Pope Francis: The H Question

Fr John Hunwicke has at his blog 'Liturgical Notes' been running a series (here, here and here), yet unfinished, on the important matter of whether the Pope known as Francis is a heretic. Already he has come to the conclusion that it cannot be the case. As always, Fr John takes a reasonable, razor-sharp, logical and exquisitely light-hearted approach to a serious question and leaves his readers considering some serious implications to mull over.

Without wishing to put words in the mouth of Fr Hunwicke or misinterpret them, I would like to add some questions and thoughts of my own. The Church can only judge as heretics those who are her own. If a Catholic, even a Catholic who had risen to the Office of the Papacy literally believes in nothing then can that person be judged a heretic? Am I being harsh?

Recalling Rorate Caeli's prophetic post on the election of Pope Francis, one phrase stands out:

'Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.'

The pin-point accurate Rorate report on the then unknown figure of Jorge Bergoglio in 2013 elucidates for us just a little the mysterious man who is now on the Chair of Peter. It illustrates that for as long as he has been publicly known, Jorge Bergoglio has been vague, ambiguous, ambitious, self-contradictory, demagogic in his employment of language and that it cannot be said that he has a heterodox magisterium (that he is a heretic) because no real comprehensive magisterium can be found. After four years of Francis, I thoroughly concur with this assessment.

For this reason it is most unhelpful for Francis's most loyal supporters to place too much weight on the teachings of Francis the Pope. Equally, however, the unintelligibility of Jorge Bergoglio's actual beliefs make it very difficult for people to lay the charge of heresy against him. All that is known is that his teaching is 'strange' or even 'foreign'.

Cardinal Maradiaga, has for example, recently laid into Cardinal Burke in a most unseemly manner, a manner unworthy of the Cardinalate, but clearly the Honduran prelate is able to somehow discern in a quite miraculous fashion the magisterium of Francis while to so many it remains enigmatic and utterly confusing. Somehow Cardinal Maradiaga is able to talk in glowing terms of the Pope's 'teaching'. Referring to Cardinal Burke, the Cardinal says:

'“He’s not the magisterium,”...
He goes on...

“The Holy Father is the magisterium, and he’s the one who teaches the whole Church. This other [person] speaks only his own thoughts, which don’t merit further comment.'

All of which begs the question: If someone close to the Pope like Cardinal Maradiaga is able to tell us that Pope Francis is the Magisterium, he must know what Pope Francis's magisterium is. Or perhaps not. I don't. Does anyone else? Perhaps Pope Francis has laid it out to him privately or perhaps more likely there is in operation a secret doctrine so secret that it is passed telepathically by people of like minds. It cannot actually be spoken clearly, pronounced, but it is itself a mysterious 'spirit' that pervades the corridors of no less a place now than the Vatican itself.

It cannot realistically be called the spirit of 'heresy' because in order to be a heretic, you actually have to believe something. It cannot be said to be the spirit of 'apostasy' because in order to be an apostate, you have to have at some point belonged to the Church or professed Her teachings, believing something.

Indeed, not believing in anything of substance provides the individual with a vantage point to look down upon those who do and His Holiness takes advantage of this with relish, yesterday adding to his repertoire of insults the ludicrous charge of 'fanatics' against those who wish to see the Church's teachings - already solemnly defined - proclaimed and championed. Of course, one who believes in nothing can never be called a 'fanatic' because a 'fanatic' has to believe in something in order to believe it fanatically or in a way that people can paint in terms of mental illness and/or an attachment to evil (whatever that is!). Fanatics, remember, are also those who blow up buildings and people for the cause of their religion/beliefs.

Yet the nullification of Jesus's teachings (doctrine) and the Church's teachings (doctrine) which are His own (doctrine) by the believers of nothing, more commonly known as nihilists, requires some assent of belief by those who instigate it. Believing nothing of substance concerning faith and morals, they do at least have to believe one thing - that they are right. And this, it can be said, they believe most passionately. They do believe that they are right, but ask them what they believe and the answer, as all the ends of the earth have heard, will be most confusing, unintelligible.

However, there is one thing they believe you must do and you must believe and that is to adhere to that magisterium which is Pope Francis, even if you don't know what Pope Francis really believes, because he is the Pope and the Pope is right because the Pope is always right. Of course, if a future Pope taught something different to Francis, or suggested he could have been wrong in some areas, that Pope would be wrong in his potentiality, especially if he believes things as Popes previous to Francis have taught. And if that Pope elucidated Catholic teachings in the manner of Cardinal Burke, well, should you follow that Pope's magisterium? I expect that Maradiaga's position would be: If a future Pope believes anything of substance concerning faith and morals and announces it clearly and intelligibility, do not follow him. Right?

The good thing about the dubia submitted by the four Cardinals was that it politely asked His Holiness to enlighten us on what he actually believes concerning the Deposit of Faith. The dubia touched on the nature of divine and objective truth, marriage, morality, you know, a lot of important matters of Catholic teaching. For doing so they are perhaps to be found among the 'ideologues of doctrine', among the 'fanatics' that displease the Pope. So we know that their appeal is not met with much approval by the Pope, but as to what the Pope actually believes, should we really be told that the Pope is the magisterium, while we await news of his magisterium? Perhaps after all, it takes more faith to be a nihilist than it does to be a Catholic.


Cardinal Maradiaga says, “The Holy Father is the magisterium”.
It seems that the good Cardinal is not paying full attention. Pope Francis said, “The Church has its own Magisterium, the Magisterium of the Pope, of the Bishops, of the Councils.”
But, as usual, Pope Francis makes a distinction without in any way clarifying the nature of the distinction. What, to Pope Francis, is the difference between doctrine and ideology? Who can tell?
Liam Ronan said…
Francis believes in one thing and one thing only...himself. He supports all those who fall down in adoration of himself.

"He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." 2 Thessalonians 2:4

I am convinced Francis, the supreme narcissist, prefers himself to God.

I recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself once mused on Vladimir Soloviev’s, ‘A Short Tale of the Antichrist’.

Pointing to Soloviev’s recounting of the second temptation of Jesus, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, observed in his 2004 book ‘On the Road toward Christ Jesus’:

“And a phrase of Soloviev’s is illuminating: The Antichrist believes in God, but in the depths of his heart he prefers himself.”
The Bones said…
After I wrote it I did think that also. Yes, they believe in themselves very much so.
Physiocrat said…
Do the utterances and actions of the Pope make a difference at a day-to-day parish level? It seems to me that the answer is that they do. Last November, the Pope visited Sweden to celebrate the 500 years of Martin Luther, a curious thing to do in itself. The ecumenical event at Lund Cathedral was disturbing - as a gaudily coloured cross (think Toys r'Uz) was processed up the aisle. Next day there was a Mass at the football stadium at Malmö. I wrote a blog piece on this <a href="http://physiocrat.blogspot.se/2016/11/some-thoughts-on-popes-visit-to-sweden.html>here.</a>

Unfortunately the recording of the event is no longer available, but the choice of music for the event was heavily loaded with Lutheran hymns, the choice of the diocesan musical director but obviously approved by both the bishop (newly raised to the rank of Cardinal) and the authorities at Rome.

The consequence of this is that it becomes very difficult to object to the widespread use of Lutheran music in parish liturgies, to the point that they are scarcely recognisable as Catholic. At best, the liturgies end up as a kind of musical Mongolian buffet (choice of shush, pizza, curry, fried fish, boiled rice, fried rice, and chips) - lacking in both artistic and theological integrity.

So what Popes say and do have an immediate impact. This raises important questions. The obvious one is whether things are going to get better? Beneath that there are others, because this is not a situation that has arisen since 2013, or even 1960, or 1870, but has been centuries in the making. Yet another is whether this constant focus on, and criticism of, the Pope, is good for the critics' spiritual life? It is better to give up and walk away. It is not as if there is nowhere else to go. The Roman Catholic church is not the only non-Protestant show in town, especially not this town (Gothenburg, Sweden).
ONE USED TO read in the Church press – and quite often once – letters from people who would start by informing us that they had “spent their life reading ‘the documents’ of VaticanII” . Perhaps they were recommended to do so once by their pastor in a panicked response to an awkward question one day, and then never came to the end of the task, or he forgot to tell them to stop or something. One reason they may never have ended their study could have been that the texts don't mean much and a lifetime can be wasted searching for meaning in them in vain.
I have personally skim read the ‘documents’ of Vatican II and never felt the urge to stop and stare at the pages too long. Except for the ones demanded of one in the liturgia horarum. I would characterize these extracts as being aimed at about the level of an average first year undergraduate or slightly lower. They contain numerous platitudinous appeals to just about Christian sentiment, mostly followed by a break in the logic and a concluding exhortation to be more modern and open and in general to change everything handed down, recognizable as Christian.
I do not know if the writers genuinely believed the drivel they were penning, or the game of diversion had already begun.
I believe this experience has given me great insight into why one should not waste any more time on a pile of verbiage that is only meant to be a diversion from the real game of power politics played out elsewhere.
I doubt Bergoglio bothers to authorialise personally, unless it is done in his sleep; (perhaps Mr Soros has donated a machine that transcribes his snores). More likely, one assumed Rex Mottram’s sacred monkeys had been at the typewriters in Bergo’s back office churning out this stuff.

I said to dear FrHunwicke on a previous occasion, that he seemed to be saying that Bergo. was too stupid to espouse heresy. I like your point that he may not be a Christian at all. That would however simply be an heretical state for a pope and so he would have to be subject to the judgment of the Church – that means all of us – in that circumstance. Are we there yet?
I doubt he (Bergoglio) is a genius but feel certain he is cunning enough to have used that (the appearance of, shall we say, “simplicity”?) to hide behind.
I then said that he (Bergo) had behaved more like Hitler in refusing to put his name to anything explicit, while encouraging the heresy of others. That is precisely what pope Honorius was later condemned for. The parallels still seem exact. (Honorius AND Hitler). Bergoglio can never answer the dubia – without admitting what his agenda is and always was.
It is the duty of all Christians and especially bishops to OPPOSE heresy directly. On this reckoning, we already see what kind of bishop that Bergoglio is. Though others saw it before.

He (FrHunwicke) posted later some remarks about cardinals failing to:
“Understand his recent document” (yes, I know he doesn’t mean that; do read his entertaining piece…) but I say in all seriousness,
– There is nothing to understand. If you’ve read it, you’ve already lost.

I have said before that this person is basically undistinguished but for the eminent place he occupies. No one would pay the least attention to the effusions of what passes for his mind if he were not regarded as a useful tool of those who hate God. That’s about it.
Stop listening to him . His basic ill will is already manifest. The Amish would know what to do. it’s time for a shunning.
It seems clear that bergoglio is anti-Christ. It is of course also possible that he is simply the Antichrist. Stop praying for his soul – unless you are in the very charitable habit of praying for Lucifer, and you name him after that. He is long lost. Any possible time in purgatory for him will far outpass the span of anyone else currently living, so he won’t get the chance to thank you for it.
I was hoping the Romans would have put him (Bergo) in the Tiber by now. But I think he’ll leave that way in the end.
Christian people should quite simply treat this man as if excommunicated. I can see no other course of action.
Now this is all good ad hominem stuff, though sadly I fear it’s all fair comment.
But should we perhaps consider, what do the modernists WANT ? Seriously. What is it they are trying to achieve in all this?
We know what someone like prince Charles has said about ‘faith’ in general, though not in something – well, to be fair, he has a particular difficulty in relation to anglicanism. It used to preach faith in, well, the people in his position. But that’s not really a runner now, is it?
But this line of all the faiths together wasn’t around in the sixties. What was the agenda they were shooting for? A lot of the frs present at vatii genuinely swallowed the line they were modernising the Church for modern people in the modern age. Much of it was still talking about very traditional Christian doctrine and morality (no priestesses, no same sex marriage back then) but clad in up-to-date polyester. And we know it didn’t work.
The modernists behind the pushes to modern redefinitions had a rather different agenda.
One assessment might be this: They thought that the Church had some power and social capital beyond the only real power it has – coming to that;
They seemed to think there was a big pile of secular influence they could enjoy wielding in the political realm, that would still be there once they had abandoned all the outmoded stuff about fearing God.
I consider the only ‘power’ the Church has is adherence to God’s commands. Therein alone lies the ‘power of the Church’. A Church full of Christians who obey his commands is the most powerful form of Church and the ONLY powerful Church. The power of God is another matter again. He has a lot more, that the faithful Church mediates. Don’t think the sixties radicals were so bothered about that. Which was a pity. They just thought the power of the institution over men’s minds could be their plaything. If however you throw away obedience to God, you throw away the only ‘power’ the Church has. And that may be something the enemies of God want too.
I think they were all just young in the sixties and soon after, and they are still dashing headlong into the past future that was imagined before, but everyone else noticed had ended with the oil price shock of 1976. That was when the sixties died. Though some people just haven’t noticed yet.
All that sixties stuff, it carried a few of the poorer political activists who always had socialistic ideas along, but was really the product of a few rich kids getting their freak on in the economically good times and who mostly grew up when they noticed they were not getting free stuff for ever. Some people have found a way to prize free stuff out of the system in the years since. Most of us have to look cold hard reality in the eye. But quite a lot of the ever expanding political class in numerous organizations are self-indulgent hippies who have found ways to bypass reality. And many church bureaucrats are just politicians.
That’s how you get bishops who cohabit with their married lady subjects, those who sodomize their nephews and influential cardinals who cover that up when it’s their friends who do it, and who plot to elect…
A pope who talks mostly meaningless nonsense, insults anyone who disagrees with him and, quite entertainingly, those who were not aware they disagreed with him, and encourages disobedience to God.
What do they want? They want the feeling that they are bringing freedom from old stuff to people who long ago stopped needing the permission of old men in frocks, whether silk or polyester, to free themselves from anything they didn’t much enjoy.
There IS nothing to achieve. Apart from opposition to God. They just want to feel useful and LOVED; but in a radical way.
Liam Ronan said…
In my opinion we are living in the times of which Jesus spoke when He said that 'charity' will grow cold. And even though the false prophets and Bergolio himself loudly screeches (and screeching it is) about 'mercy' they speak not of what the Catholic Church has for millennia called the Spiritual Works of Mercy. The hearts of many have grown cold by taking to heart the false 'mercy' preached throughout the world under this 'pontificate'.

"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come." Matthew 24:11:14

The Spiritual Works of Mercy (i.e., 'charity') are:

to instruct the ignorant;

to counsel the doubtful;

To admonish sinners;

to bear wrongs patiently;

to forgive offences willingly;

to comfort the afflicted;

to pray for the living and the dead.

The Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm
You shame me, Mr Ronan. My charity IS rather cold, I admit. I can summon up very little for Bergoglio and his type. They have done too much damage and I think that the most important thing, as far as he and that are concerned is concerted opposition, not any kind of acquiescence.

When I say he is not worth praying for, I should perhaps add that I was thinking most chiefly of the fact that there are billions of souls in need of prayer. Billions. But because this wretched, unworthy clown occupies a station he should not, too many will spend time praying for him. And think they do well. I wouldn't even start on him until I had prayed for every lost soul throughout history. By name.

Pray for the holy souls, pray for "those with no one else to pray for them". Then, if you really have any time left, pray for the enemies of the Church.

But usually we have prayed to be delivered from them.
You shame me, Mr Ronan. My charity IS rather cold, I admit. I can summon up very little for Bergoglio and his type. They have done too much damage and I think that the most important thing, as far as he and that are concerned is concerted opposition, not any kind of acquiescence.

When I say he is not worth praying for, I should perhaps add that I was thinking most chiefly of the fact that there are billions of souls in need of prayer. Billions. But because this wretched, unworthy clown occupies a station he should not, too many will spend time praying for him. And think they do well. I wouldn't even start on him until I had prayed for every lost soul throughout history. By name.

Pray for the holy souls, pray for "those with no one else to pray for them". Then, if you really have any time left, pray for the enemies of the Church.

But usually we have prayed to be delivered from them.
Anonymous said…
Fr. Paul Lakeland, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, USA, in his book 'A Council That Will Never End - Lumen Gentium and the Church Today'(2013) writes:

'The Church is necessary for salvation not because of its own merits, since it is a poor pilgrim, but because of God's actions through the Church, which exists because God wills it so.
'The necessity of the church for salvation, then, has nothing to do with the human virtues of its members or even with a claim to the absolute truth of everything it has proclaimed throughout history - still less to the belief that it has never erred.' Page 111.

Philip Trower, a lay Catholic commentator, in his book 'Turmoil and Truth - The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church' (2003) writes:

'It is strange, when one comes to think of it, that Catholics are not taught to be more concerned for the spiritual welfare of the Church Learned; that there are not religious orders specially devoted to praying and making sacrifices for its members, since their work is so necessary and they occupy what, in regard to faith, is one of the most exposed positions in the Church.

'The world of speculative ideas and massive accumulations of fact is the place where it is easiest to fall into a pit or be swept over a cataract, the implications of new ideas and facts not usually being apparent until quite some time after first appearance. Or we can compare them to soldiers in an observation post continually under heavy shell fire.'

As a reader of military history (I am thinking of Martin Windrow's history of the French Foreign Legion) I consider the metaphor of shellfire very apt.
The fact that we are in a spiritual battle is the truth of it; and we all must put on the spiritual armour of God, St. Paul's metaphor, including breastplate and helmet.
But is all too easy for those of us in the laity who are not in the exposed position to make uninformed judgments.
A desk soldier is not like the man in the front line.
Hilaire Belloc, who fought with the French artillery in the Great War, would have had strong reservations about Francis; but he would have been down on his knees, Rosary in his hands, praying for his Pope and his Church, in this time of spiritual and moral crisis.
Pope Paul VI (known as the Hamlet of popes) confessed in his private writings to the immense solitude and loneliness of St. Peter's Chair; and also of his apprehension of the many conflicting forces that were now loose in the Church.
But Philip Trower's idea of praying for the 'Church Learned' is a haunting one, at least to me.
Some learned and holy Catholic ought to write a book titled, 'Hilaire Belloc's Rosary Beads'.
Jack Haggerty

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