Clueless ‘expert’ misleads countless souls about the Papacy…
Theologian in Crisis:
Eric Sammons versus the Papal Keys
The recognize-and-resist traditionalists of the Vatican II Church find themselves a difficult position. On the one hand, they utterly refuse to let go of the idea that the Jesuit apostate Jorge Bergoglio (“Francis”) is the Pope of the Catholic Church; on the other hand, they understand that there is absolutely no way anyone can follow the man’s teachings, laws, and liturgical directives without putting one’s soul in grave danger of apostatizing from the Catholic religion and/or of dying in the state of mortal sin.
How to proceed under the circumstances? It is impossible to do without abandoning traditional Catholic teaching — the very teaching, ironically, these “semi-trads” are supposedly fighting to uphold — because according to that teaching, it is precisely conformity to the papal magisterium that defines the orthodoxy of a Catholic. Following the Pope, therefore, is not only perfectly safe to do, it is a requirement for every Catholic:
For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 8)
Indeed it is the Pope, in his official magisterium, who constitutes the rock against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. This was confirmed by Pope Pius VI in his bull against the errors of Febronius:
It is St. Augustine who testifies, after having learned it in the Scriptures, “that the primacy of the Apostles is preeminent in Peter in virtue of a more excellent grace; that this primacy of the apostolate is to be preferred to all episcopal dignity; that the Roman Church, the See of Peter, is that rock which the proud gates of hell cannot vanquish” (De baptism., II, 1; Cont. Petil, II, 51; Psalm. cont. Don.). This is the language which refutes another of the writer’s calumnies: that which pretends that in designating the rock on which he built his Church Jesus Christ wished men to understand, not the person, but rather the faith and the confession, of Peter: as if the Fathers who, because of the marvelous fecundity of the Scriptures, have also given this latter sense to the word of Peter, have by that fact abandoned the literal sense which bears directly on St. Peter, and did not, very openly, retain this literal sense. It is thus that St. Ambrose, St. Augustine’s master, says, “It is to Peter himself that it was said ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.’ Therefore, where Peter is, there is the Church” (In psalm., XL, 30).
(Pope Pius VI, Bull Super Soliditate)
Tragically, when the choice is between accepting Bergoglio as a true Pope or accepting the true doctrine of the Papacy, the semi-traditionalists opt for the apostate from Buenos Aires. It is an absurd case of abandoning the Papacy for the sake of having a Pope — whom they then fight tooth and nail.
Case in point: Mr. Eric Sammons, who is currently the executive director at Crisis Publications and editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. A convert from Protestantism (1993), Sammons has a Master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He used to be the Director of Evangelization for the Diocese of Venice, Florida. At this point he lives in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Frequent readers of this blog may recall that we have critiqued Sammons on here before:
- Is Francis the Pope? A Devastating Refutation of Eric Sammons
- New Book by Eric Sammons claims Catholic Church has “lost her Mission”
- No, Catholics Can’t “Recognize and Resist”: Response to One Peter Five
- On those ‘Spiritual Dangers’ of Sedevacantism: A Reply to Eric Sammons
On June 14, 2023, Sammons appeared as a guest on The John-Henry Westen Show, which is produced by the conservative Novus Ordo organization Life Site. The episode was entitled, “CRISIS: Souls led astray under Pope Francis”. A written article sharing highlights of the show was published as well:
In this post, we will react to some of the more outrageous things said by Sammons in his conversation with John-Henry Westen. We will demonstrate that far from giving you the “faithful Catholic” view, Sammons actually reduces the Papacy to meaninglessness and only helps Bergoglio continue his soul-wrecking charade.
Faithful against the Vicar of Christ?
But first, we’ll note that the whole scenario is grotesque: A layman with no mandate or commission from his local archbishop (at least not that we’re aware of) is featured as a guest on a program to explain to the rest of the world how to be a “faithful Catholic” in a way that does not conform to, but actually repudiates, the teachings of the Pope (that is, of the man they accept as Pope). In fact, it is precisely in response to the ‘Pope’ that Sammons purports to explain how to be, or remain, a faithful Catholic.
To make matters worse, Sammons is appearing on a show hosted by another layman without a mandate or commission from his local bishop (again, insofar as we’re aware). So, the whole conversation is essentially two people who identify as faithful Catholics telling others how to be faithful Catholics — while not being loyal to the ‘Pope’. It is an absurd scenario.
This is not to denigrate these men as individuals or to question their intentions. Rather, it is to show that if Francis is Pope and his hierarchy is the Roman Catholic hierarchy, then this setup of two laymen without authority trying to correct the magisterium of the Pope and the Church while declaring themselves to be the ‘real’ faithful Catholics, makes no sense and is quite contrary to the traditional Catholic understanding of things.
Pope Leo XIII was very clear that in the Catholic Church, it is not for the sheep to correct the shepherds; and that the obedience that is required of a Catholic is obedience to the present Pope, not some Pope of the past one may find more agreeable:
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.
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. In this subordination and dependence lie the order and life of the Church; in it is to be found the indispensable condition of well-being and good government. On the contrary, if it should happen that those who have no right to do so should attribute authority to themselves, if they presume to become judges and teachers, if inferiors in the government of the universal Church attempt or try to exert an influence different from that of the supreme authority, there follows a reversal of the true order, many minds are thrown into confusion, and souls leave the right path.
And to fail in this most holy duty it is not necessary to perform an action in open opposition whether to the Bishops or to the Head of the Church; it is enough for this opposition to be operating indirectly, all the more dangerous because it is the more hidden. Thus, a soul fails in this sacred duty when, at the same time that a jealous zeal for the power and the prerogatives of the Sovereign Pontiff is displayed, the Bishops united to him are not given their due respect, or sufficient account is not taken of their authority, or their actions and intentions are interpreted in a captious manner, without waiting for the judgment of the Apostolic See.
Similarly, it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.
(Pope Leo XIII, Letter Epistola Tua)
Furthermore, the same Pope made clear that a Catholic journalist is not permitted to speak against his bishop (much less so, then, against the chief bishop, the Pope):
No, it cannot be permitted that laymen who profess to be Catholic should go so far as openly to arrogate to themselves in the columns of a newspaper, the right to denounce, and to find fault, with the greatest license and according to their own good pleasure, with every sort of person, not excepting bishops, and think that with the single exception of matters of faith they are allowed to entertain any opinion which may please them and exercise the right to judge everyone after their own fashion.
In fact, it is always true and manifest to all that there are in the Church two grades, very distinct by their nature: the shepherds and the flock, that is to say, the rulers and the people. It is the function of the first order to teach, to govern, to guide men through life, to impose rules; the second has the duty to be submissive to the first, to obey, to carry out orders, to render honor. And if subordinates usurp the place of superiors, this is, on their part, not only to commit an act of harmful boldness, but even to reverse, as far as in them lies, the order so wisely established by the Providence of the Divine Founder of the Church. If by chance there should be in the ranks of the episcopate a bishop not sufficiently mindful of his dignity and apparently unfaithful to one of his sacred obligations, in spite of this he would lose nothing of his power, and, so long as he remained in communion with the Roman Pontiff, it would certainly not be permitted to anyone to relax in any detail the respect and obedience which are due his authority. On the other hand, to scrutinize the actions of a bishop, to criticize them, does not belong to individual Catholics, but concerns only those who, in the sacred hierarchy, have a superior power; above all, it concerns the Supreme Pontiff, for it is to him that Christ confided the care of feeding not only all the lambs, but even the sheep [cf. John 21:17]. At the same time, when the faithful have grave cause for complaint, they are allowed to put the whole matter before the Roman Pontiff, provided always that, safeguarding prudence and the moderation counseled by concern for the common good, they do not give vent to outcries and recriminations which contribute rather to the rise of divisions and ill-feeling, or certainly increase them.
…The true and sincere virtue of obedience is not satisfied with words; it consists above all in submission of mind and heart.
(Pope Leo XIII, Letter Est Sane Molestum)
Pope Pius XII, very similarly, pointed out that although the laity can assist the Church in her mission, they can never do so against the lawful ecclesiastical authority or the Church’s magisterium:
As for the laity, it is clear that they can be invited by legitimate teachers and accepted as helpers in the defense of the faith. It is enough to call to mind the thousands of men and women engaged in catechetical work, and other types of lay apostolate, all of which are highly praiseworthy and can be strenuously promoted. But all these lay apostles must be, and remain, under the authority, leadership, and watchfulness of those who by divine institution are set up as teachers of Christ’s Church. In matters involving the salvation of souls, there is no teaching authority in the Church not subject to this authority and vigilance.
Recently what is called “lay theology” has sprung up and spread to various places, and a new class of “lay theologian” has emerged, which claims to be sui juris; there are professors of this theology occupying established chairs, courses are given, notes published, seminars held. These professors distinguish their teaching authority from, and in a certain way set it up against, the public Teaching Authority of the Church; at times, in order to justify their position, they appeal to the charismatic gifts of teaching and of interpreting prophecy, which are mentioned more than once in the New Testament, especially in the Pauline Epistles (e.g. Rom. 12:6 f.; I Cor. 12:28-30); they appeal to history, which from the beginning of the Christian religion down to today presents so many names of laymen who for the good of souls have taught the truth of Christ orally and in writing, though not called to this by the Bishops and without having asked or received the sacred teaching authority, led on by their own inward impulse and apostolic zeal. Nevertheless it is necessary to maintain to the contrary 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. Furthermore, everyone can see how great a danger of confusion and error there is in this “lay theology”; a danger also lest others begin to be taught by men clearly unfitted for the task, or even by deceitful and fraudulent men, whom St. Paul described: “The time will come when men …, always itching to hear something fresh, will provide themselves with a continuous succession of new teachers, as the whim takes them, turning a deaf ear to the truth bestowing their attention on fables instead” (cf. II Tim. 4:3 f.).
(Pope Pius XII, Allocution Si Diligis; underlining added.)
Now, Eric Sammons tries to do more than assist the Church in her mission — he tries to restore her mission. In 2021, he published a book with the blasphemous title Deadly Indifference: How the Church Lost her Mission, and how We can Reclaim It. It is blasphemous because the Church cannot lose her mission.
In a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in Paris, dated Nov. 4, 1884, Pope Leo XIII emphasized:
On its side the Holy See, faithful to the mission it has received to teach all men and to preserve the faithful from error, follows with attentive and vigilant eye all that happens within the Catholic fold, and, when it is judged necessary and opportune, it will not fail in the future — any more than it has ever failed in the past — to give appropriate light and direction by its teaching. It is to the Holy See first of all — and also, in dependence upon it, to the other pastors established by the Holy Spirit to rule the Church of God — that belongs by right the teaching ministry. The part of the faithful not in orders is here restricted to a single duty: to accept the teaching given them, to conform their conduct to it, and to second the intentions of the Church.
(Pope Leo XIII, Letter In Mezzo; in S.S.D.N. Leonis Papae XIII Allocutiones, Epistolae, Constitutiones aliaque Acta Praecipua, vol. 2, pp. 103-105. Translation from Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 458.)
For the Church to lose her mission would mean the Bride of Christ is no longer faithful to her Groom, a frightful blasphemy (cf. Eph 5:25-27): “The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly” (St. Cyprian; quoted by Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 10).
By the way: Does Sammons’ book contain an imprimatur (authorization) from his local (Novus Ordo) bishop? No, it does not. Granted, the book features a foreword written by ‘Bp.’ Athanasius Schneider, but that is no substitute, for Schneider is not Sammons’ shepherd and therefore has no jurisdiction over him and cannot authorize publication. In fact, as a mere auxiliary, Schneider is nobody’s shepherd, he is merely assisting the shepherd of his diocese, ‘Abp.’ Tomash Peta.
Bad Popes vs. False Popes
We now turn to Sammons’ June 14 appearance on The John-Henry Westen Show. In his article covering the show, Westen writes:
After discussing his conversion, we discuss how a Catholic should view Pope Francis and his papacy, and if Francis’ actions have shaken his faith.
According to Sammons, Francis’ actions have not challenged his faith. First, because of God’s grace, and second, because he has studied the history of the papacy. He maintains, however, that Francis is a “unique problem historically,” comparing his pontificate with those of the Renaissance popes, the Arian crisis, and the pornocracy of the 10th century, when Roman matrons would use their influence to get their lovers and sons elected pope.
As disgusting and scandalous as the lives of the openly immoral Popes of history have been, they are no comparison to the ecclesial situation since Vatican II. We are not talking about Popes who are immoral in their personal conduct; we are talking about ‘Popes’ who teach false doctrines to the entire flock, who issue heretical or harmful laws, and who promulgate impious liturgical rites that are odious to Almighty God.
Pope John XII (955-963) was perhaps the worst Pope in history in terms of the life he led; yet, his magisterium always remained unspotted and continued to be the standard of orthodoxy for all Catholics. About him, the historian Fr. Fernand Mourret writes: “Divine providence, watching over the Church, miraculously preserved the deposit of faith, of which this young voluptuary was the guardian. This Pope’s life was a monstrous scandal, but his bullarium [magisterium] is faultless. We cannot sufficiently admire this prodigy” (A History of the Catholic Church, vol. 3 [St. Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946], p. 511).
The “prodigy” referred to by Fr. Mourret is, of course, the divine assistance granted to all legitimate Popes. We’re not making this up; it’s Catholic doctrine:
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)
Westen continues his presentation of Sammons’ remarks on his show:
Sammons tells me that after Francis’ election, he studied the history and theology of the Church to see what the possible views [are] Catholics could have of Francis. Sammons maintains there are three: sedevacantism, or the belief that Pius XII was the last pope and the Chair of Peter is currently vacant, the view that “whatever the pope says today is Catholic dogma,” as seen by the Where Peter Is blog, or what is in his view the right option, the view that Christ suffers bad popes to test the faith of the Church.
It would be interesting to find out just what sources Sammons used to “stud[y] the history and theology of the Church” to come to the — pardon the bluntness — utterly asinine conclusion “that Christ suffers bad popes to test the faith of the Church.”
It is not a bad (immoral) Pope we are talking about but an apostate who misleads the entire Church with his false teachings and evil laws! To say that such a scenario is allowed by God “to test the faith of the Church” is absurd because the Pope — any true Pope — by virtue of his office guarantees the integrity and purity of the Faith, and the entire edifice of the Church rests upon him in a sense:
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.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7; underlining added.)
In 1887, Bishop Giuseppe Sarto of Mantua, Italy, said to his flock:
The moment has come to prove to the great Vicar of Christ our unchanging affection and fidelity. For us Leo XIII is the guardian of the Holy Scriptures, the interpreter of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the supreme dispenser of the treasures of the Church, the head of the Catholic religion, the chief shepherd of souls, the infallible teacher, the secure guide, who directs us on our way through a world wrapped in darkness and the shadow of death. All the strength of the Church is in the Pope; all the foundations of our Faith are based on the successor of Peter. Those who wish her ill assault the papacy in every possible way; they cut themselves adrift from the Church, and try their best to make the Pope an object of hatred and contempt. The more they endeavor to weaken our faith and our attachment to the head of the Church, the more closely let us draw to him through the public testimony of our Faith, our obedience and our veneration.
(Bp. Giuseppe Sarto, quoted in F.A. Forbes, Pope St. Pius X [Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1987], pp. 34-35; underlining added.)
This bishop is of particular significance to us today because at the next conclave, he became Pope himself, taking the name of Pius X.
Whatever theological sources Sammons was studying to arrive at his conclusion, apparently the Catholic teaching on the Papacy wasn’t part of the package.
The Divine Promises for the Papacy
Westen continues, quoting Sammons directly:
“When I look at the promises of Christ to St. Peter, the promises He makes the Church, He does not guarantee that we can’t have a pope like this,” Sammons explains. “He does not ever promise that. And in fact, I think it’s a means in which people are really tried and tested and [Christ says], ‘Okay, will you follow me … even when my vicar is doing things that are … against what I want him to do? Will you still be faithful to me and to my Church?’ And ultimately, that’s what we have to hang our hat on.”
Such incredible sophistry! Sammons either has no idea what he’s talking about, or he is deliberately misleading souls, just like Francis. In neither case should he be advising anyone on “how to be a faithful Catholic”.
So, what promises did Christ make to St. Peter and, by extension, to all Popes? Sammons doesn’t tell us. He only assures us, rather conveniently, that whatever the promises were, they are not contradicted by Francis. But then, we should be able to take the traditional Catholic doctrine on the Papacy and insert “Pope Francis” for every mention of “Pope” or “Roman Pontiff” and that would give us an accurate description of the last ten years of Bergoglio’s “pontificate”, correct? We can all try it out and see how it reads:
One could challenge Sammons another way: If Christ’s promises do not guarantee that there cannot be a ‘Pope’ like Francis, who misleads the entire Church with heresy and other serious errors, with bad disciplinary laws, false saints, sacrilegious worship, etc., just what kind of a Pope do the Lord’s promises guarantee we cannot have?
We have already seen in the sundry quotes from the magisterium given above, what are the divine promises with regard to the Papacy. Here we will add one more, from Pope Pius XII:
Mother Church, Catholic, Roman, which has remained faithful to the constitution received from her Divine Founder, which still stands firm today on the solidity of the rock on which his will erected her, possesses in the primacy of Peter and of his legitimate [!] successors the assurance, guaranteed by the divine promises, of keeping and transmitting inviolate and in all its integrity through centuries and millennia to the very end of time, the entire sum of truth and grace contained in the redemptive mission of Christ.
(Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Consistory, June 2, 1944)
It’s really unfortunate that Sammons didn’t come across these quotes while doing his research.
By saying that a ‘Pope’ like Francis is not contrary to the divine promises, Sammons reduces the Papacy to nothing of practical significance. What good is the Papacy if in the end it does not differ in essence from the man-made institution of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury? If a ‘Pope’ like Francis were possible, why would the enemies of the Church have continually conspired to destroy the Papacy?
In his Apostolic Letter convoking the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX underscored that the Church founded by Jesus Christ, “enriched with heavenly treasures, shows to all nations the safe way of salvation and the light of true doctrine, and, like to a ship, is so borne upon the waves of this present time as, while the world perishes, to preserve unhurt all whom she receives (S. Max. Serm. 89).” Christ assists her, among other ways, by means of His Vicar, the Pope:
But in order that the government of that same Church should always proceed rightly and in order, and that the whole Christian people should ever stand firm in one faith, doctrine, charity, and communion, He both promised that He would Himself be present with her even to the consummation of the world, and also chose one out of all, Peter, whom He appointed Prince of the Apostles and His Vicar here on earth, and head, foundation, and centre of the Church; that both in the grade of rank and honour, and in the amplitude of chief and most full authority, power, and jurisdiction, he should feed the lambs and the sheep, strengthen his brethren, and rule the whole Church, and should be the keeper of the gate of heaven, and the arbiter of things to be bound and loosed, so that the determination of his judgments should abide hereafter even in heaven. And because the unity and integrity of the Church, and the government thereof, as established by the same Christ, are for ever to remain unchanged, therefore in the Roman Pontiffs, successors of Peter, who are placed on this same Roman Chair of Peter, the very same supreme power, jurisdiction, and primacy, possessed by Peter over the whole Church, most fully continues and is in force.
Therefore the Roman Pontiffs, exercising the power and care of feeding the Lord’s flock divinely intrusted to them by Christ Himself Our Lord in the person of Blessed Peter, have never ceased to endure all labours, to devise all counsels, in order that from the rising to the setting of the sun all peoples, and races, and nations might acknowledge the teaching of the Gospel, and, walking in the paths of truth and justice, might attain eternal life. Known unto all is the unwearied care wherewith the Roman Pontiffs have laboured to defend the deposit of faith, the discipline of the clergy and their education in sanctity and learning, and also the holiness and dignity of marriage: known also is the care wherewith they have endeavoured to promote daily more and more the Christian education of the youth of both sexes, to cherish the religion, piety, and good morals, of the people, — to defend justice, and to consult for the tranquillity, order, prosperity, and interests, of civil society itself.
(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Aeterni Patris; italics given.)
That is not exactly a description of the Vatican II Church and its heads, is it?
The Blind leading the Blind
Westen quotes more of Sammons’ masterful advice:
“I don’t claim to have all the answers,” Sammons continues. “But it is enough for me to say that, ‘Okay, all the things I believed in, which I decided to accept when I became Catholic are all still true. They’re not playing out like I expected, but they’re all still true.’ And … I’m not going to let this … guy in Rome, even though he’s the Pope, shake me from that attachment to the Catholic Church I have.”
When rhetoric replaces doctrine, this is the fluff you end up with. There is simply no substance there. At the end of the day, Sammons’ position appears to be (paraphrasing): “I still believe what I believe, and I won’t let this guy in Rome make me a non-Catholic.” So that is “how faithful Catholics should respond to Francis’ troubling papacy” — brilliant!
Here it becomes painfully obvious that Sammons is not the man to advise others on how to be a loyal Catholic.
Which raises an interesting question: Just why did John-Henry Westen choose the editor of Crisis Magazine to play the expert on how to be a faithful Catholic in our time? Why not someone else? Why not ‘Fr.’ James Martin, for example? Or Michael Lofton? ‘Fr.’ Richard Rohr? Massimo Faggioli? ‘Bp.’ Robert Barron? The possibilities are endless. Of course the question is rhetorical, since we all know the answer: because Westen doesn’t agree with those people, whereas he does agree with Eric Sammons.
But, as we have seen, in the Catholic religion the ultimate standard for being a faithful Catholic, the living and proximate rule of Faith, is the Pope. As St. Pius X made clear, “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…” (Address Con Vera Soddisfazione).
Note well that the “ultimate and unassailable test of orthodoxy” is not merely a general, professed belief in the Papacy but actual obedience to the Pope’s magisterium. As Pope Pius XI put it, “…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” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 11; underlining added).
Once the Pope is abandoned as the living rule of Faith, there is no standard left to which a Catholic can reasonably appeal. It then becomes a free-for-all. Just as Life Site can have its “how to be a faithful Catholic” show, so can Church Militant have its, and America magazine can have its, and the Society of St. Pius X can have its, and so forth. And they will all be in disagreement with each other.
Of course some will now say that what we have been saying about the Pope and the Papacy could just as well be used against Sedevacantism, but not so fast. The Sedevacantist has not abandoned the Pope as the standard of orthodoxy; rather, he merely acknowledges (and deplores) the fact that there is currently no Pope reigning. By contrast, the recognize-and-resist trad, like Eric Sammons, believes that a true Pope is in office but repudiates him as the standard to follow. He must thus come up with some alternative, and this alternative he must invoke against the Pope and declare it to be superior to him — and thereby deny the Papacy. (Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is a good bad example of that.)
It should be obvious, however, that abandoning the Papacy in order to have a Pope is going to be as successful as trying to borrow one’s way out of debt. It is absurdity on stilts!
In 1786, Pope Pius VI reminded Catholics that it is “the teaching of the Gospel that the sheep were entrusted to Peter, by Christ for him to provide for their food, not Peter who was entrusted to the sheep to receive his spiritual nourishment from them” (Bull Super Soliditate).
Exit Eric Sammons.
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