Catholics can ‘resist’ erring Pope in good conscience: pro-family leader

Catholics can ‘resist’ erring Pope in good conscience: pro-family leader

ROME, May 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-family leader and respected Catholic commentator marshaled the writings of Blessed John Henry Newman on conscience to outline at a conference in Rome how Catholics must respond to the commands of an erring pope.

Voice of the Family’s Matthew McCusker outlined the “relationship between conscience and obedience towards ecclesiastical authority” at the 2018 Rome Life Forum at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum).

“‘If the pope prescribes lying or revenge,’ or any immoral act,” said McCusker quoting Newman, “his command would simply go for nothing, as if he had not issued it, because he has no power over the moral law.”

Quoting Newman, he said: “The Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.”

The annual Rome Life Forum comes at a time in the Church when, under Pope Francis’ watch, the teachings of heretics have been allowed to go unchecked. And, Pope Francis himself has refused to answer questions about ambiguities in his own teachings. Last year group of clergy and lay scholars from around the world issued a formal “filial correction” of the pope, accusing him of propagating heresies concerning marriage, the moral life, and reception of the sacraments. Earlier this month, Dutch Cardinal Willem Eijk raised the question that Pope Francis may be part of the Church’s “final trial” before the second coming of Christ.

McCusker said that papal infallibility is a “safeguard which ensures the transmission, through the ages, of the ‘faith delivered once to the saints.’” He noted that such infallibility has limits.

“The primary purpose of the papacy is to transmit, whole and entire, the deposit of faith. The pope is offered by God the graces and assistance necessary to fulfil his state of life in the most perfect manner. He, like all other Catholics, is free to cooperate with, or reject, those same graces,” he said.

“It should not be assumed however that the pope is acting under any special guidance in any given act, or that, beyond the certain limited cases, he is preserved from error. To act towards the pope, as if his every thought, opinion, or action, or decision of the pope can be taken as representing the will of God for the Church, is not compatible either with the Church’s teaching or her past actions,” he added.

The pro-family leader quoted Newman’s forceful assertion on the “real” limitations placed on the pope’s teaching authority.

“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church.”

McCusker said that the pope, lacking infallibility outside of certain narrowly defined conditions, can “fall into error both in his doctrine and judgements.”

“The pope, never possessing impeccability, can both commit and command sin.”

“It is therefore possible for individual conscience to find itself in conflict with the pope,” he added.

He quoted examples from Newman where “resistance to papal commands might prove permissible” if such commands “are directly opposed to the doctrine of the faith.”

“Cardinal Turrecremata says, ‘Although it clearly follows from the circumstance that the Pope can err at times, and command things which must not be done, that we are not to be simply obedient to him in all things, that does not show that he must not be obeyed by all when his commands are good. To know in what cases he is to be obeyed and in what not … it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, “One ought to obey God rather than man:” therefore, were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scripture, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the Sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands is to be passed over.’

“[St Robert] Bellarmine, speaking of resisting the Pope, says, ‘In order to resist and defend oneself no authority is required … Therefore, as it is lawful to resist the Pope, if he assaulted a man’s person, so it is lawful to resist him, if he assaulted souls, or troubled the state, and much more if he strove to destroy the Church. It is lawful, I say, to resist him, by not doing what he commands, and hindering the execution of his will.’”

McCusker said that Newman makes it clear that faithful Catholics must avoid two idolatries when it comes to conscience and the pope.

“First an idolatry of conscience, which raises man’s subjective judgement above that divine law to which all judgements of conscience must conform. And secondly an idolatry of the papacy, which treats the pope as the master, not the servant of divine truth.”

LifeSiteNews is pleased to provide McCusker’s talk below in full at

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