As the endless stream of “doctrinal declarations,” “corrections,” and “clarifications” continues to cause confusion and scandal for the Faithful, I feel it is imperative to cast our minds back to the pontificate of Pope St Paul VI, who, like Pope Francis, faced challenges and great criticism from some members of the Church. We may remember that in 1976, he displayed clear frustration and sadness at the anti-papal attitude of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X:

Unfortunately, the position you have taken is that of an antipope. What can I say? You have not allowed for any measure in your words, your actions, your behaviour…You judged the pope as disloyal to the faith of which he is the supreme guarantor. Perhaps this is the first time in history that this has happened. You told the whole world that the pope lacks the faith, does not believe, that he is a modernist and so on.

Fast forward four decades, and the situation is far worse. The advent of social media, and the business model of profiteering at the expense of the beauty of the Church, has created a climate of disharmony, division and disloyalty. Obedience to the Pope for some only now applies to popes who lie in the grave, rather than the one who lives and watches over the flock with Christ’s authority here and now. Thankfully, in Pope Francis, we have a Pope with a very good sense of humour, endowed with true charity and mercy; one who it seems is able to deal with these constant dissenters in a way that does not distract him from his unique ministry as successor to St Peter.

Returning to St Paul VI, a decade before his confrontation with Archbishop Lefebvre, he gave a profound and prophetic address to an International Congress on the Theology of Vatican II.[1] His aim was to remind the 1400 theologians present, of their role as a bridge between faith and magisterial authority. I believe this address­– in the present climate of artificially constructed confusion by those opposed to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches (cf. Rev 2:7) – can serve to bury once and for all, the rather silly accusation that all who profess total obedience to the teaching authority of the Pope are guilty of papolatry. Instead, the text calls those bishops, priests, theologians and laity who in one way or another dissent from the authentic magisterial teachings of the present Pope, to leave this dead end path and return to fully unity cum Petro et sub Petro.

After the opening pleasantries, Pope Paul VI spoke of the modern mentality which had begun to seep into the Church whereby some reject authority altogether and decide for themselves what truth really is. “According to this view, no external or transcendent guiding norm is to be accepted. It is as if the whole realm of truth could be circumscribed within the bounds of human reason, or even created by it…Hence an authoritative magisterium is rejected, or at best, its function is restricted to vigilance against errors.” Of course we now see a step further that possibly Pope Paul could not have envisaged: that some theologians-supposedly loyal to the Pope would openly accuse the magisterium of being in error.

The Pope goes on to describe the common origin of theology and the magisterium–but in a passage that is like a dagger in the heart of the dissenting arguments and voices of today–firmly sides with those who uphold the doctrine of indefectibility as relating to the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium until the end of time:[2]

However, there is a fact that is of the greatest importance. Theology and the magisterium have a common source, Divine Revelation, which has been given to the Catholic Church by the Holy Spirit and is preserved in it. And, as you well know, when the Church received its Founder’s mandate to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, it was set up as the absolutely trustworthy teacher of truth and endowed with the charism of indefectible truth, so that thus it might fulfil its mission properly. The Church is ever mindful of this fact, and it never ceases to proclaim that in the world it is the pillar and ground of truth.

In accordance with Christ’s divine will, however, the proximate universal norm of this indefectible truth is to be found only in the authentic magisterium of the Church…Christ promised His Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that they might bear witness to the truth of the Gospel to the ends of the earth…He promised them the Spirit of truth, vowing that He would always be present to them. Thus they would be fortified against all error in their teaching mission.

The Pope goes onto explain the essential role of theology in the life of the Church and how it differs from that of the magisterium:

Sacred theology uses reason enlightened by faith; and it receives no little light from the Divine Paraclete, to which the theologian must pay heed. Its duty is to examine and comprehend the truths of Revelation more thoroughly; to bring the fruits of its labor to the attention of the Christian community and, in particular, to the attention of the magisterium itself, so that the whole Christian people may be enlightened by the doctrine which the ecclesiastical hierarchy hands down; and finally, to lend its efforts to the task of spreading, clarifying, confirming, and defending the truth which the magisterium authoritatively propounds.

It is the following passage concerning the magisterium’s function that is of critical importance and relevance to the manufactured confusion of today, especially in the light of Amoris Laetitia, the alteration to the teaching on the death penalty, the doctrine of doctrinal development, and of course, the doctrine of papal authority:

The magisterium on the other hand, has received authority from Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, through which it teaches the People of God. Its official task is, first and foremost, to bear witness to the teaching received from the Apostles and hand it on, so that it might become the possession of the universal Church and of the whole human family; to maintain this doctrine completely free from errors and distortions; in the light of Divine Revelation to pass authoritative judgment on new teachings, and on the considerations proposed by theology as solutions to new questions; and finally, to authoritatively propose new and deeper investigations into Divine Revelation, and new adaptations of this Revelation to our times–which it, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, judges to be in full accord with Christ’s teaching.

This very clear teaching of St Paul VI is in perfect harmony with the doctrine stating that through the centuries until Christ’s return, the Church will discover in an ever more mature and perfect way, the truth of its own teachings. That is the purpose of doctrinal development, to refine and prune, until the full beauty of the truth is made manifest in the way that God intends it. This is simply the final stage of what God has done throughout salvation history; he teaches us patiently, wanting us to search and yearn for the truth, so that we ultimately discover the full glory of his salvific plan. Mariology is one stellar example of this, the dignity of human life is another.

The Holy Father also explores the role theology can play in helping the magisterium through the ages. “It benefits when theologians examine Divine Revelation–handed down orally or in written form–to explore its hidden, subtle meanings and to explain its major unifying themes. It also benefits when theologians interpret the general mental outlook of our age and the experiences of men in order to understand and resolve their questions in the light of salvation history.” Significantly though – in the light of those theologians who in various ways undermine the magisterium of Pope Francis – St. Paul VI states, “To be sure, the magisterium could preserve and teach the faith without the help of theology.” He continues by giving advice to theologians on how they can be of genuine service to the truth. “And they will share the magisterium’s concern to inform the faithful, not of something invented by themselves, but of the truth handed down by Jesus Christ…They will take care not to be won over by the desire for ready applause and easy popularity, to the detriment of the safe doctrine handed down by the magisterium…they will also take the greatest pride in being obedient and judicious interpreters of the magisterium.”

Pope Montini continues by addressing the vitally important issue of the spirit of communion that must prevail amongst the theological community. “Cultivating the spirit of communion is part of the very essence of the Christian vocation, as the Apostle John teaches…The Holy Spirit proclaims and clarifies divine truth within the Church, especially through the assistance of the magisterium. Hence you will possess that truth all the more surely if you develop more heartfelt communion with the Church’s magisterium.”

It is quite clear that this is no longer the case for a number of theologians and priests who consider Pope Francis’ magisterium as a rupture from authentic Catholic doctrine. For them, not even Jesus’ unique prayer for Peter’s faith not to fail (cf. Lk 22:32), and the constant magisterial teaching  interpreting that prayer to mean that a pope will always remain the guardian of truth in matters of faith and morals is enough to make them reconsider their erroneous position.

St Paul VI couldn’t be clearer in his condemnation of an attitude that seeks to create a sort of parallel magisterium that does nothing but sow division and the scandal of rebellion against the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff:

On the other hand, if you depart from the magisterium in your search for truth and try to blaze your own personal trail, you will be in danger of becoming teachers without disciples, cut off from everyone else; of expending effort in vain, without bringing any benefits to the faithful; or even of moving off the right road, deciding to make your own judgments the norm of truth instead of respecting the sensus Ecclesiae. Such a decision would be ill-advised indeed, possibly giving rise to a sort of heresy or paving the way for heresy.

Before concluding his address the Pope asked all those theologians present to confirm their “filial loyalty” to him.

So we can see from this most valuable address that there is no wiggle room for theologians, laity or anyone else to be acting as a sort of theological vigilante association. There never was and never will be a counter-magisterium because the Holy Spirit has willed that a teaching authority should exist in, which He would guide in an authoritative and unique way. That explains why all bishops must be in communion with the Pope, and not the other way round. If we remain loyal and obedient to the divine will in this matter, then we can rest assured that we will always walk along the right path; we will stop the devil in his endless pursuit to replace humility with pride and thus lead many souls to ruin. No, what Jesus our Divine Master desires is filial love and devotion to His Vicar on earth.

The present supposed fight for the tradition and soul of the Church against the Pope is doomed to failure because it is a fight against God in reality. Yes, the fight against liberal dissention must continue because that is also opposed to God’s law, and only serves to encourage sin and a lighter carrying of the Cross. The true path to sanctity is through humility, obedience, prayer, and sacrificial love. If obedience to magisterial teaching is lacking, then the door is opened for a disintegration of the kind of spiritual life that leads to living in conformity with the divine will.

Those who oppose Pope Francis, I pray, will reflect on the wise words of St Paul VI and return to full unity with the Church, and thus help heal the wounds that their division have caused. May the Blessed Virgin, and St Joseph intercede for them, and beg the Lord to convert their hearts to where they belong, in the bosom of the Church.



[1] October 1, 1966, The Pope Speaks Vol. 11, no. 4 (1966)

[2] Pope Pius XII had already stated in Mystici Corporis Christi that Christ, hanging from his Cross, opened up the divine gifts that would ensure the Church would never teach “false doctrine” No 31

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Stephen Walford, a married father of five living in Southampton, on the south coast of Great Britain, is a Catholic author who combines teaching piano with writing theological works ranging from Catholic eschatology and Mariology to the papacy, notably the vision of Pope Francis. His most recent book, Pope Francis, the Family, and Divorce: In Defense of Truth and Mercy, contains a preface by Pope Francis, and is also endorsed by various members of the Vatican Curia, including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, chair of the 'C9' Council of Cardinals, and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. His writings have also appeared in L'Osservatore Romano, Vatican Insider and National Catholic Reporter.

A Warning from History: St Paul VI, the Magisterium, and Theology

37 Responses

  1. M. says:

    Wow! I am so delighted to see Mr. Walford writing here for WPI! How wonderful. Thank you for the wonderful article, for stegthening our faith in the midst of all this division- a beautiful reaffirmation of loyalty and the peace of following the magisterium.

  2. Joe Crozier says:

    Thank you Stephen
    As one who has often been accused of papal positivism and normalcy bias I found your well researched and well presented article very heartening. I have never doubted my own conviction that The Holy Spirit is the One at work in, through and with Pope Francis. There is no doubt that his style is unique in the history of The Church. He is a breath of fresh air and he breaths new life into The Church. I too pray for the return of his adversaries to faithful service of The Church and All Peoples.

  3. Marie says:

    A wonderful, informative article, thank you. It is so painful to hear the attacks on our wonderful pope. If Pedro’s recent article on “Which Pope said this” is any indication, at least to some extent all our popes have dealt with it to some degree. I hope that is of some comfort to the Holy Father. Pride is a very dangerous thing.

  4. Pete Vickery says:

    Stephen Walford nails it when he says ” we will stop the devil in his endless pursuit to replace humility with pride”. This is the same pride that the Pharisee had who unknowingly, according to Christ, prayed to himself instead of to God. “He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    — Luke 18: 9-14.
    This is the same pride that caused the angels to fall. I (subjectively) have sensed much more pride from so-called conservative Catholics in my life as opposed to those who would be deemed liberal. This is just my perception but I dare say it doesn’t take a learned theologian to pick up on the proud spirit of many “faithful” Catholics. Pride was the first sin which brought the morning star Lucifer to his ruin along with those that followed him. Jorge Bergoglio has spent his life with the humble and poor and has the “smell of the sheep’. Privileged first world Cardinals like Burke who have never set foot in dangerous slums, let alone frequented them have no idea how obvious their pride is. I named my second son after the first Christian martyr St Stephen. I am even more proud of his name now. God bless you Stephen Walford.

    • jong says:

      Pete Vickery
      Please do not call Pope Francis with his birth name as a sign of respect to the Holy Spirit who inspire him to choose the name of St.Francis. Bishop Jorge Bergolio is now our beloved Pope Francis occupying a Divine Office let’s us obey the 4th commandment by giving the right honor to His Holiness Pope Francis.

      • Pete Vickery says:

        The Holy Spirit nor Pope Francis are offended. Your fear is misguided.

      • jong says:

        Pete Vickery
        Read this;

        CCC2197 The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.

        CCC2248 According to the fourth commandment, God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents and those whom he has vested with authority for our good.

        Now tell me, if calling the Supreme Pontiff by name only is an act against charity which God had commanded us?

      • Christopher Lake says:


        I appreciate and share your desire to defend the Pope, but when I read Pete’s entire comment, it is very clear to me that it is a comment which displays *a defense of, and true respect for* Pope Francis. Pete’s use of the Pope’s birth name, in this comment, is in the context of describing how Francis has spent his life, both before he was Pope, and now, as Pope– which is to say, in the service of the humble and poor. The comment is not criticizing Pope Francis or showing any disrespect to him at all. It is defending him and showing real love for him. The brief, one-time use of his birth name is clearly not intended to be disrespectful in the greater context of the *loving, respectful spirit* of the comment. Context is crucial.

      • Marie says:

        Jong- I agree with Christopher., and if I think of the nicknames my siblings and I called my mother, terms of endearment to us, likely shocking to a stranger, “old …”, whatever, we honour in our intent. Pope Francis’ birth name is an honour to his whole life, not just his papal years when said in this context.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Jong, when referring to the work of a pope prior to his election, it is not uncommon to call him by his given name. It’s not a sign of disrespect. I often refer to the writing of “Cardinal Ratzinger” to distinguish it from his writing as pope. This is simply to acknowledge the life that he led prior to becoming the Vicar of Christ.

        Likewise, Pope Francis still celebrates his “nome day,” the feast of St. George. It is only when the reference is out of place or meant in a negative way that it is wrong to call him by his birth name.

      • jong says:

        Mike Lewis
        I humbly admit my my mistakes. Sorry Pete for not understanding the full context of your post.

  5. Christopher Lake says:

    It’s truly a joy to see Stephen Walford writing for WPI! It’s such a natural fit that I have wondered when it might finally happen, and I’m very happy to see it come to pass!

    Stephen is right in pointing out that Pope St. Paul VI’s words, from decades ago, can be quite accurately applied to at least much of the anti-Francis “resistance” in the Church today. There is only one currently presiding Pope and one authentic teaching Magisterium in the Church, and that Pope is Francis. Those who resist his teaching of the Faith sincerely think that they are being “faithful” and “traditional” Catholics, but in their very resistance to him, they are actually an ironic embodiment of *resistance to traditional Catholic teaching about the authority of the Pope!*

    To be very clear, I should say again (I’ve mentioned it here at the site once before), that I was almost convinced, a couple of years ago, to join the anti-Francis “resistance.” So many Catholics whose public voices, and/or private witnesses, I had looked up to and trusted for years were seemingly becoming convinced that the Pope was, at best, deeply problematic, and at worst, a potential heretic, that I began to wonder if they might be right. I will forever be thankful to God that, by His grace, I did not step over that cliff, and one of the crucial reasons that I did not ultimately do so was finding this website (and spending much time here reading and pondering and realizing where my thinking had started to go wrong)! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– I thank God for WPI (and now, I can also thank Him that Stephen Walford is a contributor)!

    • jong says:

      Christopher Lake
      WPI is really a blessing but I do hope and pray they will have a youtube channel wherein they can interview Stephen Walford, Fr.James Martin and all the Cardinal and Bishops who are being attack continuously by Rad Trads channel not to mention Pope Francis who is their main target.
      All the articles here is a good resource to every Rad Trads channel attack but having an interview with Stephen Walford will surely is a good start as youtube is where Rad Trads are really concentrated to poison a lot of viewers to further the confusions and divisions. Channels like Dr.Marshall, Watchdog for Truth, Return to Tradition, Lifesite, Michael Matt and Voris, etc are uploading videos on a regular basis and are in concerted effort to spread Fake News by always twisting Pope Francis words.
      St.Pope Paul VI had witnessed how the “smoke of satan” operates and had seen the counterfeit church, and already anticipated its growth thats why this article written by Stephen Walford is a testament to the great wisdom of Pope Paul VI a true great saint indeed. And ofcourse St.Pope Paul VI became the no.1 enemy of the counterfeit church who are now creating a parallel Magisterium.
      If St.Pope Paul VI granted the request of Ab.Lefevbre for “autonomy” the Trads can easily destroy the Vatican II Church in a few years, good thing St.Pope Paul VI knows the prophecy of Blessed Fulton Sheen on the plan of Satan to establish a counterfeit catholic church.

  6. M. says:

    The following quote interests me: “The advent of social media, and the business model of profiteering at the expense of the beauty of the Church, has created a climate of disharmony, division and disloyalty. ”

    I have pondered what could the motive possibly be for the likes of Taylor Marshall, Austin Ruse, Lifesite etc. etc. to be making war on the papacy? I mean, what do they have to gain by doing all of this? For it seems there is not much of holiness to be found there, so why, if the concern is holiness- why make war? The answer I think that makes the most sense is in “the business model of profiteering at the expense of the beauty of the Church.” I wonder how much cash there is to be had by popular youtube channels and blogs? Or is that crazy? Could people be making money and a lot of it by tearing down the pope? It seems hard to believe that any Catholic would sink so low, but I have to wonder. Money is root of evil. Staying poor and humble is where it’s at, that’s why I love WPI.

    • jong says:

      This is where the compassion of Pope Francis shines thru to the likes of Dr.Marshall, Lifesite,etc, why?
      Pope Francis can rightfully said that this Rad Trads channel are offspring of Satan for spreading continuous lies on their channel but instead Pope Francis great wisdom just likened them to “friends,cousins and relatives of the devil” meaning, Pope Francis are not condemning them as Satan human cohorts or offspring eventhough they are clearly living a life imitating the snake tactics of the Great Accuser by day & night accussing Pope Francis of their Litany of Lies. In the wake of Ab.Vigano original testimony containing a lot of unsubstantiated accusations on numerous Bishops and Cardinals and especially his proven false accusations on Pope Francis, the homily of Pope Francis cuts deeply into the heart of Ab.Vigano although he was never mentioned in the homily regarding the Great Accuser unchained. Ab.Vigano felt the Sword of the Spirit that cuts deeply into his soul & spirit and cannot sleep. This troubled Ab,Vigano and have to make a Second Testimony accusing Pope Francis of “subtle slander”. Pope Francis stated that all the media and people who do not have goodwill but only want to scandalize the church as packed of wild dogs. Even Jesus in the gospel of Matthew had seen the bad attitude of Pharisees and called this people in a much stronger words, as “brood of vipers”.
      Dr.Marshall started as a good author of so many good articles and videos about Catholic Faith, but sadly ended up embracing Judas path for fame & money and proudly embracing the “recognized and resist” in his channel, an evil attitude liken to the original sin of Lucifer that lead to “Non Serviam”.
      I am personally a recipient of two “shout out” for challenging his attacks on the character of a lot of Vatican II Popes starting from St.John XXIII and especially Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis not to mentioned the deceased Cardinal Murphy O’Connor does not escapes Dr.Marshall slander. I posted a question on Dr.Marshall asking “Are you not committing a delict of heresy” for repeatedly and continuously expressing contradiction on Pope Francis teaching which is already an approved Magisterial Teaching and from that time my account had been blocked.
      But for sure, Dr.Marshall soul are in grave danger because he is leading over 20,000 subscribers three times a week promoting the evil attitude of “recognize and resist”. As Cardinal Caffara and St.Catherine of Sienna had said “all those who oppose the Pope are leading towards eternal damnation”. And the magnitude and gravity of our sins increases when we lead others into confusions to attack the dignity of the Vicar of Christ.
      My Jesus mercy.

      • M. says:

        I agree that it is serious and troubling when Catholics are behaving like this, I can’t agree that we have the right to positively condemn them. Many of these people may be acting in good faith- we don’t really know their hearts, or whether they are truly just very confused as they claim to be. But I do wonder if it is money that is behind it all, especially with their leaders.

      • Marie says:

        M- I agree that we cannot condemn, as we do not know their heart. I don’t think however that we should refer to it as confusion. A confused person seeks clarity, but does not demand the answers be as they see it, or want it to be. Yes, people are and continue to be confused by the different messages. But those who are aware are NOT confused, they are purposely putting forth their version of Catholicism which they know is in contradiction to Church teaching. This is rejection, not confusion. I don’t think we should give them a pass here, by using their lingo, which really removes them from accountability and places the blame on Pope Francis. The burden of accountability is with them, and we should call it as it is. We do them a disservice by passing the responsibility for their state to someone other than themselves.

      • jong says:

        “from the fullness of the heart a mouth speals”
        Yes, Mama Mary can and will help us received the gifts of wisdom and dicernment, meaning we can see the error clearly.
        Did I judge the action of Dr.Marshall, John Westen,etc. rashly?
        No..why? Ive watched all of Dr.Marshall videos starting from his video on who is Ab.Vigano and I record every attack he made on his channel on all issues against Vatican II from doctrines,Holy Maaa, Popes, etc and especially on Pope Francis.
        Now, Dr.Marshall channel will not allows anyone to defend Pope Francis, most defenders are blocked on his channel.
        John Westen appears meek and credible in his channel even making sign of the cross but watch out how subtle his attacks on Pope Francis are. John Westen videos will present Pope Francis words and pictures and articles and make it appear that he is just reporting the facts and truth. If you do not have the gift of wisdom and discernment you will be poison by this people subtle attack on twisting of words.
        This Rad Trads are employing the snake tactics of presenting truth mix with intentional lies in varying degrees.
        As St.Montfort reminds us that satan will present 50%truth, 70.%,90% truth mix with intentional lies. Satan can even go higher, even 99%truth mix with 1% intentional lies just to deceive even the faithful.
        We are at war with satan and his demons now unchained, and so we need more Light coming from. Mama Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces.
        I can tell you honetly that I can confidently point oit all the errors and evil words that Dr.Marshall had thrown on Pope Francis as I’ve countered all the commenters on all his videos until he blocked my account.
        The great deception today of Rad Trads is they use the Name of Mama Mary to justifies their evil attack on Pope Francis.
        Most of this Rad Trads channel implore to say the rosary but at the same time slander Pope Francis.”from the same mouth comes forth blessings and curses”(James3:8-10)
        Do you think God and Mama Mary are please with their attitude?
        When they attack Pope Francis, in spiritual reality they are attacking the Blue Mantle of protection of Our Lady.
        An attack on Pope Francis is a direct attack on Jesus Himself.(Acts9:4) and the Holy Spirit as Pope are indwelt by Holy Spirit anointing (Acts5:3-ff). Lastly an attack on Pope Francis is an attack to God the Father who said in Psalm105:15 “Do not touch my Anointed ones”.
        So, when we attack the Vicar of Christ we are directly attacking Our Lady’s Blue Mantle and we are against the Most Holy Trinity.
        Thats why all those bishop who oppose the Pope, Cardinal Caffara said must go away because they will lead their followers to eternal damnation. Let us not be deceive by enemies snake tactics as Pope Francis reminds us to seek conversion and silence.Why?
        Only a converted heart in silence can see the Face of God, the Mercy of God.
        My Jesus mercy.

      • M. says:

        Hello jong, and Marie, I was thinking of some people who maybe, read and comment here, that maybe are of good will and being led astray and truly confused by those sites. Maybe, they would be turned off and stop reading if our comments got too harsh against the trads. I guess I am always hoping this site can be a place of turning back from that path, for those who may read here. I have friends who are very intelligent and good, but have been led astray by the leaders of the pack, such as Church Militant, Lifesite, Taylor Marshall, 1 Peter 5 and all the usual suspects making war on our Holy Father Francis. I know that these people are very very sensitive to being corrected, even slightly, so any reading that sounds like condemning the whole lot who actually have been confused by the trads, would send them running away from here, and never read again. Oh this is a balancing act trying to bring some souls back, and yet not giving a pass to terrible behavior. Not sure what the answer is. 🙁

      • Marie says:

        M- I understand and respect your position. I can’t really comment on the ‘trads’ as it is not really part of my vocabulary but if by trads you mean all conservative Catholics who are also anti Pope Francis, I would say honesty remains the best approach, and sugar coating to appease does little to help any of us on our search for the truth. I have to believe that everyone who reads this site is in search of the truth, even those whose truth is counter to that of WPI. If they are reading, part of therm is open to something. That is a good and admirable thing, even if it is only to try to understand what others think.

        In any quest for the truth however, one needs to be honest in their position and with their arguments, particularly when slandering the Vicar of Christ, or his teachings, however unintentional. I do not believe it is an act of love towards your neighbour to ignore it. It is an act of love to challenge it. It’s not a question of I’m right, therefore you’re wrong. It is a challenge to the thought process, to the acceptance of jargon (and then ideology) that is causing so much damage. Confusion is a buzz word for a movement, much like Pro Choice is a buzz word for another movement. This needs to be challenged. Closed borders and anti immigration needs to be challenged. That does not mean attacking someone’s character but it does mean to be honest with your neighbour (as you have been with me) even when it is awkward.

        Yes, I have been adamant about my thoughts regarding ‘confusion’, and adamant about migration, etc. I will heed your advise, but I will refrain from commenting rather than sugar coat things, for how do we seek answers to things we have not thought to question?

    • petey says:

      sad about Taylor Marshall. for a time i subscribed to his emails, but had to stop.

  7. Stephen Walford says:

    Thanks so much to everyone for your most kind comments. It is very humbling to read and I am really blessed that you have found them of some benefit. God bless you all!!

  8. M. says:

    Hello jong, and Marie, I was thinking of some people who maybe, read and comment here, that maybe are of good will and being led astray and truly confused by those sites. Maybe, they would be turned off and stop reading if our comments got too harsh against the trads. I guess I am always hoping this site can be a place of turning back from that path, for those who may read here. I have friends who are very intelligent and good, but have been led astray by the leaders of the pack, such as Church Militant, Lifesite, Taylor Marshall, 1 Peter 5 and all the usual suspects making war on our Holy Father Francis. I know that these people are very very sensitive to being corrected, even slightly, so any reading that sounds like condemning the whole lot who actually have been confused by the trads, would send them running away from here, and never read again. Oh this is a balancing act trying to bring some souls back, and yet not giving a pass to terrible behavior. Not sure what the answer is. 🙁

  9. Manuel Dauvin says:

    Truly appreciate the article along with the others on this site. It is so tempting to use the comment box as a means of releiving the pain of seeing our solid conservative brothers and sisters having sight blurred by fear.
    We must resist empathically any us/them dichotomy expressed in our comments. (Very very hard). The frustration at all the victories of liberal “wreckovation” has dismayed all of us. It has naturally lead to the interpretive key. “How will this magisterial/papal statement be taken by the liberals? “. This interpretive key automatically requires that all pronouncements be “liberal proof” which is impossible.
    A simple switch of key such as “how does this correspond to Christ’s bringing the list back into the true fold? ” would embrace both the statements and pipe Francis’ own admission to considering himself a conservative.
    The shepherd loves the 99 enough to leave them in a safe place with all the tools to resist heresy. However the 99 should not be expected to take the news of his going of to scale cliffs in search of the lost without a time of worry. We can’t scale the cliffs safely. ..we have to trust in the existence of the Petrine superpower and busy ourselves with seeing another place at table when the shepherd comes back with the others; not of this fold.

  10. M. says:

    Replying to Marie, above- I agree with you Marie, about not sugar coating. I was speaking more generally about some of jong’s statements, however, I can’t really disagree with him, because I see these channels as a great evil also. Maybe you are right and softening our language is not the way to go. I’m really not sure, and am willing to concede the point. i hope you have a wonderful day today, Marie and jong. Keep me in your prayers if you think to send one up for me, it would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Pedro Gabriel says:

    “You folks are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

    Not really. I still have lots where that came from
    “This also shows how dangerous it is to have unqualified people running blogs.”

    Thank you for agreeing with us. Let us then follow the Vicar of Christ, not blogs
    “There’s a difference between ceremonial/ritual aspects like those pertaining to “clean-ness” of food, which can change and were superseded, and moral prescriptions such as the ten commandments, under which the liciety of the DP flows, which remain for all time.”

    The Jews at the time of Jesus might disagree with your assessment on the ability to supersede the ceremonial/ritual aspects of the law.

    And that’s the point. Who has the authority to interpret Scripture and Tradition? It’s not about conflating the two situations doctrinally, but about comparing the authority of both Francis and Florence to interpret Scripture and Tradition in ways that seem superficially contradictory
    “To conflate them in order to try to demonize critics…”

    I never demonized anyone
    “and claim to have a “gotcha” moment is shameful and pathetic.”

    Even if I have never demonized anyone, you have been extremely disrespectful. If you want to continue commenting on this blog I suggest you tone it down a bit.
    “Furthermore, it was not the Church who introduced “noahtide” law, and thus the Church did not then abolish it, and thus did not contradict herself in doing so.”

    The Church *did* “contradict” herself if we include the Council of Jerusalem, though
    “Even technically speaking, the church didn’t change or abolish it but it was because “the cause of that apostolic prohibition has ceased” by itself.”

    Correct. Just like Francis didn’t change the teachings, but developed them, citing his own reasons for it, just like Florence did. If you reject those reasons, the problem is yours, but you have no authority to claim that Francis is wrong, just like dissenters who were proclaiming a literalist interpretation of the Bible at the time had no authority to claim Florence wrong either
    “As such, to try to equate the truly doctrinal teaching on the death penalty to the matter of ritual purity”

    The Noahide law is not about ritual purity
    “Further, the council of Florence did not say what it did by rejecting a literalist interpretation of genesis, but again because “the cause of that apostolic prohibition has ceased.” Yet the author falsely imputes rejection of a literalist interpretation as the reason, to set up another straw man.”

    I never said that the Coucil of Florence used “literalist interpretation” as a reason to reject the apostolic prohibition

    What I did said was that not acknowledging the authority of the Council of Florence leads to literalistic interpretations of Gen 9:4 that are wrong. I mentioned the example of Jehova’s Witnesses, but you also can see a comment up-thread by Peter Aiello, where he rejects the Church’s authority in Florence because of a literalist interpretation of Scripture.
    “is the Church who has cited Genesis 9:6 for the liciety of the death penalty, and the fact it is divinely revealed, which thus means it can’t later be claimed to be immoral,”

    I have dealt with that in my previous article, linked on this one
    “This is precisely the problem- what the Church taught unwaveringly and firmly, arguably infallibly, is now supposedly wrong”

    *Now* being the key word here. Francis has specifically said that it was not wrong then, but it is now. He cited his reasons, just like Florence did. If you reject it, you reject the interpretation of Tradition of the Vicar of Christ
    “…and Francis alone correct.”

    Both the Church at the time *and* Francis are correct. Rather it is you (and your cohort) alone who are wrong
    “You can try to dress it up with other descriptions, but the practical fact remains- the prior teaching would then be mistaken.”

    Francis rejects this claim and so do I. Who is trying to set up a strawman to play “gotcha” now?

    It is not the prior teaching that was mistaken, it’s your interpretation of the prior teaching
    “Of course, if the Church was previously mistaken, then Francis could easily be so,”

    Neither was mistaken, so this point is moot
    “Let us also remember that Genesis 9:6 is only one citation for the teaching and one would then also have to discard all the others, scripturally and otherwise.”

    This article focuses only on the Gen 9:6 objection. Other citations were not dealt with here purposefully because they are off-topic. If I decide to address them, I will do so in other articles

  12. Christopher Lake says:

    Obviously, I don’t have God’s knowledge of the hearts and motives of the people who are vocally involved in the “resistance” against Pope Francis. I can, and do, firmly oppose *their actions.* However, I cannot and do not condemn *them as people*, precisely because I am not God, and as such, I don’t know their hearts and motives, and definitely not to the degree that God does.

    I do know that some of these fellow Catholics, in happier times, played crucial roles in my own reversion to the Catholic Church. This includes Taylor Marshall. Ten years ago, he and other Catholic converts were contributors to a group blog, a Catholic blog, which was seriously instrumental in my return to the Church. At that time, I never saw any evidence in his writings, or in the writings of any other contributors to that blog, of anything *other* than a desire to listen to the Magisterium, and learn, and faithfully live out its teachings.

    Obviously, at some point, something changed for Taylor. I don’t know him personally. I can’t condemn him. His writings and general internet presence, over the last few years, have seemed increasingly given over to an apparent conviction that he, still a convert of not very many years, is more “faithfully Catholic” than Pope Francis, *and* to a conviction that it is his (Taylor’s) *duty*, as a faithful Catholic, to “resist* Francis, where Taylor believes Francis to be harmful for the Church. I’ve also noticed, over the last few years, an increasing tendency for Taylor to entertain conspiracy theories, of various kinds, about the Church. All of this concerns me and saddens me.

    I’ve seen these tendencies from many people who helped me to return to the Church ten years ago. Some of them I know personally, and most of them, I don’t. For almost all of them though, they seem to be so deeply convinced of Pope Francis’s non-orthodoxy and harmfulness for the Church, *and* of their own, comparatively more orthodox (in their view) understanding of Catholicism, that I don’t even know how to converse with them about Francis anymore. It honestly makes me deeply sad. They truly believe that they are being faithful Catholics, and Francis is either very problematic, a possible heretic, or both.

    I was being influenced by some of their arguments two years ago– so much so that I considered that, perhaps, maybe they were right in *at least some* of their very deep concerns about the Pope. Now, obviously, I am in a different place, and I see those arguments, and their general stance toward Francis, very, very differently. Far from joining the “resistance,” I see it as a serious problem within the Church. No matter what though, I can’t condemn the hearts and motives of the people in the resistance, because I’m not God, and I don’t know their hearts and motives. They seem, to me, to be sincere, but confused and misguided. (I have been there too.) Lord, have mercy on all of us! We all need it. I know I do!

    • M. says:

      So beautifully said, thank you Christopher. You made my day because you said what I was trying to, but couldn’t find the correct words.

  13. M. says:

    Like you I was also in that camp a few short years ago, or teetering on the edge of it. If it hadn’t been for the fact that someone I love did find a major shift in attitude and faith through reading Pope Francis sermons and writings, well this made me take a closer look. But I can certainly understand the very real pull.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      Pope Francis’s pontificate has taught me many things, and two of the things I have learned (partially through my own humbling experience, and partially through observing the trajectories of certain other Catholics) are that:

      1. Even after ten years of being back in the Church, I am still, basically, *in the beginner’s stage* of learning about the Church, the Faith, and how it all “works.”

      2. Especially as a still-relative “beginner” Catholic, when I am perplexed about a statement or teaching of the Pope (not only Francis, but including him), I need to be as humble as I can, remain open to him, and *not* assume that I have a better grasp on the Catholic faith and how to teach it than he does!

      It took a while for “realization number 1,” above, to really hit home to me with all of its implications, especially regarding the Pope. However, once it *did* really hit home, I was humbled to see just how easy it can be for a bookish Catholic, such as me, who loves to study theology, to fall into the not-exactly-humble (and often unconscious) view that studying the Catholic faith somehow can make one as much, or even more, of a reliable authority on the Catholic faith than the Pope himself! This can be a very easy trap for some Catholics to fall into, and I say that, fully admitting that I had started to fall into it, myself, without really realizing it.

      • M. says:

        Yes, it is hard not to fall into those traps. I know the temptation to look at “this, this and this….and now this!!!” and then just say “He can’t possibly be on the right track, every single darned thing is not the way I would do it, not the way my friends think he should do it, and definitely not the way my “online magisterium” thinks it should have been done or said.” So many times I was tempted to just say “I’m done, just so done with ‘Francis.'” But I noticed something, this sense of sarcasm, anger, and self-righteousness, and had to wonder… where is that coming from? Why do I and others laugh in a sneering way when we talk over “Francis” latest thing. Then I noticed a look in my friend’s eye one day that disturbed me very much. And as I say, someone dear was interiorly changed by reading regularly, his sermons. I knew this sneering sarcasm could not be from the Holy Spirit. Then I found WPI and after awhile of reading here, I knew my niggling doubts about my attitude were something I should have been paying attention to.

        Speaking of…can you recommend, Christopher, any good book for a young person on theology, a very young person with no previous experience learning it, but a natural inclination and great curiosity?

  14. Christopher Lake says:


    So much of what you wrote above resonates with me. As much as I did struggle in the past with certain statements (and also, at times, the silence) from Pope Francis, I was *never* comfortable with the sneering sarcasm that I saw toward him from many of my fellow Catholics… and in time, I saw that *my own* suspicions of, and doubts toward, him were not well-founded, and WPI definitely played a role in that process, as did simply reading more of the Pope’s own writings, *sans* the “takes” of Catholics who seemed, almost reflexively, hostile to him. Whew, that was a long sentence there! 🙂

    About the recommendation of a good theological book for a young person, what is his/her age group? I have some ideas, but I want to make sure that they will be helpful (as much as I can) for the person you have in mind.

    • M. says:

      Oh, thank you, very much- a thirteen year old, who is gifted, but also quite scrupulous. It is most difficult to find anything doctrinally orthodox but that isn’t tainted to some extent with an “overly zealous” focus on teaching about sin, hell, etc. It’s not that I don’t think kids should be taught about sin and hell. But it is very problematic with extremely sensitive children, how to approach it. I’m trying to find a book that can help teach the basics of theology to this girl, who asks deeply, penetrating, questions that make one’s head spin around- and very difficult question to answer carefully to one so young and sensitive. I was thinking a book on theology may help, if it focuses on mercy in a doctrinally orthodox way, without watering things down too much. But I have no idea where to turn. Thank you for any suggestions you may have for me.

      • Christopher Lake says:


        For a sensitive, smart, gifted, and (possibly overly?) scrupulous young person who asks hard questions, it *may* be that what is needed is *not* actually a complex theological work which will attempt to answer every single one of her questions, but maybe, more of a gentle, encouraging, consoling, but still well-grounded and intelligent, book on God’s love and mercy. I say that, because even though I am forty-six, rather than thirteen (the age of your friend), I do struggle with scrupulosity myself, and what has helped *me* more with the struggles and questions and anxieties has *not* been any very high-level academic treatise on theology, but rather, finding more popular-level (and still theologically good) books which who point me back to the basic, bed-rock realities of God’s love and mercy for me, and you, and your young friend.

        Is this young person positively disposed towards Pope Francis? (I truly hope that, especially at the tender age of thirteen, she hasn’t already been influenced by the anti-Francis “resistance” in the Church!!) There is a book by Francis (it’s actually a book-length interview with him) titled The Name of God is Mercy. It might well be helpful for your friend. Actually, though, I would recommend that you buy it, first for yourself, and read it, and then, if *you* find it helpful *for yourself*, buy a copy for her.

        My reason for this recommendation (that you buy and read the book for yourself first) is partially because in our still-few, but very meaningful and substantive, exchanges here at WPI, I’ve gotten the sense that what would be helpful and healing for this young person is the *very same thing* that would probably be helpful and healing for you– which is, to be very deeply assured that *God loves you* and is not searching for a reason to send you, or your young friend, to Hell!

        Of course, God will not force people into Heaven if they *adamantly do not want* to be with Him, but Scripture tells us that He is love. He loves us and wants the best for us– the very best, in fact, which is Himself, in this life, and for eternity. See if you find Pope Francis’s book, The Name of God is Mercy, helpful for you, and if so, either pass your copy on to your friend, or buy one for her.

        Also, are you familiar with the works of Dr. Peter Kreeft? If not, he’s a Catholic philosophy professor who has probably helped me more than any other writer who is not a Pope or a canonized Saint. (Well, ok, Dr. Kreeft *and* the great Anglican, C.S. Lewis!) Many years ago, Dr. Kreeft wrote a book titled The God Who Loves You. I’m not sure of the general reading level that this thirteen-year-old is on, but it might also be helpful for you to read that book, first for yourself, and then, possibly, to give it to your friend.

        A last possible recommendation for this young person, maybe not for now, but possibly, in a few years– The Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, by Dr. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, S.J. This lengthy but very good book is probably on too high of a reading level for your thirteen-year-old friend at this particular point in time, but it will answer virtually any question that anyone could ever have about *both* Catholicism *and* the more basic, ecumenical, “Mere Christianity” of which C.S. Lewis wrote so much and so well! (Have you read Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity? It’s a classic and for good reason!)

  15. M. says:

    My dear Christopher, I feel I have found a friend in you! Thank you from my heart for this response! I will try everything you suggested, yes I am familiar with Dr. Kreeft and love him, of course, and I have read and loved “Mere Christianity.” I think you are correct, that a more general approach will probably be better than something that answers these probing questions “perfectly.” Yes her struggles with scruples are intense, it is called “moral OCD” if you want to google it, and is actually a psychological disorder, not a spiritual one. I but was not familiar with that particular book. I will also order the other two. I think my young friend will be able to read all three, but I shall follow your advice and start with Pope Francis. This child is homeschooled and very gifted, but many of her young friends have sadly already been taught that Francis is an anti-pope and evil. She wisely argues against these ideas, and they will “agree to disagree.” She is having better luck making friends with protestants lately. I think that many people are unaware of just how bad things in Catholic conservative circles have really gotten. Hating Pope Francis or at least, strongly distrusting him, has become a litmus test for orthodoxy among most of my friends. 🙁
    Thank you for your care and peace to you, Christopher!

    • Christopher Lake says:


      You are very welcome, my new friend! 🙂 I truly hope that these books will be helpful, both for you, and for your friend. I am so glad to hear that she has not been taken in and convinced, negatively, by the anti-Francis ideas of her friends. It’s terribly sad– tragic, even!– that many of them have been taught, especially at such young ages, that Pope Francis is an evil anti-Pope! I hope this aspect of their “education” can somehow be undone– but your young friend is probably being wise, at this point in time, to “agree to disagree” with them, if they are not open to hearing her arguments in support of the Pope.

      About Peter Kreeft, his Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, that I mentioned in the earlier reply, is written on what I consider to be at least a university level. (He also has a more ecumenical Handbook of *Christian* Apologetics that has much of the very same text but without the specifically Catholic content.) If your friend isn’t ready for a university-level apologetics book (I definitely would not have been ready for that at thirteen!), Kreeft does have another book, which I believe is written more for junior-high to high-school students, titled Because God is Real: Sixteen Questions, One Answer. I don’t have this book and haven’t read it, but it has received many positive reviews. I don’t know if it has any focused material on God’s mercy, per se, but if your friend would like a book of apologetics, and is not ready for a university-level treatment, this much shorter book may be helpful for her.

      About her moral OCD, given that this is a psychological disorder, and not a spiritual problem (or, at least, not *only* a spiritual problem– I’m sure that it does create terrible spiritual struggles for her), I would seriously hope that she is receiving some kind of professional counseling for it, hopefully, from a qualified, credentialed, Catholic therapist. I’m not asking you to go into any more detail here– I want to protect your friend’s privacy and confidentiality. I just hope that she is receiving the help of a good, qualified therapist. I know, from my own experience, that a good *Catholic* therapist can be hard to find, but if there are few, or none, in her area, perhaps online video counseling, in real time, from a Catholic therapist in another geographical region, could be an option.

      I will be praying for your friend and for you too. God bless you, and peace to you both!

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