Pope Francis: The H Question

Fr John Hunwicke has at his blog 'Liturgical Notes' been running a series (here, here and here), yet unfinished, on the important matter of whether the Pope known as Francis is a heretic. Already he has come to the conclusion that it cannot be the case. As always, Fr John takes a reasonable, razor-sharp, logical and exquisitely light-hearted approach to a serious question and leaves his readers considering some serious implications to mull over.

Without wishing to put words in the mouth of Fr Hunwicke or misinterpret them, I would like to add some questions and thoughts of my own. The Church can only judge as heretics those who are her own. If a Catholic, even a Catholic who had risen to the Office of the Papacy literally believes in nothing then can that person be judged a heretic? Am I being harsh?

Recalling Rorate Caeli's prophetic post on the election of Pope Francis, one phrase stands out:

'Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.'

The pin-point accurate Rorate report on the then unknown figure of Jorge Bergoglio in 2013 elucidates for us just a little the mysterious man who is now on the Chair of Peter. It illustrates that for as long as he has been publicly known, Jorge Bergoglio has been vague, ambiguous, ambitious, self-contradictory, demagogic in his employment of language and that it cannot be said that he has a heterodox magisterium (that he is a heretic) because no real comprehensive magisterium can be found. After four years of Francis, I thoroughly concur with this assessment.

For this reason it is most unhelpful for Francis's most loyal supporters to place too much weight on the teachings of Francis the Pope. Equally, however, the unintelligibility of Jorge Bergoglio's actual beliefs make it very difficult for people to lay the charge of heresy against him. All that is known is that his teaching is 'strange' or even 'foreign'.

Cardinal Maradiaga, has for example, recently laid into Cardinal Burke in a most unseemly manner, a manner unworthy of the Cardinalate, but clearly the Honduran prelate is able to somehow discern in a quite miraculous fashion the magisterium of Francis while to so many it remains enigmatic and utterly confusing. Somehow Cardinal Maradiaga is able to talk in glowing terms of the Pope's 'teaching'. Referring to Cardinal Burke, the Cardinal says:

'“He’s not the magisterium,”...
He goes on...

“The Holy Father is the magisterium, and he’s the one who teaches the whole Church. This other [person] speaks only his own thoughts, which don’t merit further comment.'

All of which begs the question: If someone close to the Pope like Cardinal Maradiaga is able to tell us that Pope Francis is the Magisterium, he must know what Pope Francis's magisterium is. Or perhaps not. I don't. Does anyone else? Perhaps Pope Francis has laid it out to him privately or perhaps more likely there is in operation a secret doctrine so secret that it is passed telepathically by people of like minds. It cannot actually be spoken clearly, pronounced, but it is itself a mysterious 'spirit' that pervades the corridors of no less a place now than the Vatican itself.

It cannot realistically be called the spirit of 'heresy' because in order to be a heretic, you actually have to believe something. It cannot be said to be the spirit of 'apostasy' because in order to be an apostate, you have to have at some point belonged to the Church or professed Her teachings, believing something.

Indeed, not believing in anything of substance provides the individual with a vantage point to look down upon those who do and His Holiness takes advantage of this with relish, yesterday adding to his repertoire of insults the ludicrous charge of 'fanatics' against those who wish to see the Church's teachings - already solemnly defined - proclaimed and championed. Of course, one who believes in nothing can never be called a 'fanatic' because a 'fanatic' has to believe in something in order to believe it fanatically or in a way that people can paint in terms of mental illness and/or an attachment to evil (whatever that is!). Fanatics, remember, are also those who blow up buildings and people for the cause of their religion/beliefs.

Yet the nullification of Jesus's teachings (doctrine) and the Church's teachings (doctrine) which are His own (doctrine) by the believers of nothing, more commonly known as nihilists, requires some assent of belief by those who instigate it. Believing nothing of substance concerning faith and morals, they do at least have to believe one thing - that they are right. And this, it can be said, they believe most passionately. They do believe that they are right, but ask them what they believe and the answer, as all the ends of the earth have heard, will be most confusing, unintelligible.

However, there is one thing they believe you must do and you must believe and that is to adhere to that magisterium which is Pope Francis, even if you don't know what Pope Francis really believes, because he is the Pope and the Pope is right because the Pope is always right. Of course, if a future Pope taught something different to Francis, or suggested he could have been wrong in some areas, that Pope would be wrong in his potentiality, especially if he believes things as Popes previous to Francis have taught. And if that Pope elucidated Catholic teachings in the manner of Cardinal Burke, well, should you follow that Pope's magisterium? I expect that Maradiaga's position would be: If a future Pope believes anything of substance concerning faith and morals and announces it clearly and intelligibility, do not follow him. Right?

The good thing about the dubia submitted by the four Cardinals was that it politely asked His Holiness to enlighten us on what he actually believes concerning the Deposit of Faith. The dubia touched on the nature of divine and objective truth, marriage, morality, you know, a lot of important matters of Catholic teaching. For doing so they are perhaps to be found among the 'ideologues of doctrine', among the 'fanatics' that displease the Pope. So we know that their appeal is not met with much approval by the Pope, but as to what the Pope actually believes, should we really be told that the Pope is the magisterium, while we await news of his magisterium? Perhaps after all, it takes more faith to be a nihilist than it does to be a Catholic.


Cardinal Maradiaga says, “The Holy Father is the magisterium”.
It seems that the good Cardinal is not paying full attention. Pope Francis said, “The Church has its own Magisterium, the Magisterium of the Pope, of the Bishops, of the Councils.”
But, as usual, Pope Francis makes a distinction without in any way clarifying the nature of the distinction. What, to Pope Francis, is the difference between doctrine and ideology? Who can tell?
Liam Ronan said…
Francis believes in one thing and one thing only...himself. He supports all those who fall down in adoration of himself.

"He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." 2 Thessalonians 2:4

I am convinced Francis, the supreme narcissist, prefers himself to God.

I recall that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself once mused on Vladimir Soloviev’s, ‘A Short Tale of the Antichrist’.

Pointing to Soloviev’s recounting of the second temptation of Jesus, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, observed in his 2004 book ‘On the Road toward Christ Jesus’:

“And a phrase of Soloviev’s is illuminating: The Antichrist believes in God, but in the depths of his heart he prefers himself.”
The Bones said…
After I wrote it I did think that also. Yes, they believe in themselves very much so.
Physiocrat said…
Do the utterances and actions of the Pope make a difference at a day-to-day parish level? It seems to me that the answer is that they do. Last November, the Pope visited Sweden to celebrate the 500 years of Martin Luther, a curious thing to do in itself. The ecumenical event at Lund Cathedral was disturbing - as a gaudily coloured cross (think Toys r'Uz) was processed up the aisle. Next day there was a Mass at the football stadium at Malmö. I wrote a blog piece on this <a href="http://physiocrat.blogspot.se/2016/11/some-thoughts-on-popes-visit-to-sweden.html>here.</a>

Unfortunately the recording of the event is no longer available, but the choice of music for the event was heavily loaded with Lutheran hymns, the choice of the diocesan musical director but obviously approved by both the bishop (newly raised to the rank of Cardinal) and the authorities at Rome.

The consequence of this is that it becomes very difficult to object to the widespread use of Lutheran music in parish liturgies, to the point that they are scarcely recognisable as Catholic. At best, the liturgies end up as a kind of musical Mongolian buffet (choice of shush, pizza, curry, fried fish, boiled rice, fried rice, and chips) - lacking in both artistic and theological integrity.

So what Popes say and do have an immediate impact. This raises important questions. The obvious one is whether things are going to get better? Beneath that there are others, because this is not a situation that has arisen since 2013, or even 1960, or 1870, but has been centuries in the making. Yet another is whether this constant focus on, and criticism of, the Pope, is good for the critics' spiritual life? It is better to give up and walk away. It is not as if there is nowhere else to go. The Roman Catholic church is not the only non-Protestant show in town, especially not this town (Gothenburg, Sweden).