I was disappointed, when listening to a recent podcast by Scott Hahn, to hear him say that “Pope Francis practically embodies the new evangelisation”, adding: “I call him ‘the new evangelisation in high definition’” (this was all meant to be praise, in case you’re wondering.)  Come on, Dr Hahn, you can do better than this.  Tell the truth and shame the devil.

Update: In fairness, I should add, now that I have listened to more of the talk, that it was given at the end of 2015 or the start of 2016.

The United Nations has declared February 4th to be the ‘International Day of Human Fraternity’. The date was chosen because it is the date when Pope Francis and the Grand Imam signed that document about how much God approves of there being lots of religions.

{Pope Francis has also just announced that there will be a year dedicated to Amoris Laetitia, starting on the Feast of St Joseph 2021 and ending on June 26th, 2022 – rather a long year. I am afraid this is intended to be a flushing-out and mopping-up of orthodox opposition. However, magna est veritas, and consequently, praevalebit.}

A blessed Feast of St Thomas Becket to all our readers south of the Border.

“[E]ach country also belongs to the foreigner, inasmuch as a territory’s goods must not be denied to a needy person coming from elsewhere.”


Unfortunately, I don’t see how anyone who is aware of the facts can deny that Pope Francis is pertinacious in rejecting various doctrines that are proposed by the Church as truths of divine faith. Despite being urged by many people to do so, he refuses to express his adhesion to the Church’s teaching on matters of general and special morality, and on justification. He continues to promote the errors contrary to these teachings, by word and by deed.

How do we respond to a pope pertinacious in heresy? Unlike the sedevacantists, I don’t believe that the individual Catholic has the right to declare that a pope, or bishop, has lost his office for heresy, and that a new pope needs to be appointed. To have legal force, such a declaration has to come from a body with sufficient legal standing within the Church: the college of bishops or the sanior pars thereof, or the college of cardinals, or perhaps the other patriarchs.

Before such a declaration occurs, does a heretical pope have the right to act as pope? Hardly: a heretic does not have the right to be head of the Catholic Church. In this sense we might perhaps say that such a pope has lost his office ‘before God’, though not yet ‘before the Church’; but I am not sure what authority for such a phrase exists.

Does that mean we have the right to disobey his laws and precepts? No, not as such. Until a proper legal declaration of a pope’s loss of office has been made, the public life of the Church, which is a society governed by law, must surely proceed on the basis that he still holds his office. It may be that if some future pope or council condemns Pope Francis for heresy, that pope or council may also declare that he lost his office from the moment that he began to manifest pertinacity, i.e. from the moment that he began to assert things which he knew to be contrary to what the Church teaches as revealed (and let us remember that he has promoted Holy Communion for the invalidly married from his first Angelus address.)

In that case, the future pope or council would have to decide which of Pope Francis’s actions had been legally valid. I suppose that they would say that jurisdiction had been supplied to him by Christ, Supreme Head of the Church, whenever he had posited an act which pertained directly to the salvation of souls. For example, his episcopal appointments would be judged valid, for if the diocesan bishops were not duly in possession of their sees, they could not give faculties to priests, and so penitents would not have been validly absolved. On the other hand, they could judge that the acts of Pope Francis which did not pertain directly to the salvation of souls had been invalid or at least doubtful: for example, canonisations.

The public life of the Church, then, must be based on that which legally obtains. The private life of Catholics seems like a different matter. If a person is convinced that Pope Francis is pertinacious, and therefore does not have the right to act as head of the Church, I am not sure that he need give any kind of assent to his teachings (I mean, even those teachings which are not open to some other obvious objection.)

Aelianus remarked to me the other day that Pope Francis is not just extraordinarily bad in comparison to other popes, but extraordinarily bad in comparison to other erring popes.  The ohters had some famous error which they favoured under pressure (Liberius, Honorius I), or from an affectation of scholarship (John XXII), or bamboozled by some great name.

With Francis it is different.  Everything is thrown into the Bergoglian liquidizer and comes out unrecognizable: Christology, Mariology, the theology of grace, the ten commandments, marriage, the nature of faith, the nature of tradition.  He seems, we might say, to have no supernatural protection at all.  Is this a sign that his election was invalid?

I don’t think we need conclude this.  It is simply that he is not attempting to use his magisterium.  He is not trying, that is, to declare the truth that has been delivered to the saints once for all from the time of the apostles.  But the power to do this is what the magisterium is.

He does not believe that there is such an unchanging revealed truth, and therefore naturally he does not seek to declare it.  And since the divine protection is given to a pope in the exercise of his magisterium, he does not receive it.

If I had been very publicly and explicitly accused of pertinaciously adhering to seven heresies by a large group of fellow Catholics, including clergy and academics, then I should be keen to explain either that the propositions in question were not heretical or else that I did not hold them.  I should imagine that this would be the reaction of anyone who possessed the Catholic faith.

This is rather obvious.  It is disappointing, then, to see that the mainstream Catholic media have been unwilling to comment on the fact that Pope Francis, more than 8 months after the Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, has refused either to disavow the heresies there ascribed to him, or to explain why they are not heretical, even though he has shown that he is quite aware of the letter in question.  His response, rather has been to say this:

Q. On being a heretic, how do you take that?

A. With a sense of humour, my daughter.

Q. You don’t give it much weight…

A. No, no. Besides I pray for them because they are wrong and, poor people, some of them are manipulated. And who are those who signed? No, really, a sense of humour and I would say tenderness, paternal tenderness. That is, it doesn’t hurt me at all. Hypocrisy and lies hurt me, these, yes, they hurt me. But a mistake like that, where there are even people who have filled their heads with – no, please, you have to take care of them too (from an interview with Valentina Alazraki).

Not exactly a ringing profession of faith.

It is disappointing, as I say, that media such as EWTN, the Catholic Herald or the National Catholic Register, are refusing to pursue this question.  Is this not the kind of thing that Catholic reporters should be doing?

In the days of my youth, before I turned my mind to higher things, I read most of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. In one of its five volumes (I know) there is a minor character called Bowerick Wowbagger, also referred to as Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.   As a result of an accident with a  particle accelerator and a pair of rubber bands, he had become immortal and in consequence found that time began to hang too heavy on his hands. To drive off ennui, he conceives a hobby to occupy himself:

He would insult the Universe. That is, he would insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to grit his teeth over) in alphabetical order

I had long forgotten Wowbagger and his dream, but they came back to my mind not long after the start of the present pontificate. It is true that the part about alphabetical order is missing but apart from that the similarity is striking.  Pope Francis made impressive progress this week in the project of insulting everyone in the universe when he attacked both Americans (“it is an honour to be criticised by them”) and Cardinal Mueller (“he is like a child”).  Pedants might complain that it is cheating to insult a continent at a time, but I think it shows a breadth of vision which can only be admired.


Peters goes for Bellarmine’s view over that of Suarez and Cajetan: “Through heresy notoriously and openly expressed, the Roman Pontiff, should he fall into such, is, by that very fact, and before any declaratory sentence of the Church, deprived of his power of jurisdiction.” However, it seems to me, there is effectively no practical difference as to be heresy the error has to be obstinate and and so the admonition of the Pope’s proper counsellors has the same effect as the declaratory sentence by the same. Peters doesn’t reach this point because he eschews “detailed canonical examination of the mechanics for assessing possible papal heresy”.



If the Pope, being neglectful of his own salvation and that of his brethren, be found useless and remiss in his works, and, more than that, reluctant to do good (which harms himself and others even more), and nonetheless brings down with him innumerable throngs of people … Let no mortal man presume to rebuke him for his faults, for, it being incumbent upon him to judge all, he should be judged by no one, unless he is suddenly caught deviating from the faith…

– Decretum Gratiani, Si Papa, dist 40, ch 6 (attributed to Saint Boniface)



In the case of Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians decided in 1610 by the Court of Common PleasSir Edward Coke held that “in many cases, the common law will controul Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will controul it, and adjudge such Act to be void”. The case and the decision are controversial seeming, as they do, to contradict the doctrine of the Supremacy of Parliament in favour of the supremacy of Common Law. It has been celebrated in the United States as the possible origin of certain elements of US constitutional law. The Common Law in question in Dr Bonham’s case would be the aboriginal Common Law  from which the English Common Law derives its legitimacy the lex naturalis: the light of the Divine Countenance sealed upon human nature itselfIt is indeed the case that laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, contrary to the Natural Law are null and void (although whether the Court of Common Pleas is the competent tribunal to determine the existence of such a conflict is another matter).

How does this relate to the danger of schism in the Church at the present time? Dr Bonham’s case concerned an instance in which a (juridical) person, in this case the College of Physicians, had acted as judge in its own cause. Despite having the authority of an Act of Parliament to do so Sir Edward Coke determined that to act as judge in one’s own cause is so repugnant to reason and natural law that the statutory provisions could not stand.

Cardinal Burke has stated that, if the four Cardinals who have placed the Dubia before Pope Francis concerning Amoris Laetitia and the perennial teaching of the Church continue to receive no reply, he will be compelled to proceed to a “formal act of correction of [the Roman Pontiff in] a serious error”. According to the tradition of the Church if the Roman Pontiff is admonished twice by his proper counsellors for teaching heresy he is separated from the body of the Church and deposed. This is in accordance with the doctrine of St Paul in Titus 3:10 ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid’. The Church cannot avoid the Roman Pontiff so if she were compelled to do so in virtue of Divine Law when such a person were admonished twice he would ipso facto cease to be the Roman Pontiff at the second admonition. Therefore, if a Cardinal were to issue a formal act of correction a process would have begun against Jorge Mario Bergoglio and until the Sacred College formally voted once (if negatively) or twice (if positively) concerning that admonition they would be constituted as the judges in that process.

The Dean of the Roman Rota, Archbishop Pio Vito Pinto, has warned that Pope Francis could strip the four Cardinals of their membership of the Sacred College. There are precedents for such a degradation. However, from the moment a formal act of correction were issued by Cardinal Burke and/or any of his brother Cardinals such a degradation would be null and void. As it is contrary to natural law for anyone to be judge in their own cause, and as ecclesiastical positive law (a fortiori executive edict) cannot validly transgress natural law, it would seem the Pope cannot remove or institute Cardinals from the moment such a process had begun until it is terminated in acquittal, censure or (after a second admonition) deposition. This could, of course, create a serious problem at the next conclave if the Pope seeks to remove or, as even more likely, add members of the Sacred College during such a period.

This is because the potential is created (were the Pope to die before the hypothetical process were terminated) for the appearance of two formally distinct sets of putative Papal electors: the set of those who recognise only the Cardinals appointed prior to the formal act of correction and the set of those those who recognise those created subsequently. If the first group  (or even some of the first group) refused to sit in conclave with ‘Cardinals’ created after the formal act of correction these Cardinals (a sub-set of the first group) would have the right to sit themselves as the only true conclave.

In the midst of the imminent apostasy of the post-conciliar period a hidden schism has developed beneath the external unity of the Church. The first stage in curing any disease is recognising its existence. Perhaps this formal act of correction cannot come soon enough.