This article is the teaching that the pope is the rule of faith. Its purpose
is to silence criticism of Francis. This doctrine is what unites
sedevacantists to the Novus Ordo Catholics. Notice how they use pre-VII sources when convenient to confuse and deceive.http://www.lastampa.it/2017/02/07/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/the-magisterium-of-pope-francis-his-predecessors-come-to-his-defence-x5jzE4YtghvlnRvSvcolGM/pagina.htmlThe Magisterium of Pope Francis: His Predecessors Come to His Defence
«If we claim that we hold Tradition dear then we must accept we defend Pope Francis and his magisterium also»
Pubblicato il 07/02/2017
Ultima modifica il 07/02/2017 alle ore 15:45
stephen walford *
It would seem obvious to most Catholics and commentators that the magisterium of Pope Francis is under more scrutiny and subject to more criticism than any other in living memory, and possibly going back much further than that. In particular, Amoris Laetitia has led many traditionalists to the conclusion that Pope Francis is at least deliberately “allowing” error and possibly even teaching heresy. In contrast to all the noise and commotion from social media explaining the various sides of the argument, there has been a deafening silence in one crucial area: the teaching of the popes themselves concerning their own unique charism. This is surely an area that needs exploration and acceptance because quite simply, no other authority on earth exists that can lay claim to a superior ministry on behalf of Christ and his truth.
There is a small but very significant passage in Sacred Scripture that is the basis for the charism of the pope. Jesus told Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Lk 22:32). With these words, we discover a uniqueness of mission that applied only to Peter, and not the other apostles. St. John Paul II described it as the “charism of special assistance” explaining further: “This signifies the Holy Spirit’s continual help in the whole exercise of the teaching mission, meant to explain revealed truth and its consequences in human life. For this reason the Second Vatican Council states that all the Pope’s teaching should be listened to and accepted, even when it is not given ex cathedra” .
Of course what interests us here, in relation to Pope Francis, is not the issue of infallibility for defined dogmas, but the exercise of his ordinary magisterium in which Amoris Laetitia certainly falls . The question is therefore: can a Pope teach error in his ordinary magisterium in matters of faith and morals? St John Paul’s answer is a definite no: “Alongside this infallibility of ex cathedra definitions, there is the charism of the Holy Spirit’s assistance, granted to Peter and his successors so that they would not err in matters of faith and morals, but rather shed great light on the Christian people. This charism is not limited to exceptional cases” .
The Polish Pontiff also quoted Pope Innocent III, who in his Letter Apostolicae Sedis Primatus (November 12, 1199) stated “The Lord clearly intimates that Peter’s successors will never at anytime deviate from the Catholic faith, but will instead recall the others and strengthen the hesitant” .
No doubt a distinction needs to be made between the “private” theological speculations of a Pope-as in the case of Pope John XXII who for a time held the opinion that the beatific vision is not given immediately to the souls in heaven -and teachings deliberately given as part of the magisterium. At the time of John XXII, the dogma concerning the beatific vision had not been formulated, thus his was only a theological opinion-as he himself maintained - and not a formal teaching. In more recent times, Pope Benedict XVI was very careful to state that his Trilogy “Jesus of Nazareth” “is in no way an exercise of the magisterium”, and as one can only be a heretic after a doctrine has been formally taught by the Church, Pope John XXII even in his “private person” did not fall under that category.
Some of the great theologians through the ages have looked into this question concerning a pope teaching heresy; St Robert Bellarmine in his De Romano Pontifice ruled it out, basing his view on Jesus’ prayer for Peter, just as Innocent III had done. Francisco de Suarez shared the same opinion while St Alphonus Liguori stated: “We ought rightly to presume as Cardinal Bellarmine declares, that God will never let it happen that a Roman Pontiff, even as a private person, becomes a public heretic or an occult heretic” . Pope Pius XII
spoke very clearly on several occasions concerning the supreme importance of the papacy: “Whatever may be the name, the face, the human origins of any Pope, it is always Peter who lives in him; it is Peter who rules and governs; it is Peter above all, who teaches and diffuses over the world the light of liberating truth” . Again on another occasion he said: While We behold shining before us the “glory” of Bernini, and above the chair…We see resplendent and dominating in a blaze of the light the symbol of the Holy Ghost, We feel and experience the fullness of the sacred character, of the superhuman mission, that the will of the Lord with the assistance of the Spirit, promised and sent by Him, has conferred on this central point of the Church of the Living God, columna et firmamentum veritatis-pillar and support of truth” .
It would be wrong to confuse this teaching that popes are free from error in faith and morals with ultramontanism which was rejected by the Church. (cf.The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church) . This truth of our faith relies solely on the Will of God; it was his choice to ensure his chosen sons in the Chair of Peter through history would be protected from error, and so we must embrace that in its totality. The image and designation of Peter as the Rock speaks of something and someone immovable; immovable in faith through a special gift of the Lord. It recalls Abraham our original Father in faith, of whom Isaiah said: “look to the rock from which you were hewn ... look to Abraham your father.” (Is 51:1-2) Peter and his successors now become the guardians of the true faith, not just in ex cathedra declarations but in all their ordinary teaching concerning faith and morals, for it is those areas that ultimately determine whether we live in the company of the Lord both here and in eternity.
Pope Benedict XVI confirmed exactly the same interpretation as his predecessors in a homily for the Feast of St. Peter and Paul: “Jesus’ prayer [Lk 22:32] is at the same time a promise and a duty. Jesus’ prayer safeguards Peter’s faith, that faith which he confessed at Caesarea Philippi: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt 16: 16). And so, never let this faith be silenced; strengthen it over and over again, even in the face of the cross and all the world’s contradictions: this is Peter’s task. Therefore, the point is that the Lord does not only pray for Peter’s personal faith, but for his faith as a service to others. This is exactly what he means with the words: ‘When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22: 32) . Blessed Pius IX
in his Letter Tuas Libenter confirmed the importance of the ordinary magisterium in response to certain theologians who thought adherence was only necessary with truths of the faith that had solemnly been declared: “Even when it is only a question of the submission owed to divine faith, this cannot be limited merely to points defined by the express decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, or of the Roman Pontiffs and of this Apostolic See; this submission must also be extended to all that has been handed down as divinely revealed by the ordinary teaching authority of the entire Church spread over the whole world” .
This brings us back to our starting point: Amoris Laetitia. From the teaching of popes through history, we must affirm that Pope Francis cannot possibly be in error in his ordinary magisterium concerning issues of faith and morals, and thus his teaching that under certain, carefully considered cases, Holy Communion can be given to persons in irregular situations is perfectly valid and influenced by the Holy Spirit; to come to any other conclusion is to then call into question the teaching authority of previous popes and consequently the entire fabric of Catholicism is called into question. Do we then pick and choose which teachings of which popes to accept? That would be tantamount to a form of Protestantism. The Council of Lyons stated the Pope: “has the duty to defend the truth of the faith, and it is his responsibility to resolve all disputed matters in the area of faith” .
If protection from the Lord were only to apply to rare ex cathedra declarations how could all disputes of faith possibly be resolved? We must remember St Ambrose’ famous phrase: “Where Peter is, there is the Church. Where the Church is, there is no death but life eternal”. Pope John Paul II knew that different historical situations would require different responses from the popes, as he himself explained: “In its form of expression [the teaching of Peter’s successors] it can vary according to the person who exercises it, his interpretation of the needs of the time” .
Undoubtedly, Pope Francis, guided by the Holy Spirit is fully aware that our time needs the Church to go deeper into the issues of lives that are complex and not just mete out harsh judgments based not on subjective guilt, but simply the objective grave matter. Perhaps this explains why we finally have a Jesuit Pope after nearly five centuries. Discernment is needed now more than ever before; moral theology has certainly moved in this direction over the past century, in an authentic doctrinal development as taught by St Vincent of Lerins. Rather than being guided simply by a manual of prohibitions, the centrality of our relationship to the merciful Christ must take prominence. It is here that his healing rays of divine grace can renew hearts and bring salvation.
In conclusion, we should return to Pope Pius XII’s statement: “Whatever may be the name, the face, the human origins of any Pope, it is always Peter who lives in him; it is Peter who rules and governs”. Peter therefore lives in Pope Francis; and it is certain, that when Jesus said to Peter “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”, he saw every pope until the end of the world. He spoke those words to Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Those who have questioned the Holy Father – especially those hurling a constant barrage of abuse in a way that demeans their baptismal consecration - must now pose themselves the question: is this a lack of trust not in the Pope but actually in the prayer of Jesus: “I have prayed for you.”? If we claim that we hold Tradition dear, that we defend it with all our strength, then we must accept we defend Pope Francis and his magisterium also. There is no other interpretation available; the popes have spoken.
Era from Bl Pius IX to Benedict XVI (Angelico Press), and Communion of Saints: The Unity of Divine Love in the Mystical Body of Christ (Angelico Press). He has written articles for various publications on eschatological and mariological themes. He is also a pianist and teacher.