Today, I would like to draw your attention to two fantastic pieces published in La Stampa’s “Vatican Insider” page by two notable defenders of this papacy and the Catholic Faith. Both writers have a strong understanding of Catholic ecclesiology as well as the pope’s role as the visible source of unity in our faith.

The first is from theologian Robert Fastiggi, who is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His piece, entitled, “Pope Francis and Papal Authority under Attack,” strips apart the attempts by Francis’s critics to come up with doctrinal justifications for their dissent against the pope.

He writes:

Although prudential papal judgments require attentive consideration, papal teachings on faith and morals must be adhered to with “religious submission of mind and will” even when the pope is not speaking ex cathedra. (Lumen gentium 25). This religious submission “must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence,” and “the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will” (Lumen gentium 25). Many papal critics, however, fail to manifest proper reverence toward Pope Francis’s teaching authority. They appear to trust their own judgments more than they trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the successor of Peter.

Over the past several years a concerted assault on the doctrinal and moral authority of Pope Francis has emerged. After the publication of the Holy Father’s 2016 post-synodal exhortation, Amoris laetitia, the papal critics went into high gear.

In November, 2016, four cardinals made public their dubia submitted to Pope Francis, which implied the Holy Father had departed from the moral doctrine of the Church. Catholic scholars and prelates, however, have defended the orthodoxy of Amoris laetitia and have found that the five dubia are based on misunderstandings of the exhortation as a whole. The critics of Amoris laetitia operate out of a hermeneutic of suspicion rather than the hermeneutic of continuity and reform promoted by Pope Benedict XVI. In September, 2017 a group of scholars publicly issued a Correctio filialis, which responded to Pope Francis’s alleged “propagation of heresies” effected by Amoris laetitia and by his “other words, deeds and omissions.” Unfortunately, this “filial correction” violated the rules for respectful theological discourse laid out in 1990 by Cardinal Ratzinger.

He goes on to chronicle the history of the attacks on the teachings of Pope Francis, and the numerous violations of Catholic doctrine, discipline, and Canon Law that the critics have committed. He goes on to note the coordinated effort to undermine this papacy:

Most of the papal critics seem to have one feature in common: the belief that they know the doctrine of the Church better than the pope. In the fifteenth century, the Conciliarists believed that a general council had authority over the pope. Now the papal critics try to assert their authority over the pope, and they coordinate their efforts via blogs, journals, and other media with the support of wealthy donors (mostly from the USA) and various prelates who dislike Jorge Mario Bergoglio. They look for supposed doctrinal errors and heresies in any document Pope Francis issues, and then they accuse him of failing to address the doctrinal confusions that they themselves have created.

Read it all.

The second piece I want to highlight is Stephen Walford’s call for Catholics from the right and left to unify around Pope Francis. We’ve interviewed Walford before, talking to him about his new book, Pope Francis, the Family, and Divorce (read our review here).

In this piece, entitled, “Stop Ageing Mother Church,” Walford writes:

“My appeal today is concerned with the sin from “left” and “right”; those with agendas that are not in union with the Successor of Peter and thus the Lord. For the past six years especially, it seems that many have fallen prey to the age old satanic temptation of pride; pride to place themselves and their interpretation of Catholic doctrine above that of the Pope. Pride to claim that they hold the true Faith unsullied, or pride to claim that certain moral teachings can be revisited and abandoned.

Alongside that, in the very public arena of social media, there has often been a distinct lack of Christian charity. In fact, how many of these Catholic brothers and sisters realize they break the 5th Commandment regularly, killing reputations with slander or ridicule and quite possibly with full knowledge and complete consent? Do they not realize there will be many wandering souls in search of truth who stumble across these writings and will witness not Tertullian’s “See how they love one another”, but “see how they hate one another”? It has also become apparent that for some, dissent against the Pope has become a business model; profiteering by soiling the beautiful garment of the Church.

We must wake up to the reality that division is growing precisely because many are abandoning unity with Peter. Some will claim it is the Pope who is causing this terrible fracture, but that is not possible. The Lord told us that Peter’s faith would not fail. He is the guarantor of full adherence to the Faith in matters of faith and morals. There are some–even bishops and cardinals–who seem to be attacking those who remain totally loyal and obedient to the Pope, making false claims that they adhere to whatever the Pope says even on matters outside the boundaries of the faith of the Church. Papolatry is a word that in the past few years has been in vogue, and yet it was seldom on the lips of conservatives and traditionalists in the previous two pontificates.”

After describing the extent to which polarization and resistance to the pope and the Magisterium that has occurred in the Church in recent years, he calls for unity and repentance:

The division and back biting must stop. We are all supposed to be servants of the truth in whatever vocation in life we have. The mission of Christian witness we were all given at our baptism did not allow for exemptions from the virtues of mercy, generosity, meekness, or obedience to legitimate Church authority.

Pope Francis needs our love, our prayers, our support and our obedience to his magisterium; he does not need our corrupt judging of his decisions, or our ingratitude for his tireless service. If we do not trust his magisterium, then our issue is not with him but with the Holy Spirit, and that raises questions about our own spiritual lives.

Read it all.

Liked this post? Take a second to support Where Peter Is on Patreon!

Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

Fastiggi and Walford defend Francis and the Church

20 Responses

  1. Anne Lastman says:

    Oh my goodness!!!! Beautiful beautiful beautiful. Thank you so much WPI. Live bring here with you. Thank you for bringing this to us. Beautiful beautiful. I cant stop saying this.

  2. Peter Aiello says:

    Is the Holy Spirit’s guidance of the pope apart from his humility toward God? We all need to be humble towards God in order to receive grace (1Peter 5:5-7). If the pope is not humble towards God, does he receive grace and guidance in spite of that? This is something I wonder about. If humility is required, then there could be a lay person who is getting better guidance from the Holy Spirit than the pope is getting.
    Maybe this is why Vatican II says in Lumen Gentium 12: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, (111) [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth.”

    • Christopher Lake says:


      According to recent surveys, there are now a good many lay Catholics who do not believe the Church’s historic teaching regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. According to your interpretation of Lumen Gentium 12, does this simply mean that there is *is* no authoritative Church teaching on the Real Presence? Or, in your interpretation of Lumen Gentium 12, does the lack of a complete unanimity of belief, among lay Catholics, on the Real Presence, simply mean that the official Church teaching is in error?

      The hard reality is, if one interprets Lumen Gentium 12 in a woodenly literal way, and in contradiction to other Church documents, as you do, then there is virtually no Church teaching that is *not* up for grabs, because there are lay Catholics who disbelieve even the physical Resurrection of Christ. In that light, is it possible “the entire body of the faithful,” in Lumen Gentuim 12, implies, within that phrase, that if Catholics are not willing to ultimately submit their intellect and will to the teaching authority of the Church, they are not actually being “faithful” to Christ, who said to Peter that “you have the keys of the kingdom,” and “what you bound on earth is bound in Heaven. and what you loose on earth is loosed in Heaven”?

    • Jane says:

      Good morning Mr. Aiello, May you receive abundant blessings from Almighty God.

      Did Christ Our Lord tell Peter, that on condition of his humility that he would be the Rock on which He would build His Church? In fact, we could argue if we wanted to have a dissenting and pharissaical attitude, that St. John the Evangelist was more humble than Peter therefore should be Pope instead.

      No, Christ Our Lord said, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build My Church.”

      It’s as though He is once again saying, “You are Francis and upon this Rock I have placed My Authority.”

      Amen, as far as I am concerned.

      Who are WE to decide if our Pope has enough humility to be Pope? Why can’t we all just be humble and obedient as the holy angels of long ago were who said, contrary to the evil angels, ” I WILL SERVE.”

      It is enough for me to know that Pope Francis was legitimately appointed by the College of Cardinals to believe with all my heart that it is the Holy Spirit who gave us our Pope. Therefore, for me to think I have the graces which only Our Holy Father has been given, to be the Pope and therefore decide outside of him what is and what isn’t, would be for me, the absolute height of arrogance and pride.

      God bless you

      And God Bless and keep this wonderful amazing treasure of safe and free from harm for many many days, months and years to come

      • Peter Aiello says:

        The pope has his appointed position in the Church. So do the cardinals and the bishops. All are bishops in various ranks. Jesus saw a quality in Peter that made Him choose Peter for his particular role in the Church. I am in no position to read Jesus’ mind.
        The humility described in 1Peter 5:5-7 is the personal individual humility toward God that we are all supposed to have in order to receive grace from God. James 4:5-10 also speaks of this same humility in similar wording. This humility is not conferred by Holy Orders as far as I know, and it is not conferred by appointment or laying on of hands. Peter tells us to cast all of our care on the Lord. We can only do this individually. I did it while I was walking down a street, and I haven’t been the same since.
        There are functions in the Church that are by appointment; and there are gifts and graces imparted by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. This is the distinction that I was making. V2’s Lumen Gentium 12 says that the special property of not erring in matters of belief happens by the anointing of the Holy One, and applies to the whole people’ supernatural discernment “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful”. This cannot be by appointment because most of us are not under Holy Orders. It appears to happen as part of our individual guidance from the Holy Spirit.
        This is why I was wondering if the strength of this guidance depends more upon our individual humility than it does by being in an appointed position in the Church.

      • Jane says:

        The Holy Father has been appointed for us by the Holy Spirit through the vote from the College of Cardinals. Some who seems to have more humility than the Pope would never place themselves over the Pope. They would willingly and lovingly submit, precisely because they are humble. They would never ever think to challenge him or disobey him or rail against him or mistrust him. Mary, Our Holy Mother, was very much more humble than St. Peter and she willingly and humbly submitted to him.

  3. L. Daily says:

    Thank you for sharing both articles. It is so good to read commentary from authors who think and feel with the Church. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the Church will weather this storm.

    I truly appreciate this quote:

    “It has also become apparent that for some, dissent against the Pope has become a business model; profiteering by soiling the beautiful garment of the Church.”

    It seems to me the American church is struggling under the influence of decades of what I call carpet bagger converts, who make a living marketing their conversion stories and a certain brand of prosperity Christianity and moralizing showmanship. Pope Francis challenges this model by authentically preaching and modeling a poor and merciful pilgrim church. His message, which is Christ’s message, threatens their shtick.

  4. Davide says:

    It seems the Pope himself disagrees with the position that criticizing him is a sin. So he said to the Episcopal Conference of Italian Bishops last year:

    “Ho pensato, dopo avervi ringraziato per tutto il lavoro che fate – è abbastanza! –, di condividere con voi tre mie preoccupazioni, ma non per “bastonarvi”, no, ma per dire che mi preoccupano queste cose, e voi vedete… E per dare a voi la parola così che mi rivolgiate tutte le domande, le ansie, le critiche – non è peccato criticare il Papa qui! Non è peccato, si può fare – e le ispirazioni che portate nel cuore.”

    “I have thought, after thanking you for all the work you do – it’s enough! – to share with you three of my worries, but not to chastise you, no, but to say that these things worry me, and you will see… And to give you my word, so that you will ask me any questions [you wish], any worries, criticisms – it is not a sin to criticize the Pope here! It is not a sin, it can be done – and the inspirations you carry in your heart.”

    Now, I’m no Canon lawyer but I’m pretty sure that if it was a sin to criticize a Pope, heaven would be a pretty sparsely populated place. Pope Francis himself wouldn’t get there by your criteria, and his ghostwriters Fathers Rosica and Spadaro certainly wouldn’t, unless criticising the “Pope Emeritus” or dead Popes doesn’t count. St. Catherine of Siena and St. Athanasius would be waaay down in the depths of hell.

    Obviously criticism of a Pope or any member of the Church in good standing should be done in a spirit of charity and should be formulated as a call to repentance (the Catholic Church does not teach that the Pope can’t sin or express incorrect views when speaking as a private person). But it can and has been done many a time. In fact we Catholics have a moral duty to oppose error. St. Felix III (is every word spoken by a dead Pope also authentic Magisterium or just every word of the currently reigning one?) famously wrote that “Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it.”

    • Jane says:

      We must not forget that St. Catherine of Siena said the following:

      “Even if the Pope were Satan incarnate, we ought not to raise up our heads against him, but calmly lie down to rest on his bosom. He who rebels against our Father is condemned to death, for that which we do to him we do to Christ: we honor Christ if we honor the Pope; we dishonor Christ if we dishonor the Pope. I know very well that many defend themselves by boasting: “They are so corrupt, and work all manner of evil!” But God has commanded that, even if the priests, the pastors, and Christ-on-earth were incarnate devils, we be obedient and subject to them, not for their sakes, but for the sake of God, and out of obedience to Him.” (from

      and another of my favorites:

      The Pope is the guardian of dogma and of morals; he is the custodian of the principles that make families sound, nations great, souls holy; he is the counsellor of princes and of peoples; he is the head under whom no one feels tyrannized because he represents God Himself; he is the supreme father who unites in himself all that may exist that is loving, tender, divine.

      It seems incredible, and is even painful, that there be priests to whom this recommendation must be made, but we are regrettably in our age in this hard, unhappy, situation of having to tell priests: love the Pope!

      And how must the Pope be loved? Non verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. [Not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth – 1 Jn iii, 18] When one loves a person, one tries to adhere in everything to his thoughts, to fulfill his will, to perform his wishes. And if Our Lord Jesus Christ said of Himself, “si quis diligit me, sermonem meum servabit,” [if any one love me, he will keep my word – Jn xiv, 23] therefore, in order to demonstrate our love for the Pope, it is necessary to obey him.

      Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey – that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope.

      This is the cry of a heart filled with pain, that with deep sadness I express, not for your sake, dear brothers, but to deplore, with you, the conduct of so many priests, who not only allow themselves to debate and criticize the wishes of the Pope, but are not embarrassed to reach shameless and blatant disobedience, with so much scandal for the good and with so great damage to souls.

      Saint Pius X
      Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union
      November 18, 1912

  5. David says:

    Good points. This is the danger of the cult-like idolatry of Francis exhibited on this site. Notice one finds little to no mention of Jesus, Revelation- what should be the objects of our devotion and belief- in this piece or by Fastiggi or Walford. But it’s all about Francis and personal allegiance to him. It’s very revealing that any concerns or criticisms are immediately labeled as being personal attacks on Francis, even those that make no mention whatever of him or the papacy. Notice also how they put things in political terms- right vs. left. So it’s not about truth vs. error, it’s pro-Francis or “anti-Francis” and if you pose concerns about whether something is true, part of revelation, about corruption, you’re labeled “anti-Francis” or a papal critic, etc. This cult of personality is, of course, deliberately fostered by Francis himself and his court, which he also did in Argentina, being known as someone who demanded personal allegiance to him and if you didn’t you were an enemy. Isn’t this exactly what we see now and also exhibited by his biggest supporters. Pieces such as walford’s and fastiggi’s are clearly aimed at trying to silence any criticisms, to maintain their denial, by invoking obedience and also employing fallacies and falsities.

    Walford’s but Fastiggi’s piece especially, are generally ad hominem attacks, complete with conspiracy theories- there are wealthy donors paying people to criticize the pope. As usual, there is little to nothing to address the substance of criticisms. Ironically Fastiggi doesn’t realize he admits to the concern when he cites the fact of how problematic it would be to say the Church consistently erred, even just in prudential jugdment, let alone doctrine. Yet this is exactly what we are faced with: that what the Church has proclaimed all along would be consistently mistaken now that Francis is saying the contrary, e.g., communion for adulterers & non-catholics, the death penalty. So how can it be invoked to defend Francis yet dismissed for all his predecessors?!

    A rational reply to all that is happening would be: “we didn’t see anywhere near this kind of concern, to put it mildly, under JPII or B16. Something must be happening under Francis that is causing this, an objective cause. It can’t all be imagined or manufactured, or most people are being duped by the “right-wing” sources. Indeed whatever number of “critics” don’t even belong to such a category and those with concerns go from cardinals on down. When’s the last time a former doctrinal chief of the church had to come out with a separate statement having to remind us what the Church teaches? There also seem to be many more people who have concerns but have not voiced them publicly. Furthermore, this can’t be some right wing conspiracy as the heterodox/progressive crowd admits to much of what is happening, although it’s easy to miss as it’s not in the form of criticism, but for them it’s good. That crowd- both in and outside the Church- clearly sees him as their guy, who is implementing various agenda items of theirs. So is the “left” imaging or manufacturing this too? Something must be happening here.” As a final note, let’s remember, pope francis himself said he might go down as the pope who split the Church, contrary to Walford’s claim that Francis could not be the cause of it, an idea erroneous in theory, for one.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      No, it’s not a sin to criticize the Pope– whether Pope Francis, or any other Pope. St. Catherine of Siena criticized Papal *behavior*. She did not say, or in any way, imply, that any official Papal *teaching* was/is actually heretical. It is a sin for a Catholic think and act, toward Pope Francis, or any other Pope, in a way that is similar to Marcel Lefebvre, to whom now-Saint Pope Paul VI said in 1976, “Unfortunately, the position you have taken is that of an antipope. What can I say? You judged the pope as disloyal to the faith of which he is the supreme guarantor.”

    • Jane says:

      There is no cult-like idolatry of Pope Francis here, just the same attitude of the apostles who merely accepted Christ’s words when He said, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church”

    • Jane says:

      I think if we treated Our Holy Father the way Christ our Savior wants us to treat him, this website would not be necessary. We’d be all going to the local Catholic bookstore, buying our copies of Pope Francis’ exhortations, documents, etc, going home, reading them, understanding them in light of past councils and documents and talking about them with our neighbors, while we strive to implement his words in our homes. On the contrary. . . .

      I am constantly reminded of what Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Adam and Eve allowed trust in their Creator to die when they sinned.”

      I refuse to allow trust in my Creator to die. I trust Him and the one who he sent as His Vicar.

  6. Chris dorf says:

    Calling this site a cult? Really? These are not reputable tactics. Idolizing Pope Francis? Wow.

  7. carn says:

    It is a bit surreal to post these two articles together to show that the critics of Pope Francis are wrong.

    In the first the author links to his own answers to the dubia:

    His answers are:
    No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    So the author of the first article you cite, is someone who claims (and repeated that claim by linking his older article) that Pope Francis teaches regarding dubium 1 “No”.

    The second article states:

    “I think for example, of those who undermine what Pope Francis has clearly taught in Amoris Laetitia and confirmed in several ways since, or those who undermine the power of the papacy to bind and loose- accepting that divine teaching but only on their terms and when they agree it is possible.”

    that those people who do not accept what is taught in AL are part of what ails the Church and – implicitly – should stop doing do.

    And if i am not wrong, Walford considers that Pope Francis teaching implies a “Yes” to dubium 1.

    Accordingly, the first author you cite is – for claiming that dubium 1 is to be answered according to AL with “No” – according to the second author part of the problem – as dubium 1 is to be answered with “Yes” according to AL and anything else is would obviously undermining the teaching of Pope Francis – and should change his behavior.

    Didn’t you notice this before referring to these articles one after another, that their authors seem to disagree about one of the central issues?

  8. Chris dorf says:

    From a recent article:

    German prelate says papal enemies want ‘a new conclave’

    “ROME – A German prelate widely considered to be one of Pope Francis’s closest allies has said the current clerical abuse crisis is being used by papal opponents as a platform to expel Francis from the papacy and to elect a new pontiff that suits their agenda.

    “There are people who simply don’t like this pontificate. They want it to end as soon as possible to then have, so to say, a new conclave. They also want it to go in their favor, so it will have a result that suits their ideas,” said German Cardinal Walter Kasper in a new interview.”

  9. Robert Fastiggi says:

    Dear Mike Lewis,

    Thank you for your kind words about the articles Stephen Walford and I recently published in the Vatican Insider. Let us continue to pray for healing and unity in the Catholic Church in communion with the Holy Father.

    Peace of Christ in the Heart of Mary,
    Robert Fastiggi

Share via
Copy link