Think again, fellows!
“Rethinking” the Papacy?
A New Narrative for the Semi-Trads
One gets the feeling that the recognize-and-resist traditionalists over at One Peter Five cannot contain their enthusiasm. They have latched onto a novel concept they think can vindicate their traditionalism vis-à-vis “Pope” Francis and yet also preserve them from the oh-so detested Sedevacantism. They are now openly floating the idea of rethinking the Papacy.
Just the other day One Peter Five issued a call for article submissions. As in, “This is the position we’re going to be taking, and now we need people to provide the argumentation to back it up.” Clearly, their position is not, as it should be, the result of a study of Catholic doctrine, carefully applied to the situation at hand; rather, it is created out of the demand that arises from accepting Francis as Pope on the one hand, while trying to retain the practice of pre-Vatican II Catholicism on the other. The resultant theological madhouse is what they are floating as the “true” Catholic position on the Papacy, and so they are now recruiting anyone who can deliver a theological argument that results in the desired position.
Of course they do not imagine for a moment that they are doing anything impermissible. They claim they merely want to exorcise what they call the “false spirit of Vatican I”, that dreaded bogeyman of “Ultramontanism” that is supposedly “at the root of our current crisis” and responsible for an erroneous understanding of the First Vatican Council.
Preparing and leading the way in all this is the omnipresent Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a retired philosophy professor and liturgical scholar who has in recent years advanced to the status of go-to “theologian” whose job it has been to continually explain why Francis’ magisterium and other official acts should be rejected by faithful Catholics, but definitely not his claim to being the true Pope.
In other words, Kwasniewski is the man who has been delivering exactly what the semi-trads need: a theological vindication of the status quo, which means accepting Francis in theory but not in practice. This allows them to be “traditional Catholics” but without being Sedevacantists. Since it is not possible, however, to retain the traditional Catholic teaching on the Pope while at the same time stubbornly believing that Bergoglio is one, one of the two has to go. Unfortunately, the semi-trads decided to throw out the traditional doctrine and retain Bergoglio. Hence their new flagship project of “rethinking” the Papacy.
Peter Kwasniewski has already done a yeoman’s job of prep work in that regard. For the past few years he has been writing articles online on the subject of the Papacy and in particular about the travesty that is the “Pope Francis pontificate”. A few weeks ago, Arouca Press published a two-volume anthology collecting Kwasniewski’s articles on the subject.
The work is entitled The Road from Hyperpapalism to Catholicism: Rethinking the Papacy in a Time of Ecclesial Disintegration. Volume 1 contains “Theological Reflections on the Rock of the Church”, whereas Volume 2 features “Chronological Responses to an Unfolding Pontificate”.
Kwasniewski’s reputation as a serious academic gives a certain a priori respectability to his writings, but it remains a fact that although he has a Ph.D. in philosophy, he has no degree in theology. Considering that he presumes to correct the very magisterium of the “Holy Father” himself — and now even proposes to “rethink” the Papacy altogether –, this should give people some pause.
At One Peter Five, Dan Millette has just published a review gushing over the new Kwasniewski anthology. In what he thinks is a masterstroke, the reviewer points out that Kwasniewski “argues that God has orchestrated a series of popes for 2000 years with so great a record of success that it is reasonable to trust the institution.”
A man who can make such an atrocious argument has obviously not immersed himself in what the Catholic magisterium teaches about the Papacy, especially its divine foundation and the supernatural assistance God has attached to it, an assistance that is independent of the personal holiness of any particular Pope. We can and must trust the Papacy because it was instituted by God and has been endowed by Him with His unfailing assistance. It is this divine establishment and assistance that make it unconquerable by the powers of hell, and therefore the Catholic is not merely well-advised but quite simply obliged to adhere loyally to the Holy See:
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, n. 7; underlining added.)
What Kwasniewski proposes is laughable: He treats the Papacy as a merely human institution that has a high success rate of getting the Faith right, wherefore it makes sense for Catholics to adhere to it, at least most of the time. Where does Kwasniewski find such idiotic reasoning for the authority and safety of the Papacy? Certainly not in the traditional Catholic theology books or the Catholic magisterium!
Pope Pius IX’s exhortation to full loyalty to the Holy See isn’t based on fortuitous historical circumstances but on the nature and function of the Papacy as instituted by Christ. This will probably not matter to the semi-traditionalists at One Peter Five, however, because it throws a monkey wrench into their exciting new project of “rethinking” the Papacy.
The errors of Peter Kwasniewski regarding the Church and the Papacy are quite serious. In the past few years, we have refuted many of his arguments and claims, and we will continue to do so on this web site also in the future. (Right now we have a massive response to his landmark lecture “The Pope’s Boundedness to Tradition as a Legislative Limit” in preparation, which should be ready for publication soon.)
Meanwhile, here is a list of links to all our articles and podcasts (so far) in which we have responded to the arguments and errors of Dr. Kwasniewski (in reverse chronological order):
- No Jekyll-and-Hyde Magisterium: Against the Theological Sophistry of Peter Kwasniewski (2022)
- Still Lost in Blunderland: Refuting Peter Kwasniewski’s “Journey from Ultramontanism to Catholicism” (2021/22)
- Why still be a Catholic? A Critique of Dr. Kwasniewski’s Answer to a despondent Novus Ordo Seminarian (2021)
- The Battle for the Catholic Ethos: Peter Kwasniewski tries to save Recognize-and-Resist (2021)
- Clueless Kwasniewski cranks out another Load of Howlers on the Papacy (2020)
- Dr. Peter Kwasniewski on how to be a Catholic in the Vatican II Church (2019)
- Would God permit a Non-Catholic Pope? Response to Peter Kwasniewski (2019)
- Peter Kwasniewski and “the Troubles of this Pontificate”: A Sedevacantist Reply (2018)
- The Limits to Invoking “Papal Lapses” as a Justification for the Recognize-and-Resist Position (2018)
The above-linked material contains a substantial refutation of much of what is found in Kwasniewski’s Road from Hyperpapalism to Catholicism.
So “rethinking the Papacy” is now in vogue. Never mind that the notion of “rethinking” anything about Catholicism indicates innovation and is typically associated with Modernism (which promotes novelty) rather than traditionalism (which seeks to preserve that which has been handed down). It has long been the liberal dissidents that wanted to “rethink” Catholic beliefs — regarding the Church, the Bible, the infallibility of the Pope, sexual morality, or the priesthood, for example. Names often associated with “rethinking” various Catholic dogmas and doctrines include Hans Küng, Richard McBrien, John Paul Meier, Richard Rohr, John Crossan, and Maureen Fiedler.
On account of the Francis “pontificate” and their continued stubborn refusal to consider Sedevacantism, the semi-trads will be hell-bent on establishing this new narrative of “rethinking the Papacy” in the minds of good-willed people who truly mean to be traditional Catholics and are only trying to figure all these things out.
We must do all we can to stop this perversion of Catholic Tradition dead in its tracks. If we do not, the only orthodox Catholic position — that which is truly traditional, based on the historical record before Vatican II — will quickly be eclipsed and wiped from people’s memory, all the while the “rethought” Papacy will quickly become the dominant narrative and possibly remain such for decades to come.
The idea of “rethinking” the Papacy will prove extremely practical for the recognize-and-resist crowd, of course: “Rethink” will become the magic button that will be hit every time the false pope in the Vatican cranks out another howler, false teaching, heresy, or blasphemy. Whoever is still scandalized, or whoever still imagines that what the Pope teaches actually has weight for a Catholic, or that Francis cannot possibly be the Pope, will just be one of those unenlightened trads of yesteryear who hasn’t yet gotten the memo about that new and improved “Papacy” that is expounded in the works of Peter Kwasniewski & Co.! Simply “rethink” the Papacy, and all those nasty “Ultramontanist” problems solve themselves!
In all this unbridled enthusiasm for their discovery of the supposed “real” Catholic teaching on the Papacy, however, the semi-trads will be oblivious to the immense damage they are doing to the cause of Catholic truth. If the Catholic Church can get it wrong on the Papacy for so long, and so badly, what else has the Church been wrong about? If the Papacy can be “rethought”, what other Catholic doctrines or dogmas are subject to “rethinking”, and who determines that? How can the Catholic Church be the Ark of Salvation if she cannot get her own doctrines right? Etc.
By “rethinking” the Papacy, the semi-trads are opening a Pandora’s box they will not be able to close again; they are unleashing a genie that will not go back into the bottle.