Written by Michael Matt
Editor’s Note: I wrote this last year, and it appeared in the Print/E-edition of The Remnant only. Given recent developments involving an increasingly aggressive Pope Francis, it seems appropriate to post it here on our site. MJM
The Church’s constant teaching regarding the duty of faithful Catholics to resist legitimate authority in times of crisis is rooted in Scripture. “But when Cephas was come to Antioch,” writes St. Paul in Galatians 2:11, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
Scripture’s most adamant exhortation in this regard also comes from Galatians: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”
As a Catholic who came of age during the turbulent post-concilar era, it was clear to me even as a child that popes can fail and cause great harm to the Church. But I always considered this potential to be a matter of human ignorance or weakness, rather than outright malice.
Peter himself sets the precedent. Before laying down his life for Christ, our first pope would deny Him three times and go well above and beyond the call of duty in proving that popes are indeed subject to human weakness. But did Peter wish to destroy the Church? Most definitely he did not. Did Liberius? Honorius? Alexander VI? Again, it would seem not.
Proactive papal attempts to destroy the Church are rare indeed, and in fact seem to be confined almost exclusively to the pontificates of the most recent occupants of Peter’s chair. But even these attempts do not seem to disqualify the guilty pontiffs as legitimate vicars of Christ on earth. Just as Peter denied Christ and thus joined himself momentarily to those who sought His blood, so too Peter’s successors will evidently not be prohibited from playing a part in the mystery of iniquity—something which comes as little surprise to those who recall Pope Leo’s vision of Christ allowing Satan himself one hundred years to test His Church.
But inasmuch as Peter’s successors can—out of fear, weakness or diabolical disorientation—actively work to destroy the Church, this does not mean they are above reproach or should not to be vigorously resisted.
Read more here: The Remnant Newspaper – The Catacombs Pact