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Francis Is the Pope

Even if he's a bad one — a really bad one.

January 31, 2023  0


Following up on last week's Vortex — when we talked about misinformation routinely being pumped out by Catholic social media types — it's time to dig a little deeper. One of the routine pieces of misinformation being bandied about is that Jorge Bergoglio is not really the pope. And let's hasten to say this right up front, so everyone is clear: The denial or heavy suggestion that Francis is not the pope is actually part of a larger agenda that is not specifically stated by many of these folks.

Many notable Catholic internet types want to drive people out of the Church and into the arms of the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X and the even more extreme sedevacantist group Society of Saint Pius V. Behind the scenes — meaning they won't come right out and tell you — they are in league with the schism. They will deny it's a schism, or they will say "it's complicated" or "it's not clear" or "there's not really a way to know."

First, those are lies told by them. Behind the scenes, they have cast their lot with schismatics. They just won't come out and tell you because maintaining the illusion of being neutral provides them with a cover to keep advancing this agenda. Make no mistake, they are all on board with the schism — 100% — and they need to have the "you know what" to come out and say it.

Pope John Paul called the SSPX "schismatic" when they broke away from the Church in 1988. Pope Benedict said their problems are "doctrinal," and they have no canonical standing and exercise no "legitimate ministries." Pope Francis, in the accompanying letter to his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes, specifically called the SSPX "the schismatic movement of Msgr. Lefebvre."

That's three popes in a row. So if you have a problem with the schismatic SSPX being called "schismatic," take it up with the popes, not Church Militant. And further, you will never hear these social media "Catholic" outfits ever repeat these declarations of schism by the popes. That would completely derail their "it's-not-very-clear" strategy. 

There is an agenda behind the narrative that Francis is not the pope. Don't fall for it.

Three popes in a row — that's pretty darn clear unless you are being deliberately deceptive with your audience, particularly if there is a financial advantage in being so. The strategy of either flat-out denying Francis is pope or strongly suggesting it (hinting around at it or what have you) is the front for destabilizing people's faith in the Church and raising a doubt.

Once that seed of doubt is planted, then chatter can begin about the legitimacy of "alternatives" to where "the true Church" actually is. The true Church is where She has always been: under the jurisdiction and authority of the pope, even if he is a bad one. History identifies roughly two dozen more popes who have been horrible, bad popes.

Some of that history is captured in a 1950 book titled Pageant of the Popes, by John Farrow. It details the rotten pontificates of the most dastardly men to ever occupy the Throne of St. Peter. Some will argue the book needs updating. Fair enough; that discussion can certainly be had. But no matter how bad Francis is at "poping," it does not make him not the pope, nor does it allow Catholics to leave the Church and join a schism and, most importantly, nor does it allow Catholic internet people — profiting from the confusion that they help foster — to use their websites and platforms to weaken people's faith.

Saint Paul explicitly admonishes people to be extremely careful and patient in dealing with those whose faith is new or weak. The constant hammering on Pope Francis and pointing to the questionable comments, interviews, confusion and all that would have a place with these outfits if it was solely being said to reinforce people's faith. But that's not the case anymore.

It's being used to weaken people's faith, so that they will consider joining a schism — a schism, remember, declared by three successive popes, which they completely gloss over. It's also the reason, when the news broke almost three years ago about the massive leadership-run cover-up of sex abuse in the SSPX, none of these outfits or personalities breathed a word about it — and some actually went on record denying it.

Multiple proofs later, they just ignore it. As to weakening people's faith, how much more weakening could you engage in than to plant sufficient doubt in a person's mind about the legitimacy of Pope Francis than to have a priest walk away from his vows and end his priesthood? Yet that is exactly what has happened at least once.

One Catholic podcaster — who it is, is not that important because so many of them are all beating this same drum — planted sufficient doubt in one priest's mind that he left. Here is the comment directed straight to the internet personality; spoken, it would appear, in support of this podcaster's efforts: "A young priest I know who consumes your content religiously for few years now, at the end of his year of leave of absence has decided to call it quits. He credits it to you opening his eyes to pope Francis. Pray for him."

In another instance, a podcaster actually published an internet poll asking people if they think Bergoglio is actually the pope. Less than half the respondents said yes. A majority were either not sure or said no. This is exactly what these Catholic internet websites and personalities want you to conclude. Because that way, it makes the schismatic SSPX look more attractive, more legitimate — or so the plan goes, anyway.

It is likely the case — although I don't want to pass judgment — but it is likely the case that this all began innocently enough with these folks being disturbed by the constant confusion that is the hallmark of this papacy. On all those scores, check — they are spot on. Rome is in woeful shape right now. The Church, in some way, looks like a dumpster fire with no relief in sight.

Heck, long before these guys started standing in front of their webcams saying these things, it was Church Militant alone pointing to all of it. But unlike them, we never made a hard turn to suggest that going into schism was an acceptable remedy — they do, directly or indirectly. And they are being intellectually dishonest with their viewers and supporters to not just come right out and say, "We think the SSPX is the place to be." Just come out and say it, guys. Be honest instead of squirrely.

They collect loads of money from the pro-SSPX crowd, but they also have the support of many people who do not realize their duplicity. So for them, appearing to sit on the fence and allowing supporters to read between the lines is a good business model. But that's just it — behind the scenes, they don't sit on the fence at all. They are totally down with the schism, whether their motive is ideological or financial or a mix of both.

Schism is never the answer to a crisis.

A large piece of the strategy that drives people into schism is to constantly bash Francis and, without actually saying it directly, maintain he's not the pope. Some will say he's not the pope because Benedict was blackmailed into resigning and therefore was still the real pope. Benedict denied all that nonsense. Others will say Benedict did resign, but the conclave to elect Bergoglio was rigged. So while Benedict was no longer the pope, Francis is not either.

And still others will take the tack that Benedict actually resigned and the conclave was valid, but since Francis got elected, he has become a heretic and, therefore, now is no longer pope. It doesn't matter which of those three roads a person travels down. They each arrive at the same destination: "Francis is not the pope."

Once that seed is planted, the way is paved to now say, "Well then, the Church is no longer the Church and it really resides over here" — in what three popes have said is a schismatic movement. Viewers and supporters must understand how they are being played here. There is an agenda behind the narrative that Francis is not the pope. Don't fall for it.

Not a single cardinal in that conclave that elected him has said the election was invalid, nor that he is no longer the pope. Are there problems? Sure — massive problems, a reign of confusion — without a doubt. But Francis is the pope and the Church is the Church and schism is never the answer to a crisis.

Every heretic and every schismatic in the past 2,000 years thought they were justified and correct in their decision to either form a new church or break away and claim the crisis transferred the authority of the Church to them. It did not. No matter how bad he is, Francis is the pope. And, as he and his predecessors said, the SSPX is in schism. We just wish and pray Francis would stop giving the schismatics and their internet talking heads so much ammunition.

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