"To determine, however, which are the doctrines divinely revealed belongs to the teaching Church, to whom God has entrusted the safekeeping and interpretation of His utterances. But the supreme teacher in the Church is the Roman Pontiff. Union of minds, therefore, requires, together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself." (Pope Leo XIII Sapientiae Christianae)
My dad likes to say that being a Christian is easy...until you actually have to do it. I think most of us would tend to agree.
Being a Catholic, in terms of having the right theology in your head is not really complicated. We can all read the catechism. We can all reads the lives of the Saints, etc. and with pathetic ease, give it all a lazy thumbs up.
But then the tests come.
A municipality in some part of the world wants to deny the sacred seal of confession and jail priests for not violating it. Another municipality wants to force the Church to employ people whose public lives are in stark contrast with the Church’s moral teachings. At work, we’re required by the company to use everyone’s “preferred pronouns”, rather than the ones that correspond to their biological sex. A gay family member wants to wed someone of the same sex and wants you there at the wedding. Within the Church, a pope arrives who challenges our theological paradigm...
When the rubber meets the road, where will we all stand? Will our actions match our ideology? Or will we suddenly “forget” one part of the faith because it no longer suits us or allows us to be comfortable in our current paradigm? In particular, I ask this of those of us who insist on “the truth.” Is it really the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth that we’re promulgating, or an unwitting distortion thereof? Are we, in any place, inadvertently insisting on a lie? It behooves us to be very careful about our answer.
“Then Jesus said, ‘It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those who do see may become blind.’ On hearing this, some Pharisees who were present asked him, ‘Are we blind too?’ Jesus replied, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but since you claim ‘We see’, your guilt remains.” (John 9:39-41) Invicible ignorance is one thing. Willful insistence that one knows or knows better when one, in fact, does not is entirely another.
In regards to our current pope, John 7:12 comes readily to mind, “Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives people’.” (John 7:12) Regardless of which side you take in the debate, you must remember (and be faithful) to Catholic teaching on the matter. And that teaching is that the Church “requires, together with a perfect accord in the one faith, complete submission and obedience of the will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself.” (Pope Leo XIII, Sapientiae Christianae) (Emphasis mine)
Submission to the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself. Where have we heard hints of this bold claim before? In Exodus in reference to Moses. Let’s be honest, the idea of submitting to a man as to God is an otherwise audacious proclamation. But it’s one testified to by Scripture and, therefore, by the Holy Spirit. And precisely for this reason, traditionally, it’s been tempting for conservative Catholics to want to emphasize this point to Protestants. “We must follow the pope! Obedience to the magisterium!” Correct, dear conservative Catholic. Listen to yourself very carefully.
Enter Pope Francis and suddenly the Church has become a democracy in these same people’s eyes. Scandalously enough, even the former head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is now standing with Martin Luther, John Calvin and the rest, declaring that we "are not papists but Christians.” “Who is the pope?” many of these same people strangely now say. “It’s not like he has the authority to be making binding decisions for the Church!”
Very much on the contrary. The day before Francis’ election, March 12, 2013, the Church was a monarchy. It remains a monarchy to this day and forever will, guided by the Holy Spirit and protected by Christ from ever caving into and promulgating error in its official teachings. (Infallible and otherwise.) Dont take my word for it. Listen carefully to just a small sampling from the magisterium. (All emphases below are my own and not found in the original quote.)
“The Lord clearly intimates that Peter’s successors will never at any time deviate from the Catholic faith, but will instead recall the others and strengthen the hesitant.” (Pope Innocent III, Sedis Primatus)
“Wherefore, let the faithful also be on guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature... or even that they must obey only in those matters which [the Church] has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered (dear Cardinal Mueller), is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Pope Pius IX, Casti Connubii, 104)
“Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters [i.e. Laudato Si] does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: ‘He who heareth you, heareth me’; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.” (Pope Pius XII, Humanae Generis, 20)
“Not least among the blessings which have resulted from the public and legitimate honor paid to the Blessed Virgin and the saints is the perfect and perpetual immunity of the Church from error and heresy. We may well admire in this the admirable wisdom of the Providence of God, who, ever bringing good out of evil, has from time to time suffered the faith and piety of men to grow weak, and allowed Catholic truth to be attacked by false doctrines, but always with the result that truth has afterwards shone out with greater splendor, and that men's faith, aroused from its lethargy, has shown itself more vigorous than before.” (Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 22)
These references are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There is plenty more such teaching throughout the Church’s 2000 year history, both from additional popes and from ecumenical councils, including Vatican I’s dogmatic constitution Pastor Aeternus. We’ll get into that in part II. We’ll also contend with the strange sedevacantist notion that these promises arent true because recent popes have “clearly” taught heresy.
For now, it’s time to rouse the faith of conservatives and make that faith fully Catholic once again.