What can we offer the world? ‘Not much’ according to Mr. Lewis

June 8, 2021 (Steven O’Reilly) – Mike Lewis over at Where Peter Is has offered his ruminations on the state and future of evangelization. The lengthy essay (4,600 words plus) ponders “What can we offer the world?”  The question Mr. Lewis wants to set before the reader is how to best evangelize in the world as it is now, where there is a “cultural division between the Catholic Church and Western society—especially on moral issues—is as wide as it has been since the rise of Christendom.” This similarly lengthy essay is my critique of and response to Mr. Lewis’ article.

The Question: “What can we (the Church) offer the world?”

The “dictatorship of relativism” about which Pope Benedict XVI once warned the Church no longer exists according to Mr. Lewis. Instead, he claims, today’s progressives are not “relativists” because they “subscribe to moral dogmas just as strongly as Catholics do.” I disagree with Mr. Lewis’ view that the “dictatorship of relativism” has “fallen and been replaced.” Progressive “orthodoxy” is not a fixed thing. Not being firmly fixed to any true Christian or philosophic principle, it shifts over time in the direction of greater and greater error. 

Regardless, it is fair to say the Church has not done a good job over the last several decades in evangelizing the outside word or catechizing its own members. How does the Church evangelize then in the world as it is now? Mr. Lewis begins by citing Pope Paul VI. Mr. Lewis says:

In his 1975 encyclical, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Saint Paul VI reminded us that the Church “exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace” (14). Later in the encyclical, he explained the importance of changing our approach to evangelization when situations require it. He wrote, “This question of ‘how to evangelize’ is permanently relevant, because the methods of evangelizing vary according to the different circumstances of time, place and culture” (40).

It is unfortunate that in quoting Evangelii Nuntiandi that Mr. Lewis did not quote Pope Paul VI’s very next line: “On us particularly, the pastors of the Church, rests the responsibility for reshaping with boldness and wisdom, but in complete fidelity to the content of evangelization, the means that are most suitable and effective for communicating the Gospel message to the men and women of our times.” If Mr. Lewis had read the above line he might have thought twice about what he wrote in his article, as it appears light – in my view – on sharing the gospel in “complete fidelity to the content of evangelization.”

‘Traditionalist’ Catholics Bad

According to Mr. Lewis, “successful evangelization” in our time “must respond creatively to unprecedented changes in the world, and should be mindful of the unique obstacles in each society.” What are the obstacles to evangelizing in the West? Well, according to Mr. Lewis, that challenge is to “show that Catholicism is not an obsolete religion filled with superstitious bigots and conspiracy theorists.” That is the challenge? Yes, according to Mr. Lewis, that is the challenge. And believe me…he will enlighten you shortly as to who he believes these “bigots” and “conspiracy theorists” are. Mr. Lewis does not disappoint (emphasis added):

The declining Church in the West has suffered serious blows to its moral credibility in recent decades. This has resulted in declines in its ability to witness in the public square, its influence in halls of power, and its capacity to evangelize the culture. Historians and sociologists will research, write, and debate what caused the fall of Christendom for ages to come, but we Christians today don’t have the luxury of centuries to take stock of what went wrong if we want to survive this crisis. More importantly, if we fail to recognize how the Church is perceived by the wider society, our beloved faith will be reduced to little more than an afterthought by the prevailing culture in a generation or two.

This is the key challenge facing Church leaders today, and it is something that Pope Francis has consistently tried to address. He has faced strong resistance in these efforts, mostly from within the Church. Many times during his eight-year pontificate, Francis’s progress has been hindered. His initiatives have been blocked repeatedly by other Catholic leaders who promote more reactionary, ideological approaches to the faith. And this has cost valuable time. Unless our Church leaders can quickly learn how to be serious voices of social and moral truth on the world stage, Catholicism will soon drift into an age of cultural irrelevance.

Back in April, I explained why dissent on the Catholic right[1] presents a unique danger to the Church. Unlike dissenters on the Catholic left, who usually express their disagreements with Church teaching openly, dissent on the right presents itself as doctrinal orthodoxy. Dissent on the left often leads Catholics to defect from the Church, whereas those on the right typically don’t plan to go anywhere.

Since 2013, particularly in North America, reactionary dissent from the right has almost always involved strong anti-papal sentiment (including accusations that even Pope Francis himself is a heretic). More recently, it has led well-meaning Catholics into doctrinal error and the embrace of dangerous ideologies, including forms of nationalismpopulism, and integralism that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.  Catholics in this group are prone to accepting conspiracy theories like QAnonCovid-19 denial, and anti-vaccine propaganda. Many have even started accepting white nationalismdubious end-times propheciesunapproved apparitions, and SSPX talking points.

At last we come to it. Mr. Lewis, having examined the question and the problem of evangelization of the West, concludes the problem is “reactionary dissent from the right.” For anyone somewhat familiar with Mr. Lewis and Where Peter Is, understanding their political and theological leftist bent and the red-colored glasses through which Where Peter Is views the landscape of both the Church and America, puts into perspective many of its accusations against the “right” above. [NB: Mr. Lewis in his article says he uses “right” and “left” to describe “forms of dissent” in the Catholic Church. Where he uses it in citations I provide, that is the sense he wants to give to it. Generally, where I use the term “right” or ‘traditionalist’ or ‘conservative’ in theological context, I intend “right belief” or orthodoxy – i.e., acceptance of Catholic teaching; and where I use “left” I generally intend “dissent” from traditional Catholic teaching, that or ambiguous to questionable acceptance of Catholic teaching. The terms are used loosely but despite this looseness in usage, ‘most readers have a sense of what they mean in this context.’ All that said, those on the ‘right’ of Mr. Lewis reject the suggestion they are “dissenters” from Catholic teaching; and would instead question one or more theological positions held by those on some on the “left” including some at Where Peter Is, such as regarding the permissibility of the divorced and remarried receiving Holy Communion in certain cases while in an objective situation of sin.]

First, Mr. Lewis speaks of “accusations that even Pope Francis himself is a heretic” and of the “strong anti-papal sentiment” of the “right.” Personally, I do not believe the claim of “strong anti-papal sentiment” is accurate, at least in so far as it regards the Petrine Office because conservative and traditional Catholic long for the pope to “confirm the brethren” – such as by answering the Dubia. While there is strong sentiment and concern with regard to Francis, this has not occurred in a vacuum. There are things which Pope Francis has said, such as the Abu Dhabi statement, and or has failed to deny he said, such as found in various Scalfari interviews, which are troubling. There was also the controversy over the Pachamama idol, and of course, the question of Amoris Laetitia and its true interpretation and magisterial significance, regarding which even some Francis-apologists have significant, conflicting opinions (see Confusion at Vatican Insider? and The Confusion of the Francis-Apologists). The controversy over Amoris Laetitia could have been resolved by now had Pope Francis only responded to the Dubia with five simple “yes” or “no” answers. We will return to the question of Amoris Laetitia in connection to the seeming hypocrisy of Mr. Lewis later on in this article.

But aside from the ongoing debate over things Pope Francis has said or done, Mr. Lewis wants to tar “reactionary” Catholics with a bizarre collection of errors, ranging from nationalism – even “white nationalism“(!) – populism, conspiracy theories, and dubious end-time prophecies from unapproved apparitions. Later in his article, Mr. Lewis seemingly even throws in “neo-pelagianism.”[1]  All this makes it hard to take Mr. Lewis and his accusations seriously. Let us briefly consider “nationalism.” In our times, what being a patriotic American is to one person might be evil nationalism or populism to another – perhaps to the likes of Mr. Lewis. It certainly is often a false charge used by those on the political left who generally favor globalist policies. To many on the Democratic left, just being a Trump supporter qualifies one as a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”[2] Absurd. Does that mean there are no “white nationalists” anywhere?  No, but such accusations or that of “white privilege” or “white supremacist” more often than not are a tactic cynically employed by the political Left – infamous for playing identity politics – to bludgeon and cow their politically conservative opposition. The truth is, while “white nationalism” is indeed an evil thing, there is no real evidence it is a significant ‘thing’ among Catholics. 

Mr. Lewis’ inclusion of “integralism” as a dangerous ideology of the right is yet another example of him throwing more mud at a wall to see what sticks. Personally, I am not an integralist. My only interest here is an application of common sense. Mr. Lewis and Where Peter Is are stretching their credibility beyond the breaking point by suggesting “integralism” is a  “dangerous ideology.” Mr. Lewis need not hyperventilate. Relax, Mike…There’s no chance the USA will become an integralist society any time soon. 

There are other bizarre attempts to build straw men for Mr. Lewis to knock down. I will not waste much time on these, such as Mr. Lewis’ claim the “right” is accepting “dubious end-time prophecies” and “unapproved apparitions.” Personally, I like to stick with approved apparitions. Regardless, I don’t think interest in Catholic prophecy is unique to left or right. For example, I know there are writers with views closer to those of Mr. Lewis who have a strong interest in end-time prophecy (e.g., see here, here), including not-yet-approved apparitions (e.g., here). Separately, Mr. Lewis also suggests Catholics on the “right” are prone to “accepting conspiracy theories.” One of his examples is QAnon. While, yes, there were folks on the right who accepted it, there were many on the left — and I suspect there are Where Peter Is readers among them — who accepted many of the crazy anti-Trump conspiracy theories, such as the Russian Collusion hoax. Certainly, Catholics like Nancy Pelosi believed it. The point being, conspiracy theories are found across the political (and theological) spectrum. In sum, Mr. Lewis is a victim of pareidolia. He sees a pattern where there is none.

The Solution:  Listening and Passivity?  Huh?

Mr. Lewis moves on to accuse “reactionary and traditionalist Catholic” of having a “militant and belligerent style of attack against people and ideas” which “has only fueled the fires of division.” This laughable and hypocritical bit of analysis is from the man, who as we just saw, tarred conservative Catholics with a whole set of assertions and accusations, inclusive of “white nationalism.” Regardless, quite obviously for Mr. Lewis, the traditionalist and conservative Catholic is the bad guy in the scenario he is laying out.  He even goes on at additional length to drive home that point:  

The sex abuse crisis, especially in 2002 and 2018, severely damaged the US Church’s reputation. It didn’t only damage trust. Yes, clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up absolutely made Church leaders look like massive hypocrites who didn’t practice what they preached. But perhaps the more lasting damage was the way it led many Catholics (and even non-Catholics) to reconsider the validity of the Church’s claims on moral authority.

This should have become evident to the US Catholic bishops long ago. Polls continue to show that the number of Catholics who practice the faith and agree with the Church on social and moral issues is in steady decline. Unless the Church validates the things they already believe, most Catholics in the West don’t care what it has to say about abortion, divorce and remarriage, sexual morality, bioethics, contraception, and gay marriage. Additionally—in the US, anyway—many conservative Catholics disregard the bishops’ views on immigration, the death penalty, climate change, poverty, racism, healthcare, refugees, education, and most other teachings seen as “liberal” in the contemporary American political ecosystem.

Again, Mr. Lewis demonizes the right for supposedly disregarding the bishops’ views. But as is usual with Mr. Lewis, he is neither fair nor honest on the subject of conservative or ‘traditionalist’ Catholics. Conservative Catholics do not, for one example, advocate racism. Good heavens! How are conservative Catholics ‘disregarding their bishops’ on that score? Utterly absurd. As to this and other items on his list, Catholics may differ in their prudential judgments as to the best policies and laws to address such issues where Catholic social teaching may apply, or whether – such as in the case of climate change – if the thing is even an issue at all. However, there is no room for prudential judgment on abortion, divorce and remarriage, bioethics, contraception or gay marriage; yet, Mr. Lewis seems to want to make a false equivalency between them. And the reason for this seems to be that Mr. Lewis appears to think the Church must accept the world’s definition and policy prescriptions on the prudential questions above if it hopes to win over folks to its views on abortion, etc., for as he says: “Unless the Church validates the things they already believe, most Catholics in the West don’t care what it has to say about abortion, divorce and remarriage, sexual morality, bioethics, contraception, and gay marriage.” Wait! So the Catholic Church must “validate” things others “already believe”?  I thought the Catholic Church validates only what it believes. 

Though what Mr. Lewis ultimately wants is somewhat unclear and ambiguous throughout his piece, one may come away with the distinct impression it amounts — in practical effect if not intent — to a surrender to the world. It is true the sexual abuse scandal has played a part in the bishops’ loss of moral authority in the eyes of many, as Mr. Lewis suggests. However, other factors were already in play decades before that scandal became widely known. The decline in “the number of Catholics who practice the faith and agree with the Church on social and moral issues is in steady decline” is also attributable to a combination of poor catechesis, the collapse of Catholic education, and the bishops’ and the popes’ failure to strictly enforce orthodoxy among theological faculties at Catholic universities, and in religious orders such as the Jesuits. Of course, there are other factors that have played a role, such as societal changes at large, particularly in and since the 1960s. But remembering “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi,” and seeing how Catholic belief, practice, and living have lapsed over the last 50-60 years, one cannot help but consider that liturgical factors have played a part as well.  Ultimately, at least in my view, one common theme among these factors is a general failure of the bishops to act in their office as shepherd, whether it be in tending the flock, or protecting it.

Mr. Lewis seems to grasp a part of the problem as being societal change, yet he cannot help but take still more pot shots at Catholic conservatives.  He writes (emphasis added):

Perhaps the faithful’s increasing disregard of episcopal authority, obligatory rules, and doctrinal teaching is the inevitable result of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The Church in other Western countries has declined even without major sexual abuse scandals. But the Church in the United States has historically been something of an outlier, with higher levels of religious practice and Mass attendance than many other nations. This remains the case, because we do still have a sizeable conservative religious minority that’s not going away soon. Unfortunately, many of the Catholics in that minority have succumbed instead to the dangerous, post-reality mindset typically associated with Protestant fundamentalism. They also seem to have greater allegiance to capitalism and political leaders than to Catholic social teaching and magisterial authority. In other words, they’ve also drifted away from the Church, just in a different way.

Once again, Mr. Lewis manifests his own leftist mindset. His statement, for example, that conservative Catholics have a “greater allegiance” to political leaders than to Catholic social teaching and magisterial authority is a hoot. Mr. Lewis does not comment on the cult of personality that clearly existed around Barack Obama, nor does he extend his analysis to express his concern that a majority of Catholics voted for pro-abortion candidates such as Al Gore in 2000, and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and Joe Biden in 2020 (see What Happened to the Catholic Vote in the 2020 Presidential Election?). It is not a question of conservative Catholics ‘drifting away from the Church, just in a different way‘ as if these are merely two sides of the same problem coin, as Mr. Lewis seems to imply. We have already touched upon the fact that there is latitude for prudential judgment with regard to specific political and economic policy solutions in relation to Catholic social teaching; but there is no such latitude on issues such as abortion or gay marriage. The United States is essentially a two-party system, and thus prudential judgment must be made in weighing one’s vote as a Catholic between the two parties — each of which have their own warts. Yet, seeing how Democratic policies in our major cities have increased poverty and homelessness over the decades (e.g., look at Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles), and how the Democrats are polarizing our society over race (identity politics), etc., it is impossible to see  how, especially in light of abortion, a Catholic of the “left” or “right” could vote Democrat in good conscience in our ‘contemporary political ecosystem.’ Consequently, it is difficult to see how Mr. Lewis concludes that Catholics on the “right” are the greater problem.

Given that Mr. Lewis seems to admit the liberal Catholic has “drifted away” as well in supporting pro-abortion politicians, one would think he would agree with the bishops who want to enforce Eucharist “coherence”, i.e., denying Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion.  Yet, Mr. Lewis cannot seem to muster any outrage at the scandal that Joe Biden represents:

While I very much oppose President Biden’s position on abortion and honestly can’t comprehend how he tries to reconcile it with his Catholic faith, the bishops’ approach to his presidency suggests that they somehow missed the last 20 years and everything that’s happened in the Church and society since. Not only that, but many of them are outspoken on a national level about culture war issues while doing very little or nothing about reactionary extremist clergy in their own dioceses.

According to Mr. Lewis then, it is the bishops who are seemingly at fault here because they “somehow missed the last 20 years and everything that’s happened in the Church and society since.” Say what? What does that mean, and why does that mean the bishops should not exercise their authority as bishops now over Biden or any pro-abortion Catholic politician? Talk about non sequiturs. Further on in his piece, Mr. Lewis speaks of Archbishop Aquila who has spoken out about the need for Eucharistic coherence when it comes to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.  Mr. Lewis writes (emphasis added): 

“Archbishop Aquila certainly has the right to speak freely on issues of importance to the Church. Yet his priorities don’t appear to align with his primary responsibilities. Aquila has shown persistence in repeating his position on the issue of denying Communion to pro-choice politicians from his Denver perch. Yet as archbishop of Denver, is his presence at the forefront of this issue necessary? After all, the clear target of this push, President Biden, spends most of his time in Washington, DC, and Delaware, not Colorado.”

Certainly, Mr. Lewis understands that Joe Biden is a national figure in the United States.  Biden’s public affirmations of being a Catholic even while actively supporting abortion policies should be a concern to not only all bishops in the country but to all Catholics as well.  Consequently, the issue is not simply one of interest to Cardinal Gregory in Washington DC. It is an issue of vital importance to the Catholic Church in the US.

But, rather than favoring a more active stance by the bishops, Mr. Lewis favors passivity.  He quotes Pope Francis from Fratelli Tutti, not about teaching the Faith, but rather about “living and teaching the value of respect for others, a love capable of welcoming differences, and the priority of the dignity of every human being over his or her ideas, opinions, practices and even sins” (Fratelli Tutti 191). Mr. Lewis said something similar earlier in his article that appears to describe what this means to him in practice (emphasis added):

The bishops of this country apparently fail to realize that they no longer have the standing in society to be taken seriously on ideas, morals, or cultural values. Some of this was beyond their control, but in other ways they bear great responsibility for their own irrelevance. And the longer they assume a posture of confrontation against the prevailing culture, the more quickly the US Church will collapse.

In the past, perhaps the Church could still credibly claim the moral “high ground” against an increasingly hedonistic society. Today, that type of appeal rings hollow. The culture doesn’t see the Catholic positions (particularly on sexuality and women) as uptight or strict; they are viewed as immoral and oppressive. In light of the abuse crisis and the endless revelations of sexual abuse of both children and adults, the Church is also seen as hypocritical.

Despite this, much of the Catholic right and many of the US bishops are still naively operating under the notion that appealing to a culturally obsolete moral code is a constructive way to advocate for Catholic teaching in the public square. Many also don’t seem to realize or care that being harsh, condemnatory, and dismissive contributes to the image of the Church as morally reprehensible, turning off potential converts—those who might be interested in exploring the Catholic faith.

In these sectors of the Church, many seem to think listening is capitulation and empathy is weakness. This perspective seems to motivate much of the reactionary opposition to Pope Francis, who constantly exhorts Catholics to engage in listening, dialogue, empathy and openness.

Yes, as I’ve said, the bishops have a credibility problem.  However, the solution to that can hardly be — as suggested by implication by Mr. Lewis — that the bishops stop teaching the Catholic faith with regard to moral issues. Why else would Mr. Lewis suggest that the bishops “no longer have the standing in society to be taken seriously on ideas, morals, or cultural values.” Obviously, if one cannot be taken seriously on an issue…one should shut up.  That seems to be the implication here. 

The sexual abuse crisis is not fundamentally a problem with the bishops’ credibility, though a erosion of credibility was a result. Rather, the core problem, in my view as  suggested earlier, was that the bishops failed to exercise their authority; failing to act to tend and protect the flock entrusted to them, whether by insisting on orthodoxy and orthopraxis, or protecting it from predator-priests and bishops. The bishops’ handling of the sexual abuse crisis is only one aspect of this. And it is here where I think the gulf between Mr. Lewis and myself might be illustrated.  Mr. Lewis sees that the bishops have lost credibility on moral issues, and as a consequence he appears to believe that this credibility problem will only be exacerbated should they act against Biden by denying him Holy Communion. My view, to the contrary, is that the bishops will lose credibility if they do not take significant action against Biden.

The truth is, the Catholic bishops have done little over the last 60 or so years on major moral issues such as abortion besides issuing occasional documents against abortion, reiterating the Church’s pro-life stand, etc. But the ‘culture warrior‘ bishop of the last few decades that Mr. Lewis seems to have conjured up in his article, I would submit, is a figment of his imagination. It is another straw man. I was born in the early 1960s. For most Catholics, exceedingly rare has been the homily where a bishop or priest has spoken out from the pulpit on abortion, gay marriage, contraception, etc. Such priests generally would get replaced by the bishop from the fear it would hurt the collection basket, and the bishop’s annual appeal.  If Mr. Lewis has been hearing those sorts homilies which instructed the Catholic faithful, I would have loved to attend his parish. But, as it is, remembering and experiencing the Church through the 70s through today, the ‘culture warrior’ bishop that Mr. Lewis describes is — for all practical purposes — a myth.  Rather, over the last many decades the bishops have failed to vigorously exercise their authority to protect the flock (e.g., watchful insistence on orthodoxy and orthopraxis) and this in turn has led to many of the ills the Church has now witnessed, whether it be poorly catechized Catholics, liturgical abuses, liberal theology departments, the collapse of vocations, pro-abortion politicians professing to be “Catholic” with impunity, the sexual abuse scandal, etc.  

Yet, despite what seems quite obvious, Mr. Lewis lamented in his piece:

In these sectors of the Church, many seem to think listening is capitulation and empathy is weakness. This perspective seems to motivate much of the reactionary opposition to Pope Francis, who constantly exhorts Catholics to engage in listening, dialogue, empathy and openness.

Mr. Lewis needs to better define terms.  Certainly, “listening” and “empathy” are necessary components of apologetics and evangelization.  Indeed, as St. Peter wrote, one should be ready to give a defense of one’s hope with “gentleness and respect” (cf 1 Peter 3:15). Yet, “listening”, “dialogue”, “empathy”, “welcoming,” and “openness” are ambiguous terms when used by either Pope Francis or Mr. Lewis. These things cannot be ends in themselves but too often that appears to be the intended reality. I don’t believe anyone ever converted to Catholicism because of “climate change” or bishops’ policy statements on healthcare or education.  I believe that rare has been the case of a someone converting because another “listened“, or was “open” or because “differences are welcomed” — whatever that really means. Certainly, love the sinner. However, specific sins or sinful lifestyles cannot be “welcomed” by the apologist, the evangelist, or the Church; nor can they be “open” to them. If Mr. Lewis means something else then he should explain himself better.  

The Contradictions and Hypocrisy of Mr. Lewis

The hypocrisy of Mr. Lewis comes into full display in his discussion of Archbishop Aquila of Denver, who he describes as “the most conspicuous current example of a bishop who seems less interested in tending his own flock than in publicly opining on national and global affairs“.  In other words, according to Mr. Lewis, Aquila is someone who needs to mind his own business! For Mr. Lewis, Aquila’s offense on the American national stage was that he authored (1) an article in which he expressed his view that Catholic politicians who favor abortion and euthanasia should be denied communion (see here), and (2) he publicly critiqued a private letter he received from an unnamed bishops on the subject — and who later turned out to be Cardinal Cupich (see here).

Given Aquila is Archbishop of Denver, Mr. Lewis wonders are his actions “necessary”?  Mr. Lewis adds: “After all, the clear target of this push, President Biden, spends most of his time in Washington, DC, and Delaware, not Colorado.” Mr. Lewis’ complaint is ridiculous. Biden is a national figure, a “Catholic” of national prominence. Therefore his apostasy on abortion is a scandal impacting Catholics across the country. Thus, the question of how to deal with him, and other apostates like him who continue to identify as “Catholics”, such as Nancy Pelosi, should be of great concern to every Catholic bishop in the United States. It is quite peculiar. Why is Mr. Lewis — who is so supportive of episcopal actions against Catholics on the “right” (e.g., Fr. Altman, Fr. Ripperger, Fr. Nix, etc.) for alleged wrongs — so hesitant to support an action against Biden/Pelosi/others consistent with Canon 915 and which addresses a clear, manifest, and public scandal, inclusive of sacrilege against Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist?  Very strange. Mr. Lewis should worry less about the bishops’ lack of credibility and more about his own.

Yet, as bad as is Mr. Lewis’ hypocrisy above, it gets worse.  Mr. Lewis objects to Archbishop Aquila having the temerity to respond to the German Synodal path (Forum 1) in an open letter to the bishops of the world (see here). The Forum 1 document speaks of the possibility of the ordination of women, saying in part: “We are therefore also committed to casting qualified votes so that access to all Church ministries and officesincluding all ordained ministryis opened to those believers who are called and able, regardless of gender or station in life.”[3] It seems, for Mr. Lewis, Archbishop Aquila’s letter opposing the Forum 1 document is the sort of episcopal action he has railed against throughout his article. It seems, Mr. Lewis believes a bishop should not act as Archbishop Aquila did, i.e., teaching firmly on a moral or doctrinal issue, such as female ordination. Consider….Mr. Lewis writes (emphasis added): 

In response to the prevailing view on women’s ordination, the German document proposes re-opening the dialogue in the Church: “Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stated that the Church has no right to ordain women to the priesthood. However, due to new insights into the witness of the Bible, into the developments of Tradition, and into the anthropology of gender, the coherence of his argumentation and the validity of his statement are often questioned. It is necessary to reconnect again the witness of Scripture and Tradition with the signs of the times and the sense of faith of the people of God. Forum 1 proposes that the church in Germany, during the Synodal Path, should also give a reasoned vote on the question of the admission of women to ordination, which includes an invitation to the universal Church and the Apostolic See to study anew the questions raised, and to find solutions” (emphasis mine).

While an underlying desire for the ordination of women seems evident in this passage, the paragraph amounts to a formal request for the Church to study the issue. Archbishop Aquila is having none of it: “The approach adopted here seems calculated to undermine the definitive and permanent character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders” (p. 5). He says that the Synodal Path, in its “desire to democratize the Church’s governance and entertain the possibility of admitting women to the priesthood, the essential distinction between the priesthood of the baptized and the ministerial priesthood—clearly affirmed at Lumen gentium §10—is implicitly called into question” (p. 3).

But assuming that Bishop Georg Bätzing, the chairman of the German Catholic bishops’ conference, is telling the truth, what is the problem with discussing women’s ordination again, perhaps at a deeper level? He insisted in a recent interview, “It is absolutely clear that there are matters that we can only discuss at the level of the Universal Church. We will contribute from Germany with our reflections.” Here he is indicating the German bishops’ intention to remain obedient to the Church, even if they don’t receive their desired outcome. Unless they receive a “no” from Rome and proceed to ordain women anyway, I don’t see how this approach can honestly be described as “schismatic.”

Why is Aquila resistant to the opportunity to enter into dialogue about this challenging teaching? It’s no secret that many Catholics would like to see women in ordained ministry in the Church. They don’t believe this because they want to make God angry or destroy the Church. For such Catholics, it is a matter of justice and upholding the equal dignity of women. These are two values that the Catholic Church upholds. Yet in light of those principles, many find the Church’s answers on the question inadequate. What’s wrong with returning to the subject to address these questions comprehensively?

And it is here where the hypocrisy of Mr. Lewis reaches its zenith. Any Catholic familiar with the battle over Amoris Laetitia and the Dubia cannot help but be struck by the sheer hypocrisy of Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lewis (and Where Peter Is) has been one of the loudest voices against any who questioned Amoris Laetitia’s apparent teaching that active adulterers could receive Holy Communion in certain cases.[4] Mr. Lewis and his website have been relentlessly harsh on the Dubia submitted by four cardinals, as well as towards the four cardinals themselves. Yet, the Dubia simply asked Pope Francis several “yes” or “no” questions about the proper interpretation of Amoris Laetitia and a particular footnote within it. It is not unusual for cardinals and bishops to submit Dubia to a pope, and have them answered. Indeed, it is a common practice. Yet, these “dissenters” — in Mr. Lewis’ view, and that of other writers at Where Peter Is — do not even deserve to have the Dubia questions answered (see here and here)! Any who who might have honest and sincere reservations and or confusion over Amoris Laetitia (given certain interpretations of it contradict Familiaris Consortio 84 and other past teachings) are simply written off and dismissed as “dissenters” by Mr. Lewis and Where Peter Is.  Search as you may in Mr. Lewis’ writings, or those of his ilk at Where Peter Is — you will not find any talk of “dialogue”, “empathy”, “welcoming”, “openness” for “dissenters” on the question of Amoris Laetitia

While Mr. Lewis has no patience or time to “dialogue” with those with honest questions about a footnote that appears to directly contradict Familiaris Consortia 84;  Mr. Lewis, as we have seen, thinks it perfectly fine for Synodal Path German Catholics to question the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis against female ordination!  Indeed, Mr. Lewis is puzzled as to why Archbishop Aquila is “resistant to the opportunity to enter into dialogue about this challenging teaching.” However, Aquila’s “resistance” might be appreciated in consideration of OS 4, in which John Paul II taught (emphasis added):

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful. (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4)

Above, we have a teaching with all the hallmarks of an exercise of papal infallibility. It is clearly a definitive judgment on a doctrinal matter. Pope John Paul II citing his Petrine ministry, “declares” women cannot receive priestly ordination, and that “this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” Indeed, Pope John Paul II expressly says his teaching is given “in order to remove all doubt.” Yet, Pope Francis makes no such appeal to Petrine authority in Amoris Laetitia and arguably disclaims it (see Amoris Laetitia 3), and no where does he say his “judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” While Mr. Lewis attacks Catholics who are either confused by or have difficulties with what Francis actually said in Amoris Laetitia — which has no doctrinal pedigree similar to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis; Mr. Lewis is fine with Synodal Path Catholics questioning and dialoguing over a clearly infallible teaching that must be “definitively held” by the faithful.  Yet, Mr. Lewis does not wonder why Pope Francis is “resistant to the opportunity to enter into dialogue about this challenging teaching,” i.e., Amoris Laetitia Apparently, questions for Mr. Lewis from the “Left” are fine but not from the “Right.” Contradiction and hypocrisy.

But, returning to the question of evangelization. It should be obvious that citing the Synodal Path and its view of female ordination as an example of the sort of “listening” and “dialogue” Mr. Lewis has in mind does not help his argument or his case for what he believes evangelization should look like. There can be no question or dialogue on female ordination, Mr. Lewis. “Roma locuta est, causa finita est.” 

Final Thoughts

Mr. Lewis’ 4,600 plus word essay sanctimoniously decries “polarization” and “divisiveness” while at the same time engaging in divisive attacks on conservative and traditional Catholics. If Mr. Lewis intended or hoped to win “conservatives” or “traditionalists” over to his view of things or to enhance his credibility by his article, I doubt very much he will be successful. Instead, I think he merely cemented the general view of Where Peter Is as a site that leans heavily to the “left,” both politically and theologically. The latter is particularly evident in Mr. Lewis’ commentary related to Joe Biden, Archbishop Aquila, and the Synodal Path/female ordination. Further, this “left theological” bent is exhibited when Mr. Lewis suggests various conservative priests be disciplined for statements on Covid vaccinations while at the same time he objects to efforts to withhold the Eucharist from Joe Biden owing to his active support of abortion. This leftward tilt is also seen when Where Peter Is holds out the work of Fr. James Martin SJ as an exemplar of the sort of modern evangelization that is needed (see here), and the sort for which Mr. Lewis essentially argues in the article we have been discussing here. 

Given Mr. Lewis is concerned about “dangerous ideologies,” it would have been interesting to hear his analysis of BLM and Antifa, which have shown themselves to be dangerous over the last year in terms of destruction of public and private property, deaths of civilians, and police officers. It would also be interesting to hear what Mr. Lewis would say about what some in leftist Catholic circles have said about moving the Church away from certain moral issues (see Podesta and The Catholic Spring). Perhaps Mr. Lewis has written something asking the American bishops to discuss these “dangerous ideologies”, etc. But if he has done so, I don’t recall seeing that article.  

Mr. Lewis began his essay with the title and question: “What can we offer the world?” Understanding that Mr. Lewis’ preference — as I understand it at least — is that the bishops should not focus on culture war issues, presumably abortion, gay marriage, sexual morality, etc., but rather that they should focus on things fallen away Catholics and the world do accept — presumably, climate change, immigration, healthcare, etc. All of that, plus a healthy dose of “listening”, “dialogue”, “openness”, etc.  If this is the approach Mr. Lewis is recommending, it is easy to answer his question regarding “What can we offer the world?” The answer is: ‘not much.’

In the end, Mr. Lewis does not in my opinion get close to a real solution for the question he posed. Indeed, it appears to me at least, he is farther away from it now than when he began his essay. For my part, I will not attempt an all encompassing answer here. However, it seems to me, the Church’s evangelization problem in part is not so much the episcopal exercise of authority but rather a failure to exercise it either effectively or at all. This was the root of many problems, including the sexual abuse scandal. So, ultimately, the lack of credibility for the bishops began long before the sexual abuse scandal.

Credibility can and must be won back by the bishops but it won’t be done through “listening” and “dialogue”. Supposed listening and dialogue have done nothing over the last 50 years or so to move pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia “Catholics” back to adherence to Catholic teaching. As we are seeing in the “synodal path”, the appeal for “listening” and “dialogue” is little more than a cover for dissent on issues such as female ordination. The bishops should not listen to the likes of Mr. Lewis. Punting on the Joe Biden problem would only serve to further damage episcopal credibility in the US.  A tough stand on Biden can only help the bishops reassert their credibility and teaching authority. Archbishop Aquila’s recent interventions on Eucharist coherence, and Forum 1 are most welcome. They are a couple of important steps closer to the sort of clear statements on Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxis the bishops need to firmly assert, and both the faithful — and the unfaithful — need to hear. This is the way to evangelize. Let’s have more of it.   

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com  or StevenOReilly@ProtonMail.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on Parler or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

Notes:

  1. Neo-pelagianism is a heresy in search of a heretic.  Where are the neo-pelagians who believe “salvation depends on the strength of the individual or on purely human structures“?  Mr. Lewis doesn’t explicitly link neo-pelagianism to the “right”, but given all else he says against “traditional” Catholics, one cannot be faulted for having the suspicion this was what he intends.  Perhaps Mr. Lewis will clear this up. When he does, I would be happy to change my footnote accordingly. But until then, as Fr. Kevin M. Cusick quite correctly points out: “Is it not rank Pelagianism to claim to believe one can be saved while living in practical state of adultery? No reception of Communion, rendered useless and sacrilegious by one’s sinful state of life, can change this fact” (see Wanderer). But such a view, that living in a practical state of adultery can be fine is advocated by the folks over at Where Peter Is (see Doctrine of Mitigating Circumstances on Where Peter Is; and my response On the Doctrine of Mitigating Circumstances).

  2. And, indeed, the article that Mr. Lewis linked to is from the leftist and activist Sojourner organization (see here and here); many of whose directors appear to be heavily involved in Democrat and or other leftist causes.

  3. “We are committed to ensuring that the opportunities already offered by canon law are consistently used to promote equality. We are also committed to ensuring that ministries and offices in the Church are made accessible to all who have been baptized and confirmed, and that they are filled accord-ing to their charisms and vocations, their aptitude, ability, and performance. We are therefore also committed to casting qualified votes so that access to all Church ministries and offices — including all ordained ministry — is opened to those believers who are called and able, regardless of gender or station in life. We are convinced that the new clarification of access requirements will create a basis for the gifts of the Spirit given to the Church to be more effective and for the witness of the Gospel to gain in strength.” (German Synodal Path, Forum 1)

  4. Roma Locuta Est has published a series of articles on some the problems posed by certain interpretations of Amoris Laetitia (see Summa Contra Stephen WalfordConfusion at Vatican Insider?The Confusion of the Francis-ApologistsPope Francis, the Open Letter and the Pesky Preface). It remains our position that Pope Francis would help clarify the situation by answering the Dubia.


42 thoughts on “What can we offer the world? ‘Not much’ according to Mr. Lewis

  1. Basically if Lewis, who openly espouses his clearly heretical stances proudly, existed in any other time period of the Church he would offer these recommendations for “evangelization”:

    – Don’t fight racism or slavery the majority of people accept it.
    – Don’t tell everyone to live peacefully,a lot of livelihoods and cultures and hordes depend on warfare, looting and rape.
    – Vote for Barrabbas, that’s what the majority want and so too does our esteemed temple leaders and High Priest. These “trads” subscribe to betrayal conspiracy theories and believe in unapproved and dubious prophecies about that supremacist Nazareth rabble rouse who called for insurrection by claiming He was the rightful king and threatened to tear down our capital temple mount.

    And so on… ‘Where’s Peter?’ clearly live up to their name and reputation as a disguised secular liberal outfit that opposes Christianity except where something from it can be put at the service of worldly pursuits.

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    1. Johnno, thanks for the comments.

      I haven’t read through all of WPI…it is only from time to time I look at them. So, I don’t know all their positions on things.

      I do believe their stance on communion for D&R’s (i.e., adulterers) living in an objective state sin is erroneous. JPII said the Church’s practice NOT to allow it was in “Fidelity” to Our Lord (FC 84).

      I also think they are wrong on evangelization; and I touched upon why in the article. They seem unable to consider that Pope Francis view of evangelization is even possibly faulty in terms of prudential judgment. Given they take anything Francis says as ‘true’; they fall into lockstep without question.

      Mr. Lewis’ position on the ‘dialogue’ with the Synodal Path Catholics on female ordination is curious. I hope he will provide some additional clarification on that, and the question I raised about dialogue with “dissenters” (in his view) on Amoris Laetitia.

      I would also like to hear Mr. Lewis opine on Podesta and the Catholic Spring. WPI does seem to hold the sorts of views they hoped for.

      Thanks for reading the article.

      Steve

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This describes fairly well the ministry of Fr. Martin, who simply does not find it necessary to insist on theological or philosophical categories in his work with gay Catholics. Whereas Catholicism would often seem to be a burden laid upon the shoulders of LGBT people, Martin wants to make clear that it is precisely the Church, and only the Church, where true community, freedom, peace, and growth can be found. There is no argument that needs to be made; there is nothing that needs to be said; all that is needed is a radical orientation to the other in whom we find our joy. Those we are trying to reach need to be convinced through our love that they too belong to the Church.

    Judges 19:22 calls sodomites the Sons of Belial (Devil). Well, this is weird. I am to find my joy by being radically oriented to sodomites?

    How about pedophiles?

    How about war criminals?

    How about atheists?

    How about abortionists?

    How about usurers?

    How about cannibals?

    Any time I hear this nonsense spoken about by a progressive I know I am listening to one whose faith is superficial at best.

    A Catholic is to be radically oriented to Jesus and to keep His Commandments as a way to prove we love Him.

    It is a complete waste of time – worse – to try and prove to progressives that we love and/or identify with their ever-changing political and cultural obsessions.

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  3. Is there a single bishop in the US who has tried to ensure that his people were aware that masks are a disease-causing hoax, that young people were never at risk of the covids, that Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and vitamins D and C are prodigiously effective preventives and treatments for ALL colds and flu, and that lockdowns (including the sacraments) accomplish nothing in preventing any disease–while destroying businesses and social life, and promoting depression, drug use, and suicide? Has any bishop warned his people about the sterilizing, blood-clotting, and increasingly fatal DNA-altering “vaccines”? The answers are NO and NO.

    Like

  4. https://en-denzingerbergoglio.com

    Among the things us Catholics can offer the world is to publicly declare that Bergoglio is not Pope; neither is Father Ratzinger.

    Those, including Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, who submitted The Dubia know why Bergoglio won’t answer the questions. It is because he is neither Pope or Catholic.

    Us Catholics have a Church but no Pope. For the time being we are sort of Neo-Orthodox. Our coven Cardinals know the plain and simple truth about Bergoglio but they are to craven to stand against the devil who is destroying as much of the church as he can but who imagines he is doing good.

    Lord have mercy

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    1. VC,

      Thanks for the comments.

      Regarding BXVI, I agree. He is not pope…as I have argued (see Summa Contra BiP https://romalocutaest.com/2020/02/11/summa-contra-the-bip-theory-why-benedict-xvi-is-not-the-pope/ ).

      Regarding Francis, as he was elected with all the outward seeming form of an election….if there is to be any determination and declaration he is not, or never was pope…that could only be determined and declared by a future pope. We cannot declare it.

      As to the cardinals…it does seem they are keeping a relatively low profile given all that constantly happens around them in Rome. Whether they know “something” or not, I can’t say. My sense is….they just are biding their time…perhaps polishing up their 5 minute speeches for the next pre-conclave congregations.

      Steve

      Liked by 1 person

  5. craven not coven but I suppose they could be described as a coven of craven cardinals 🙂

    O, and too craven not to craven

    Like

  6. The bishops know that they have a credibility problem. That’s why they stand with the Democrat Party on almost every issue, and are pretty quiet about the issues they disagree on. They have supported universal healthcare, and unlimited illegal immigration, just to name two. It is the farthest thing from the minds of the influential bishops that they would actually want to form a flock that could or would resist tyranny.

    As far as “dissent from the Catholic Right” goes, most of it is not dissent from Church teaching, as you rightly point out. There is very little coming out of Rome, or the average chancery that even references actual Catholic teaching. Our “leaders” create the situation of dissent when they allow every manner of heresy to run wild in their dioceses, while restricting the Tridentine Mass, or objecting to parishes having conservative speakers, who may not be in the so-called “mainstream.” In the Church, as in politics, giving one extreme free reign doesn’t make the other extreme go away. It just makes them more extreme. Bishops have ignored conservative Catholics for decades now, and things may soon come to a head.

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  7. I appreciate the time you took to respond to my article. That said, you misrepresent several of my points very early in your post.

    I’d like to draw attention to your critique of my paragraph where I describe some of the dissident ideologies present on the Catholic right. I wrote about, “the embrace of dangerous ideologies, including forms of nationalism, populism, and integralism that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

    Note that I wrote “forms of” these ideologies “that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.” I chose my words carefully. I did not condemn all forms of these political ideologies, and I provided a link to an article about each of these that demonstrates the “forms” of these ideologies that contradict the faith. For example, the article linked to “nationalism” quotes JP2:

    “We need to clarify the essential difference between an unhealthy form of nationalism, which teaches contempt for other nations or cultures, and patriotism, which is a proper love of one’s country.”

    The whole point of that piece is to distinguish healthy and commendable patriotism from dangerous forms of nationalism. Yet in your response, you dismiss my point out of hand, and suggest I am a leftist who favors “globalist policies”:

    “Let us briefly consider “nationalism.” In our times, what being a patriotic American is to one person might be evil nationalism or populism to another – perhaps to the likes of Mr. Lewis. It certainly is often a false charge used by those on the political left who generally favor globalist policies.”

    On populism, I link to a talk given by Rodrigo Guerra, who condemns a new form of populism, which he calls “neo-populism.” This is how he describes it:

    “we can say that the new populism is the demagogic use that a charismatic leader makes of democratic legitimacy to promise access to a possible utopia and, upon triumph, to consolidate power outside the law or transforming it to convenience.”

    On integralism, the article I linked to actually has some positive things to say about it, but warns of two pitfalls (and then goes on to explain them at length):

    “There are two areas, however, in which integralism, in my opinion, falls short. One of these has to do with integralism’s relationship to history, the other with its relationship to the institutions of the Church.”

    Likewise, each of the other ideologies I mention (“white nationalism, dubious end-times prophecies, unapproved apparitions, and SSPX talking points”) links to specific examples. Yet without addressing my actual concerns, you mislead your readers by accusing me of dishonesty and call me a leftist.

    That’s all I’m going to say, because I suspect you’ll twist any response I might give in order to suit your agenda. If you’re wondering why I don’t usually engage your criticism, consider what I’ve written here. It’s clearly not worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mike,

      Thanks for the response. I invite the readers to read Mike’s original essay (which I linked to at the outset of my article), and then my critique of and response to it.

      My lengthy reply (to your lengthy essay) was as long as it was, in part, because it quoted you at length — including the links to the evidence you provided for your assertions. I quoted you as extensively as I did **precisely** because you made many of my points for me. By the way, I also did provide a full citation and context where you say “forms of nationalism.” You were not misrepresented.

      I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions, but it seems clear what picture or caricature you were drawing of the “right.” It is quite apparent you were tarring Catholics of the ‘right’ with a bizarre collection of errors. There was no nuance.
      There was no precision as to how far the “dangerous ideologies” did or did not penetrate the ‘right.’ You painted with a broad brush and in dark colors. Please, don’t hide behind ambiguity.

      Your mention of integralism, as one example, is laughable. In my original draft — but subsequently edited out — I had noted the WPI article you linked to hardly made it out to be a “dangerous ideology”…but, even so, you still included it in your list of such. Ridiculous. Again…this is coming from someone (me) who is not an integralist.

      You say:

      “Likewise, each of the other ideologies I mention (“white nationalism, dubious end-times prophecies, unapproved apparitions, and SSPX talking points”) links to specific examples. Yet without addressing my actual concerns, you mislead your readers by accusing me of dishonesty and call me a leftist.”

      First…again…I provided a full citation of your comments in context. I maintained your original links, precisely so the reader could evaluate your evidence.

      Second, as to “not addressing your concerns”, the point of your article was supposed to be evangelization. That is what I wanted to ultimately address, but there was some trash collecting to do along the way with regard to your divisive accusations. I did address that argument in my essay, as well your contradiction/hypocrisy related to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis/Amoris Laetitia. I well note your reply above makes no attempt to address that; or to further clarify your position on the Biden scandal.

      As to your attacks on conservatives/the right, I responded to the degree I thought necessary and the detail I thought warranted — as I wanted to address the central theme of your essay…EVANGELIZATION in the modern world. That said, your accusations against the right are silly, and I explained how and why…such as the claims from many leftists that simply being a Trump supporter qualified one as a “white supremacist.” My point was to show how you pretend to hate divisiveness but your article is an exercise in it. But…if you want to write an article that develops with greater specificity and detail the ridiculous accusations contained in your last one — saying how extensive you believe the problem is, instead of hiding behind ambiguity in order to leave negative impression….then I may very well have more to go on. Have at it. I just may very well respond to that.

      Third, as to your latter charge: “…you mislead your readers by accusing me of dishonesty and call me a leftist.” Again, I definitely encourage the reader: read Mr. Lewis’ original article to which I responded above. Then, I also suggest the reader take a look at your website over at Where Peter Is. There, you, yourself, have observed others view you/WPI as being on the “left”.

      For example:

      https://wherepeteris.com/is-dissent-on-the-catholic-right-uniquely-dangerous/

      https://wherepeteris.com/dishonest-dissent-on-the-catholic-left/

      Mike, I really cannot fathom how you can reasonably expect to opine as you do as to who is a “dissenter” and who is not; who is on the “right”, and who is not; how questioning Amoris Laetitia is “dissent” but questioning Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not, etc., and **not expect** folks to have an opinion on your leanings. Truly, “the Lady doth protest too much.”

      In conclusion, Mike, I haven’t twisted what you said. Your full reply is included above. Folks can see what you want to say and in your own words. My essay linked to your original article, and quoted you extensively — and included your links to your evidence where applicable.

      I have wondered why you blocked me on Twitter. For one, it runs contrary to your professed interest in “dialogue”, “listening”, “welcoming”, etc. I always thought we had good interactions. But, se la vie.

      I am here, as always, willing to “dialogue”…but by this I mean, to give a defense of the hope within me, with “gentleness and respect.”

      Thanks for your comments.

      God bless,

      Steve

      Like

      1. You mention here, “the claims from many leftists that simply being a Trump supporter qualified one as a ‘white supremacist.'”

        That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with my article? I have never said that and I would never permit a blanket statement like that to appear on WPI. I have always tried to be clear in making a distinction between Trump voters who support him for his positions on abortion and other issues, and “MAGA Catholics” who embrace and promote conspiracy theories and dangerous ideologies. I honestly don’t care who someone votes for, I care about the principles they uphold or reject.

        You also say that I give mixed signals about dissent. I think I have been quite consistent.

        If someone REJECTS a teaching of the Magisterium on faith and morals, they dissent from the Magisterium. This could be on the death penalty, Amoris Laetitia, or women’s ordination. If you said “the death penalty is a licit form of punishment” or “the Church is wrong about women priests,” you dissent.

        This is different than questioning. Someone might say, “I accept that only men can be priests, but I just don’t understand why. It doesn’t seem fair.” Another person might say, “I understand that the Church says the death penalty is inadmissible and we should work for abolition, but it seems inconsistent with the past.” These, strictly speaking, aren’t dissent, because they accept the teaching even if they don’t like it.

        But here’s the problem. In 3 out of 4 of these cases, dialogue is possible because the there is agreement on both sides about what the Church teaches. In the case of the Catholic who says, “the death penalty is a licit form of punishment,” I have found that such a person refuses to admit that their view is not aligned with the Church. They say that people who accept the pope’s teachings are the true dissenters.

        In such a case, the dialogue must begin with a discussion about authority and what the Church teaches on what constitutes the Magisterium.

        Talking about Amoris Laetitia or the death penalty is fruitless, I’ve found, because usually the dissenter refuses to acknowledge their dissent.

        If we have a fundamental disagreement about authority in the Church and what it means to be faithful to the Magisterium, arguing specific issues is a waste of time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Mike,

        Thanks for the response,

        You say:

        “That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with my article? I have never said that and I would never permit a blanket statement like that to appear on WPI. I have always tried to be clear in making a distinction between Trump voters who support him for his positions on abortion and other issues, and “MAGA Catholics” who embrace and promote conspiracy theories and dangerous ideologies. I honestly don’t care who someone votes for, I care about the principles they uphold or reject.”

        You are simply adding yet another label — “MAGA Catholics” — to the ominous talk of “dangerous ideologies”. What I previously wrote before still applies:.

        “But aside from the ongoing debate over things Pope Francis has said or done, Mr. Lewis wants to tar “reactionary” Catholics with a bizarre collection of errors, ranging from nationalism – even “white nationalism“(!) – populism, conspiracy theories, and dubious end-time prophecies from unapproved apparitions. Later in his article, Mr. Lewis seemingly even throws in “neo-pelagianism.”[1] All this makes it hard to take Mr. Lewis and his accusations seriously. Let us briefly consider “nationalism.” In our times, what being a patriotic American is to one person might be evil nationalism or populism to another – perhaps to the likes of Mr. Lewis. It certainly is often a false charge used by those on the political left who generally favor globalist policies. To many on the Democratic left, just being a Trump supporter qualifies one as a “white nationalist” or “white supremacist.”[2] Absurd. Does that mean there are no “white nationalists” anywhere? No, but such accusations or that of “white privilege” or “white supremacist” more often than not are a tactic cynically employed by the political Left – infamous for playing identity politics – to bludgeon and cow their politically conservative opposition. The truth is, while “white nationalism” is indeed an evil thing, there is no real evidence it is a significant ‘thing’ among Catholics.”

        There is no real sign these “dangerous ideologies” are a significant “thing” among Catholics (MAGA or not)…unless….perhaps you are following DNC talking points. Like I said, one person’s “Patriotic American” is another’s bad “nationalist”,

        Moving on from that, I am glad your second response above does touch upon the question of dissent.

        You say:

        “If someone REJECTS a teaching of the Magisterium on faith and morals, they dissent from the Magisterium. This could be on the death penalty, Amoris Laetitia, or women’s ordination. If you said “the death penalty is a licit form of punishment” or “the Church is wrong about women priests,” you dissent.”

        I reply;

        First, it would be utterly misleading to say I or others ‘dissent’ from what the Church teaches on communion for D&Rs living in an objective situation of sin. To begin, the *clearest* statement on the question of communion for D&Rs was JPII in Familiaris Consortio 84, wherein — having stated the reasons why D&Rs cannot receive Holy Communion except if they live as brother and sister — JP II says:

        “By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.”

        Thus, we have a perennial teaching – not merely a discipline – reaffirmed by Pope JPII…wherein he adds the Church in acting as it does here ‘professes its fidelity to Christ and to His Truth.’ Thus…this certainly lays out that to believe or act *contrary* to what JP II is to NOT be in fidelity to Christ, or to profess His Truth.

        Next…I accept Canon 915 in canon law. Still in effect…even under this pope.

        With this as a backdrop…it can easily be seen where the heartburn begins over certain interpretations of AL. Catholics concerned about AL, like all Catholics, want to profess fidelity to the Lord and the Lord’s Truth. JP II told us what THAT is in these D&R cases…and canon 915 enshrines this in the law of the Church.

        Yet, depending on which interpretation of AL one considers, there is a direct contradiction of JPII in FC 84, and who through the CDF circa 1994 said “no exceptions” are possible (BXVI reiterated teaching as well). But…some AL interpretations say some exceptions are possible. Direct contradiction. Thus, those with concerns about AL have them precisely BECAUSE they do not want to reject the magisterium! JP II, plus BXVI combined with perennial teaching make pretty clear what the magisterium is here.

        This – alongside AL’s ambiguity – contribute to questions about what Francis is either actually saying, and to what degree, if any, it it magisterial. For example, in my essay, and other articles, I have pointed out that even ‘supporters’ of Pope Francis on Amoris Laetitia seem to have opposing views, not only on what AL says, but even regarding its magisterial weight — even with respect to the AAS and the Buenos Aires Guidelines (see Confusion at Vatican Insider?[1] and The Confusion of the Francis-Apologists [2]). Even Pope Francis arguably disclaims Amoris Laetitia being an ‘intervention of the magisterium’ (see Amoris Laetitia 3).

        Keeping the above in mind, and staying focused on on the question of dissent on AL and or women’s ordination–which is what this specific discussion is really about, you say that “dissent” on AL is different, in your words:

        “than questioning. Someone might say, “I accept that only men can be priests, but I just don’t understand why. It doesn’t seem fair.”

        I reply…saying “I just don’t understand” etc. seems an overly benign interpretation of the Synodal Path’s view of women’s ordination in Forum 1. In Forum 1, the Synodal Catholics said: “We are therefore also committed to casting qualified votes so that access to all Church ministries and offices — including all ordained ministry — is opened to those believers who are called and able, regardless of gender or station in life.”

        Synodal Catholics want ordained women. That seems like a rejection of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis…and even if we try to be exceedingly charitable here…they are at a minimum calling into question whether OS actually rules out ordination of women – i.e., they doubt whether OS is magisterial[3], even though it expressly says it is.

        So, either they are rejecting a defined teaching…or they are asking a dubia about whether it is a defined teaching or not. So…it is bizarre that you would support ‘dialogue’ and ‘listenuing’ to them, but object to it in the case of those with concerns over AL. You do not make a coherent case for your position, and your response above hasn’t helped clear the air.

        You’ll dialogue with synodal Catholics who want to conform the teaching to *their* worldview of women’s rights…and you will “listen” to them despite them questioning a magisterial teaching, and infallibly taught at that. But you will not listen to those with questions about AL…even though they are coming from a point of view where they want to be true to the magisterium. It is abundantly evident you contradict yourself.

        As I’ve shown in the article, and above, there are certainly questions about WHAT AL is even teaching, and what its magisterial authority is. Further, depending on what interpretation is given to AL, the appear to be direct contradictions of the magisterium of the Church coming down to us over the course of 2000 years. Those are the basic issues/questions more or less asked in the Dubia…it is not a question of “rejecting” the magisterium…it is a hope to gain clarity regarding the magisterium on this point, muddied by the various issues noted around AL. There is no way you can be consistent in saying the Synodal Catholics should be “listened” to and “dialogued with” by the Church and the successor of St. Peter…but that those with questions about Amoris Laetitia are out of bounds with their questions…and that they do not deserve to have their questions addressed (particularly the Dubia even though such dubia have precedent in both being submitted and receiving papal responses).

        You conclude by saying: “If we have a fundamental disagreement about authority in the Church and what it means to be faithful to the Magisterium, arguing specific issues is a waste of time.”

        Again…I think you are not correctly framing the question. I assume we do have the same idea about the necessity of Catholics to accept what the Church teaches, and what it means to be faithful. Those with questions/concerns about AL have them precisely because they accept what the Church teaches. FC 84 seems a pretty firm teaching of the universal and ordinary magisterium of the Church. There are many expressions used in it that point to that fact, and this is pretty much stated by the CDF in its response to the German bishops in the 1990s (hmmm…seeing a pattern here). I’ve already set out some of those issues and questions in my essay and this response. There are questions about what Francis is saying, and what magisterial weight attaches to what he wrote (e.g., In AL 3, he appears to disclaim it’s an “intervention of the magisterium”). In sum…we have two potentially conflicting documents in FC and AL…though the former has greater doctrinal weight and the advantage of aligning with tradition. It is natural and understandable that questions should arise.

        In the end, one who professes to be “open” should be able to understand why folks desire that the pope, even now, to answer the Dubia. It doesn’t do for you as “Mike the lay guy” to offer your or WPI’s assurances that the question is settled or it is magisterium. There are many Catholics (lay, priests, bishops, cardinals, theologians) who have real questions and who would like clarity from the pope….that is his office…not yours. It is beyond me how you either fail, are unwilling, or unable to that point. We are not rejecting the magisterium..we are seeking the magisterium to make this clearer. Unlike the synodal Catholics who want to CHANGE a teaching of the magisterium…we want a teaching of the magisterium to resolve the uncertainties elaborated on above.

        Ultimately, I do believe it a virtual certainty that in the end, a clear and definitive judgment from Rome will ultimately settle the argument – one way or the other. It certainly is needed.

        Steve

        Footnotes:

        1. https://romalocutaest.com/2019/03/01/confusion-at-vatican-insider/

        2. https://romalocutaest.com/2019/07/22/the-confusion-of-the-francis-apologists/

        3. “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4)

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    2. What is very clear, Mike, is not simply the way that the intellectual arguments have been dishonestly twisted by Mr O’Reilly (and there are many more examples in his tirade than those you have referenced), but there is a clear difference in tone. If our evangelism is about communicating God to people, then the tone of human discourse has a vital role to play, and the blunt instrument of a culture war – and the demagogic tones that accompany it – should have no place in a genuinely evangelistic outreach.

      The simple fact that many of the contributors to Where Peter Is have gravitated there from traditionalist circles is evidence that: a). it is not a ‘liberal’ site, as falsely claimed here; b). many people are tired of the schismatic and undiscerning alliances with extreme right, conspiracists, and people in the pockets of the Russian Eurasian theorists (e.g. Viganò on the same platform as Dugin), because that has NOTHING to do with traditional Catholicism and is ultimately undermining the entire western civilisation.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for this essay. I’m reading it carefully, alongside the full essay by Mike Lewis. The point by point analysis is very effective and, to me, enlightening. I’ve been reading Where Peter Is for a while, assuming that its stated purpose — defending the Pope — means that it is basically traditional. (It takes time to figure out slants in the busy busy blogosphere.) Well, I guess not.

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  9. The respected long-time Editor of The American Ecclesiastical Review, and a periltus at Vatican Two, the great Father Joseph Clifford Fenton, during Vatican Two, said that the word integralist describes a catholic.

    I’ll chase down the reference

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  10. Father Fenton quoted on page 64 “”The Second Vatican Council” An Unwritten Story” Roberto de Mattei

    “…If, as i usual in our own country, the name of integralism if to this specifically anti-modernist teaching, then integralism is nothing more than a statement of Catholic truth, implied in a denial of the errors which are incompatible with the divine message of the Catholic Church.”

    Footnote 276 “Two Currents in Contemporary Catholic Thought” in “Th eAmerican Ecclesistical Review 119 (1948) 293-301 at 297.
    ++++++++++++++++++

    Father Fenton was appalled to learn of the massive numbers of progressive/modernists of the Fathers of the council and he said, rightly ,that Vatican Two was a circus run by clowns.

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  11. Dang, this software “correction” is irksome

    If, as usual in our own country, the name of integralism is applied to this specifically anti-modernist teaching…

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  12. Fuller quote from the excellent book by Mattei:

    Monsignor Fenton realized that within the Church a decisive conflict was in the making between the heirs of modernism and those of the “integralism” of the ear of St. Pius X. In 1949, commenting on the pastoral letter of Cardinal Suhard, Monsignor Fenton explained the the nature of the two currents which, ten years later would oppose each other at the council.

    An incautious reader of Cardinal Suhard’s pastoral (letter) might possible come to the dangerously false conclusion that modernism and integralism, as we know them, are two contrary false doctrines, the one, as it were, to the left, and the other to th eright, of genuine Catholic teaching. Nothing, of course could be father form the truth. Modernism, in the technical language of Catholic doctrine, is applied to the definite series of errors condemned in the decree “Lamentabili sane exit,” in the encyclical “Pascendi domino gregis” and in the moth proprio “Sacrorum antistitum” Pope Pius X spoke of modernism as a “conglomeration of all heresies.”

    Most frequently the name integralism was applied to the doctrine and the viewpoint of the Catholic writers who enter into controversy against the modernists during the first decade ,of the present century. Understood in thi fashion, integralism was nothing else tha the contradiction of heretical modernism. It wa thus only the exposition of Catholic truth.

    Since the progressive modernists have seized control of the authoritative apparatus of the Catholic Hierarchy they have not only infected the left with its errors and heresies but also the so-called right.

    One can read Me. Zmirak, for instance, and others, remonstrating against Integralism owing to the triumph of Religious Indifferentism which marches towards the end of time behind the banner of Religious Liberty, singing form the hymnal of Masonry in a world where all men are good and where all men have the right to worship whomever they want to worship as God (or not worship at all) and this insane and malign indifferentism is supposed to lead us all into the epoch of Human Dignity an universal peace.

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    1. I’d like to point out here that while the contemporary integralist movement doesn’t appear to have much power within the Church (let alone in government), it is a growing intellectual movement in the US and its spokesmen (Vermeule, Ahmari, etc) aren’t exactly nobodies.

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      1. Mike,

        thanks for the comment. I am not involving myself in the integralist debate…beyond which I have said already in responses to your article and comments….it is not a danger to our present system. We can rest easy.

        Regards,

        Steve

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  13. Steve, regarding your response – you did provide links, but your comments themselves included false assumptions and would mislead your readers if they didn’t click on the links. Rather than engaging my ideas, you make assumptions about my motives.

    And at a more fundamental level, you believe that there will be a “correction” of Francis’s papacy at some point. I don’t see that. I think the Church is what she is, and we can either accept it or live in denial. My assent to the Magisterium is based upon the consistent teachings of the councils and the popes, especially since Pius IX. I don’t think the cavalry is coming for you, and if they did, they would further discredit the Church because they would obliterate the authority of the pope. It would be the end of Magisterial authority.

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    1. Mike,

      I am “assuming” your comment above is in specific reference to the “Confusion at the Vatican Insider” and “Confusion of the Francis-Apologists” articles. I do hope folks do click on them and read them, especially now…otherwise, they might be misled by your comments above. The two articles provide specific examples (and sources) of confusion/contradiction that have popped up among/between ‘Francis-apologists’ when interpreting AL. I also hope people read the other documents referenced in the discussion, e.g., Familiaris Consortio 84[1], and the CDF document[2], which demonstrate the clarity and magisterial weight of FC 84. Together it seems rather clear the teaching of FC 84 is infallibly taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church (see para 5 in CDF document[3]).

      As to your ideas and motives…my articles, replies, and linked articles have engaged your ideas. I, again, invite the reader to read Mike’s original piece and comments, and my essay and subsequent comments. I have specifically indicated where I find problems with the ideas and arguments you have expressed. In all things, I do try to minimize “assumptions” as a former intel officer. But some things are rather evident not by mere assumption but *based* on reading your ideas, and of others at WPI…such as the relative leanings of WPI with respect to the ‘spectrum’ within the Church. I referenced two of your own articles where it’s clear you’ve heard that sort of thing before from others – and “frequently” from folks who have read WPI[4][5]. This doesn’t come out of a vacuum.

      Moving on…we’ll have to agree to disagree on whether Francis or a future pope will definitively settle the question. You mention Pius IX. Excellent. Of course, I accept Vatican I as well…and indeed…I believe one possible reason Francis does not answer the Dubia is *because* the Holy Spirit is preventing him from doing so. It is certainly strange he hasn’t done so by now.

      If there is a ‘correction’ as you put it, and a definitive one…it would neither discredit the Church nor obliterate the authority of the pope. it wouldn’t obliterate the authority of the pope anymore than did the anathemas hurled by the 6th Ecumenical Council against Pope Honorius, or Pope Leo II’s harsh words about him. Such a hypothetical case of a ‘definitive correction’ of Francis by a future pope might be analogous to that of John XXII[6], where his erroneous opinions regarding the Beatific Vision (even though he repented of them on his death bed) had to be ‘corrected’ by his successor (Benedict XII) by means of an infallible definition, Benedictus Deus.[7] This definition was necessitated by the confusion caused by John XXII’s erroneous statements on the subject.[6]

      I think we both can agree. The Church is indefectible It’s going to work out.

      Thanks for the conversation.

      God bless,

      Steve

      1. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html

      2.https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_14091994_rec-holy-comm-by-divorced_en.html

      3. “The doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter, are amply presented in the post-conciliar period in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The Exhortation, among other things, reminds pastors that out of love for the truth they are obliged to discern carefully the different situations and exhorts them to encourage the participation of the divorced and remarried in the various events in the life of the Church. At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, “founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion”(9). The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.” (source: CDF document, see note above)

      4. https://wherepeteris.com/is-dissent-on-the-catholic-right-uniquely-dangerous/

      5. https://wherepeteris.com/dishonest-dissent-on-the-catholic-left/

      6. https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-pope-who-fell-into-heresy-church-that.html

      7. https://www.papalencyclicals.net/ben12/b12bdeus.htm

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    2. Mike,

      On second look…perhaps you are referring to the links provided to integralism? If your reference was to LINKS to integralism…then my apologies for misunderstanding that. The reference to AL made me think back to the earlier response.

      If that is what you meant, I just allowed a commenter to post them since the subject was raised in the discussion. I make no comment on the discussion and links he references.

      You say:

      “I’d like to point out here that while the contemporary integralist movement doesn’t appear to have much power within the Church (let alone in government), it is a growing intellectual movement in the US and its spokesmen (Vermeule, Ahmari, etc) aren’t exactly nobodies.”

      I reply: the original point I made remains the case, “integralism” was in your list of “dangerous ideologies;” but I don’t think we need to worry about the US going that way. Your statement seems to admit as much, e.g., not having much power in US or the Church.

      As to your comment:

      “it is a growing intellectual movement in the US and its spokesmen (Vermeule, Ahmari, etc)”

      Even if there is intellectual weight behind it…that doesn’t change my critique of your inclusion of it in a list of “danger ideologies.” Or, are you now claiming the individuals you mention favor a “dangerous” variety of integralism?

      Regards,

      Steve

      Liked by 1 person

  14. https://www.traditioninaction.org/ProgressivistDoc/A_093_Rat-TheologianVocation.html

    Pope John Paul II supported then Cardinal Ratzinger’s defenestration of doctrines taught by former Popes and in doing so he became a sapper of the authority of any future magisterium – especially the heretical one of Bergoglio.

    Look, if one magisterium can ditch the doctrines of previous magisteriums there is no way to forbid the future undermining of the magisterium doing the ditching and that has been the praxis of the progressive politician Bergoglio who has radically opposed what John Paul II taught in continuity with Tradition.

    It is a bit amusing to see catholics outraged and scandalised when Bergoglio does what the then Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of The Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, did when he wielded authority.

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  15. Vatican 1 Infallible Teaching on the Papacy:

    On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs

    1. That which our lord Jesus Christ, the prince of shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, established in the blessed apostle Peter, for the continual salvation and permanent benefit of the Church, must of necessity remain for ever, by Christ’s authority, in the Church which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end of time [45].

    2. For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the Holy Roman See, which he founded and consecrated with his blood [46].

    Now, it is obvious that Jesus is not presiding and exercising judgment via Bergoglio and so the only sane and sober conclusion to be drawn is Bergoglio is a Not Pope.

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    1. VC,

      Thanks for the comments.

      As to Pope Francis…given he went through all the visible form, procedure, etc., of an election it would be difficult to impossible to say he is not the pope. Each of the theories that would say he is not pope all have significant issues. The worst of all the theories in my opinion is the BiP theory — but it seems to be the most popular, and somehow keeps chugging along. I have addressed it in many articles now collected in the “Summa Contra BiP”[1]; and I have addressed Dr. Mazza’s variant of the BiP theory in the “Summa Contra Dr. Mazza” [2].

      Hypothetically…even should *definitive* proof be uncovered at this point that his election or acceptance was invalid in 2013, even then we’d still need a future pope to say that is the case *today*, and rule on what that means (i.e., was any election defect *healed* as might be indicated by universal acceptance, or is he not a true pope due to the specific nature of the defect). Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath any of this will happen.

      But, certainly, the current pontificate does pose many significant and perplexing questions — which will need to be addressed one day. However, I am still of the opinion that even with all of these questions considered; all can be reconciled within the context of Pastor Aeturnus and what we know of historical cases such as that of John XXII, Honorius, etc., that might apply…though combined and writ large…very large.

      Thanks for the feedback.

      Regards,

      Steve

      Notes:
      1.

      Summa Contra the BiP Theory (Why Benedict XVI is NOT the pope)

      2.

      The Summa Contra Dr. Mazza

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Dear Mr. O’Reilly I agree with your summa on why BAP (Benedict Aint Pope) and why Francis was truly elected and I apologise for not making to clear what I think Bergoglio is a Not Pope.

    He lost the Papacy via his manifest heresies.

    The reason why most Catholics do not acknowledge that is that the cowardly Cardinals will not call an imperfect council and make that obvious.

    The can-kicking by the Cardinals has been as long lasting as it is irksome. I think they were shocked that Bergoglio refused to answer the Dubia and they are not men enough to stand up to his willfulness.

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  17. Dear Mr. O’Reilly. It was quite helpful to have written what I believe to be true but I have to also write that yours is the best way to proceed during the reign of this progressive politician.

    I have no authority to declare he is a Not Pope. I have to wait on the Lord for Him to manifest that truth via His Church.

    In the meantime, I will faithfully adhere to the Original Deposit of Faith as mediated by Catholic Tradition and maintain communion with my Bishop and remain as far away from sedevacantism as a US Senator remains from Natural Law and the Constitution.

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