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Saint Francis de Sales on Popes and Error June 23, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, episcopate, Francis, General Catholic, Papa, reading, Saints, sanctity, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.

I am staking out no position by excerpting the below from St. Francis de Sales The Catholic Controversy (pp. 225-6).  I read this yesterday, it is interesting, it is topical, and I think it is at least somewhat helpful.  This is not an endorsement of any claim with regard to the status of the pontificate today or its present occupant.  This is in fact a very high-level overview of an immensely complex and nuanced subject, so please bear that in mind.  Those for and against claims of sede vacante can stack up piles of quotes from Saints and Doctors on both sides of the issue, and a combox on a blog is not a place where such issues can or will be resolved.  Nonetheless, I’ll be watching comments closely, or at least more closely than usual [my comments]:

[W]e do not say that the Pope cannot err in his private opinions, as did John XXII, or be altogether a heretic, as perhaps Honorius was.  Now when he is explicitly a heretic, he falls ipso facto from his dignity and out of the Church, and the Church must either deprive him of, or, as some say, declare him deprived, of his Apostolic See, and must say as St. Peter did, let another take his bishopric (Acts i).  When he errs in his private opinion he must be instructed, advised, convinced; as happened with John XXII………But when he is clothed in pontifical garments, I mean when he teaches the whole Church as shepherd, in general matters of faith and morals, then there is nothing but doctrine and truth.  [Until now?  Amoris Laetitia and Evangelii Gaudium are magisterial documents, and many judge them to contain error.  But not every word or phrase from even a magisterial document is magisterial.  Are footnotes?  These are issues beyond me.  It will likely take a future pope, in a better age, to make these determinations.  At least, that is my belief.  The wheat will have to be separated from the chaff, and necessary distinctions made, I am certain of that. Whether that means Francis is pope or not, who am I to judge?]

….So everything the pope says is not canon law or of legal obligation; he must mean to define and lay down the law for the sheep, and he  must keep the due order and form.  Thus we say that we must appeal to him not as to a learned man, for in this he is ordinarily surpassed by some others, but as to the general head and pastor of the Church.  And as such we must honor, follow, and firmly embrace his doctrine [when it is wholesome, I presume. At the very least, what the pope proposes as Doctrine cannot contradict what was held in the past, right?  And thus the problem.] , for then he carries on his breast…….doctrine and truth.  And again, we must not think that in everything and everywhere his judgment on a matter of faith in questions necessary to the whole Church, for in particular cases which depend on human face he can err, there is no doubt, though it is not for us to control him in these cases save with all reverence, submission, and discretion.  Theologians have said, in a word, that he can err in questions of fact, not in questions of right, that he can err extra cathedram, outside the Chair of Peter, that is, as a private person, by writings and bad example.  [So at some point Amoris Laetitia, or some of it, must be declared private, non-binding, or?]

But he cannot err when he is in cathedra, that is, when he intends to make an instruction and decree for the guidance of the whole Church, when he means to confirm his brethren as supreme pastor and to conduct them into the pastures of the Faith. For then it is not so much man who determines, resolves, and defines as it is the Blessed Holy Spirit by man, which spirit, according to the promise made by Our Lord to the Apostles, teaches all truth to the Church…….

———End Quote———-

Well, that had been quite safely the case for 2000 years, but now it is certainly open to question.  I don’t see anyone in a position of authority in the Church today willing to hold the current pope to account…….thus my belief it will be quite some time before the crisis of this pontificate is dealt with, probably long after I’m dead.  In the meantime, doctrine will suffer, millions will fall away, and hell shall be filled by so many lost snowflakes.

Well, at least there’s some good TV these days, so we have that going for us………


1. tg - June 23, 2016

I pray I don’t become a Protestant. This pope has made me understand why they question the papacy.

Tantumblogo - June 23, 2016

You’ll be ok Miss TG. Thank you.

2. Branch - June 23, 2016

I don’t think it’s all that complicated, actually. It can be explained, and objections addressed, in a video presentation in under an hour–and with some light-hearted humor. Like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c_JL8_Wa-k

3. italy6966 - June 23, 2016

This Pope is one of the most left leaning Pope in a very long time,when the Pope tells people that when Jesus feed the 5 thousand with a fish an some bread,that people shared with each other when they pulled the food out of there pockets,that’s a crock of crud,Jesus did a miracle an feed all those people bye multiplying the fish an bread,somebody needs to tell him he is wrong,he has told some other woppers but I just can’t remember any more rite now,you can judge a Bishop on how many seminarians he has,an when the Pope was an Archbishop he had very few to none,so that tells a lot about what kind of Bishop he was,he was a horrible archbishop a very very very liberal person social justice instead of orthodox an going bye Sacred Tradition,there was a reason Benedict quit an it was not because of his health,Benedict was so so so much better a Pope that Francis an Francis is just horrible an I better shut up.

4. Baseballmom - June 23, 2016

Well, the good St. Francis leaves me as confused as ever… I just wish I’d wake to the news that PF has gone to his eternal…. Whatever…

c matt - June 24, 2016

Only problem is what comes after? Would it be better or worse?

5. SoccerMom - June 23, 2016

With regard to the question of a possibility that a future Pope/Council will affirm or deny the legitimacy of Francis’ papacy, what are your thoughts about:
If it were to be officially declared at some point in the future that Francis had not held office during his “reign” and therefore did not enjoy the protection of the Holy Ghost, did he nonetheless enjoy jurisdiction over Catholics? Put another way, do you think that until such an official declaration might one day made, we are all still bound to submit to him (because you think that we are not permitted to consider this question before an official declaration (correct me if I misunderstand you))? Or do you think it is just the safer course? Any thoughts?

6. Sobieski - June 24, 2016

Salsa and Siscoe have written a book on this topic as you may know, as well as a number of articles.


To avoid confusion and discouragement, I would recommend the articles and interviews referenced on their site as to my mind they convincing refute the sede position.

The Church has to make a determination on the matter of a pope’s pertinacity and formal heresy before loss of office. That point is not in dispute among theologians, only that once the determination has been made whether the pope would immediately lose office or a subsequent declaration of loss and avoidance would have to be made by the Church before that.

SoccerMom - June 24, 2016

I am sorry, tantumblogo, I misread your comments and originally thought when you said, “It will likely take a future pope, in a better age, to make these determinations.” that you were discussing the pope question again, but I see now you are talking about which parts of magisterial documents can be assumed true. I should have read more closely.

Thank you, Sobieski, for your reference to Mr. Salza and Mr. Siscoe’s book and articles. I have read through a few articles and am familiar with their theory. I think you have summarized it accurately. I do not think I am allowed to offer any commentary on it, but I also am not sure that Mr. Salza completely accepts his own theory.

The theory that an authoritative determination of pertinacity and formal heresy must take place before loss of office would seem to preclude any possibility of a current vacancy (since there has not been any such determination). However, in Mr. Salza’s article, ““The Chair is Empty? Says who?”, he writes:
“I concede, with Archbishop Lefebvre, that the sedevacantist position is a speculative theological possibility, and that someday the Church may condemn the conciliar Popes as manifest heretics…”
It is unclear to me whether Mr. Salza actually thinks the possibility of a current vacancy is impossible, or that it is possible the chair is vacant but we are not permitted to speculate on it until an official determination has taken place. I am not sure that he has fully solidified his own thoughts on it.

7. Gretchen Dyer - June 24, 2016

We must pray he is asking for guidance from the Holy Ghost

Sent from my iPhone


8. David - June 24, 2016

Last night, I happened to catch The World Over Live on EWTN. Raymond Arroyo had Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal to explain the latest “off the cuff” statements by Pope Francis. All three, including Raymond, pulled no punches, and this isn’t the first time Raymond has defended Catholic teaching. Fr. Murray made some excellent points and voiced several concerns with the “off the cuff” statements on marriage. I recommend watching the archive file from EWTN.

IMHO, if the Pope is saying Catholic marriages are invalid, what does that say about the quality of marriage prep? I know of some priests who have denied marrying couples, but it seems a bunch of “rubber stamps” are given. My mom married my Dad (a practicing Methodist who 54 years later attends weekly service and has the majority of his 80 years) and I believe in those days, the early 60s, my Dad had to have some special prep. He agreed that children will be raised Catholic (all 4 were, and we attend Mass regularly), and my Dad helped out with some volunteer things, like setting up tables or driving youth when asked.

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