Hope Against the Danger of Schism

by Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, (Opus Dei Bishop from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay), originally published in Eponymous Flower 

In the Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, Pope Francis called on the bishops to participate in the plan of God and so to form a holy people. I offer these reflections in the desire to serve the Pope so in the best way I can.

The Church which was founded on the rock of Peter expects the Synod promoting the Christian Church. But what the Bible calls “the world”, however, has very different expectations: The media calls  every day that the Church should “renew itself.” A euphemism which seeks the blessing of the aberrations but not condemnation, which spread more and more, partly because they are systematically promoted by the press and the entertainment industry.

The Church, however, was not founded to endorse what is desired by the world, but to teach what God wants from us and to lead on the way to holiness. For it is the will of God, who knows everything and can not be misled and can not be led astray, that we find true peace and true joy. Neither the doctrine nor the following of this teaching, pastoral practice, are the result of consensus of the priest, even if they were cardinals or bishops.

Since the origins of Christianity, the Apostles and their successors had to endure the pressure of the powerful religious and political elites who pushed it to distort the truth, and the evangelical mission they had received from Christ. However, instead of bowing to other gods, they gave us a testimony of unconditional loyalty to the truth by shedding their own blood. After all, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). These days it is a comfort to think of the example of Saint Athanasius. He was not once, but five times expelled from his diocese due to machinations of his confreres, Arian bishops, with whom he was not “in communion”, was because he wanted to promote the “Catholic and apostolic faith”, as it is called in the Roman Canon of the first Eucharistic prayer.

To bless and accept “what all ask” is neither mercy nor pastoral charity. Rather, it is inertia and convenience because we do without it, to evangelize and educate. And it is a genuflection to the people, because we are more important, as  they  say, rather than the prophetic rebuke in obedience to God.  St. Benedict already grasped in a different era which was also marked by great confusion, the principle of eternal life in obedience: “To thee, therefore, I now teach my word, whoever you are, by renouncing your self-will, you will fight under the Lord, the true King, and take firm hold of the strong and most excellent arms of obedience: “(…)” So, you return by the labor of obedience to the one you have left by the sloth of disobedience “(Rule of Benedict, Prologue ).

Inside the Church – and more recently on some of the highest levels – “a new wind is blowing”, although not from  the Holy Spirit. Even the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, among others, has criticized the trial as utopian to think they can make substantial changes in the pastoral practice, without thereby attacking the Catholic teaching on the family.  Without condemning their intentions and for want of which I will assume the best and I regret having to name them, Cardinal Kasper and the Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica are active promoters of this confusion, and it was sad to have to call them by name, but they are anyway . What has been banned as serious disobedience to the law of God,  is now blessed in the name of His mercy.  They justify what is unjustifiable, with the help of subtle interpretations of texts and historical events. But those who really know the issue, have quashed these quibbles. Let us not forget what the Lord has promised us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

We take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity that the Synod gives us to affirm in a positive way what the Church has always and everywhere believed on the family and implemented by Her order in practice. This requires at the same time that we  defend the truth that divide the people of God and confuse against those who attack it. The situation is very serious  and I’m not the first to draw attention to the fact that we are tragically facing  the risk of a major schism. It is exactly what the Lord and His Blessed Mother have predicted in the apparitions recognized by the authority of the Church.

Against those who thirst after, “remaking anew” the sanctions and to manipulate the statistics, as though the people of God are  in the mind to want to impose on reality with the power to abuse authority, we recall that the Church is neither defined by the opinions of people, nor lives lived in changing times, yet is defined by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. As the story ends when the schism of the Church of England was imposed on a whole Catholic people, is a lesson that is worthwhile today, as is shown and deepened precisely together in the testimonies of the martyrdom of St. John Fischer and Saint Thomas More.

Let us pray for the Pope, the cardinals and bishops, so we are all prepared, if necessary, to shed our blood for the defense and promotion of the family against the storms of deception and against the idolatry of an alleged sexual freedom of man before God. Let us not deceive ourselves nor be deterred from the faith and practice of morality that Jesus Christ has taught us. We know that the world has hated our Lord. The servant can not be greater than his master. The world will persecute us and do so fraudulently even in the name of God. And the Church leaders who talk like the world, enjoy listening to it, who are applauded, they will be loved, “because they are of itr” and not from God.

“To thee, therefore, I now teach my word, whoever you are, by renouncing your self-will, you will fight under the Lord, the true King,  and take firm hold of the strong and most excellent arms of obedience “(…)” So, you return by the labor of obedience to the one you have left by the sloth of disobedience “(Rule of Benedict, Prologue ).

Inside the Church – and more recently on some of the highest levels – “a new wind is blowing”, although not from  the Holy Spirit. Even the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, among others, has criticized the trial as utopian to think they can make substantial changes in the pastoral practice, without thereby attacking the Catholic teaching on the family.  Without condemning their intentions and for want of which I will assume the best and I regret having to name them, Cardinal Kasper and the Jesuit magazine Civiltà Cattolica are active promoters of this confusion, and it was sad to have to call them by name, but they are anyway . What has been banned as serious disobedience to the law of God,  is now blessed in the name of His mercy.  They justify what is unjustifiable, with the help of subtle interpretations of texts and historical events. But those who really know the issue, have quashed these quibbles. Let us not forget what the Lord has promised us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

We take advantage of the extraordinary opportunity that the Synod gives us to affirm in a positive way what the Church has always and everywhere believed on the family and implemented by Her order in practice. This requires at the same time that we  defend the truth that divide the people of God and confuse against those who attack it. The situation is very serious  and I’m not the first to draw attention to the fact that we are tragically facing  the risk of a major schism. It is exactly what the Lord and His Blessed Mother have predicted in the apparitions recognized by the authority of the Church.

Against those who thirst after, “remaking anew” the sanctions and to manipulate the statistics, as though the people of God are  in the mind to want to impose on reality with the power to abuse authority, we recall that the Church is neither defined by the opinions of people, nor lives lived in changing times, yet is defined by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. As the story ends when the schism of the Church of England was imposed on a whole Catholic people, is a lesson that is worthwhile today, as is shown and deepened precisely together in the testimonies of the martyrdom of St. John Fischer and Saint Thomas More.

Let us pray for the Pope, the cardinals and bishops, so we are all prepared, if necessary, to shed our blood for the defense and promotion of the family against the storms of deception and against the idolatry of an alleged sexual freedom of man before God. Let us not deceive ourselves nor be deterred from the faith and practice of morality that Jesus Christ has taught us. We know that the world has hated our Lord. The servant can not be greater than his master. The world will persecute us and do so fraudulently even in the name of God. And the Church leaders who talk like the world, enjoy listening to it, who are applauded, they will be loved, “because they are of it” and not from God.

Cardinal Burke: Synod’s Mid-term Report “Lacks a Solid Foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium”

by Alessandro Gnocchi, Il Foglio, October 13, 2014 (Excerpts of the interview granted by Cardinal Burke to Il Foglio)

Q: What do we see happening at the Synod on the other side of the “media curtain”?

A: We see a worrisome skewing of the discussions, because there are some who support the possibility of adopting a practice that departs from the truth of the faith. Even if it should be evident that one cannot go down that path, many still encourage, for example, a dangerous openness to change with respect to the question of giving Holy Communion to those divorced and remarried. I do not see how it is possible to reconcile the irreformable understanding of the indissolubility of marriage with the possibility of admitting to Communion those who are living in an irregular situation. To do this is to act as if our Lord’s words were up for discussion when he taught that whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery.

Q: According to the “reformers” this teaching has become too harsh.

A: They forget that the Lord assures us of the help of his grace to those who are called to live in marriage. This does not mean that there will not be difficulties and suffering, but that there will always be divine assistance to face them and to be faithful to the end.

Q: But what you say is not coming out of the daily briefing from the Vatican Press Office. Cardinal Müller has also complained about this.

A: I do not know how this “briefing” works, but it seems to me that something is not working well if the information is manipulated in a way so as to stress only one position instead of reporting faithfully the various positions that were expressed. This worries me very much, because a consistent number of bishops do not accept the idea of a break with traditional Church teaching, but few know this. They speak only of the necessity for the Church to open herself up to the clamorous urging of the world as Cardinal Kasper propounded in February. In reality, his thesis on the theme of the family and on a new form of discipline with respect to the divorced and remarried is not new. It was already discussed thirty years ago. Then from this February on it took on a new life, and it has been allowed to grow in a not innocent way. But this must stop, because it is provoking the possibility of great damage to the faith. Bishops and priests say to me that now that so many divorced and remarried men and women are asking to be admitted to Holy Communion because this is what Pope Francis wants. In reality, I take note that, to the contrary, he has not expressed himself on this subject.

Q: But it seems evident that Cardinal Kasper and those who speak in agreement with him claim that they have the support of the Pope.

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

A: This is true. The Pope named Cardinal Kasper to the Synod and has let the debate go along this track. But, as another Cardinal has said, the Pope has not given his pronouncement on all of this as yet. I am awaiting his pronouncement, which is able to be only in continuity with the teaching given by the Church through her whole history, a teaching that has never changed because it cannot change.

Q: Some prelates who support the traditional doctrine say that if the Pope should makes changes (in that doctrine) they would support those changes. Is this not a contradiction?

A: Yes, it is a contradiction, because the Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ on earth and therefore the chief servant of the truth of the faith. Knowing the teaching of Christ, I do not see how it is possible to deviate from that teaching with a doctrinal declaration or with a pastoral practice that ignores truth.

Q: The emphasis placed by the Pope on mercy as the most important, if not the only, idea that should guide the Church: does this not contribute to sustaining the illusion that one can advocate pastoral practice that is set loose from doctrine?

A: The idea is bandied about that there can be a Church which is merciful and that at the same time does not respect the truth. But I am offended by the abysmal idea that, until today, bishops and priests could not have been merciful. I was raised in a rural area of the United States, and I remember that, when I was a child, there was in our parish a couple from a farm near ours who came to Mass in our church but never received Communion. As I grew up, I asked my father why they did this. He answered my question without any affectation and in a simple way. He explained that they were living in an irregular situation and they accepted that they could not receive Communion. The parish priest was very gentle with them, showed them great mercy, and he applied that mercy in working toward the point where the couple would be living their lives in accord with the Catholic faith. Without truth true mercy cannot exist. My parents always taught me that if we love sinners, we must hate sin, and that we must do everything we can to tear away the sinners from the harmful situation in which they are living.

Q: But the reformers maintain that love, for the Church, consists in walking along with the world.

A: This is the hinge of the reasoning of those who want to change doctrine or discipline. I worry about this very much. They say that times have changed, that we can no longer talk about natural law, or of the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are make in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Q: What can a pastor say to a Catholic who feels bewildered by these winds of change?

the indissolubility of marriage…But man has not changed. He continues to be as God has wanted him to be. It is true that the world has become secularized, but this is a reason to all the more speak the truth in a clear and forceful way. It is our duty, but to do this, as St. John Paul II taught in Evangelium Vitae, we have to call things by their own name. We cannot use language that is more or less ambiguous to please the world.

Q: Not even the so called “Orthodox divorce”?

A: Orthodox practice based on economia involving a second or third marriage, which are understood as penitential, is historically and in fact very complex. In any case, the Catholic Church, which has been aware of this practice for centuries, has never adopted it, in virtue of the words of the Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (19:9).

Q: Don’t you think that if this opening to change is conceded many more will follow?

A: Certainly. They are now saying that this will be granted only in some cases. But whoever understands men knows that if a concession is granted in one case, concessions are made in the rest as well. If the union between the divorced and remarried is conceded to be licit, this will open the doors to all those unions that are not according to the law of God, because that bulwark will have been eliminated that preserves good doctrine and the good pastoral practice that comes from it.

Q: The reformers often talk about a Jesus who is disposed to tolerate sin to be able to go out and meet his people. But was this the case?

A. This picture of Jesus is an invention that has no confirmation in the Gospels. All one has to do is to think about the clash with the world in the Gospel of St. John. Jesus was the greatest opponent to the times in which he lived, and he remains so for our own time. I think especially of how he spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Nor do I condemn you; go and sin no longer”. (John 8:11)

Q: To admit those divorced and remarried to Communion threatens the Sacrament of Marriage, but also that of the Eucharist. Does this not seem to you to involve a drifting movement that touches the very heart of the Church?

A: In the First Letter to the Corinithians, in chapter 11, Saint Paul teaches that whoever receives the Eucharist in a state of sin eats it to his own condemnation. To approach the Eucharist means that one is in communion with Christ, is conformed to him. Many respond to oppose this by saying that the Eucharist is not the sacrament of the perfect, but this is a false argument. No one is perfect, and the Eucharist is the sacrament of those who are struggling to be perfect, in the way Jesus asks us to be perfect: to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:48). Even those who are struggling to be perfect do sin, and if they are in a state of mortal sin, they are not able to receive Communion. To be able to receive they must confess their sin with a sense of remorse and with the intention of not committing the sin again. This is binding on everyone, including the divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Pell: “History Has Seen 37 False or Antipopes…”

By Robert Duncan, originally published in Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) – Looking ahead to the October 2015 world Synod of Bishops on the family, Cardinal George Pell said the task for Catholics “over the next 12 months” is to explain “the necessity of conversion, the nature of the Mass,” and “the purity of heart the Scriptures require of us to receive holy Communion.”

Cardinal Pell’s remarks came in a homily he had prepared for a celebration of Mass in the extraordinary form Oct. 24 at Rome’s Church of the Most Holy Trinity of the Pilgrims.

The cardinal was unable to celebrate the liturgy, part of the Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage to Rome for devotees of the traditional Latin Mass, on account of bronchitis. In an additional prepared text, he assured those present that his sickness was the only reason he was unable to attend.

In the cardinal’s absence, his personal secretary Father Mark Withoos celebrated the Mass and read the homily.

The “college of bishops and all synods work by consensus,” Cardinal Pell wrote. Before next October, Catholics have to work to build a consensus “out of the present divisions,” he wrote.

“Pastoral practice and teachings can only be changed by consensus,” he wrote. “Doctrine does develop, we understand truth more deeply, but there are no doctrinal back-flips in Catholic history,” the cardinal wrote. “The apostolic tradition announced first by Christ and founded in the Scriptures is the touchstone for truth and genuine pastoral practice.”

“We, and especially you young people, must live this in love, giving reason for your hope,” he wrote. “This is a unique opportunity, which we must seize in God’s name.”

Cardinal Pell also wrote about the importance of the papacy in defending and developing doctrine.

“The role of the successor of St. Peter has always been vital to Christian and Catholic life, especially as the touchstone of doctrinal fidelity and as a resolver of disputes, pastoral as well as doctrinal,” the cardinal wrote.

“The church is not built on the rock of Peter’s faith,” he wrote, “but on Peter himself, despite his faults and failings.”

“Pope Francis is the 266th pope and history has seen 37 false or antipopes,” he wrote.

“The story of the popes is stranger than fiction,” the cardinal wrote, and today “we have one of the more unusual popes in history, enjoying almost unprecedented popularity. He is doing a marvelous job backing the financial reforms,” he wrote

Cardinal Pell concluded his written remarks with a prayer “I was taught as a child: May the Lord preserve the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and give him life. Keep him safe on earth and deliver him not up into the hands of his enemies.”

Cardinal Burke: Neither Bishops Nor Pope Can Change Christ’s Teaching on Marriage

By Terence P. Jeffrey (originally published in CNS News)

Can a pope change Catholic teaching on marriage?

When the synod of bishops that Pope Francis has called to discuss the family was meeting in Rome earlier this month, someone not particularly familiar with the Catholic faith might have presumed the answer was yes.

The synod, for example, released a midterm report with a section headed: “Positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation.”

Yet the Catholic Catechism states: “The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.” The Catechism cites Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Mark as one source for this teaching:

“The Pharisees approached and asked, ‘Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him,” says the Gospel of Mark.

“He said to them in reply, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They replied, ‘Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.’

“But Jesus told them, ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.”

So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.

“In the house, the disciples again questioned him about this,” the Gospel states. “He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'”

Cardinal Raymond Burke is the Prefect of the Sacred Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest court of the Catholic Church. In an interview conducted last Friday for CNSNews.com, I read Cardinal Burke this passage and asked him: “Was Jesus right about marriage?”

“Absolutely,” the cardinal said.

“His saving mission to restore us to communion with God the Father — that communion which had been broken by the sin of Adam and Eve — had as one of its fundamental aspects the restoration of the truth of marriage and fidelity to that truth in the life of a husband and a wife,” he said.

“And so Our Lord, in His teaching, makes reference to creation itself, in other words to that order which God has placed in the world and in the human heart by which a man and a woman are attracted to one another to form a lifelong, faithful and procreative union, that Our Lord makes it very clear that this is the truth about marriage, that there is no other truth about marriage, that that is the whole truth.

And Our Lord makes it clear that God the Father gives the grace to those who are called to marriage to live this wonderful sacrament and to live this mystery which reflects in a very particular way the love within the Trinity, which is also faithful, enduring and fruitful.

“So, we see that in Our Lord’s saving work that one of the most important aspects was to restore marriage to its truth,” said Cardinal Burke.

I asked: “Given that it was Jesus Christ Himself who taught us what marriage is, can any priest or bishop overrule or change what Jesus declared about marriage?”

“No, absolutely not,” said Cardinal Burke. “The priests and bishops are called to be faithful to the truth. Our office is to teach this truth and to assist the faithful to live it, but we can never — even under some supposed pastoral approach — either alter or deny the truth about marriage.”

I asked: “Can the pope himself change the nature of marriage given what Christ said?”

“No, it’s not within his power,” said Cardinal Burke, “and this is very clear in the teaching of the church, that if a marriage has been validly celebrated and consummated it cannot be separated. It cannot be ended by anything except death itself.”

“And it was so clear that the disciples questioned him about it because they were struck,” said Cardinal Burke. “They said: Well, maybe it’s better not to marry.

On Heretical Popes

By James V. Schall S.J.
From “The Catholic Thing”

One man whom I know holds that all popes since Pius X were heretics. Whole groups maintain that all popes after Vatican II are heretics, even John Paul II. He invited leaders of other religions to Assisi to pray together, but he failed to evangelize them or insist in uniqueness of Catholicism. At Vatican I, several notable figures did not accept the infallibility doctrine. The Reformation itself mostly declared all popes heretical back to Peter. Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry VIII precisely over the question of the indissolubility of marriage. The Eastern Orthodox have rejected the papal position for centuries.

Under Pope Francis, columnists from all over the world broach the “heresy” question, which he is said to foment. Cardinal Burke remarked that Pope Francis should clarify just what he stands for. William Oddie thinks that, in recent comments on marriage, Francis has done this. Others are not so sure. I know a man who thinks that the pope should simply resign because his comments have caused so much anguish and confusion.

George Weigel noted that the modern world has waited half a century for the Catholic Church to accept its mores. It has not done so under Francis. A correspondent in Argentina, however, writes that only three views of this pope exist: 1) he is a modernist, but covers himself by occasionally talking of the devil, 2) he seeks attention and power by attracting everything to himself, and 3) he is a confused thinker but basically orthodox. The man adds that this last view is no longer tenable. Still he sent a document that Archbishop Bergoglio wrote on the gay question in which Francis upheld the old Roman Law tradition of marriage that referred to a mother and the sons begotten of her. But I would be surprised if Pope Francis did not have a huge following in Argentina.

Some writers hold that a pope cannot be a heretic. I had a professor of theology who held that, if a pope was about to sign an heretical document, he would be dead the next morning. Others maintain that if a heretic is elected to the papacy, he will automatically convert on accepting the Office of Peter.

The technical issue of an heretical pope goes back to Reformation discussions, led by the Jesuits, Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suarez, among others. Jacques Maritain, Yves Simon, and John Courtney Murray brought up the issue in discussing the difference between political and ecclesiastical authority. We read in Romans that the authority of an emperor, as that of a pope, comes from God, but in differing ways.

John Locke’s opposition to the divine right of kings was an aspect of this issue. The divine right of kings was not a medieval doctrine, though it did go back to oriental despotism, to the divinization of Alexander the Great and the Roman emperors. Authority came directly to the king, not through the people, as the Aristotelian mind had it. Divine right was designed to protect the king from assassination by elevating him to a divine status.

Bellarmine and Suarez considered a de facto possibility of an heretical pope. They granted that the Church would have to depose him if he did not self-declare his heresy. They differed on the exact procedure that would be required. Basically, electors would de-designate the man chosen pope. But as such, they had no authority over the papal power itself, which is from God.

In recent discussions of an heretical pope, the term sedevacante shows up. It means that, if a pope is heretical, his chair is automatically vacant by divine law. Some hold that anyone can so pronounce this vacancy, which would logically make every man his own pope. Bellarmine and Suarez thought the Church, in the persons of a General Council or the assembled Cardinals would have to declare the pope a heretic and depose him. They differed a bit on the exact procedure.

Several writers imply that suddenly the institution, which seemed so solid over the centuries, appears shaky in its own order. “If the Church succumbs to modernity, will it still be a Church?” they wonder. The main issues, in the case of Francis, revolve around the indissolubility of marriage, the nature of the papacy itself, and the approval of gay life as normal. The first is a question of reason and revelation – Moses allowed divorce, Christ did not; the second of revelation; and the third, homosexuality, of reason.

Issues such as the pope’s understanding of the economy or his reading of Islam as solely a religion of peace can be disputed. They are not so close to doctrinal issues. Though they seem to diverge at times, doctrine and compassion do not exclude each other.

Heretical popes? The essence of Catholicism is that there be none. It is also its essence that, if necessary, the issue be faced squarely and judged fairly.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, and Reasonable Pleasures.