[Which Pope: Francis, Benedict or Michael?]
Written by Hilary White
Our friend Ann Barnhardt has sent up a flare this week, declaring, like Italian journalist Antonio Socci, her belief that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not Pope Francis, that his election was invalid and he is an antipope, mainly because Pope Benedict XVI is still lawfully the pope. She has presented as her evidence Bergoglio’s “heresies, blasphemies and antichristological actions,” as well as a canonical detail that, she correctly points out, no one is yet talking about. She has asked for responses.
Now, no one will accuse me of being a Francis apologist, but I cannot really completely agree with Ann’s conclusion. It is not that I am sure that her thesis is in error, or even that I believe with certainty that Jorge Bergoglio was legitimately elected while Benedict XVI still lived and still bore that name. I think my objections aren’t really objections in a proper sense. I don’t have at this stage in the horror show any real objection to someone thinking that perhaps Bergoglio is an antipope. It seems like a pretty sane conclusion on the face of it. And when is an honest evaluation of observable facts not legitimate?
So what are my reservations? They are two-fold. First, although her points are useful, factual and important, (and, quite importantly, presented without the strident demands for agreement that usually characterize this kind of claim) I still believe that we lay people are not in a position to make the call.
I am remembering that I’m the one who frequently makes the assertion that what I have dubbed “Novusordoism” is an entirely different religion from Catholicism. I know that she is a thoughtful person whose first interest is the Great Commission; the salvation of souls. I also know that she is not a sedevacantist in any sense, but my response to her is going to be similar to my response to them: You can believe it. I think we have come to such a pass, the situation is so mind-bogglingly insane and evil, that it is natural to consider it. And it is perfectly sensible to put forward evidence and arguments to support your belief. But this is the Catholic Church. When a situation of such gravity arises, we on the ground, in the midst of the chaos, are not given the perspective or the objectivity required to make a call definitively. And as Ann herself admits, we don’t have the authority.
In essence, my position is the same as it has been all along: Francis is the pope until a future pope says he’s not. It’s a difficult thing to accept – particularly for modern people who like to solve problems on their own, but that is the reality of the Church. This mess – and I know that there has never in our entire multi-millennial history been a worse one – is not going to be sorted out by us. Our task, however frustrating, is to live as Catholics in these times, with this catastrophe, with this painful ambiguity. This is the Cross of this moment.
Just to be clear, Ann has specifically repudiated any claim to be speaking authoritatively, quite in contrast to the sedes. I’ve spoken with her and she has confirmed that it is not her intention to do as the sedes do. But plenty of people do. I have sedes – perhaps the most obnoxious jerks ever to stain the interwebs – more or less continually getting into my Twitface realms and flatly demanding that I agree with them and accusing me of being “not Catholic” if I don’t. Hubris much?
Sedevacantism is an easy, lazy path out of our current pains and is essentially the equivalent of the papal positivists defending to the death the pope’s right to be a heretic if he wants – it’s a self-generated delusional fantasyland to go hide in. If the pope isn’t really the pope and everything that has happened since 1958 doesn’t count, then none of this is their problem. It’s as if they’ve taken up opium smoking to treat a headache. We all suffer this pain but, honestly, believe me, it becomes easier to bear with the spiritual equivalent of green vegetables and exercise in the fresh air. For them I offer only one piece of advice: cancel your internet account and get a garden. Perhaps an allotment. Grow some vegetables. The internet is not a good place for you.
As I say, Ann has not done this (and I know she has quite advanced social skills), and I know that her call for qualified people to correct her if necessary is not merely a rhetorical conceit. But I fear that her piece may encourage those who are not capable of making sufficient distinctions between what they believe and what they have the authority to assert.
The authority to assert definitively that the last pope was not the pope, that Pope Benedict’s resignation was invalid, that the 2013 Conclave was illicit and that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is, for certain, an antipope, is solely and exclusively the purview of a real pope. Only the pope can declare such a thing definitively for the whole Church to believe. Only. Ever.
The second is a bit more nuanced. I asked Ann, “What difference does it make? We can do little about it either way.” Whether a future pope or ecumenical council declares that Bergoglio was unlawfully elected, or that Benedict unlawfully resigned, leaves us in exactly the same position here and now. We are given exactly the same charge right now, whatever a future pope declares.
Ann herself brings up the question of attending Masses at which his name is invoked as pope. She says she consulted a reliable priest on the subject and was given a satisfactory answer and continues to attend Masses where his pontificate is at least provisionally accepted. And I think this is the only way forward without descending into the sedevacantist rabbit hole.
And there is nowhere to go to hide. Let’s just clear that one up. We are at the end of that trail. Butch and Sundance knew they could not get past the Bolivian army. They knew there wasn’t anywhere to run. The Spartans stood at Thermopylae not because they chose that little narrow pass, but because that was where the battle had to be fought. The ideology that Bergoglio and his followers are imposing is totalitarian. It cannot, by its nature, allow any opposition to survive anywhere. When it has taken out the big targets, it will come for you wherever you hide.
The devil had to wait for the Church to have spread around the globe, before he could use its institutional organization to corrupt it completely. Those few tiny pockets that are left are besieged. And the wreckers aren’t Mohammadans or Calvinists this time. The appalling martyrdom of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate shows no one is safe. Even those bishops who attempted to shelter them have been attacked. The papacy is being wielded as a weapon against the faithful, against the Faith, and it is a powerful one. Perhaps the most powerful on earth. There is only one power greater.
I had a message from a priest in the US who brought his concerns to his bishop, a man he describes as “privately orthodox,” and was told with a shrug, “Well, popes come and go.” The “good” men, perhaps because acceptance of the Novusordoist regime has impaired their intellects, are doing nothing, hoping that the wolf will leave them alone until it dies on its own. What they cannot see, or are too horrified to accept, is that Francis is nothing more than the final result of a long-term plan to utterly destroy the Church as we have known it and replace it forever with something entirely different. To accomplish this plan, the enemies of Christ had to take the papacy, the last citadel. They have it now, and there is little natural hope that they will lose it.
These bishops have accepted the New Paradigm, making excuses and justifications for it, as long as there was room within it to make mental reservations, to continue to consider themselves “orthodox,” even if only “privately”. They are desperate to maintain the old Mexican standoff of the John Paul II era. These are not the men to come out shooting in a last desperate bid. They are the ones who will keep their eyes firmly clamped shut until the wolf is closing its jaws upon them. (And he is. cf: Bishops Finn ___ et al.) To paraphrase Churchill, they are feeding the sheep to the crocodile in the hopes it will eat them last.
The freakish phenomenon of Pope Francis is not just some odd anomaly that will go quietly away when he dies. We don’t have the option of just hunkering down and waiting. The comfortable John Paul II compromise is gone forever.
But the old standoff within the New Paradigm was nothing more than the slow death of a million paper cuts anyway. “Conservative” Novusordoism was little more than a form of passive euthanasia passed off as palliative care – a death by large doses of morphine. The “conservative” no-man’s land they tried to occupy is closed. It no longer exists, and the wolves are demanding full acquiescence. Time’s up. No more morphine for you. Choose now whether to be eaten with your flock or join the wolves; to be crucified or become a crucifier.
Now I think Ann has brought up some important issues. The little two-word insertion in Canon Law about “substantial error,” is something that ought to be given serious consideration by canonists.
A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.
If it can be demonstrated that Ratzinger really did have the notion that he could, through the power of his own magnificent brain, “evolve” the papacy into a diarchy with a contemplative and an active branch, then we have some serious evidence to consider. Does the power of the keys grant the power to change the papacy itself into something unrecognisable? The difficulty is we would be making the call based on what someone said once in a speech about what he believes Ratzinger meant… you see the problem. It’s hearsay and not sufficient evidence for a future ecumenical council or pope. It’s a pretty big hint, of course, but that’s all it is for now.
We can certainly learn useful things from Gänswein’s speech, however, particularly from the casual insouciance with which he presented it. It was as though it were nothing particularly remarkable, let alone a declaration of nearly blasphemous hubris. What was most shocking to me was the cheery hand-wave, as though it were merely a sensible conclusion by the “brilliant” theological mind of his friend… All part of the glorious newness of Newchurch, a hilarious development-of-doctrine party favour granted us by the Holy Ghost of Wacky Fun Surprises.
Is this really how modern “conservative” churchmen think? We know it’s how men like Bergoglio think, but is this really how Ratzinger thinks? Have things really gone this far? If it is and it has, perhaps if nothing else it would be a good reason to start wondering if Ratzinger/Benedict ever had been the staunch defender of doctrine he was so often made out to be. Perhaps we were at fault for buying into the absurd “Rottweiler” rhetoric of the New York Times. Were we this desperate for a defender of the Faith that we were so eager to overlook his many theological oddities?
And this leads me to the next thought. Perhaps one of the most important things the Francis pontificate and the concurrent state of utter chaos is teaching us is just how bad the rot is – and has been for years – in the rest of the hierarchy, in the priesthood, in the Vatican, the religious orders and, perhaps hardest to bear, among the laity. If this is not the “great apostasy,” the almost universal loss of faith, spoken of by Our Lord in the Gospel and by the various visionaries more recently, if that is going to be worse than this, I shudder to imagine the future.
We all know about and deplore the likes of the San Gallen Mafia – the notorious heretics, brazen blasphemers, homophile abuse enablers and sexual, moral and intellectual perverts who spent decades degrading the Faith and ultimately put this man on the throne of Peter. We are inured to the Mahoneys and Gumbletons and Bernardins, none of whom has ever troubled to hide his unbelief or his revolting proclivities. We know these men who have spent decades campaigning for precisely the kind of catastrophes that this pope, their puppet, is now imposing. From the seething minds and grinning countenances of such monsters as Godfried Cardinal Danneels one expects only ruination and despair.
No, the thing that most fills me with horror is not even this ridiculous, demented blasphemer blurting out his incomprehensible contradictions. He is their man, after all. It is the fact that he is doing it to the roaring approval of the faithful. That he is drooling out his daily heresies in front of a rapt and solemn audience of priests, bishops, religious and laity who do not at least get up and walk out. Who do not ever stand up and say, “No, holy father, that is not right; that is not Catholic teaching; that is not of God; it is of the devil.” His weekly audiences are still full of people who smile and laugh at his jokes and cheer when he waves.
When he suggested that Our Lady, the Theotokos, the New Eve, had – I can barely stand to type this – accused God of lying, where were the little old ladies who pray their daily Rosary stopping their ears and shouting at him to recant his blasphemies? Where were the chivalrous priests outraged enough to counter this horrifying accusation against Mary Most Holy? Where, in short, is the outrage?
The Francis pontificate has demonstrated the appalling loss of faith throughout the Church from the humblest bead-squeezer and weekly pew-sitter all the way to the most sacred office of Peter. How can anyone continue to deny that the neomodernist revolution, started in secret in the 19th century, growing underground until the early 60s and unleashed upon the Church in the Post-Conciliar age, has completed its work?
If the election of Bergoglio was in reality some kind of horrifying trial balloon, some kind of test by these creatures to see how far things had progressed, I would say it is an un-allayed smash success. They have clearly learned not only that they can elect a bizarre intellectual midget, a thug and a boor, a bully and a fool, but that no one will object in substance to any of it. His ideological fellow travelers will cheer, and the “privately orthodox” will keep their heads down until they are replaced with more fellow travelers. And at the next Conclave, when they impose a Tagle – every bit the neomodernist Churchwrecker, but with smooth social skills and 20 years younger – they can be confident that they will own whatever is left of the Church indefinitely.
As painful as it might be, the only legitimate conclusion for now is to acknowledge the seriousness of what is happening, to admit that things are in an apocalyptic state and to carry on presenting the Faith in opposition to what Francis and his friends are doing. We’re just soldiers and our task is not the same as that of the generals. It is to maintain the Faith ourselves, including living a full sacramental life, to intensify our dedication to prayer and penances and to have sure supernatural hope that, whatever is happening, God – who has not abandoned us – wants to sort it out for the best, and will do so. Green vegetables and exercise in the fresh air. (And I would suggest for many of us, cutting out of our diets the “sugar” of frequent, prolonged internet use.)
It’s an unsatisfying answer, I know. The Cross is unsatisfying. It does not allow us to be the ninja action heroes we know we really are deep down inside, to punch our enemies into orbit, put everything back the way it ought to be and restore sanity in the world by our own mighty superpowers. It is, more or less, equivalent to asking soldiers – regular guys – to go to war, not knowing if they will live to see the end. But a war that needs to be fought simply needs to be fought and the soldiers are called merely to do their bit where they are sent. We go in with our eyes open and we fight in whatever theatre we are assigned – whether it’s our parish, our family, our seminary, our work or any other field. (Green vegetables… exercise… soldiers need to be fit.) Whether we live to see victory is not in our hands, and declaring Bergoglio to be an antipope won’t change any of that.
The theoretical future pope who declares that the entirety of the last 50 years of chaos and catastrophe don’t count – like an ecclesiastical JJ Abrams rebooting the Catholic franchise – will have to acknowledge the white (and the red) martyrdom of these times. The chaos and instability, the lack of trust, the lost vocations, the collapse of every institution, the infiltration by wolves and their demonic, anti-rational, anti-Real ideology at every level and in every corner of the globe. To do less would be an injustice to those who stuck it out to the end.