The ‘Who is the true Pope?’ debate

From Fr Z’s blog:

Yesterday, I posted about Socci’s views on who the true Pope may be.  HERE.  A couple days ago, I posted about the new highly critical Compendium about the odd teachings of Francis, HERE.  In that post, I said that, if someone had a contrary view let him come up with his own compendium favorable toward Francis.

Today I received a link to a blog called Roma Locuta Est written by Steven O’Reilly, which has a compendium not about how wonderful Francis is (the challenge I issued) but rather responding to the claims of Socci and our friend Ann Barnhardt that Benedict is the true Pope.  For the sake of fairness and for the sake of the mind-exercise I invited you all into, it seems good to share the link: HERE.   Socci has his arguments, and Ann hers.  Others opine as well.  This fellow has his view: even though Francis has been sowing confusing and division, he really is the Pope.  In the linked post he summarizes his position and then provides a compendium of the articles he has written on the topic.

You can go there, read, and decide for yourself who is right.


That last thing I typed stops me in my own tracks.  “Decide for yourself….”

When it comes to the papacy we really shouldn’t have to be in this position.

But what are we supposed to do?

When we see really strange things going on, are we simply suppose to disengage our brains and stop thinking?  Blindly accept claims in a time when – rather often – we find that our leaders are liars or complicit in nefarious things?  God gave us reason.  God also offers us graces, including the gift of Faith.  God gave us a Church with the Petrine Ministry as a constitutive element to help us get to heaven.

I go back an forth with myself about the question of the papacy today.  On the one hand, the question doesn’t have a huge impact on my (or your) daily life.  We have our Catholic lives to live.  The name of the Pope might come up once a day if you go to daily Mass.  But that’s about it.  For centuries most people had no idea even who the Pope was, even his name, and they lived their lives and went about their business without worrying about it.  Hence, I will sometimes suggest to people that if they are really upset by this question, they should leave it aside and go do something else.

On the other hand, I am haunted by the clear teaching of the Lord about obedience to authority, even authority that is corrupt.   In Matthew 23:2-3 Our Lord says:

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”

In this chapter Christ condemns in the strongest terms the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and their teachings, while telling his disciples to submit to them because they sit on the “seat (kathedra) of Moses”, that is, they have the authority to teach.   Looking at the Greek, the Lord uses the same words that undergird Peter’s authority to bind and loose, which gives us an insight into what Christ meant for Peter’s authority.   The question of what Christ meant in Matthew 23 is complex and fascinating, but at least we can say that His view was that obedience was owed even to lousy leaders.   Given that, yes, it really is important to know who has legitimate authority, the kathedra, today, especially since modern means of communication shoves information “the Vatican”, “the Pope” down our ears, noses and throats in great gobs.

It’s nearly impossible to ignore.

Since God gave us reason, I say, let us use it.  Prayerfully.

Perhaps if you are going to delve into these issues at all, it would be good to start with prayers.  First, use the so-called internet prayer when you get online.  Then, if you come to a thorny question, ask your Guardian Angel to guide you to and through what you find in a way that is helpful, not hurtful.   This world has its prince, the “father of lies”, who wants you confused and divided, mired in falsehood and without the use of reason.  Don’t get into it with the forces of evil.  Be vigilant and disciplined in your looking at these troubling topics.   Leave them aside if you must.

Some of us must pay close attention to these things.  That doesn’t mean that everyone does.

Finally, I conclude with something that I have offered more than once in the past.

In the large arc of time, Popes come and go. Councils are called and concluded.  Some of these Popes and Councils are important and some of them are not so important.  Some of them were better than others.   Some of them have great impact still today, others not so much.  Not every Pope or Council was equally important, or good.  Time will tell.

So don’t get overly concerned even about today’s goings on, which are ephemeral.  Yes, we are living in them, so they are pressing on us, but our goal is ultimately heaven, not an eternal prolongation of an earthly life wherein we see only as if through glass, darkly.

In the New Creation, all things will be made new.

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1 Response to The ‘Who is the true Pope?’ debate

  1. This is an excellent, truthful perspective on this dilemma we of the Catholic Church are currently faced with! All of what is being said here is the whole truth, which allows us to make a clear-cut decision of conscience! My dad would tell me basically in the same way when I was seeking his perspective and wisdom about things that I had plenty of time to ponder but neither enough knowledge nor insight, to come up with any concrete answers; to those many puzzling things. He told me plain as day that “it’s out of our hands son” and sometimes he added “it’s bigger than you and me.” Then he would usually remind me how “I have plenty of things to do that I can do something about and that is what I should be devoting my time to.” What also really stands out now; which he said about himself on a few occasions while having our talks like that, was this; “son, I’m a practical man!”
    Thank you.


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