One of the weird patterns Francis-hating (and Trump-adoring) conservatism (particularly inside, but also outside the United States) has increasingly manifested over the past several years is the strange habit of turning its accusations into confessions. Again and again, conservatives have accused their enemies of things, only to reveal that they are projecting their own inner desires on to those they hate.
So it is no surprise to discover that, in their latest assault on Pope Francis (whom this crowd has endlessly charged with “trying to divide the Church”) the authors of the letter charging the Holy Father with heresy are, in fact, calling for schism. Mike Lewis has the story:
Since the release of the open letter signed by Aidan Nichols and others, many of Pope Francis’s critics on social media are defending it with the same talking points they’ve used to defend their positions on the “dubia” and many other initiatives critical of the Holy Father. They are applying lines like, “we need clarity from the pope,” or “We love Francis but he needs to correct some things.”
Apparently, they haven’t read it closely or don’t seem to understand what the signatories are asserting and what they are asking for in this letter. This is not a petition to the Holy Father to clarify or correct teachings. Nor is it simply a statement of serious concerns that they have with the pope. This letter is much more serious than many of the documents that have been launched at the Holy Father in the last 3 years.
This letter makes specific claims about Pope Francis, and it requests the bishops of the world to take specific actions, with an explicit purpose. If you are going to defend the letter, do so with a clear understanding of what you defend. The authors are stating that Francis is no longer pope, and are asking the bishops of the world to confirm this in an official declaration.
In summary, the letter writers are saying:
To put it in other words, so there is no confusion: the letter writers conclude that Francis is not the pope anymore because he is a heretic, and they are asking the world’s bishops to officially confirm this. The signatories are basically sedevacantist, but unlike more conventional sedevacantists, they think the papal vacancy must be declared in an official way by the bishops.
- Francis is a heretic. (“We are accusing Pope Francis of the canonical delict of heresy.”)
- A pope automatically loses his office when he teaches heresy (“Neither the 1917 Code of Canon Law nor the 1983 Code of Canon Law abrogate the principle that a heretical pope loses the papal office. This is agreed by all commentators on these codes, who state that this principle is correct.” And later, “The incompatibility between heresy and membership of the Church is what leads to the loss of the papal office by a heretical pope.”)
- The official ratification of this must be made by the bishops (“It should instead be accepted that the pope cannot fall from office without action by the bishops of the Church.” And later, “The Church’s determining that a pope is a heretic, and the announcement of his heresy by the bishops of the Church, is what makes the pope’s heresy a juridical fact, a fact from which his loss of office ensues.”)
- The authors appeal to the bishops of the world to officially declare this. (“We request that you carry out your duty of office to declare that he has committed the canonical delict of heresy and that he must suffer the canonical consequences of this crime.”)
I don’t think for a second the bishops of Holy Church are going to buy this absolutely nutty proposition. As one reader remarked, he’s seen more academics involved in fights over the quality of coffee in the faculty lounge than this absurd bulletin from the far reaches of Crazytown.
However, as with the manifesto posted by Luther on a door in Wittenberg, agitprop like this, while it may not move bishops, is more tinder on the real fire these reckless and power-hungry people are trying to light: among a base of readers whose real Magisterium is not the bishops or the Pope, but FOX, EWTN, Liesite, Church Militant, 1 Peter 5, Canon 212, and a host of other social media sites where they form their hearts and minds. It is still a vanishingly small number of people in the global Church. But it can do damage poisoning the hearts and minds of people who do not think with the mind of Christ, but with the mind of the Right Wing Lie Machine, because of its disproportionate access to money and tech. There is a lot of money out there that stands to benefit by peeling people away from Holy Church and setting them at war with her. That so many of them are ready to do so while shouting that “Liberals are making me attack the Church” is only evidence that the devil is a liar and the father of lies.
Pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that he preserve the unity of Holy Church from this divisive sect and that the people being deceived by this lying agitprop will come to their senses.