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.
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.
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.
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 a founding editor for Where Peter Is.