In the last several days, many Catholics have been discussing Pope Francis’s comments about a potential schism in the Church, specifically in reference to a movement (in the U.S. Church and elsewhere) that is highly critical of Francis and his teachings. In his comments, Francis described the causes of schism, suggesting that they occur when:

Ideologies enter into doctrine and when doctrine slips into ideology that’s where there’s the possibility of a schism. There’s the ideology of the primacy of a sterile morality regarding the morality of the people of God.

“The ideology of the primacy of a sterile morality” — doesn’t that sound a bit like the “imagisterium” I described earlier this year? This is the false idea that there is some objective standard against which the official magisterial teachings and statements of the pope can be judged by the faithful. These papal critics grant primacy to a “sterile” understanding of doctrine, discipline, and pastoral teaching over the primacy and supremacy of the pope.

Pope Francis’s detractors were quick to reject any insinuation that they have any role in fomenting schism. On Monday, a priest attacked this idea in his homily during EWTN’s daily Mass broadcast, denying that the Holy Father’s “faithful critics” are schismatic.

The notable papal critic Phil Lawler wrote a defiant piece, and speculated on why Francis spoke about the possibility of schism and the reasons why the discussion of schism among the Holy Father’s supporters has increased in recent days. He believes it is part of a scheme:

The most “progressive” Catholics recognize that they cannot engineer the radical changes they want without precipitating a split in the Church. So they want orthodox Catholics to break away first, leaving them free to enact their own revolutionary agenda.

This is not true. Lawler ignores the fact that many of Francis’s supporters can hardly be called “the most progressive.” Speaking for myself, I have no agenda to change Church doctrine or to drive conservatives out of the Church. Ironically, I am trying to call the pope’s detractors to be more orthodox and traditional than their current behavior suggests. I’m calling on them to observe the Church’s traditional teachings on the Primacy of the Successor of Peter and to adhere to the teachings of the ordinary Magisterium with religious assent. My “agenda” — such as it is — is to encourage them to assent to what our Church teaches.

Lawler closes his piece with a repudiation of the suggestion that he and those of his mindset will ever leave the Church:

We are thinking of—and working and praying for—the preservation of Catholic unity, a unity that keeps us in full communion not only with the Bishop of Rome and with our fellow Catholics around the world today, but also with all the faithful Catholics of previous generations. It’s our Church: the Church of the apostles and saint and martyrs and of us poor sinners. We’re not leaving. Hell no; we won’t go.

This piece is missing a very important point. “We’re not leaving” implies that he sees schism as a one-way street: that those who enter into schism always do so voluntarily. Historically, however, that’s not the only way schisms come about. Certainly some schismatic Christian movements have broken ecclesiastical communion by rejecting the concept of papal authority or by repudiating the Catholic Church altogether. But quite often, the official split has been brought about by an official act of the pope. Sometimes schismatics leave, but at other times they’re kicked out.

Two obvious examples where this has happened are the cases of the 20th-century figures Fr. Leonard Feeney and Abp. Marcel Lefebvre. Certainly, neither of these men saw themselves as schismatic (and they certainly have their defenders today), but the Church took action despite their protests. They might have claimed to be defending true Catholic teaching. They might have argued that their suspensions and excommunications were null or unjust. From the official standpoint of Church authority, however, the sanctions against them were applied validly.

Keeping this in mind, one can make a strong argument that one of the main factors that has prevented an actual mini-schism from happening in the US Church thus far has been Francis’s toleration of those who reject his authority and teachings. Indeed, many of these critics seem to be rejecting his papacy outright.

One clear example is Bishop Rene Gracida, Emeritus of Corpus Christi, TX. Bp. Gracida has openly and repeatedly advocated for a new conclave because he believes Francis’s election was invalid. Certainly, that would seem to be an open-and-shut case for excommunication. One might take into consideration his advanced age (96), but he has demonstrated in recent interviews that he is quite lucid and is capable of thinking on his own.

Yet Francis has taken no action against him. He’s still listed as the Bishop Emeritus on the diocesan website, for example.

Gracida is an extreme example, but there are many other theologians, priests, & bishops in the US and elsewhere who have publicly rejected the authority and teachings of the pope, without punishment. (The signatories of the “open letter” to the college of bishops come to mind.)

A few decrees of excommunication for the denial of Francis’s papacy have been given out at the diocesan level, but none, to my knowledge, have come from the Vatican.

Certainly, there have certainly been some professional consequences (John Rist lost his parking pass at a pontifical university, Fr. Thomas Weinandy was forced to step down from a USCCB position as an unpaid consultant, Cardinal Burke has been demoted from various posts), but very few, if any, canonical punishments have been doled out by the Vatican.

And it seems to me that this is clearly a result of Francis’s desire to avert a formal schism.

His most ardent detractors seem oblivious to this. And they certainly aren’t grateful. Then again, who would expect them to be?



Image: Adobe Stock



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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.

The road to schism isn’t a one-way street

60 Responses

  1. Andreas says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the next pope down the line, perhaps cardinal Sarah, will de facto ex communicate or put several of the main actors of this “american pseudo- conservative heresy” under strict supervision.( like putting ETWN under the authority of the US bishop conference) I think a man of cardinal Sarah caliber has very little patience with the kind of sedevacantisme that parts of the church in the US are flirting with. And honestly nothing would please me more!

    • carn says:

      “perhaps cardinal Sarah,”

      It would be wonderful if he punished all those you listed for what they did wrong, cause:

      a) he would do it correctly;
      b) he is able to speak a language that they understand (meaning they understand what they are being punished for); and
      c) he might even answer questions

    • Steve D. says:

      Unlikely. Sarah as pope would be spending most of his time undoing the damage of one Jorge Bergoglio and his Lavender Mafia.

  2. Marthe Lépine says:

    I am worried… but I am glad I live in Canada. But if “they” are kicked out, there will be a very interesting battle. Good that you, I and most Catholics know that the Church will never be overcome by the devil. I cannot remember the exact words, but you know what I wanted to quote.
    By the way, I am going to have to restrain to put any comments on line for the next few weeks. I happen to be a candidate for the Green Party in Canada’s upcoming elections, and some people are scrutinizing anything on line in order to find a shadow of a hint of any statement than can possibly be deemed as not politically correct…

    • Pete Vickery says:

      Sorry to hear about that Marthe, but I’ll look forward to your comments in the future after the elections. You always make good points and I’m sure you would make an excellent public servant. You have charity in your heart which is the greatest virtue. The world needs more public servants like you.

    • carn says:

      “I happen to be a candidate for the Green Party in Canada’s upcoming elections”

      Wish you all the best for living up both to your faith and the duties und responsibilities you might face.

      Especially in case the topic of abortion happens upon you and your political “friends” watch closely what you say and do about it.

  3. jong says:

    I think Pope Francis recent statement daring all the schismatics to come out in the open saying “I am not afraid of schism” is not an aversion rather it’s a declaration of war. Why?
    The Rad Trads had recently launched a campaign called 40 Days Prayer Rally to fight the heresies in the working document of the coming Pan Amazonian Synod and plan to end the 40 days in the Vatican as a form of public showing, in a way you can call it a protest. Pope Francis sees the evil in this plot and anticipated their plan by bravely declaring “I am not afraid of schism”, and call the strategy of Rad Trads as “back-stabbing” him. Like the case of Dr.Marshall posing with Pope Francis “smiling” with his idiot guide to infiltration conspiracy book and then later in his TnT Discussiping Show, Dr.Marshall is back to normal to his evil works of slandering Pope Francis.
    The 40 Days prayer rally by the Rad Trads is clearly a deception of a “schism in disguised of prayer”, how? They are deceiving their followers to offer prayer & fasting to prevent heresies and fight the Magisterium who is according to their embraced Dubia is destroying the Church, but it’s a proven facts that all their criticisms of heresies are all lies & deceptions. The Rad Trads movers knew that Pan Amazonian Synod cannot and will not commit the heresies they are spreading in the media as the Synod is guided by the Holy Spirit, they will later on claimed that heresies was prevented because of their 40 Days prayer rally. This is how “diabolical disorientation” comes into play in deceiving all the Rad Trads followers.
    That’s why Pope Francis publicly dared all of them to come out and fight, as Pope Francis knew that all Cardinals, Bishops and priest infected by the “spirit of Judas” will always conceal themselves and like the devils are afraid to come out to be expose into the Light of Truth.
    Mike, I think Pope Francis since day1 of his papacy is not averting schism but wisely confronting them thru “prayerful silence united with Pope Emeritus BXVI” and occasionally firing “bullet words” in the Media like calling the Trads as “rigid Catholic” that Paul Fahey wonderfully written as deceived Catholic “opposing the Holy Spirit inspirations” and are stuck in embracing an stagnant interpretation of chosen Tradition suited to their assertions. Pope Francis had removed numerous wolves already and had expose all of them, you know who are this wolves in sheep clothing, they are the “apostate of the gospel of Mercy revealed by Jesus” and they have the “spirit of Anti-Christ” who is denying Jesus Christ by willfully denying & opposing the mercy of God which is Jesus made flesh. Apostasy is a willful defection of Divine Truth written in the gospel, and this had been the works of all Schismatics since Vatican II by openly, willfully, repeatedly and continuously opposing the Holy Spirit inspirations in magnifying the Mercy of God. Read the Magnificat, it is a prayer “magnifying the Mercy of God”, but it must be magnify on every soul, and Pope Francis heart is like Mama Mary’s soul beautifully and powerfully magnifying the Face of God, the Mercy of God.
    Pope Francis is not averting but purifying the Church from all schismatics as it is the road predicted by Fr.Joseph Ratzinger and CCC675, the Vatican II Church will be reduced to a small & poor but a more pious church. And Pope Francis affirmed this vision saying “How I wish the Church becomes poor and for the poor”, this is the image of the New Church, a Church showing the Face of God, the Mercy of God to all the poor in spirit, lost and wounded souls seeking healing & forgiveness, The New Church that is destined for victory over satan forces of darkness wears the “cloth of Light” or the cloak of “mercy & compassion” which is the beating heart of the Gospel of Christ. (John1:5)

    • Marie says:

      I must say I feel uncertain. On the one hand, yes Pope Francis is not taking action to avoid a schism, on the other, allowing it to continue, which exposes the dissent behind it, makes me question if Jong is right that time indeed is revealing the real truth behind their actions, therefore clearly separating the genuinely faithful from the wolves in sheep clothing. Perhaps a purification is exactly how it will play out, and in hopes that those initially fooled will come to recognize truth when they see it in action, a smaller Church whose moral and social teachings intertwined show the genuine love of God and neighbour, like Christ has called for all along.

    • Steve D. says:

      Why didn’t Pope Francis answer the simple questions of the Dubia? We wouldn’t be in this situation if he had done so. We all know the answer to that one.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Actually, we might be further along. The CDF issued a reply to 39 dubia sent by Abp. Lefebvre back in the 80s, which they rejected.

        The dubia cardinals have already insisted that they are not open to dialogue or correction of their presumptions regarding Amoris Laetitia. So any response from the pope could provoke them to take drastic action. By not answering, they remain cardinals in good standing and nothing concrete upon which to falsely accuse the Pope Francis of heresy.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Actually, we might be further along. The CDF issued a reply to 39 dubia sent by Abp. Lefebvre back in the 80s, which he rejected.

        The dubia cardinals have already insisted that they are not open to dialogue or correction of their presumptions regarding Amoris Laetitia. So any response from the pope could provoke them to take drastic action. By not answering, they remain cardinals in good standing and nothing concrete upon which to falsely accuse the Pope Francis of heresy.

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        Hello Mike,

        “The CDF issued a reply to 39 dubia sent by Abp. Lefebvre back in the 80s, which they rejected.”

        Some important clarification is needed here: There *was* a response to the 39 dubia sent by Archbp. Lefebvre in 1985, but it was a) a private, unpublished letter; b) by an unnamed theologian; c) not signed by either John Paul II or Cardinal Ratzinger, and d) did not provide direct answers to any of the 39 questions. It remains unclear what status it has, if any at all. To what extent did the CDF authorize it? It’s important to answer that question, if we want to make any determination of just what +Lefebvre or the Society would have been rejecting or accepting.

        Whoever the theologian was, he did make some effort to reconcile what he conceded were “novelties” in Dignitatis Humanae with the previous tradition of the Magisterium on Church and State relations. It has of course since been leaked out – not too hard to find online now – but it remains something of a mystery what the CDF and John Paul II (assuming he knew of it) intended by it as an authoritative response. Because it remained in this kind of private limbo, the debate has gone on about just how to interpret Dignitatis Humanae in the context of the overall tradition, as we can see in the ongoing scrums betweem Martin Rhonheimer, Thomas Pink, Thomas Crean, Robert Miller, Lawrence King, to say nothing of SSPX theologians, et al. There was discussion of this question in the 2010-11 docrinal discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX, but of course none of the proceedings of those talks have made public, even unofficially.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I am aware of the background, and I have seen scans of the typewritten letter (but not a translation into English). I would not expect a response from the Vatican today to be made in the way demanded by the dubia cardinals, either. I think the magisterial promulgation of the Buenos Aires guidelines, along with the pope’s Apostolic Letter was sufficient to clear up any doubts about what AL taught.

      • Pedro Gabriel says:

        You said it is easy to find it online, but I only found this reply to Lefebvre’s dubia in French and Portuguese. Do you know where we can access it in English?

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        Hello Pedro,

        I’ve only seen Part One translated into the English. The rest is, so far as I know, only available in the original French. In grad school I ran into someone who had done his own tranlsation, but he’s never posted it online in any form.

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        Hello Mike,

        “I am aware of the background.”

        I grok that your post was a kind of shorthand, but even so it didn’t seem to me that you were, because it’s difficult to characterize what was sent to +Lefebvre as a “reply.” At, least, it’s misleading. It may seem a pedantic point, but it matters when we’re characterizing the document in question as being “rejected” or “accepted.” However you cut it, and for whatever reason, the Holy See seemed unwilling to insist on a clarification on DH that the archbishop would be required to formally adhere to.

        (This stance seems to have changed in the post-2000 negotiations between Rome and Econe, when the former began to insist on formal adherence to a doctrinal preamble as a prerequisite for any canonical regularization.)

        I also understand that your broader point is the more important one: That issuing a formal, direct reply to the Dubia which gives answers which the writers may find unacceptable could provoke an open, formal schism, as presumably the private theologian reply to Lefebvre’s 1985 dubia sent at the request of CDF provoked him into a break in the form of the 1988 consecrations. Well, in the first place, I would argue that, dismayed as +Lefebvre was by that document, it seems on all accounts to have been less decisive for him than the events at Assisi that same year, which weakens the precedential value of that incident for what is happening now. In the second place, if the Holy Father really does believe that the matter has been official defined now, and intended the response to the Buenos Aires bishops to provide that definition, then fear of schism can hardly trump the need for religious the submission of mind and will demanded by LG 25, if the stakes are really this high. Excomunications can promptly follow.

      • Beatrice M. says:

        To Mike:

        “The dubia cardinals have already insisted that they are not open to dialogue or correction of their presumptions regarding Amoris Laetitia.”

        PROVE IT. You won’t be able to by any words said by them, only, and falsely, by those who would slander them.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Brian Killian quotes Burke rejecting the notion of dialogue in his piece from Friday:

        “Don’t you already know the answers to your five questions?

        And this was Cardinal Burke’s reply:

        Certainly we do. But the important thing is that the pastor of the universal Church, in his office as guardian of the truths of the Faith and promoter of the truths of the faith—that he make clear that, yes, he answers these questions in the same way that the Church answers them.”

        Clearly, Cardinal Burke thinks he knows better than the pope. And he said so in his own words.

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        Hello Mike,

        “Clearly, Cardinal Burke thinks he knows better than the pope. And he said so in his own words.”

        I didn’t want to wade back into this conversation, but I feel compelled to on this point. Cdl. Burke is not operating in a doctrinal *vacuum* here, after all.

        Is there *really* any doubt – any doubt at all – about how any previous pope, up to and including Benedict XVI, would have answered these five questions, on a basic level? More specifically, can we really doubt how either John Paul II or Benedict XVI would have answered after reading Familiaris Consortio, Veritatis Splendor, the 1994 CDF Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, or 2007’s Sacramentum Caritatis?

        It may be fair game to debate the specifics of how His Eminence has conducted himself publicly at various points. But Cardinal Burke has clearly read these documents, and it is not unreasonable for him – or for any other Catholic – to think that the Magisterium *has* spoken, repeatedly and (yes) decisively, on these questions, and done so quite recently, in fact.

        And might it not be that Francis refrains from a formal magisterial formulation at least in large part precisely because he knows it, too?

    • George Palantine says:

      It is a bit weird to claim that praying for the synod, and praying that it does not commit error is in some way bad. If left wing people prayed that a synod under Pope Benedict would not commit sin or heresy, I would say “Fine, knock yourselves out”. But to get upset about it when Francis is the pope under consideration is a bit weird. If praying for non heretical outcomes is now a secret plot to oppose the Pope, we have lost our minds.

  4. Jessica says:

    As an aside, “imagisterium” is my all time favorite portmanteau.

  5. Allen Thrasher says:

    Before I forget let me pont out that an Instrumentum Laboris is not a document of the magisterium and has no authority whatever, and consequently no one is rebellious or otherwise sinful who views it as disastrous, false, or tending to heresy, and further they may with propriety organize prayer campaigns against its being accepted.

  6. Ralph says:

    I suspect that many papal critics actually want to be punished. That would “prove” their assertions about Pope Francis being a “dictator pope” and allow them to claim that they are martyrs for the truth. I think Pope Francis’s critics are probably frustrated by the soft touch he has used with them. I don’t think this is just shrewdness on Pope Francis’s part either, I think he genuinely wants to avoid schism and wants to keep the faithful united and not provoke any more divisions. It is rather sad that most of Pope Francis’s critics have not shown a similar patience and attempt at understanding when it comes to the pope. The fact that so many see Pope Francis and most of his supporters as “progressive” is a good indicator that they are simply not listening to what Pope Francis teaches.

    • George Palantine says:

      Actually, Pope Francis has not used a soft glove on them. He has chosen to ignore them up to now, in the hopes that his control of the media will allow him to get them ignored. This strategy has not succeeded, and now it appears he has told all his followers to come out and oppose them, and to try to call them schismatics.

      This is extremely strange, because the supposed ‘schismatics” have not been talking about schism at all. In fact, the big Pope Francis friends in Germany are the ones actually talking about ignoring papal direction, and subtly indicating they will go off on their own way, no matter what the Pope says.

      The attempt appears to be to link all critics of Francis with the looney right – people like Taylor Marshall, the sedevacantists, the Lefebvrists, etc. All of whom should be thoroughly rejected by any good Catholic.

      However, most of the opposition to Pope Francis does not come from extremist groups. It comes from solid, orthodox Catholics with enough theological knowledge of what the church has always taught, so as to be worried that Pope Francis seems to be departing from Catholic teaching.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        They associate with the extreme end. The line is blurred. Bishop Schneider wrote the Foreword to Marshall’s book (which was published by an organization affiliated with EWTN). Schneider co-wrote the prayer crusade document with Cardinal Burke. Archbishop Chaput invited Burke and Gerald Murray to speak at his cathedral. Where’s the line? It would be nice if someone drew it. Otherwise, they all seem to overlap.

  7. Frank Salvato says:

    Schism is also paved with the soft-heresy of men like Fr. James Martin.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      He has never attacked the pope or denied any Magisterial teaching publicly, to my knowledge.

    • Marie says:

      Frank-it is not a contest between left and right but rather between right and wrong. Right is following Church teaching, all church teaching, including being faithful to the teachings regarding how we are to respond to papal authority. This is a fundamental teaching of our faith. Without it, we are lost.

  8. Jim the Scott says:

    From where I am sitting a schism would come from the German Church led by liberal not from the American one led by conservatives.

    Cardinal Burke said he would NEVER lead a schism. He is no French Archbishop the man has sense.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Abp Lefebvre and Fr. Feeney said the EXACT same thing. And when they were suspended and excommunicated, they insisted that the pope (or the hierarchy, at least) was in schism, not them. Burke has suggested publicly, several times, that he anticipates punishments for his words and actions. Thus far, none have been imposed (at least canonically). He has Francis to thank for that.

      • Jim the Scott says:

        So you want to tell me with a straight face Burke is going to start consecrating bishops in defiance of the orders of Pope Francis like the French Archbishop?

        That does not seem likely. He has obeyed flawlessly till this day. It is what gives him his moral authority

        Fr Feeney called Pius IX himself a heretic for his teaching non-believers by negation could be saved under certain circumstances and he blatantly contradicted the Council of Trent on the efficacy of the Baptism by Desire all to save his novel retrictivist doctrine.

        Abp Lefebvre and Fr. Feeney openly disobeyed & Burke has not. Mere criticism is not disobediance.

        If he is afraid Francis will unjustly excommunicate him (& I am not saying that fear is valid or not) then I count on him to do what Saints in the past have done when unjustly excomunicated. Bear their cross and obey till providence vindicates them.

        If Burke God forbid started consecrating his own Bishop then he can go hang. But I don’t see it happening.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I personally think Cardinal Burke suspects that Francis has abdicated his papacy by teaching heresy. (All the signs are there, and I plan to write on this.) Whether he will do something like join with the “bishops of the world” and declare this in an “official” way — this is what the Nichols letter calls for — probably depends in part on his weighing the pros and cons of doing so.

        If that was to happen, all bets are off. Would he call for a new conclave (of one?) and get himself elected an antipope? Who knows?

        But I think the 2 things holding him back are the fact that Francis has thus far done nothing to stop him, and that it would not be very effective.

      • jong says:

        Mike Lewis
        Pope Francis wisdom is greater than Cardinal Burke et, al.
        It’s no longer hidden that they are trying to oust Pope Francis in every possible means but up to now failed.why?
        The expanded Petrine Ministry plays a crucial role. Some Rad Trads still spreads fake news that Pope Benedict XVI is still the Pope, this scenario prevented them from ousting Pope Francis forcibly and it can only happen thru resignation but this too is a complicated because we will have Two Emeritus. and Satan wont be able to fight two contemplative Popes (Matthew18:19-20)
        Pope BXVI inspired wisdom is so great in expanding the Petrine Ministry as it becomes a great stumbling block to oust Pope Francis.
        Now the only viable option is a “spiritual revolt in a form of Prayer Crusade”.
        The Anti-Christ revolt is well supported biblically and by the Church Fathers teachings based on Thessalonian prophecy.
        Ron Conte’s article help me understand the meaning of the mystical body of the anti-christ or the counterfeit church.
        The Vatican II Church is the “mystical body of Christ” and Her soul is the Holy Spirit. While, the Dubia Cardinals et,al are infected by the Spirit of Christ by denying & opposing the Mercy of God and their followers also were infected by the spirit of anti-christ and the “soul” of the schismatic & rebellious Trads is no other than Satan.
        This is the Final Confrontation two mystical body of Christ one is a counterfeit because it embraces the spirit of Anti-Christ and the Vatican II Church is the True Mystical Body of Christ.(Matthew16:18)
        Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider test run recently their first “spiritual revolt”, but for me personally if the “grand revolt” in the future be allow by Divine Providence the Rad Trads will politically appoint not Burke, not Muller, not Schneider but it will be Ab.Carlo Vigano. And since Ab,Vigano is not canonically qualifed in the conclave of Cardinals, he will be politically appointed as the their New Pope and it wcan be liken to a New Caiaphas that will bring death to the “True Mystical Body of Christ”.
        God is not only a Great Architect of our created universe but also a Great Director in of the human drama towards salvation.
        Show us your face Oh! God, show us your mercy, and Pope Francis is leading us to see the face of God the Mercy of God. (Luke6:36)

  9. Jim the Scott says:

    >The dubia cardinals have already insisted that they are not open to dialogue or correction of their presumptions regarding Amoris Laetitia

    There is no hope then for Catholics. Reading this tells me you lot are just the extremists at Crisis or Church Militant or Lifesite but in reverse.

    The dubia Cardinals said no such thing. You are puting words in their mouths.

    You misrepresent them & Francis haters misrepresent him. Why do I bother? I am almost in despair at this point.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I am not misrepresenting Cardinal Burke, although I suppose he may not speak for the other cardinal(s) who sent the dubia.

      Here is an excerpt from his interview with the Remnant:

      MJM: Now, in a private letter of September 5th to the bishops of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis wrote: “There are no other interpretations of Amoris Laetitia,” other than one admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion in some cases. He is so adamant about this, Your Eminence. So, is it even possible for you to envision a scenario whereby you suddenly discover that you’ve missed something, that the Four Cardinals are misinterpreting it, and that you’d have to concede you were wrong? I mean if that’s not possible, then what is the point of the dubia? Don’t you already know the answers to your five questions?

      Cardinal Burke: Certainly we do. But the important thing is that the pastor of the universal Church, in his office as guardian of the truths of the Faith and promoter of the truths of the faith—that he make clear that, yes, he answers these questions in the same way that the Church answers them. And so what he wrote in that letter simply means that this is his personal understanding of the matter. But that letter hardly could be considered an exercise of the papal magisterium. And so, it’s a painful situation in which to be involved but we simply have to press forward to clarify the matter.


      Does that sound like someone who is open to correction or a position other than the one he currently holds?

      • Jim the Scott says:

        >Does that sound like someone who is open to correction or a position other than the one he currently holds?

        I don’t understand? What does that have to do with being open to dialog or correction? Obviously if I hold possition A and you hold possition not A we are going to come to the table with those views. But how does anything he said above negate the possibility he might persuade Francis to another course or Francis might persuade him given one or the other gives a persuasive argument?

        By that reasoning Pope St Gregory VII should not have talked too Berangarious of Tour and convinced him to accept the real presence?

        Or the flip side. Someone likely presuaded Pope John XXII he was wrong as he recanted his view?

        I’ll leave you to yer conscience to mull that over. Judge not least ye be judged…just saying….

      • carn says:

        “sound like someone” NOT EQUAL TO “have already insisted”


        You misrepresent his words.

        Especially problematic is that you consider what something “sounds” like to you as a 100% totally accurate fact in need of no further investigation or evidence.

        The mostly likely road to schism i see is that some pope critics says something A, which then “sounds” to “Team Francis” as if he said schismatic and/or heretic B, “Tram Francis” pushes Pope Francis to punish the critic for allegedly saying B, critics object that cause they said A, and receive some official “admit your mistake of saying B and repent or …”, which critics cannot comply to cause they said A and from there it escalates.

        But i admit that the likelihood of the path is reduced to some extent thanks to Pope Francis not being a fan of strict discipline and punishing people.

      • jong says:

        The craziest thing the Rad Trads embraced is the accusation that Pope Francis is the one committing “schism” and not them. This is how far their craziness go..Read Canon751 definition on “schism” and how the Rad Trads make a new definition of “schism” according to their crazy mind. If your not familiar to the term “diabolical disorientation”. I wil give an example; this Our Lady words to Fr.Gobbi blue book;

        “Today, as darkness descends upon everything and error spreads more and more in the Church, you should direct all people to that fount from which Jesus causes his words of truth to issue forth: the Gospel entrusted to the hierarchical Church, that is to say, the Pope and the Bishops united to him. Not to individual Priests, not to individual Bishops; but only to those Priests and Bishops who are united with the Pope. Today, as Mother of the Church, how deeply the scandal, even of Bishops who do not obey the Vicar of my Son and who sweep a great number of my poor children along the path of error, wounds and pains my Heart. And therefore you should at this time proclaim to all by your words that Jesus has made Peter alone the foundation of his Church and the infallible guardian of truth. Today whoever is not with the Pope will not succeed in remaining in the truth. The seductions of the Evil One have become so insidious and dangerous that they are succeeding in deceiving almost anyone. Here even the good can fall. Here even the masters and the wise ones can fall. Here even the Priests and the Bishops can fall.
        Those will never fall who are always with the Pope. This is why I want to make you a disciplined and attentive cohort, obedient and docile even to the desires of this first of my beloved sons, the Vicar of my Jesus. ” ( Fr.Gobbi’s book “To the Priest, Our Lady’s beloved sons”)

        Pope Francis is in “schism” with the 2000 years Tradition & Doctrines of the Church, now how crazy this definition is when the Dogma of Pastor Aeternus and from CCC83 to CCC95 clearly stated that the Church Magisterium is guided by the Holy Spirit in all it’s actions & teachings it cannot err.

      • Beatrice M. says:

        Jong — Absolutely NOTHING of what Father Gobbi has said in regards to his experiences, NOTHING in the “blue book”, NOTHING about the whole situation has been validated or approved by any authority of the Catholic Church. So, using questionable material as proof of your OPINION holds no weight or credibiliy.

  10. Jim the Scott says:


    >I personally think Cardinal Burke suspects that Francis has abdicated his papacy by teaching heresy. (All the signs are there, and I plan to write on this.)

    Without seeing his actual words it is foolish to judge. Also the doctrine that a heretical Pope looses his office only applies to a hypothetical Pope who formally joins another religion or schismatic Church either openly or secretly.

    I seem to recall the Pope who taught this doctrine (whose name escapes me) was afraid(the fear where unfounded) one of his rivals a reform minded Cardinal Post Reformation was a secret Lutheran.

    So unless Burke can produce video tape of Francis being recieved into the Episcopal Church by the Archbishop of Canteberry or reciting the Muslim Shaada at a Mosque then there is no grounds for this & I think Burke knows this.

    Give him credit he is a formitable theologian in his own right and supporter of St John Paul II

    Additionally if Pope Francis believes any errors I suspect he will do what he is doing now. Say nothing. I can live with that.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      Is he a theologian? I know he’s an accomplished canon lawyer, but I have never seen anything suggesting he’s regarded as a theologian of any note. I think he has an STB in theology (as do most priests who study at pontifical universities), but his advanced studies are in canon law.

      But regarding his opinion on the validity of Francis’s papacy. I have reviewed his actual words, and my conclusion is based on them. I’ve been following this closely. I’m not being rash. At the very least, I believe what he’s said requires clarification (and I have written him privately in this regard, with no response).

      • Jim the Scott says:

        Excuse me but I taked to people on the other side who claim to have read Pope Francis’ words with the same scruteny and are convinced he is teaching heresy or secretly harbors a heretical view or malignent intent.

        Doesn’t Cardinal Burke merit the same charitable reading we owe the Holy Father?

        So you will forgive me for being skeptical. I’ve heard this all before….

        Anyway unless Cardinal Burke’s actions are schismatic you owe him a charitable interpretation. The same as the other side owes Francis.

        I am sick out of me arse of all the minging nonsense and poop being thrown by both sides. It is like our sick political discourse has infected the Church and the Church should be pure of it.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I will lay out my case. You can let me know if you think it’s total hogwash. I don’t think it’s a matter of him secretly holding a view. I think he’s clearly stated what he thinks, and if you put the pieces together, there’s really no other way to look at it.

        I’ve SUSPECTED that he’s believed this since 2016. I never said anything publicly until his Patrick Coffin interview put the final pieces in place.

      • George Palantine says:

        I think you will fail miserably if you propose to say that Burke’s position is that Francis has abdicated the papacy. I have never heard him say that, even remotely. It is true that many weirdo web sites, such as Steve Skojec’s, sometimes entertain speculation of that type and in his comments section, that position is almost a majority position. But Burke has never said that Francis is no longer Pope. As a matter of fact Athanasius Schneider issued an article telling everyone to forget that kind of talk, since it is all based on weird interpretations of non magisterial theological speculation.

      • George Palantine says:

        Well, here is what Burke said on Patrick Coffin. Now, Coffin is a bit of a goof who thinks that it may well be true that Pope Francis is not really pope. He apparently is open to this idea because of Gracia. But as you note Gracia is retired, is 96, and no one else in the real world believes in this sort of nuttiness.

        Here is what Burke said on Patrick Coffin

        Rome Life Forum in Rome, May 18, 2018.Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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        NEWSCATHOLIC CHURCHFri Aug 23, 2019 – 4:00 pm EST

        Cardinal Burke responds to questions about the validity of Pope Francis’ election
        Catholic, Pope Francis, Raymond Burke

        August 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke has responded to questions about the validity Pope Francis’ papacy in light of revelations by cardinal electors suggesting that there was an organized campaign to secure his election.

        The cardinal, who is an expert in canon law and is former head of the Vatican’s highest court, spoke to the issue in an interview on The Patrick Coffin Show that aired August 13. (See the discussion beginning at 19:24.)

        Coffin asked: “Some Catholics are wondering if it’s permissible to investigate at least whether or not the 1995 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis by St. John Paul II — who laid down norms for future papal conclaves — whether those rules were violated and whether or not the whole election of Pope Francis might be invalid. Is there any foundation to that speculation?”

        The apostolic constitution prescribes how papal elections are to take place and suggests that an election would be invalid if it contravened the constitution. Paragraph 76 of the document reads: “Should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present Constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason null and void, without any need for a declaration on the matter; consequently, it confers no right on the one elected.”

        Cardinal Burke responded to Coffin, saying: “The only grounds that I think could be used for calling into question the validity of the election would be if the election was organized by a campaign beforehand which is strictly forbidden and that would be very difficult to demonstrate.”

        “People talk about this extra ballot that was taken, but I’ve studied that question and I don’t see that it would in any way call into question the validity of the election,” Cardinal Burke added.

        Cardinal Burke said: “There are declarations that were made by the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the Archbishop of Brussels and Mechelin, who talks about this Sankt Gallen group and how they were meeting first to oppose Pope Saint John Paul II and … continued to be very opposed to Pope Benedict XVI.”

        “The autobiographer of the late Cormac Murphy-O’Connor talks about this and there are indications, but I think if it could be demonstrated that these persons engaged in an active campaign to first undermine Pope Benedict XVI and at the same time to engineer the election of someone who will be radically different, that could be an argument,” he added.

        “I don’t think that I have in hand the facts, and they have to be facts, demonstrable facts, to prove that. But that’s all I could say about that.”

        He is merely examining the case that can be made for such a proposition, just as a careful lawyer examines the case for the opposing side. He notes that NO ONE has come up with the facts that would establish an invalid election. That is Burkes position on the validity of the election. Now, if somehow the facts were to change, and it could be proven that someone really did tamper with the election, of course the conclusion would change. That is all he is saying.

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        “Theologian” might be tricky to define in this context. What counts? How much do credentials and published work count?

        +Burke has clearly had significant theological education, not just in his seminary formation, but also with an STB and MA in theology from the Gregorianum. But it’s also true that his terminal degree in in canon law, and almost all of his published work, and specialized professional experience, has been in canon law.

        I think he’s formed and educated enough to “do” theology, and teach it, and from time to time he has, but I don’t think you’re wrong to think of him as being, mainly, a canonist.

        That aside: Is it really your position that +Burke is now a sedevacantist?

      • Mike Lewis says:

        I believe, based on the statements he has made, that he is doubtful of the legitimacy of Francis’s papacy.

        It’s complicated – until an official “juridical act” that officially confirm that this has happened, he is operating under the presumption that Francis is the pope.

        He has also left open a couple of windows of possibility, that with “clarifications” by Francis, could change his mind (such as answering the dubia in the way Burke wants it to be answered, etc.)

        Burke has stated a number of times that he believes a pope immediately loses his office upon promulgating heresy. He has also stated, on the record, that he believes that the Buenos Aires guidelines for Amoris Laetitia are heretical.

        He hasn’t put those two ideas together in the same statement, but the math isn’t difficult.

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        Hello Mike,

        “He hasn’t put those two ideas together in the same statement, but the math isn’t difficult.”

        I don’t know +Burke well. But my sense to date us that he will always find a way to avoid doing that math, because he seems exceedingly unwilling to grant the necessary minor premise, to wit: that Francis has or will promulgate “heresy.” As he put it in a 2017 interview with The Remant: “Formal heresy: did the person—namely the person of the pope who wrote the document—intend to proclaim heretical teachings? And the last thing, I don’t believe myself at all.” I think he’s always going to find a way to set the bar for “promulgate” to be very, very high, and as such he will continue to frustrate some traditionalists.

        Now, I could *possibly* see Caffara having been more willing to venture down that road; but be that or no, death spared him that choice.

        I could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        The path was laid out by the open letter to the college of bishops, signed by Aidan Nichols and others. In an interview with Raymond Arroyo shortly after the letter was released, he didn’t reject the letter in any way. He seemed intimately familiar with it and its signatories, especially the details of the repercussions suffered by John Rist for signing.

        In her 4-part exposé of the US conservative resistance movement against Francis, Heidi Schlumpf stated that the open letter was stage 3 of a 5-part process. Assuming this is accurate, stages 4 and 5 were laid out by the letter: first, the bishops of the world would call Francis to account and ask him for clarification. If he refused, the bishops of the world would then declare him to have abdicated and call for a new conclave.

        Will this happen? If it only Burke and 2-3 bishops from Kazakhstan are willing to make the “official pronouncement,” I expect that they’d back off. There’s simply too much skin in the game – too much to lose if only a handful of obscure bishops did it. They’d be laughed off and likely find themselves excommunicated.

        I will grant you, however, that Burke has made an extraordinary effort to explain away much of Francis’s teaching as simply personal opinion, rather than magisterial. His initial response to AL was that Francis didn’t intend for it to be an act of the Magisterium. He’s argued that documents such as the Buenos Aires guidelines and synodal documents cannot be elevated to Magisterium by their nature. And I’ve gone through the death penalty teaching in great depth.

        It could be that he’s in total denial, but he’s an intelligent man. It’s certainly desperate.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Fwiw, In the Patrick Coffin interview, you can hear him explicitly state that he believes that if Amoris Laetitia does indeed allow the sacraments in the exceptional circumstances that have been discussed, that it is unquestionably heretical.

        I suppose some are still in denial of what AL allows in extraordinary cases, but is Cardinal Burke really one of them?

      • Richard Malcolm says:

        “If it only Burke and 2-3 bishops from Kazakhstan are willing to make the “official pronouncement,” I expect that they’d back off. There’s simply too much skin in the game – too much to lose if only a handful of obscure bishops did it. They’d be laughed off and likely find themselves excommunicated.”

        I’m not sure just how good Schlumpf’s sources are, but I would not disagree with this, actually, and I think it dovetails with the speculation about why Burke refused to proceed with the “formal correction,” since he was – it is said – the only cardinal potentially willing to sign it.

        In our age it is extraordinarily difficult to reach this level of the hierarchy without some powerful instincts for caution. Burke has been more vocal than most, but it is also clear – so far, at least – that he is not quite the kind of risk taker that Lefebvre, de Castro Meyer, or even Schneider were/are. I honestly do think that the alternative – of granting the minor premise of “promulgation” – is one he genuinely is reluctant to embrace, and I have the sense that we may not be quite so far apart in that assessment. For the time being, at least.

    • jong says:

      Jim the Scott
      The schismatic action of Cardinal Burke is too obvious to give him the benefit of the doubt. Mike Lewis recent article is a solid proof that he is violating Canon751, Canon752 and Lumen Gentium25 spreading confusions that changes in CCC2267 are just personal opinion of Pope Francis.
      This is how “diabolical disorientation” works in the rigid Trads, the article clearly put in the link of the “audio interview” wherein Cardinal Burke was caught, and I have no doubt that you already read the article of Mike but still here you are saying that Cardinal Burke had not done anything to harm the Church. Are you blind to the Truth? since 2016 the Dubia Cardinals are violating the guidelines of Donum Veritatis and even Cardinal Muller himself had warned all of them not to make a public dissent.
      But the unfortunate thing is, Cardinal Muller contradicted his own words by publishing his own Manifesto after Pope Francis removed him from his post..
      Cardinal Burke, Ab.Vigano, Cardinal Muller, Cardinal Brandmuller, Bishop Scheiner, etc..this Cardinals & Bishops are committing schism openly but denying their actions as schism. This cardinals are the ones committing heresy and apostasy but they are projecting their schismatic errors to Pope Francis.
      They are employing “snake tactics” of denying their evil actions eventhough it is very obvious, and their followers suffering from “diabolical disorientation” believes their words are the Truth.
      One simple question, when a Cardinal denies & oppose the Mercy of God, is that an apostasy of the Gospel? YES, it is not only an apostasy but it is a clear indication that all this Dubia Cardinals and Dissenting Bishops & priest are infected by the “Spirit of Anti-Christ”, who will deny Jesus Incarnation, how? Jesus is Divine Mercy “made flesh”, and when we deny the Mercy of God on LGBTQ, couples in irregular union, other faith & religions, even tribal people like the Amazon, etc. then we are directly committing apostasy.
      But since Cardinal Burke et,al wanted to project their apostasy to Pope Francis they are continuously feeding their followers of Fake News to sow confusions and Dubia. This has been their evil strategy since Day1, and it is very simple to discern if we heed the call to conversion and not stay rigid.

      • Beatrice M. says:

        The role of the Pope is to SAFEGUARD the faith, NOT to make it over in his own image. Changing a teaching of the Church, a teaching that has been unchanged for many centuries, is suspicious. Would our Lord have HIS Church teach error for these entire 2000 years? ALL of the recent Popes have affirmed the teaching as stated in the CCC, pre-Francis. Were they wrong and Pope Francis, alone, is right? Come on. Use your brain. Has every other Pope taught error when speaking about the death penalty? Then Francis comes along and “saves the day”? No. He changed the CCC because: 1. He has absolute power and cannot be stopped; 2. It’s HIS opinion, and HIS opinion is all that matters; 3. He has absolutely NO respect for our previous Popes, feels no need to obey them – though we better obey HIM- nor does he believe in all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. No problem; since his opinions do not conform to the Church’s teachings, he’ll make the teachings conform to HIS opinion. True arrogance.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Your hatred of the Holy Father is duly noted. His revision to the Catechism on the death penalty has been explained and defended on this site many times.

  11. Chris dorf says:

    I don’t agree that both sides are flinging poop. It’s like when they say both Republican and Democratic parties back the same way in the United States and that just is not true if one is honest. So I don’t agree that both sides are playing dirty.

  12. Jim the Scott says:

    Well Mike I will read it and give you my honest opinion.


  13. Manuel Dauvin says:

    It is not the integrity of the cardinal that matters here. Nor even the integrity of the pope. It is the authority that is guarded by divine promise that sets the scales of judgement. The authority resides in the Living magisterium.
    If Burke is planting seeds of distrust in the living vicar’s judgements on faith morals and even discipline then he is being led, unknowingly, by evil forces. They will lead him out of the protection of grace into a fall. ..from which I hope he has the humility to repent.
    Plain and simple. The pope is leading…no one is being asked to sin. …we must follow.
    Gospel today on call of Matthew. Why does your master eat with taxcollectors and sinners. It is the sick who need a physician. Francis has a precedent for his “troubling” mercy.
    Burke has precedents for his tendencies as well…and schism is a possible vector.

  14. Tony Phillips says:

    Schism is sad, but there are worse things than schism. If I were a Catholic bishop, I’d be talking to my lawyers, to get very clear exactly who owns the property. Why? Because the pope thinks he can depose other bishops.

    Let’s face it–we’re all schismatic. The Orthodox are schismatic, from our perspective, but we’re schismatic from theirs. Ideally I (were I a bishop) would want to be in communion with other bishops, especially those of ancient patriarchal sees, the see of Rome in particular. But what choice have you got when one of those bishops crosses the line? Sometimes ,man kann nicht anders.’

    And that happens. We’ve had heretical bishops before; we’ve had heretical popes before. But I a positive kind of guy, and I’m always looking for the silver lining. In a church which foolishly capitulated to Pius IX’s notion of infallibility, I’m grateful to Pope Francis for showing us how truly fallible a pope can actually be. And I must say I’ve never felt as much empathy for Martin Luther as I have under this pontificate. So that’s what he felt like!

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