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Catholics Smacking Down Patrick Coffin and His Pope Denial

Francis is bad, but he is the pope.

May 19, 2023  0


Controversy continues swirling around Pope Francis regarding whether he is actually the pope or not.

And these questions are being fueled by online Catholic personalities who are either 1) misinformed, 2) poorly educated, or 3) a grifter happy to profit monetarily by keeping the fires of controversy stoked and all the clickbait they get from it.

Of course, it could also be some combination of those factors, but whatever the case, they keep the question of Francis' legitimacy alive.

And then, every now and then, the controversy erupts in a very pointed way. For example, Catholic internet personality Patrick Coffin has begun an online effort called "Hope Is Fuel," wherein he presents to Catholics (although anyone is welcome, presumably) various topics and speakers about the Faith and its application in all sorts of areas (mental health, for example).

But in the last week or so, various speakers and hosts began dropping out and stepping down from being presenters because of, according to them, Coffin's claim that Pope Francis is not really the pope.

If he is not the pope, then who is?

Of course, the problem with that claim — and there are many problems with it — is that if he is not the pope, then who is, or is there a pope at all, and, if not, how would we ever get another pope? The Church would descend into anarchy and completely splinter apart if this were the case.

It is a very dangerous proposition to claim there is no pope when there is a man in the office who actually is the pope — and recognizing this danger is why various speakers have stepped aside from Coffin's Hope Is Fuel online effort.

Coffin, for his part, has tried to blunt the criticism, saying he is not saying there is no pope (the official term for which is "sedevacantism," Latin for "the chair is empty"). He maintains instead that it's just that Francis is an antipope.

There are a couple of problems here. First, that is not what he maintained immediately following Pope Benedict's death.

Here's his tweet: "The pope (Benedict) has entered eternity, RIP. The impeded See is now empty. May the pre-2013 cardinals do the right thing and avoid yet another antipope."

To say "the See is now empty" is the very definition of sedevacantism.

And further, to claim that Francis is an antipope underscores this by accusing Francis of being a false claimant to the Chair of Peter. So Coffin clearly believes from his own tweet that it's not just the case that Francis is an antipope, but that there is, in fact, no pope. That's why, again, various speakers have left the conference. 

It's kind of hard to square any anti-Catholic position as being "Catholic." It's the very principle at play for why we all think Nancy and Biden, along with many others, should be excommunicated. But within the Catholic internet world there are many bigger-name types who believe this, but are not quite so public and out there with it as Coffin. 

They secretly cheer the idea and promote by innuendo that Francis is, in fact, not the pope, and what's more, they get at it from different starting points. But all of them end up at the same conclusion.

Here are three separate arguments they use or imply or suggest or let hang in the air because it benefits their agenda or bottom line.

They do not believe PF is the pope because:

  1. The resignation of Benedict was "not valid" 
  2. The resignation was valid, but the 2013 conclave that elected Bergoglio was "rigged" and, therefore, his election was "invalid"
  3. The resignation was valid, the conclave was also valid and, therefore, legit, but Francis, after being validly elected, is now a "heretic" and therefore "forfeited" the papacy

Depending on who you are on the Catholic internet scene, you jump into the stream of "Francis is not pope" at various points, either before, during or after his election, but the current takes you to the same point: Francis ain't the pope.

For the record, supporters and promoters of the "Francis was validly elected but is now a heretic position" are fond of quoting saints who say holding or preaching heresy disqualifies a man from being pope, without mentioning the opposing arguments from other saints and doctors who say just the opposite.

That point has never been settled in Church teaching, and for some public figures in the Church to pretend it is, is either very dishonest or massively uninformed.

In either case, they should not be presenting erroneous information to people because they simply like the conclusion because it suits their agenda of claiming some kind of strange moral high ground. Saints argued over this, but the talking heads lie to you and deceive you and allow you to think all the saints and doctors agreed. Far from it.

Those who do not know should not speak.

But in the days of the internet — well, enough said.

Another point here is this: Small-minded Catholic internet personalities can't seem to grasp that a man cannot be both pope and antipope at the same time. Coffin and various of his Catholic internet-celebrity buddies like to leave this claim floating around out there as well and, consequently, add to the confusion, just like Pope Francis adds to the confusion.

They employ his exact same method, confusion, and they denounce him for confusing people. An antipope is a false claimant to the Chair of St. Peter. You cannot hold the position (which is done as a dodge, to avoid being accused of being a sedevacantist) that man is both pope and antipope.

He is either the pope or he is not.

They deliberately conflate the notion of a "bad" pope with the idea of an antipope as though they are just different ways of saying the same thing. They are in no way related. We have had many bad popes in 2,000 years. But they were not antipopes. They were legitimate popes; they just sucked.

Likewise, we have had many antipopes in 2,000 years, but they were never the actual pope. They were the "not pope," the anti-pope. See how that works?

Bad pope does not equal antipope. They are two entirely different things.

Why is all this, any of this, so constantly bandied about in some Catholic circles? Because of the confusion that the validly elected — and still valid — Pope Francis has created by his own constant statements and appointments and so forth.

They deliberately conflate the notion of a 'bad' pope with the idea of an antipope.

That said, it is not Catholic to move from that truth to suggest that he either never was, or no longer is the actual pope, and then construct a cottage industry whereby you get clicks and money and notoriety by pushing any of those three lines of thought, which each arrive at the same conclusion.

Francis is a crappy pope. No doubt. Church Militant was actually the first Catholic media outlet to publicly call for him to resign from the papacy, and we did it not once but twice. But nowhere did we or do we make the claim that he is not the pope, and those who do (however they pretend to argue to it) are doing tremendous damage to those who have weak faith.

They are unnecessarily planting seeds of doubt into people's minds that the Devil can then cultivate and use to destroy their faith. 

And for what? Some more clicks and revenue-generating controversy, or as a phony reason to excuse going into schism and pretending it's not schism?

Supporting schism, claiming the pope isn't really the pope for whatever reason, is no way for faithful Catholics to respond to the current crisis, even if some of it is fueled by the pope himself. Such people need to be mindful of this: Francis will one day, likely soon, no longer be the pope.

You best make sure that the scorched earth approach you are fanning the flames of does not leave so many souls in spiritual turmoil that they refuse to accept the next pope as well.

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