Church by preventing the election of a Pope or by substituting a false pope for the true one.
Today we see the terrifying fruits of these infernal schemes, but we have no grounds for losing hope, for all of this is possible only within the realms of Divine Providence, that is, with God’s foreknowledge and permission (cf. Mt 26:53; Jn 10:18). Indeed, the eclipse of the Papacy in our day has long been foretold, if rather obscurely, in Sacred Scripture:
And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a peg in a sure place, and he shall be for a throne of glory to the house of his father. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, divers kinds of vessels, every little vessel, from the vessels of cups even to every instrument of music. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall the peg be removed, that was fastened in the sure place: and it shall be broken and shall fall: and that which hung thereon, shall perish, because the Lord hath spoken it.
And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.
(2 Thessalonians 2:6-11)
We find confirmation of this also in Sacred Tradition:
- The Pope and the Antichrist: The Great Apostasy Foretold
- The Persecution of the Church in the Last Days (Part 1): Satan will Attack the Papacy
- The Persecution of the Church in the Last Days (Part 2): A False Church to imitate the True Church
- The Persecution of the Church in the Last Days (Part 3): A False Pope and a Vacant Holy See
- Priest in 1955: Apocalypse indicates False Prophet will be Fake Pope while Papal Chair is Vacant and Church Appears Destroyed
- Priest in 1955: Apocalypse indicates Satan may try to impede Papal Election to cause Long-Term Vacancy
From all of the foregoing it appears evident why The Remnant‘s Robert Morrison, although he talks about the “unshakeable foundations of the Faith”, chose not to bring up the Catholic dogma of the Papacy, which is the Church’s unshakeable foundation. The reason is that the leader of the Modernists he so fiercely denounces, whom he calls “the chief pastor of the globalist religion”, he also acknowledges to be the Pope of the Catholic Church, that rock which guarantees the Church’s continuity in sound doctrine, salutary government, and holy worship! In fact, Morrison says that Francis “requires us to abandon the ‘ancient dogmas’ if we want to feel the warmth of his paternal care”, yet he accepts him as the Vicar of Christ! Is this not complete madness?
As the remedy for the apostasy into which the Vatican is luring souls, Morrison ironically recommends:
…the unflinching defense of the Catholic Faith. We must boldly tell the truth, especially when it means opposing the errors promoted, or at least permitted, by almost the entirety of the world’s bishops. Those who want to debate the Modernists at this point are simply signaling to the world, and God, that they think the Faith is up for grabs. We would do better to tell these enemies of the Faith that they need to either convert or go find another religion — our Faith is from God and not open to debate.
(Robert Morrison, “How the Modernists and Francis Turn Catholic Foundations into Sand”, The Remnant, Nov. 16, 2021; italics given.)
If only the author believed his own words!
His own “unflinching defense of the Catholic Faith” demolishes the dogma of the Papacy! He does not “boldly tell the truth” about the rock that is St. Peter in every one of his legitimate successors. Apparently Morrison believes that that part of the Faith is up for grabs, open to debate, and not “from God”. It is odd, too, that he tells the Modernists to “go find another religion”, when in the same article he identifies theirs as a separate “globalist religion” of which Francis is the “chief pastor”.
A few paragraphs earlier, Morrison wrote:
By questioning the Faith through their synods and commissions, Francis and his collaborators try to make God into a deceiver. As awful as this all is, we can detect a blessing in the Conciliar religion having reached such a deplorable state. For those with eyes to see, this Modernist cancer has ravaged the Church for over sixty years, largely undetected. Now we cannot deny it unless we wish to be culpably blind.
Just as a physician does not help cure the patient by simply treating the symptoms and ignoring the cancer, we cannot serve God by pretending the Synodal process is fine and simply advocating for the least bad results. The entire Synodal process is a damnable abomination and those who participate in it are mocking God and the Faith.
By implicitly denying the Catholic teaching on the Papacy, is not Morrison guilty of the same thing? Does he not as well “make God into a deceiver”? Must we conclude that he too is “culpably blind”?
By The Remnant‘s persistent refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the living room — the emperor that has no clothes — their writers are likewise “treating the symptoms and ignoring the cancer”, meanwhile hoping “for the least bad results.” In this manner they are (unwittingly) “mocking God and the Faith”.
Whether a Modernist apostate who leads a false globalist religion is in fact also the Pope of the Catholic Church, is a rather important question, considering the Catholic doctrine that “Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head” of the Church (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 40). Morrison and his colleagues at The Remnant keep treating the matter as though it were a minor issue one could just gloss over and disagree on.
Years ago already they proposed what they must have thought was a generous compromise, an olive branch extended to sedevacantists, when they proclaimed that it “does not matter” if Francis is the Pope. Alas! If there is one thing worse than saying that Francis is the Pope, it’s saying that it doesn’t matter if he’s the Pope. We’ve discussed this topic at length before, and there’s no need to repeat it here:
Robert Morrison and everyone else at The Remnant will have to decide whether they believe Francis is the rock which guarantees the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church, or an ecclesial termite that spends its days working to undermine and destroy what the Catholic Faith rests upon. By trying to force the square peg of Francis into the round hole of the Papacy, they’re certainly not doing anything to strengthen that foundation.
In his response to the Febronian errors of Johann Eybel, Pope Pius VI wrote in 1786:
In fact, Jesus Christ willed, in the Primacy of the Apostolic See, to fortify and knit closer the bond of that unity by means of which the Church, destined as she was to spread through the whole world, was to form but one body out of so many scattered members under a single Head. Thus the virtue of that power was to contribute not only to the grandeur of the First See, but even more particularly to the integrity and conservation of the entire body.
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that in past ages those whom the old enemy of the human race has filled with his own hatred of the Church, have been in the habit of attacking in the first place this See which maintains unity in all its vigor: so that by destroying, if it were possible to do so, the foundation, and severing the bond between churches and the Head, the bond which is the principal source of their support, their strength, and their beauty, after having by this means reduced the Church to desolation and ruin by crushing her strength, they might in the end strip her of that liberty which Jesus Christ gave to her, and reduce her to a state of unworthy servitude.
(Pope Pius VI, Bull Super Soliditate)
By being mum on the Catholic teaching on the Papacy as the solid rock on which the Church is built, and by accepting a public apostate and “chief pastor of the globalist religion” as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, is Robert Morrison helping to uphold or destroy “what the Church has always taught” with regard to the Papacy?
Theology has consequences.
Image source: composite with elements from shutterstock.com (Maria Uspenskaya and giulio napolitano)