Passing the Paternity Test
I am following with interest, though not in an impartial manner, the blog posts of both Fr Ray Blake, (his original post is here) and Louie Verrecchio on the validity of the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis to the Throne of Peter.
Louie Verrecchio, who runs an often interesting and thought-provoking blog points to reasons why he considers there is room for a great deal of doubt regarding the election of Pope Francis and his validity. He very wrongly imputed to Fr Blake that the priest had reached the same conclusion as Louie while citing possible reasons which may have contributed to Benedict XVI's decision to resign. He hasn't actually apologised for doing that, instead choosing to arrogantly 'apologise' for praising Fr Blake's bravery.
Fr Blake's assertion, which I am as a Catholic deeply inclined to agree with, is that Francis is Pope because 'with full freedom' as Benedict XVI himself said, Benedict abdicated the Throne and in his latest piece has written with wisdom on the Catholic understanding of freedom and what it means to be free in Christ Jesus. The whole Church - including Benedict XVI - has accepted his Successor even if Francis has not been universally received with joy as Pope.
Concerning the claims made by various sources - including Louie's own - about the validity/invalidity arguments concerning the election of the Holy Roman Pontiff, I have over the last four years read a great deal, so much in fact, that I have forgotten quite a few of the justifications that many hold for believing or entertaining the idea that Francis is not the Pope. There are so many claims. There are, I believe, quite a few reasons why this belief is persistent, not just a single one, but what leaves most Catholics astonished is most naturally the behaviour of the Pope whose desire to act in an unprecedented manner has surpassed all expectations and rationale, leaving people wondering how this man can be Pope. Our Lord however, did not make the papacy an impregnable fortress against the sad, mad, bad or even evil. History attests to this. Jesus Christ has entrusted His Church to men as custodians. Men with free will.
In the light of events and revelations since Francis assumed the Throne, one reaction for Catholics is to ask why Cardinal Raymond Burke and some Cardinal friends have not tried to make a citizens arrest on the Pope on suspicion of not being the Pope, or even for refusing to act as a Pope of the tradition's understanding, because a body of evidence has over time built up which could be used in an investigation and trial that would charge Francis with being not a Pope but a contender to a Throne taken by force in an illegal manner. Louie hasn't even countenanced the good reasons why this has not happened and is very unlikely to happen, and would put it all down to the 'weakness' of Cardinal Burke and others. Oh, it would be a fascinating trial. Cardinal Daneels could be brought in as a witness, but then he himself would be placed on trial. It's all a lovely fantasy. And they all lived happily ever after...except Cardinal Tagle won the next election legally and completed the work of Francis naming himself Francis II.
Louie, I think (though I could be wrong), believes that Cardinals and Bishops should rise up and 'man up' and, with enough evidence at their disposal, place on trial the man known as Pope Francis who would thence be found guilty of crimes against the Church of God, judged to be a heretic, infidel, or traitor or all three and be expelled from the Christian community until his repentance, if he was granted mercy by the new holder of the Keys.
Unfortunately for traditionalists, there is no tradition of Cardinals placing Popes on trial to be charged with treason or heresy or very much at all. At least not while alive. It would be an invention - a very modern one at that - for this to occur. Correct me if I am wrong, but the Catholic Church simply doesn't overthrow Popes by trial - even those deemed by some to be illegitimate. The problem comes with the matter of who is competent to judge a Pope's legitmacy? St Paul's teaching, 'honour the Emperor' or the 'King' may be supreme here. The unprecedented nature of the situation would not instill many Canon Lawyers - and Cardinal Burke is one - with confidence in the rightness of the course of action to be taken.
This - as well as the text of Benedict's resignation speech - leads me to the conclusion that the whole Church of God must recognise Francis as Pope unless someday the Church Herself pronounces otherwise. I don't know whether there exist any caveats to this, but I doubt it. In the event that he signs off a new Mass that abolishes the Eucharist and excommunicates all faithful Catholics from the Church, I guess those priests celebrating the real Mass in farmyard barns and houses would still pray for 'Francis our Pope' despite how insane that would feel, since they have to say someone's name during the Canon and Benedict XVI abdicated the exercise of his ministry. Does Benedict XVI still celebrate Mass? Who does he pray for in the Canon? Perhaps Louie should ask him in a private audience. He does, after all, still receive visitors.
I find it very unlikely that Hyper-Trad-Pope-of-your-dreams-theoretical-next-Pope will say his predecessor was an illegitimate anti-Pope so forget his strange teachings, but hope springs eternal and if that happens I'm cool with that because I'm completely open to the God of surprises, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived and the Holy Spirit was not given to popes to proclaim new doctrine, but to defend and to put forth the Deposit of Faith, the Tradition received through the Apostles.
On the other hand, if this is God's battle alone, if the whole people of God are powerless against what is taking place save for beseeching God's mercy and Jesus Christ ends this sad and torturous affair with 'the breath of his mouth' then that would be a clincher.
The overwhelming feeling that many Catholics have today is of feeling powerless and fatherless but there are, mysteriously, opportunities attached to the Church's situation today and Benedict XVI pointed very much to the challenge we face. We may be forced to take sides, but there is no question for faithful Catholics that it is Christ, always Christ. At his resignation Benedict XVI said 'Let us entrust the Church to Jesus Christ'. It is Christ's Church, not the possession of the Pope. We are Christ's Body, we do not belong to ourselves. You feel powerless, I feel powerless, we are powerless save for begging God's mercy upon His Church. We find we cannot place our trust in princes. We place all our trust in Jesus. We find ourselves fatherless. We run to the Bosom of God the Almighty Father. I am quite sure that Benedict XVI would say, if you feel powerless and acknowledge that you are powerless: 'Welcome to my world'. We are welcomed to the crucifixion of the Church, an event that must be passed through before the Church's full liberty, exaltation and resurrection takes place.
An unanswered dubia gives a future Pope plenty of ammunition in his solemn review of the Francis years. He might ask whether a Pope who refuses to answer basic questions on doctrine even wished to exercise that ministry entrusted to him. There may be many more things which could eventually be assessed that might include the nature of Benedict's resignation and the ascent of Francis to the throne. Yes, there might, but the Church herself operates under law. Even if suspicion arises as to the breeching of those laws during a Papal Conclave, I doubt that a mechanism exists within the Church to prosecute 'the imposter'. Having bigged up the papacy so much, the next Pope, or a future Pope might be able to draw a line under the Francis pontificate. I am sorry to say that it is for a future Pope, or for Christ Himself to do. I do not think we can choose our Popes according to our good pleasure. If a Pope teaches doctrines which contradict the teachings of Christ our Lord, we do not have to accept those doctrines, but I do not think we can as a Body convulsively say, 'You're not the Pope!'
Perhaps one day the Church will run a paternity test for the next Pope and analyse the DNA of the current occupant and make a solemn decision. An unanswered dubia may turn to some kind of condemnation of Francis one day but God alone knows the future. It is very understandable that Catholics want this to happen now but unless a suitably large body of Cardinals out there have some handcuffs at the ready and a charge sheet in hand this seems most unlikely. May the Lord grant us holy patience and constancy in Faith even in times of sorrow and distress, even in times of great tribulation.