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What If a Pope Attempts To Destroy the Church?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 20, 2015

Francis shows no sign of giving up on his pursuit of a “pastoral” novelty, advocated by the ecclesiastical termite Cardinal Kasper, that would destroy in practice not only the dogma of the indissolubility of marriage but also respect for the dignity of the Blessed Sacrament and indeed the very concept of mortal sin itself as an impediment to its worthy reception.

Recall what John Paul II taught a mere 34 years ago in rejecting the “Kasper agenda,” which has quite obviously become the Francis agenda:

[T]he Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Utterly heedless of this constant teaching of the Magisterium, which stands at the very foundation of the moral edifice the Catholic Church alone still defends with perfect integrity, Francis continues — bizarrely — to agitate for precisely what John Paul II condemned. 

Only days ago, in another of his free-wheeling homilies at Casa Santa Marta, Francis made another thinly veiled appeal for subversion of a Church discipline profoundly connected to Divine Revelation. This time he abused Scripture in order to depict as Pharisees those who defend the bimillenial discipline John Paul II affirmed. He cites the Gospel account of the lame man who was finally healed by Our Lord after many years of being unable to bathe in the pool at Bethesda, which effected miraculous cures whenever its waters were stirred by angels, because no one would carry him to the pool.  Francis offered this twisted analogy to how the Pharisees condemned Our Lord’s healing of the man because it occurred on the Sabbath:

A man or a woman who feels sick within their soul, sad, who may have committed many mistakes in their life, at a certain point feel the waters stirring, the Holy Spirit moves something or they hear a word or… “Ah, I would like to go!”… And they muster up the courage to go. And how many times does this person find closed doors within the Christian community: “You can’t, no, you can’t. You made a mistake and you can’t. If you want to come, come to Sunday mass [sic] but stay there and don’t do anything more.” And what the Holy Spirit has done in the hearts of people, these Christians with the psychology of doctors of the law destroy.
Who are you to close the door of your heart to a man, to a woman who wants to improve, to join the community of God’s people once again, because the Holy Spirit has stirred something in their heart? Even today there are Christians who behave like the doctors of the law and “do the same thing they did with Jesus”, by objecting: “This one speaks heresy, this one cannot, this one goes against the discipline of the Church, this one goes against the law”. And thus they close the doors to so many people. Therefore, the Pope concluded, “let us ask the Lord today” for “conversion to the mercy of Jesus”: only in this way “will the law be fulfilled, because the law is to love God and neighbour, as ourselves”.

I quite agree with Father Zuhlsdorf, who writes with evident and quite warranted irritation: “But it seems to me that [Francis] has set up a straw man: who the heck are these ‘doctors of the law’ whom he has been disparaging with some frequency?  I think he means those who argue that people who are divorced and civilly remarried should not be admitted to Holy Communion because they are objectively living in a state that is inconsistent with our understanding of the Eucharist.”

Now, the lame man in the Gospel account was not a sinner who sought forgiveness for his sins, but rather someone miraculously cured of a physical infirmity because he had faith in the Lord. The hyper-legalist Pharisees, who objected to this work being done on the Sabbath, bear no comparison whatsoever to Catholics — including John Paul II, for Heaven’s sake! — who defend Church discipline rooted in Our Lord’s own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the state of adultery in which those who divorce and purport to remarry are living. Indeed, Our Lord rebukedthe Pharisees for their hardness of heart precisely because they had admitted divorce into the Old Covenant.  How is that for irony?

Francis has thus turned Scripture on its head in what can only be called a diabolical inversion of the true Gospel message. He uses the Gospel to condemn as Pharisees those who, in fact, oppose the kind of sophistry the Pharisees employed to justify their divorces and which Kasper now employs to argue for a “pastoral” accommodation of public adulterers who wish to receive Holy Communion while continuing their adulterous relations. Kasper calls this “tolerat[ing] that which cannot be accepted.” Nonsense.  It is accepting that which cannot be tolerated. What could be more Pharisaical than this absurd proposal?

Quite revealing is Francis’ remark that people living in a state of adultery are being treated unjustly because, while they can attend Mass, they are told to “stay there and don’t do anything.” Isn’t attending Mass doing something — something of fundamental importance to the Faith?  What else would Francis have these people “do” at Mass? Clearly, he would like to see them receive the Blessed Sacrament in violation of the very teaching John Paul II refused to abandon. This is just as Francis permitted when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and just as he has advised at least two women in Argentina to do despite an ecclesial discipline of twenty centuries’ standing he disregards at his pleasure.

What can we do? Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, famously gave this answer in response to the Protestant caricature of the Pope as some sort of absolute dictator whose will is law and who must be obeyed no matter what he commands:

Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff who attacks the body, so also is it licit to resist him who attacks souls or destroys the civil order or above all, tries to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will. It is not licit, however, to judge him, to punish him, or to depose him, for these are acts proper to a superior. (De Romano Pontifice II. 29.)

Note well:  Bellarmine contemplates the example of a Pope who “tries to destroy the Church” and must be resisted even if his subjects cannot depose him.  One would resist not only by speaking out in opposition to the wayward Pope, but also “by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will.”  For even where the Pope is concerned, “we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:19).”

The prospect of a Pope who “tries to destroy the Church” seems to have assumed historical reality during this pontificate. The stage is now set for massive resistance to Francis if he persists in his current path.  The Bishops of Africa and John Paul’s home country of Poland have already declared their absolute refusal to go along with “the Kasper agenda” Francis nonetheless continues to promote relentlessly.

Surely the integral Third Secret of Fatima has something to say about the absolutely unprecedented situation that confronts us now.