Showing posts with label anti-Francis Catholic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anti-Francis Catholic. Show all posts

Friday, April 24, 2020

The “Guides” We Must Not Follow: Putting Personal Opinion Above Church Teaching

Today, on social media, I saw somebody had posted a link from an anti-Francis Catholic arguing that the SSPX was formed canonically. Apparently, the individual was trying to argue that it had been unlawfully suppressed by the bishop in question. I don’t think this link is particularly dangerous. It’s posted from someone I didn’t take too seriously even before the pontificate of Pope Francis. But things like this serve as a reminder that some people actually believe that their personal interpretations of Church teaching outrank the decrees of Popes and bishops.

Adding to the tragedy, these Catholics seem to take pleasure in trying to argue that the Catholic Church is becoming “Protestantunder Pope Francis. They use the term “Protestant” as an epithet, but seem unaware that the rejection of the teachings of Pope and bishops in favor of their own interpretation is the behavior of men like Luther and Calvin.

Luther and Calvin also insisted on their interpretations of Scripture, Church Fathers, and Councils to justify their own views, attacking everything that stood firmly against them as “unbiblical.” It’s a No True Scotsman fallacy where everything cited against their position is seen as “error.”

Once we recognize this, we have to choose: We either recognize that when the Pope intends to teach—even in the ordinary magisterium—we’re bound to obey, or we’re no different from any other dissenter, regardless of our motive. So, if we have a difficulty, we are bound to look at this and ask How did I go wrong, not declare The Church went wrong! But that’s precisely what the critics don’t do.

I think the modern Catholic critics who love to use the term “Protestant” as an epithet have drawn the wrong conclusions from Church History at that time. The main problem was not so much the novelties of those teachings by the founders of Protestantism (though they were wrong) as it was refusing to look to the Church for confirmation and correction.

“But wait,” the anti-Francis Catholic might say. “These aren’t my ideas. They’re the magisterial writings of the past!” To which I would respond, “No. They’re your interpretations of those past writings. The Pope and bishops determine whether or not your interpretation is accurate.*” Clergy and members of the laity can offer their insights of course. But in the end, the Pope is the one who determines if an interpretation is authentic.

The fact of the matter is, the concept of Protection from Error is not to be understood in a Pelagian concept where it depends on the character of the man who is Pope. It is the trust in God to protect His Church. God protects the Church from wicked men or clueless men who might occupy the See of Peter. If The man in the Papacy is morally or intellectually bad (I deny Pope Francis is either), this protection from error might be a negative act—preventing such a man from teaching at all. 

The difference between Ordinary and Extraordinary (aka ex cathedra) magisterium is not a measure of quality. Rather it defines the nature of the teaching: The former can be further developed depending on the needs and circumstances, while the latter is something that draws a line where the Church cannot cross. For example, the Immaculate Conception is an ex cathedra teaching that draws a line: Any attempt to argue that Mary was an ordinary sinful woman cannot ever hope to call their interpretation Catholic. However, in the ordinary magisterium, while wrong is wrong, it may be changed as we discover different things. For example, while contraception is always morally wrong, the Church may have to reach a decision on whether or not a new technique that regulates births is morally acceptable or not#.

That’s the difference between Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium. Both must be obeyed, but the former can be further refined as time goes on. The change of discipline falls under the Ordinary Magisterium. Whether we use the vernacular or not; whether we ordain married men or not; whether we give the chalice to the laity or not, these are all disciplines that the Church can change if they think the change is necessary. If they should do so, we are obliged to give religious submission of intellect and will to the decision, not to obey or not as we choose.

The modern dissenters should consider this well: If they think that they are faithful Catholics, then let them remember that obedience to the teachings made by the Pope and bishops of this time are just as required as to past teachings. If one thinks there is a “break” in teaching where the Pope “errs,” the presumption of error is to be placed on the critic’s interpretation, not on the official teaching of a Pope.

Once we realize this, we can realize that there is no “confusion” caused by the Pope. But there is a lot of confusion caused by those who claim to know the Catholic faith better than the Pope.


(†) It is troubling that, for several anti-Francis Catholics, all roads seem to eventually lead to Ecône, even if that particular individual defended past Popes from the SSPX.

(‡) Actual Protestants I have encountered find the claim that Pope Francis, the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and Vatican II are “Protestant” to be risible.

(*) All the heresies and schisms in the history of the Church could have been avoided if the ones who fell into these things had listened to the Church instead of think that the Church had gone wrong.

(#) The 1960s discussion of the Birth Control Pill was never—in the eyes of the Church—about whether contraception could be made “good.” The question was whether the Pill (which did not use previous barrier methods) was contraception or not. Once it became clear that the pill was contraceptive, the Church had to reject its use.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

New Actors Playing an Old Part: The “Theology” Of Dissent

The Anti-Francis Catholic frequently identifies himself with orthodoxy within the Catholic Church. But he (or she) must reconcile that claim with the fact that they are choosing to reject the teaching of the current Pope as heretical, an opinion, or a prudential judgment. When faced with the challenge that the Pope must be obeyed when he teaches (Canon 752), the common attack is that this insistence to obedience is ultramontanism, and is an aberration compared to what was believed by the Church during the pontificate of his predecessors.

The problem is, they can’t reconcile their claims with the actual words of past Popes. In fact, during past pontificates, these anti-Francis Catholics cited the statements defending the authority of the Popes to bind and loose (cf. Matthew 16:19). No previous Pope would have considered his teachings optional. For example, St. John Paul II would write: 

This supreme authority of the papal Magisterium, to which the term apostolic has been traditionally reserved, even in its ordinary exercise derives from the institutional fact that the Roman Pontiff is the Successor of Peter in the mission of teaching, strengthening his brothers, and guaranteeing that the Church’s preaching conforms to the “deposit of faith” of the apostles and of Christ’s teaching. However, it also stems from the conviction, developed in Christian tradition, that the Bishop of Rome is also the heir to Peter in the charism of special assistance that Jesus promised him when he said: “I have prayed for you” (Lk 22:32). 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 but is proposed in the ordinary exercise of his Magisterium with the manifest intention of declaring, recalling and confirming the doctrine of faith. It is a consequence of the institutional fact and spiritual inheritance that completes the dimensions of the succession to Peter. (Audience, March 17, 1993)

The Saint did not just invent this belief. He bases it on the consistent teaching about how the Church exercises her teaching authority. In fact, throughout history, you have to go to those who broke with the Church to find the same arguments that are made now. Whenever a Pope would rule against a person, the obstinate would argue that he could err or that his teaching was an “opinion.”

Understanding this, we begin to see the real issue with the attacks on Pope Francis. Whether the critics act out of defiance or out of ignorance, they do not like that his teachings differ from their interpretations, and think his words should match their views. This was a problem throughout history. It might be from a confusion of moral and doctrinal error. Many critics seem to think that the existence of morally bad Popes in history means that this Pope can teach doctrinal error. But that’s a non sequitur as the Pope can be protected from teaching error even if one acts wrongly in his personal behavior. So, the appeals to John XII and others are irrelevant in insisting on the possibility of a Pope teaching error.

Once we recognize this error among Papal critics, the justification for disobedience vanishes. St. Paul withstood St. Peter to his face (Galatians 2:14). But this was not because of any teaching error, but because withdrawing from the Gentiles to avoid conflict with Jewish Christians to avoid a conflict led some to think that Jewish practices were required—against St. Peter’s intent (Acts 15:7-11).

We need to realize that the critics who are claiming to defy the Pope out of a love of the Church are—at best—misled about the teaching authority of the Church. The teaching of the Pope is the teaching of the Church. Laudato Si and Amoris Lætitia are Church teachings and not opinions or “prudential judgments.”

It seems that one problem is that the critics are declaring themselves judge and jury. They claim to have the right interpretation of the Church teaching but refuse to hear the ones who are entrusted with that authority to clarify and deny the teachings. As long as they have that attitude, they will never consider correction of errors in their understanding. That’s dangerous because, while being innocently mistaken about what the Church teaches might be easily corrected, being obstinate against what the Church teaches is the definition of heresy (canon 751).

The tragedy of the modern critics is that they have invented a “theology” of dissent that claims that a Pope can be a formal heretic and teach error, and can be deposed by the Church—none of which is actually taught by the Church. Canon 1404 says, The First See is judged by no one and, during the history of the Church, only those in dissent tried to claim that they could.

There have been in the past and may be in the future morally bad Popes. I deny Pope Francis is one of those. But that fact has never meant that the past Popes have ever taught error. Yes, some disciplines may have been changed for the needs of the time, and some development of understanding have led to the prohibition of things once tolerated. But it was not a case of the Church once taught evil was all right but now it’s wrong ‡.

In this time when people are willing to justify disobedience in the name of the Church, we should remember that the new champions of the argument are just using the same old errors. As such, they cannot be considered “orthodox” when they argue that dissent is justified. It’s the same old error, but with new actors playing the part.


(†) For example, a thoroughly wicked Pope might be prevented by the Holy Spirit from teaching at all to prevent an erroneous teaching.

(‡) Sometimes Churchmen would support evils like torture or slavery. These are what we would call vicious customs. They were not invented by the Church. Rather, the local customs (often pre-Christian) were accepted as the norm. Slavery had been on the decline during the middle ages to the point that, when Europeans began taking slaves in the Canary Isles, Pope Eugene responded (1435) with an angry denunciation in Sicum Dudet. The worst one could say is that the some of those leading the Church stayed silent when it should have spoken. But that’s a moral failing on the part of the individual.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Deceptive Claims

As the official teachings on the authority of the Pope become more widespread, showing that his badgers are in the wrong, and as it becomes obvious that the claims about what the Pope is supposed to change are false, the anti-Francis Catholics have been forced to shift tactics. Now they’ve come up with new justifications about why they’re not in the wrong.

The first tactic they use is to argue that the authority of the magisterium doesn’t apply because the Pope isn’t teaching but expressing an opinion. Therefore—they claim—what he says isn’t binding, isn’t protected from error and they aren’t being disobedient by rejecting what he says.

The problem is, what they are calling his “opinion,” are things that are recognized as teaching when it comes from any other Pope. Eliminating misconceptions about the Death Penalty by making a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an act of teaching. Teaching about our moral obligations regarding the environment through an encyclical letter is an act of teaching. Writing about the needs to strengthen marriage and helping those at odds with the Church through an apostolic exhortation* is Church teaching. But, because the critics do recognize the authority of these teachings from previous Popes and denounce Catholics who reject them, they are without excuse when they reject Pope Francis and call his teachings “opinions.”

The second tactic, used to accuse the Pope of error is to say that he never mentioned something. Therefore, that lack of a mention is considered “proof” that he supports whatever bad thing the anti-Francis Catholics want to accuse him of.

For example, after the recent synod, the Final Document suggested that the Church consider ordaining “proven men” who were married. The Pope, however, said that he was not in favor of removing the celibacy requirement in the West. But the anti-Francis Catholics argue that, since he didn’t explicitly reject married priests in Querida Amazonia, he must favor it and plans to implement it. 

But what the Pope actually said about the priesthood in the Amazon shows a belief that the the Church has other options, writing:

90. This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region. At the same time, it is appropriate that the structure and content of both initial and ongoing priestly formation be thoroughly revised, so that priests can acquire the attitudes and abilities demanded by dialogue with Amazonian cultures. This formation must be preeminently pastoral and favour the development of priestly mercy.

In the footnotes for this section, he notes that many Brazilian priests go overseas for missions instead of to the Amazon, and he notes there needs to be more effort to find vocations among the indigenous people. These are evidence against these accusations.

Both arguments share a logical fallacy: argument from silence. It is an error because it assumes Either A or B. Then the person draws a conclusion by way of claiming a lack of evidence for A is proof that B is true. But no evidence for A is not proof of anything at all.

The anti-Francis Catholic who argues that the Pope is only offering opinions or is secretly planning to implement a married priesthood—these two contradict, by the way—is basing it on the argument that since he didn’t explicitly see the Pope reject their interpretation, his claim must be true.

Such claims are deceptive and should be rejected, lest they lead us into error.


(*) Ironically, the critics of Amoris Laetitia argue that it can’t take precedence over Familiaris Consortio because it is “only” an apostolic exhortation. But Familiaris Consortio is also an apostolic exhortation. If Amoris Laetitia isn’t teaching, neither is Familiaris Consortio.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Final Thoughts on the Shared Errors of Anti-Francis Catholics and the First Protestants

Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things
—(Romans 2:1)

Over the past few months, during my studies of Martin Luther and John Calvin, I’ve demonstrated similarities in attitudes and assumptions between them and the modern anti-Francis Catholics who accuse the Pope of corrupting the Catholic faith, ironically accusing him of being “Protestant*.”

I say it is ironic because these self-appointed defenders of the Church use the term “Protestant” as an accusation against any change of discipline they dislike in the Church, but they actually behave like Luther and Calvin did in rejecting the lawful authority of the Church to bind and loose justifying their rejection in the name of defending true Christianity—as defined by them—from “error.”

When I look at Luther and Calvin on one side, and the anti-Francis Catholics on the other, I see in both sides a conviction that believes their understanding of how the Church should be is right and any opposition to that understanding by the Church is “proof” of their accusation that the Church has fallen into “error.” The problem with that conviction is that the critic never asks himself—or quickly discards—whether he or she is the one who got it wrong. It’s not a sin to be mistaken as long as one constantly seeks out the truth and looks to the Church as the way to properly form right understanding and right conduct. But, once the critic stops looking to the Church as the guide and instead insists on the Church looking to him or her, such a critic has fallen into error.

Why? Because Catholics profess to believe in a Church that teaches with Christ’s own authority, and to reject that authority is to reject Him (Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16).

At this point, I should make one thing clear: While the Church cannot accept the non-Catholic beliefs that contradict# what she teaches, she does not impute guilt to those non-Catholics who were brought up in communities that reject Catholic teaching. If there is guilt (and that is for God to judge, not I), it would be on the part of those who—knowing that the Church is necessary—made the conscious decision to reject the Church when she teaches in a way they disagree with, not those who grew up sincerely believing that falsehoods they were told about the Catholic Church were true.

God will be the one to judge the culpability of those, like Luther and Calvin, who rejected the Catholic Church. But, those who use the term “Protestant” in a contemptuous sense show by that usage that they think the founders of Protestantism did wrong in rejecting the authority of the Church. But if they recognize that Luther and Calvin were wrong to do it under Leo X and his successors, these modern critics are without excuse when they reject the teaching of the Church under Pope Francis.

This is where the anti-Francis Catholic objects. They claim that the difference is that the Protestants were wrong to reject the Church but they are defending the Church from error—oblivious to the fact that Luther and Calvin used the same argument to justify their own disobedience.

What the anti-Francis Catholic fails to grasp in giving a litany of “errors” against the Pope is that the first response to an accusation is not to ask “why does he do this?” but to ask whether the accusation is true in the first place. For example, let’s look at Calvin, condemning the sacrament of Confirmation:

But if they prove that in the laying on of hands they follow the apostles (in which they have no similarity to the apostles except some sort of perverted zeal), yet whence that oil, which they call “the oil of salvation”? Who taught them to seek salvation in oil? Who taught them to attribute to it the power to confirm?

— Institutes of the Christian Religion IV, xix, 7

The response is not to defend oil as giving salvation. It is to say “No matter how much he might believe it, Calvin spoke falsely about us.” Because we do not believe that oil saves. We believe that God’s grace saves, and by His choice, the grace is bestowed through a sacrament that uses oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #436, 695, 1291, 1297). Calvin§ grossly misinterpreted Peter Lombard’s Sentences and condemned the Church for teaching something it never taught in the first place.

This is what the anti-Francis Catholic does when he accuses the Pope of supporting same sex “marriage,” contraception, divorce and remarriage, socialism, and other things the Church condemns. Because the anti-Francis Catholic never questions whether he is wrong in his accusations or wrong in his interpretation of past documents, he assumes he is correct and that the Pope errs. But, since the Pope does not support what his critic accuse him of, the critic has done what men like Luther and Calvin have done—falsely accuse the Pope or the Church of holding error when the error is on the part of the accuser.


(*) I find it interesting that actual Protestants see no similarities between what the Pope teaches (or what Vatican II teaches) and what they profess.

(#) Ecumenism involves dialogue to correct misunderstanding about what the other believes. Even when differences are irreconcilable, we act with charity in explaining why we must hold to our views.

(§) Calvin left off studying Catholic theology as a teenager when his father left the Church, and began studying Law instead. The result is—to put it charitably—that the accusations against the Catholic Church in the Institutes of the Christian Religion read like it was written by a lawyer with a juvenile understanding of the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Sincerity is not Same as Accuracy

When I read Luther and Calvin in their attacks on the Catholic Church, two things become clear: First, that they were probably quite sincere about opposing what they thought was wrong. Second, that despite their sincerity, what they wrote to justify rejecting the Catholic Church was absolutely false and harmful. This brings us to something that should be remembered when people today launch attacks against the Pope or the Church: just because an attacker is sincere, it doesn’t make him or her right. What matters is if the actual evidence supports the allegations, not the accusations themselves.

Luther and Calvin confused their own interpretation of Scripture, St. Augustine, Church Councils, etc., with what was actually said. When the Catholic Church held a position that ran counter to their interpretation, the Church was declared guilty of Pelagianism, of inventing new teachings and so on. The problem was the interpretation is not necessarily the actual meaning. Both men cited Augustine and argued that his refutation of Pelagius was also a refutation of Catholic teaching on grace. But the Catholic teaching on grace does not allow for the Pelagian views of merit that these two men accused the Catholic Church of holding. So, even if they were sincere# in their refutations, they were still wrong because their accusations were simply untrue. If they had considered the possibility of being mistaken, they might have looked more closely and realized their accusations were false.

I could also bring up Calvin’s interpretation of the Patristics in trying to argue (book IV of the Institutes of the Christian Religion) that the primacy of Rome was a later innovation. Calvin confused his interpretation of the texts with what the actual texts said§. The result is a “history” that merely reflects his unproven belief that the early Church could not possibly have had a Pope*.

This is why I warn about the modern anti-Francis Catholics falling into the same errors as Luther and Calvin. No, their theology is not the same. But their tactics are. That’s why the modern critics are in danger. The difference between the founders of Protestantism and those leading the Catholic reform of the time is this: the members of the Catholic Reform gave religious submission of intellect and will to the teachings of the magisterium while the leaders of Protestantism rejected it.

But before a critic argues, “But that was different! We’re rejecting errors!” remember that this is what men like Luther and Calvin said too. No matter how sincere the modern critics might be, they are causing the same turmoil and using the same tactics.


(§) Modern religious software like Verbum or Logos allows for instantaneous investigation of the cited works. This lets us discover things taken out of context, paraphrases, and injected editorial comments that mix with or even replace the actual words of the early Church Fathers. Luther and Calvin went beyond what the anti-Pelagian writings actually said.

(#) It is not for me to judge their culpability. But, sincere or not, they were wrong.

(*) Begging the question is a fallacy that gets used frequently by anti-Catholics outside the Church and dissenters within the Church.

(€) Many of the critics are “cradle Catholics,” but it would be interesting to do a study to see if there are any residual assumptions among converts who are also anti-Francis Catholics. Unfortunately, I don’t have any way of conducting such a study to test the idea for accuracy.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dangerous Parallels

One of the things that the anti-Francis Catholics use as a defense is that the Pope is “unclear” or “confusing.” Therefore, they say, it’s not their fault if they think he’s in error and accuse him of heresy. He should just speak clearly and there wouldn’t be this sort of problem. They claim that his predecessors never had this problem with being misunderstood, therefore it must be his fault.

I find that claim bizarre. Catholic apologetics frequently deal with anti-Catholics who misinterpret or take Papal statements out of context to justify their attacks against the Church. However, whether it’s because these anti-Catholics sincerely repeat the false accusations made in the 16th century, or because they are willing to lie themselves, these people could search out what the Popes really did say, but did not [§].

Every group that has broken from the Catholic Church has begun with misrepresenting what the Church has taught and portraying what individual sinning churchmen have done as the sanctioned teaching of the Church. Even before they broke away, these groups used this misrepresentation to justify their own disobedience by way of claiming that the Church herself has gone wrong while insisting that they hold to the real truth.

If one searches, they can find sins and lamentable judgment in the behavior of any saint, let alone everyone else. They can find people deliberately twisting the words of a Pope to justify sins instead of focusing on the good. But one should consider the words of St. Francis de Sales in this case:

But if, instead of making your profit of these examples [#] and refreshing your minds with the sweetness of so holy a perfume, you turn your eyes toward certain places where monastic discipline is altogether ruined, and where there remains nothing sound but the habit, you will force me to say that you are looking for the sewers and dung heaps, not the gardens and orchards. All good Catholics regret the ill behavior of these people and blame the negligence of the pastors and the uncontrollable ambition of certain persons who, being determined to have power and authority, hinder legitimate elections, and the order of discipline, in order to make the temporal goods of the Church their own. What can we do? The master has sown good seed, but the enemy has oversown cockle.

(The Catholic Controversy, Part II, Article III, Chapter X) 

If you deliberately look for failure, you’ll find it. But that doesn’t mean that the Church caused that failure by the teaching of Popes. This is where the anti-Francis Catholics need to ask whether they’re going in the same direction as those who previously broke with the Church. There are Catholics out there who confused discipline and doctrine and hate the Church because they think she “changed” teachings. They are taking soundbites—without reading the full transcript or document—and using their out of context interpretation of these soundbites to “prove” their suspicions are true.

Their behavior dangerously parallels that of the past cases of leaving the Church. If they’re not willing to remember that God protects His Church from error, they may find that they make themselves enemies of the Church under the claim of defending her.


[§] Reading Calvin and Luther, I’ve seen them make vague undocumented assertions about what “popes” say, making it impossible to identify if it was really said, who said it, and in what context. Anti-Catholics seem to repeat their vague assertions as if they were proven facts. Anti-Francis Catholics tend to do the same.

[#] St. Francis is contrasting actual religious life with the occasional corruption used to attack the Church.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What Will You Become?

In the classic version of the online game called World of Warcraft, there was a group called “The Scarlet Crusade.” If you followed the quests in order, it started out looking like they were devoted to protecting the world from the hordes of undead. But you quickly learned that they were extremists who operated under the principle that the ends justified the means, turning on anyone who disagreed with that approach. 

In the reboot, taking place about five years later, you encounter the Scarlet Crusade, where they have become undead themselves. The implication is that their “ends justify the means” approach led them to becoming what they hated while remaining in denial about the fact that they caused their own downfall. As one NPC shouts in game as you fight, “The Scarlet Crusade is not over! Undeath is merely a setback!” Later, when you return from your quest, an NPC of another group (who sent you to fight the Scarlet Crusade) says that they fight evil without being bound by morality… implying that the cycle will continue.

I find this bit of game lore makes a good illustration of the principle of someone gradually becoming what they hate through justification of their own wrongdoing.

This came to mind when studying the attacks made by Martin Luther against the Church [§]. In his early days, Luther claimed that he was not against the Church, but trying to reform abuses within her. But shortly before he was excommunicated in 1520, he was openly attacking the authority of the Church, and treating the defense of the magisterium as defending the sins committed by the men holding the office:

They allege that the words of Christ were spoken to them: “Whoever hears you hears me; whoever rejects you rejects me.” They rely strictly on these words and have no compunction about saying, doing, or not doing whatever they want. They ban, curse, rob, kill, and perpetrate all the evildoings as they please without any restraint. In no way did Christ mean that we should obey them in everything they say and do but only when they speak his word, the gospel, and not their own words and do his work and not their own.

—Martin Luther, Treatise On Good Works (1520)

Yes, abuses did exist, but reforms had begun before he was born, slow and resisted as they were. Luther appears to have committed the logical fallacies of composition and hasty generalization in assuming that the real regional abuses were universal and caused by false teachings, while committing the begging the question fallacy in claiming that adopting his theology was the only true reform (Luther believed he was trying to “restore” what the Church had “lost” [#]). Because the Church could not accept his personal interpretation of Scripture and the Patristics that he used to justify his claims, Luther believed that the magisterium had to be opposed.

What struck me while reading this was how similar Luther was in reasoning to the anti-Francis Catholics in the Church today. Yes, their theology is vastly different, but their reasoning is almost identical: that because the Church today rejects their personal interpretation of past Church documents, the magisterium is accused of teaching error. Like Luther, these critics argue that until the Church accepts their interpretation (“returns to the true teaching”), they will be in error.

Those defending the authority of the Church magisterium today point out that the mistaken judgments and sins of the person holding the office (for all people sin) are not the same thing as the teachings of the Pope and bishops in communion with him and that the teachings are binding despite the sinfulness of the individual Pope [&]. But, like Luther, the anti-Francis Catholics equate this defense with defending the “errors” of the Pope and saying that anything the Pope says or does.

This brings us to the issue of concern. The modern anti-Francis Catholics are sounding increasingly like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others who made false statements about the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Like the 16th century founders of Protestantism, they set their interpretations as doctrine and accused the Church today of doing wrong. Luther, et al, when faced with the choice of rejecting their personal interpretation and rejecting the Catholic Church, chose the latter. 

The modern critics should be very cautious that they don’t make the same choice. Otherwise, similar to the fictional Scarlet Crusade mentioned above, they might find themselves outside of the Church proclaiming: “Schism is only a setback!”


[§] In case you’re worried, I read the writings of the16th century founders of Protestantism to make sure I am accurately reporting their positions instead of getting information second hand.

[#] At the risk of oversimplifying: with the reemergence of interest in the classic (pagan) Greco-Roman philosophers, there was a movement to go back to the original sources (ad fontes) of Greek documents to get the proper meaning, since some texts did have copyist errors. Renaissance thinkers applied this to Scripture, assuming that the translation of Scripture was equally compromised.

[&] See canons 751-754.