Are There Limits to Papal Power?

Some hypothetical questions will help us clarify what the Church actually teaches about the papacy, versus the popular and often maximalist understanding of it.

(Image: iam_os |

Following the publication of Traditionis Custodes, there have been numerous pieces written in defense of the usus antiquor, as well as others claiming that Traditionis Custodes was necessary and much-needed. Much of the frenzy surrounding the motu proprio has mostly centered on questions about liturgical reform and its relation to the Second Vatican Council.

But the questions arising from this motu proprio— as well as from much of Pope Francis’ pontificate— can also help us reflect upon Catholic teaching on the papacy. Are there limits to papal power? What is the scope and limits of papal infallibility? Given that the Church lacks a system of ‘checks and balances’, is there anything—aside from the Providence of God—that can counter a pope’s questionable declarations, decisions, or actions? As Adam DeVille wrote, “a papacy big enough to give you what you want is also powerful enough to take away what you love.” A healthy and happy Church is one that recognizes the papacy for what it is, and resists the urge to make it what it is not.

Papacy 101

Let us remind ourselves of some key doctrines regarding the papacy, so to avoid any confusion. The Catholic Church teaches that Christ chose the Apostle Peter to be the “rock” (petra) upon which He will build His Church (Mt 16:18). Peter—and every Bishop of Rome following him—enjoys a primacy (protos) that signifies his ranking as “first” among the other Apostles and their successors. Peter’s promotion, however, directly flows from his graced confession of faith in Christ as the Messiah, which as Christ notes, was revealed to Peter by the Father in heaven.

From its origin, papal primacy has as its roots the supernatural virtue of faith in Jesus Christ. It is Christ alone who is the Head of the Church, albeit invisible here on earth. Every pope stands in as a visual representative of ecclesial unity, who, like Peter, is called to confirm his brethren in the faith (Lk 22:32). At once, then, we can dismiss episcopal egalitarianism—the idea that neither Peter nor his successors have any proper, prime role in the Church. Even the Orthodox Church attributes a primacy to Peter and future popes, though there is disagreement as to how this primacy is to be exercised, which is an ongoing ecumenical discussion.

The Church elaborates on this primacy of the pope through two key teachings: first, that “he possesses supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church.” (Can. 331); and second, that he is infallible when speaking ex cathedra (Vatican I, Pastor aeternus, IV.9).

To the first, the Church acknowledges that the pope’s power in the Church is not restricted by a parliament or popular vote, but belongs to the office as such and without jurisdictional restriction. The pope does not answer to any legislative or earthly authority, nor does he need permission to exercise his papal prerogatives.

To the second, the Church understands papal infallibility to be that, when a pope solemnly declares that a teaching on faith or morals is to be definitively held by all the faithful, this teaching is protected from error by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Such divine assistance is not guaranteed to the pope in his encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, motu propria, or even airplane interviews.

While it is pious to believe that a pope cannot ever fall into heresy, it is not impossible, and even then, it would not contradict the dogmatic teachings proclaimed at Vatican I and reasserted at Vatican II. The pope can teach error—that is, they can write or speak things that are wrong or that deviate from the full truth. One thinks of the famous examples of Pope Honorius, who was posthumously condemned at Constantinople III for seemingly promoting the monothelite heresy, or Pope John XXII who preached the error that the souls of the just do not attain beatific vision until the Last Judgment. Of course, Catholic apologists are quick to answer that Honorius did not technically subscribe to monothelitism, and that John XXII only preached the aforementioned error and never officially taught it as such.

Other examples include Pope Liberius who signed (under coercion) an Arian affirmation of faith, and Pope Vigilius’ wavering between orthodoxy and Nestorianism in the Three Chapters controversy. These historical examples, among others, reveal a possibility for papal error, though nearly every Catholic would agree that these mistakes do not fall within the realm of papal infallibility.

What if…?

In what follows, I offer a thought-experiment. A few preliminary comments are required. First, like the Doctors of the Church have taught us, nothing is beyond constructive questioning. After all, St. Augustine speculated what the resurrection of the body means for the unborn deceased (City of God, 22.13), and St. Thomas Aquinas asked what happens to the mouse when it goes into the tabernacle and consumes the Sacred Host (quid mus sumit). While these questions may seem ridiculous at first, they have both pastoral and doctrinal implications.

Second, the purpose of hypothetical questioning is to help clarify what we believe, and why we believe it. A thought-experiment is intended to isolate and identify principles so that we may follow where they lead in application. Applied to the papacy, these hypothetical questions will help us clarify what the Church actually teaches about the papacy, versus the popular and often maximalist understanding of it.

Let’s say tomorrow, Pope Francis releases an apostolic letter in which he bans public recitation of the Rosary and suppresses devotion to the Sacred Heart. Of course, the chances of him doing something like this are slim, if none. But the question is not “will he?”, but rather “can he?” In other words, is it within the scope of papal power to demolish centuries-old religious devotions?

Some Catholic apologists suggest that, because the pope possesses plena potestas and authority over sacramental and ecclesiastical discipline, the pope could, in theory, ban the Rosary and suppress the Sacred Heart devotion. While venerable in practice, they fall within the realm of private and popular devotions, and if the Apostolic See finds that such devotions are “divisive” to the “unity of the Church”, then the pope can, in fact, suppress them.

Such a hypothetical should not come across as shocking. After all, if the pope can replace a 1,500-year-old liturgy with a “new order” of Mass created by a committee of experts and thus radically change public worship for the majority of Catholics, what is stopping him from forbidding certain devotional practices? If Pope Francis were to do this, it would certainly upset and scandalize many of the faithful. But that does not mean he cannot—just that he ought not to.

We might already anticipate the potential defenses given to this hypothetical apostolic letter. “The Rosary and Sacred Heart belong to private revelation and devotion, and they, like all popular piety, can be regulated by the competent ecclesiastical authorities.” It might be worth reminding readers that Annibale Bugnini, the architect of the Novus Ordo Missae, also attempted to “reform” the Rosary by reducing the Our Father to one occurrence, mandating that public recitation would only contain one decade, and removing all the non-Biblical parts of the Hail Mary (thus everything following “Holy Mary, Mother of God”).1

Of course, we know that he was not successful in doing so, but, should Pope Paul VI have approved of his changes, would that suddenly make the traditional form of the Rosary illicit? Is there any substance to approved rites and devotions aside from their approval from the Apostolic See?

Contra papal maximalism and papal minimalism

Moving from the realm of devotion and liturgy to doctrine, we know well Catholic teaching regarding papal infallibility and the levels of assent required by the faithful to the Magisterium. A papal maximalist believes that everything the pope says is protected from error, and a papal minimalist holds that, unless the pope is giving an ex cathedra statement, there is no real assent required.

The truth, however, is somewhere in the middle. The pope does indeed possess the charism of infallibility which has, in general, a limited scope. The object of papal infallibility is his teaching on faith and morals, whether it concerns something explicitly revealed or non-revealed but closely tied to Revelation. The condition for papal infallibility is that it is ex cathedra, or from the chair. The pope needs to make it clear that he is speaking as the supreme pastor on a matter to be definitively held by all the faithful. And while it is true that most papal pronouncements and writings do not fall within this narrow scope of papal infallibility, they should generally be received with docility and “religious respect”.

However, there are those in the Church who, clinging to misguided notions of religious adherence and the submission of will and intellect, believe that the pope can change teachings by virtue of his office, and that Catholics who question such actions are pseudo-schismatics.

What is often ignored in these neo-ultramontane circles is that the pope’s power is indeed limited by natural and divine law. For example, the pope cannot declare that euthanasia is permissible or abolish marriage as a sacrament. Moreover, the promised assistance of the Holy Spirit does not mean that the pope cannot, at least in theory, speak and write errors. What divine assistance assures is that the pope is protected from error in his formal definitions. The pope is not the master and creator of the deposit of faith; the pope exists to serve divine revelation, not vice-versa.

Returning to the example of liturgy and devotions, papal ‘power’ would thus be understood as one of a gardener than a bulldozer. The pope does not have the power to create and destroy the true, good, and beautiful, because he is not the one whose power made truth true, or goodness good, or beauty beautiful. Only a decadent, reductionist approach to the liturgy and devotions would see them as papal playthings rather than gifts to be treasured and protected.

Moreover, the office of the papacy does not exist in isolation from the rest of the Church. Just as Peter’s primacy existed for the common good of the other Apostles and whose own faith would help confirm that of his brethren (Lk 22:32), so too does the same primacy today exist for the common good and welfare of the Church. The pope’s authority does not exist in a theoretical vacuum, but instead rests within the needs of the Church at any given time. Petrine authority, like all Apostolic authority, is given for the edification—not destruction—of the Church (2 Cor. 10:8).

If we find, then, that a megalomaniac pontiff on the Barque of Peter is drunk with power while manning the wheel into a rock formation, it does no good to suggest that it is his right as captain to capsize the ship. Or, to use another example: in Christ’s mandate to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17), the implication is that Peter would feed them nutrition, and not poison. The former is the fulfillment of the Petrine vocation, and the latter is the rejection of it.

And so, are there limits to papal power? Yes, but this requires careful nuance. We must dismiss the modern impulse to resort to juridical solutions. The papacy—just like the Church—is given by Christ for the sanctification of the world. The answer to a papacy in crisis is not to turn to conciliarism or Gallicanism, which try to set up structures to limit papal authority. Rather, the limits of papal power are not from an external source but from one within. It is the Holy Spirit, the uncreated soul of the Church, who guides the Church into all the truth (Jn 16:13). It is the same Spirit through whom the Church comes to know the voice of the Good Shepherd—and who helps discern between His voice and the voice of a stranger (Jn 10:5).

The limits to papal power are the limits to power, in general. True power is not in lording and wielding, but in serving (Lk 22:25-26). Whether it concerns liturgy or doctrine, devotion or discipline, the pope certainly has a role. But if “power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9), one would pray that the pope be so weak, that the true power—that of Christ’s—will rest upon him, guiding his Petrine ministry.


1 Annibale Bugnini and Matthew J. O’Connell, The Reform of the Liturgy, 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990), 874-77.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About John A. Monaco 4 Articles
John A. Monaco is a doctoral student in theology at Duquesne University, and is a Visiting Scholar with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville.


  1. Just adding three thoughts, two for rumination and the third for restored memory:

    FIRST, as St. John Henry Cardinal Newman expressed it even before the First Vatican Council defined “papal infallibility:” [the effect of the definition] “is not to enfeeble the freedom or vigour of human thought in religious speculation, but to resist and control its extravagance” (Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Image, 1962, p. 329).

    SECOND, Newman offers a short list of positions not fitting the precise definition of papal infallibility:

    “What have excommunication and interdict to do with infallibility? Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? Was St. Victor infallible when he separated from his communion the Asiatic Churches? Or Liberius when in like manner he excommunicated Athanasius? And, to come to later times, was Gregory XIII, when he had a medal struck in honour of the Bartholomew massacre? Or Paul IV in his conduct towards Elizabeth? Or Sixtus V when he blessed the Armada? Or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo? No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts” (from a Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in Vincent Blehl, editor, “The Essential Newman,” Mentor Omega, 1963, page 269).

    And THIRD, continuing John Monaco’s illuminating thought experiment, what might be said about any hypothetical pope who never actually contradicts the Magisterium, but who simply and silently sets it aside in practice, possibly severing faith from morals?

    Take for example, this, from the shelved Veritatis Splendor (VS, 1993) which reaffirms the nature of conscience and moral absolutes (“prohibiting intrinsic evil”), and therefore exposes the widespread errors of the Fundamental Option, proportionalism, and consequentialism: “This [VS] is the first time, in fact, that the Magisterium of the Church [!] has set forth in detail the fundamental elements of this teaching [“Christian moral teaching”], and presented the principles for the pastoral discernment necessary in practical and cultural situations which are complex and even crucial” (n. 115).

    • And for anyone of authentic faith, the starting premises of any thought experiment is that it would be impossible for God to mislead us or to have allowed the peoples of the past insufficient knowledge, a priori and a posteriori, to lead moral lives. Thus, any contemporary moral proposition must never be at odds with received theological wisdom. Understanding these premises, leads one to find the words of Francis, as prone to expressing contempt for the past as any unformed cynical adolescent, ever more mysterious.

      • Edward, your word mysterious drew my response. Permanence, the virtue of an immutable, infinitely good God is the signature of Christ’s revelation. Revealed in time and space the Word transcends both. Francis’ contempt for the past may refer to an intransigence that inhibits the flourish of that revelation, or a disrepute of what cannot be repudiated. “As a particular person he cannot be a heretic, by obstinately believing something false contrary to the faith” (Bellarmine quoted by Robert Fastiggi). Robert Fastiggi does seem [it’s a complex issue] to have a more coherent understanding of Papal Infallibility notwithstanding John Monaco’s good effort. Except for Bellarmine’s “probable” opinion of a pope as a private person. Although, belief that God would not permit a pope to formally pronounce a definitive error is an indisputable standard of our faith. The Father will continue to pastor us through his vicar. As a private person however words and actions are quite fallible as referenced above by Peter Beaulieu. Bellarmine’s opinion that as a private person the pope cannot obstinately believe something false contrary to the faith appears true, the opinion hinges on “obstinately”. Example, the dual messaging often attributed to Pope Francis. Parsing, suggestion, oblique reference, one time rather than consistent statement [recall immediately after publication of Amoris Francis publicly stated that most marriages were invalid then when rebuked next day wheeled it back] is an art mastered by the pontiff. Most take away from the duality what is contrary to the norm. An outrageous remark made once despite a thousand repudiations afterward, is all that will be recalled by all. So artful, nefarious or benevolent sidesteps [Argentinians are wonderful dancers] is not obstinacy. As a confession I would be delighted if what Francis claims as his intention, to loosen up the Church making it more amenable to the outcast were credible. As is Christ’s evangelical credibility with the Samaritan Woman. There, and in all such encounters with sinners there was always an appeal to repentance, which is lacking in this pontificate. Mysterious? Yes. Would God permit it? Whether that would be contrary to Christ the Good Shepherd can be perceived as complementary to his providence. What Francis’ dual message presents to the Church are two pathways irreconcilable in essence. An eschatological choice. As the Synod on synodality effectively subjects everything that defines Christianity to continuous debate, findings submitted by bishops to Rome returned, shared, resubmitted subject to consensus leaving someone like Robert Royal flummoxed. What will the less credentialed discern in this if not dissolution of the faith? As said, like water Francis will find a way. Family is under assault the final bastion of retaining a semblance of humanness. Events do not encourage confidence that papal leadership meets the test of Apostolic coherence. We find ourselves admonished being led to a place we do not want to be. A pope can and most likely will be formally true. He can and may be permitted to be informally deceptive and misleading.

    • The question asked here regarding limitations on the power of the pope is an important one and the author, I believe, gives the correct answer albeit followed by a nebulous conclusion(that is theoretical vs practical from a layman’s view.)
      Hit the nail on the head the issue is what can the laity do about a pope who may be a panderer, embezzler, a scandal to their children and a heretic to boot. The answer is dump him!
      There admittedly no canonical provision for the removal of such a pope, but supernatural forces not intervening, with the right alignment (however improbable) of a secular political force involving a 5 million strong faithful might clear out the Vatican. Such non-canonical measure would be in accord with authentic Catholic Theology It is the current neglect of the study of natural philosophy and Theology of History by many contemporary theologians, and their failure to acknowledge that God is not only the creator of the universe but also the author of human society that befuddles them. (And perhaps we might also add the corruption in personal morality.)
      The removal of a canonically elected pontiff and replacing him with an anti-pope (who eventually becomes true pope) has been accomplished in the past without affecting neither doctrinal integrity nor Apostolic succession one jot or tittle.

  2. “If we find, then, that a megalomaniac pontiff on the Barque of Peter is drunk with power while manning the wheel into a rock formation, it does no good to suggest that it is his right as captain to capsize the ship.”

    But that is exactly what has been happening for the past 9 years, and the virtual totality of bishops, priests, and laity have said little and done less.

    • I too could not help but note the irony. The author of this article sounded, just for a moment, like St. Marcel Lefebvre, who correctly described EXACTLY what the popes were doing and are doing: steering the Ship to destruction.

      • St. Marcel Lefebvre? You are calling this protestant who had been excommunicated from the Lord’s Church, a saint? He may have disliked the fact that “the popes” did not do things HIS way, but he was wrong.

        • The normal response of anti-Latin activism is to reduce all discourse to a simplistic binary them and us. ‘Hands up who wants to ban trad Mass’. Like it has been for 50 years. However people have rediscovered the excellent Latin rite; what was beige 50 years ago is the new black, and the new is become beige. Sure, some use trad Mass as a theological totem, but most don’t and just want to be devout, which the old rite is uniquely good at. It you don’t appreciate the beauties of the old rite, you clearly don’t value it, and there think no-one else should value it. It’s a lazy position, when plenty of young priests and youth are discovering the magnetism of the old rite. The Pope could have gone about countering the more extreme traditionalist theorists a different way, by trying to win the argument for example. Francis is a formidable intellect, but one that is increasingly not listening I think. Be that as it may, the test will be whether priests are genuinely allowed to follow Latin charism if this is their genuine charism, or whether they will be simply prevented from doing so.

        • Wait… protestant? how so?
          It is not that he disliked that the popes did not do things his way but that “popes” started going a different way, not what had been passed down to us from so many generations. Lefebvre denounced the clear departure from tradition, the clear departure from what had been passed down to Pope Paul VI.
          Could Lefebvre have done a few things better? Sure. Was Lefebvre given options that did not compromise the traditions that he was trying to protect? I do not know.
          Why did Pope Paul VI change so many things in such a short period of time? it seems like a disregard for the treasure and our inheritance which is catholic tradition.

          • Tradition does not exist in a format or the vernacular used. It exists in the substance, and substance present in a different language or format is not affected by the incidentals.

  3. If we have to put so many caveats and limits on papal supremacy etc. I can’t help but ask why we should have it all.

    I’m having an increasingly difficult time reconciling the Catholicism I read about in books and the Catholicism I see in the average parish and the Catholicism preached by the Pope and Bishops. The cognitive dissonance is too much. At a certain point we might have to admit that the Catholicism of Francis and the post-Vatican 2 Church IS what Catholicism is now. What we do with that is another question.

    • Dear Andrew, Catholicism ideal v reality is always present. It becomes the ideal in Saints and those who strive to live it. Saying Rosary, attending Mass, regular confession, disponability to be a Christian in the World. When our garden is attended to, we taste the commununion of saints. The greatest part of the Catholic church is not militant – here and now – but triumphant: in heaven and now. The greatest force of that communion is not wayward ChurchMEN of our day but the sublime Bride of Christ in her triumphant, ever dawning splendour. MORE important than keeping up with Church Politics is the spiritual life and Christian living. The Catholic Church in any age is prescription – the law of Moses and Christ, sacred tradition and lived faith – and a multitude of forgiven sinners who strive to get as close as they can along the path of Perfection. A long series of antipopes and sinners who have striven to gain the Throne of Peter with human political programmes that are opposed to the Divine Will are testimony to the possibility that at times the Cardinals fail in their duty to the Bride of Christ because they do not have the faith. During such times great Popes can arise, even martyr Popes who will sacrifice everything for the good of the Church even their papacy if it can serve the Divine Will. Somtimes a virus must be allowed to finally run its course for the body to rid itself of the infection (communism for example). Hope that might help? Dream your Bride of Christ true:attend latin mass confession, pray rosary, live as a Christian. Read good books. Study scripture. The Bride of Christ is present until the end. And the Triumphant Church is unchanging and true to the Divine Institution founded by the Son of God. Each page of Church history turns. Christ remains. Let no wayward ChurchMAN eclipse Christ and His Bride.

      • Sounds like denial to me. Please wake up and look at the institution as it is. Not what you find in books. Right now, the church in my area is being rocked by yet ANOTHER scandal of hundreds of abused children. I’m sick of it.

        • If you find that there are no, or very few genuine Catholics left in the church (either clerical or lay), then the answer is for you to be the only, or one of the few good Catholics, not for you to join the multitude of sinners and betrayers. The greed and trickery of Judas does not repudiate the holiness of John (or the other Apostles.)

    • No, Andrew. That is being Godless. The Beloved Lord gave us this gift His, why would you questioned His faculties?

      What someone does or does not do is not germane to the Truth, only whether there has been fidelity or not to Him who is Truth – Truth which is ever one and the same, ‘today, yesterday and forever’. You or no one is to reconcile anything – the Victory is accomplished. Live It, Him; Love Him, be faithful, repent when not, begin anew, stay the Holy Way of Divine Love and Life. Blessings.

      • Andrew, we are living the Apostasy: the massive loss of faith. The abuse is first of all the Bride of Christ infiltrated: Taylor Marshall “Infiltration” Crisis Publications. Pope Benedict wrote that for all of us God returns to being a hypothesis at times. He is real when we are in communion, aligned with the Sacred Heart beating in the tabernacle along with the Immaculate heart of Mary. What has worked for me is during rosary, I pray our lady’s Immaculate heart will triumph over Her ennemies before announcing the intentions. Try and pray rosary before the tabernacle and aligne your heart. Thereafter, we learn to focus on the sin we Can do something about – our own – and we can throw a fist at modernists as Pope St Pius X asked us when the occasion arises. Just Anger at what the infiltrates have done to the Bride of Christ is something we have to learn to live with and channel into our Manly daily prayer. Every day I ask Our Lady to Crush the Sankt Gallen Mafia under her foot. As a man, that Just Anger is what leads me back to the tabernacle almost daily. If we Catholic husbands, fathers, men with vocations can offer up our Just Anger it is transformed into deepened faith, hope and true charity: that chides and admonishes as well as being caring that teaches the faith when possible. Hope that helps, Andrew ? The modernists broke my priestly vocation thirty years ago. Today, they have broken the church. The abuse situation makes every true Catholic’s blood boil. My revenge is daily rosary: a member of the Immaculatae’s army. Get a daily quote from Kolbe email, ask St Kolbe to guide you. St Kolbe is the anti masonic, anti Sankt Gallen Mafia force Pope JP2 gave us. His example every man can follow, for Kolbe allowed all his Just Anger to be transformed by the Immaculata’s hands daily.

        • To posit a false dichotomy of a Catholicism of “books” vs a Catholicism of contemporary flawed prelates does not constitute questioning. It constitutes a convenient reductionist dialectic that avoids any sincere recognition that truth is immutable and incorruptible for those who actually want to find it.

          • Edward: It’s not a false dichotomy, but a lived reality. I’m sorry to say it, but the Synod on synods will demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about. I love the Catholicism presented in my Fulton Sheen books etc. But that’s not what is preached or upheld anymore in the Church.

            At last week’s opening of the Synod, Pope Francis said clearly that he wanted to create a different Church. Please wake up.

        • Perhaps, you need to examine the books or magazines you are reading? Some of them are driven by agendas of their own. Like the followers of Marcel Lefebvre? I was once misled until I began reading the speeches and not what some columnists were selling me.
          Andrew, our Church, with all its human weaknesses, is in good hands. Millions of Catholics around the world are in communion with our Redeemer in and through HIS Church.

          • Yes, and under this papacy we are also in communion with the German bishops who are promoting heresy unchecked. Again, it makes one wonder what any of this means anymore.

          • Mal, dear Mal. MARCEL LEFEVBRE will one day be recognised a saint and martyr. He saved the liturgy of the Aposotolic Tradition from the freemasons. The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church has survived heresies in the past thanks to just one man. Athanasius for example. I could be wrong, but just as Athanasius was not Honrorus II, so PPVXVI is not Bergoglio.

  4. This may not easily help with Mr Monaco’s concern, but his understanding of papal infallibility needs improvement….

    “Infallibility is exercised when the Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, or the College of Bishops, in union with the Pope especially when joined together in an Ecumenical Council,
    proclaim by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. Infallibility is also exercised when the Pope and Bishops in their ordinary Magisterium are in agreement in proposing a doctrine as definitive. Every one of the faithful must adhere to such teaching with the obedience of faith” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #185).

  5. Mr. Monaco is correct that the Holy Spirit guides the Church into all truth. This same Holy Spirit, though, also gives to Peter and his successors “the charism of truth and never-failing faith” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Denz.-H, 3071). This is why Vatican I teaches that “all the Fathers” and “the holy orthodox Doctors” realized “that this See of St. Peter always remains untained by any error” (Denz.-H, 3070). In his Relatio on Vatican I, Bishop Gasser makes it clear that the council is affirming what St. Robert Bellarmine teaches in book 4, chapter VI of De Summo Pontifice. In Book 4, chapter 6, when speaking of the Pope as a particular person, Bellarmine maintains that “it is probable and can piously be believed that the Supreme Pontiff not only cannot err as a Pontiff, but also that as a particular person he cannot be a heretic, by obstinately believing something false contrary to the faith.” Bellarmine then provides two proofs for this position. First, “because the gracious disposition of divine providence seems to require it. For the Pontiff not only should not but cannot preach heresy, but also should always teach the truth, and without doubt (sine dubio) he will do that, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brothers (Nam Pontifex non solum non debet nec potest haeresim praedicare, sed etiam debet semper veritatem docere et sine dubio id faciet, cum Dominum illi juserit confirmare fratres suos). The second proof is from the events of the past (ab eventu) “because there has never been a heretical pope up till now or certainly it cannot be proved that there ever was one.” Bellarmine concludes: “Therefore, this is a sign that it cannot happen” (ergo signum est, non posse est). Mr. Monaco seems to think it’s not impossible for there to be a heretical pope, and he believes this possibility is affirmed by both Vatican I and Vatican II. I don’t believe he is reading these councils correctly. Popes can sin and make prudential mistakes, but Vatican I teaches that “the See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error” according to the divine promise of Our Lord made to St. Peter in Lk 22:32 (Denz.-H, 3070). This means that the Holy Spirit will protect the Pope from ever teaching grave error on matters of faith and morals (and Vatican I does NOT limit this charism simply to ex cathedra papal definitions). Mr. Monaco also suggests that Pope Paul VI exceeded papal authority by approving the new Ordo of the Mass to replace the prior Missal. But the Missal of St. Paul VI has been accepted as normative by St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, and the vast majority of Latin Rite Catholics and bishops. Have all these popes and bishops approved a Missal that was enacted by a transgression of legitimate papal authority? Are to believe these popes or Mr. Monaco?

    • The Missal of St. Paul VI (as you call it) did not need to be accepted by later Popes to be authoritative. The true innovation was that for the first time in the history of the Church we now have two “forms” of one Rite. This is simply unprecedented and imho a source of division and not communion in the Roman Rite.

    • Mr Fastigi wrote “Have all these popes and bishops approved a Missal that was enacted by a transgression of legitimate papal authority? Are we to believe these popes or Mr. Monaco?”

      As far as I am concerned the answer to this simplistic question is : “Mr Monaco.” The Missal of Paul VI has been claimed to have been the product of Vatican Council II, when it is not the product of that Council, but a transgression of Papal power in supplanting a venerable Rite of Mass with an innovation which was never requested by the Council Fathers.

      • The Modernist heresy has arrived at this ugly climax. A regular Catholic from the 80s, today I have difficulty sitting through “a V2”. Latin Mass is Catholic Mass, the one 700 English martyrs died for. I have to take the car a little further. The martyrs of England and Wales were hung drawn and quartered by the Sankt Gallens of their day. Bergoglio is not as bad as Queen Elisabeth, but then I am not Chinese…

    • The picture conveyed by your post? One big brick, a cinder block, or a heavy ton. I skipped a year of high school grammar but somewhere or other I learned about the paragraph.

      Let me blow my airy feathers in contrast.

      I’ll begin at your end. “Are [sic] to believe these popes or Mr. Monaco?”

      Why must I ‘believe’ one or the other?? Considering all points of view allows a ratinoal intellect to do its work and allows the Holy Spirit to grace us with His knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in the process. Your brick does not invite an opening in which to consider or ‘believe’ you.

      One fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit is peace. Where is peace in the Church today?

      Consider the purpose of Bellarmine’s tome on the pontificate. It was written in response in order to defend the papacy against Protestant heresies. Of course it is a solid defense of the pope, as it should be.

      Even in light of its goal, Bellarmine does allow distinction between the SEE (the seat, the position) and the PERSON. Bellarmine clearly allows that “…the Pope can err as a private teacher from ignorance, even in universal questions of law concerning both faith and morals, just as what happens to other teachers.” (p. 472, Mediatrix Press 2nd ed., 2017)

      Speaking of Bellarmine, I find it a curiosity of curiosities that his tome on the pontificate contains within it his disputation on the Antichrist. Just a little side note of interest in light of Church-approved visions at LaSalette and Fatima as they relate to bishops…

      I do not see where Monaco or anyone here, for that matter, claims the missal of Paul VI has been enacted through ‘transgression of legitimate papal authority.’ Au contraire, it is Francis, this late in the day, who has seen fit to fault the ritual which had been and still remains a valid sacrificial sacrament of God’s grace for us to commemorate the miracle of God’s physical presence among us today. The faithful have every right and reason to fear or to question the ability of our shepherd to pastor or to fulfill the precept of the Lord when he commanded Peter to “Feed My Sheep.”

      • Dear Meiron,

        Thank you for your comments. I am sorry if you found my paragraph too long. You write: “Considering all points of view allows a ratinoal (sic) intellect to do its work and allows the Holy Spirit to grace us with His knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in the process. Your brick does not invite an opening in which to consider or ‘believe’ you.”

        It’s not a case of believing me, but of believing what the Church teaches. The Roman Pontiff has authority over the liturgy as Pius XII explained:

        “It follows from this that the Supreme Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification” (Pius XII, encyclical, Mediator Dei [1947] no. 58).

        Yes, St. Robert Bellarmine sometimes distinguishes between the chair and the person of the pope, but he states that “without doubt” in Peter’s chair “there would never be found someone who would teach contrary to the faith” (De Summo Pontifice, book 4, chapter 3). Bellarmine also notes that “the Pope from his nature can fall into heresy, but he cannot fall given the singular assistance of God, which Christ obtained for him by his prayer” (De Summo Pontifice, book 4, chapter 7).

        Bellarmine’s position is reflected in the teaching of Vatican I, which affirms “the charism of truth and never-failing faith” conferred upon Peter and his successors” (Denz.-H, 3071). A charism is a special gift of the Holy Spirit. The protection of the Church from papal heresy is due to the Holy Spirit and the promise of Christ.

        Bellarmine makes it clear that the Antichrist has nothing in common with the Roman Pontiff in “De Summo Pontifice,” book 3. Melanie’s 1879 elaboration of the secret of La Sallette (that says Rome will lose the faith) never received Church approval. At Fatima, it is revealed that the Holy Father will have much to suffer, but there is nothing that justifies opposition to the Pope or the bishops in communion with him.

        As I read “Traditiones Custodes,” Pope Francis is not criticizing the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII per se. Instead, he is concerned about those who are using adherence to this Missal as a pretext for rejecting Vatican II and for questioning the validity and the liceity of the Roman Missal as revised by St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II.

        I agree with you on the need to give thanks to God for the gift of “God’s physical presence” among us today in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This sacrifice is made present in both the older Missal and the the revised Missal.

        • Robert, would you agree that the words of consecration alone could serve a priest in Auschwitz who needed to discretly distribute holy communion? Pius XII had Bugini working on a revision of Holy Week… Does the Modernist Heresy – this sorry period – not begin there? Organic liturgical development versus rupture?

          • Dear Michael, St. Thomas Aquinas deals with your question about the words of consecration alone in the Summa theologiae, Part III, q. 78, art. 1, reply to objection 4: Aquinas says that the words of consecration alone suffice for consecration to take place. Of course, he does not believe this should be done (except perhaps out of grave necessity). The Modernist Crisis is usually linked to the early 20th century. St. Pius X’s encyclical, Pascendi, against the Moderists was issued on September 8, 1907. I personally believe the roots of doctrinal Modernism are much earlier.

        • I’m adopting Fr. Morello’s “Elementary, Watson,” in response to your final paragraph. No one here is questioning the validity of the Mass of 1970. (So why obfuscate? OWTH. I shall do the same: I confess. First exposure to said 1970 ‘new’ Mass events was difficult. My embarrassment, together with that of my sibs and our friends was almost too much for our weeteen sensibilities to bear. That the Church should attempt “cool” while lacking self-awareness that it was failing miserably? Beyond our words to denigrate. Every last one of us left the practice of our faith when we left home for university. About half left because of sin…the others left because the Church had lost “relevance.”)

          Pius XII surely wrote that a pope has the right to “introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.” Perhaps I have misread, but I do not see where Monaco disputes that. The writing of Pius XII on pontifical prerogatives to modify, introduce and approve new rites does not apply to what TC directs be done to the EF of the Roman Rite.

          TC severely restricts the celebration of one sacramental form of the Roman Rite while doing nothing to address UNIVERSAL problems in any other form or rite of sacrament.

          Also more germane is one succeeding pope completely disregarding what two immediately preceding popes had promulgated on the same liturgical form. How’s that for introducing a little uncertainty or instability? Perhaps it’s all in order to draw contrast to the unchangeable immutable nature of Our Lord and his once-and-for-all sacrifice…

          TC is concerning because it severely restricts the practice of one sacramental form of the Roman Rite while doing nothing to address UNIVERSAL problems in other forms or rites of other sacraments.

          Are the faithful seriously expected to believe that faults and problems of rigidity, love of tradition, legalism, ossification, Pharisaisismn (there’s one for you to SIC), authoritarianism, or (gasp) ‘division’ exist only among attendees of the TLM?

          I seriously beg the question: Are these problems alive only in TLM-attendees? If so, how on earth did the Church survive prior to 1970? Surely, if the TLM gives rise to ‘division’ (gasp), there must have been division aplenty prior to 1970. Where did all that division go? Was it perhaps gone with all those who left the practice of the faith upon the introduction of the 1970 Mass?

          Where is the evidence that TLM attendees are a source of division? What is the nature of said division? How deep is it? What are its effects? How has the Church suffered? None of these sorts of questions have been addressed. Why not?

          The Vicar of Christ, charged with feeding the Lord’s sheep, has signaled his willingness to discriminate and to desolate certain sheep without reasonable cause. With what measure he measures shall he be measured.

          He signals that he cares not to govern fairly not to rule judiciously. He signals that he chooses not to ‘tender’ all the Lord’s sheep. That, dear Watson, is an elementary, basic, foundational, and primary problem. FOR SOME. The Pope appears to see the spot in some faithful eyes but neglects logjams elsewhere.

          Thanks, CWR, for allowing me air space. And thanks, Mr. Fastiggi, for reading. I look forward to a lump of coal in return. Or a solar panel. (Due to problems in the supply chain and an apparent shortage of coal, you may be forced to choose an alternative type of brick or fuel.) Regards.

      • About the same authority as a papal document cancelling the moto proprio of the validly elected Pope who has reatained the Munus…

    • Professor Fastiggi,

      I’m more a papal maximalist than most, and certainly more than Mr. Monaco, but you have seriously misread Gasser’s relatio in your comment here, and have accidently tried to “dogmatize the extreme opinion of Albert Pighius” which Gasser explicitly rejects as part of what Vatican I defined.

      As has been explained by others:

      To the third it must be said that this argument assumes that the First Vatican Council, by raising a conclusion of St. Robert Bellarmine to the status of a dogma, must also have made into dogmas all the reasons adduced by Bellarmine in support of his conclusion. But this does not follow. The official relatio explicitly states that it was not the intention of the council to dogmatize the extreme opinion of Albert Pighius, which Bellarmine describes as pious and probable (Msi 52: 1218 C). Rather, the doctrine contained in the council’s teaching is the ‘fourth opinion’ adduced by Bellarmine (Ibid.), which is that “in a certain measure, whether the pope can be a heretic or not, he cannot in any way define a heretical proposition that must be believed by the whole Church” (de Romano pontifice, IV, 2). This rules out the possibility of error when the pope defines a doctrine to be believed by the whole Church; but it does not rule out the possibility of error when the pope proposes a doctrine of faith or morals in his authentic magisterium without defining it as to be believed by the whole Church.

      Now Bellarmine proceeds to offer four further propositions in support of this ‘fourth opinion’, one of which is indeed the position of Pighius. But it does not follow that the council’s endorsement of Bellarmine’s ‘fourth opinion’ entails an endorsement of all the further reasons adduced by him in support of that opinion, and it is especially absurd to argue that it entails an endorsement of that further proposition which the official relatio explicitly rejects as being contained in the meaning of its definition, according to the words of Bishop Gasser: “From this it appears that the doctrine contained in the schema is not that of Albert Pighius, nor of any extreme school…” (Msi 52: 1218 C).

      • Dear Scott,
        Thank you for your comments, but I think you’re wrong to understand Bishop Gasser’s Relatio only in light of De Summo Pontifice, Book IV, chapter 2. Bishop Gasser specifically states the the position of Bellarmine affirmed in the Draft is supported by Bellarmine’s position in Book IV, chapter VI. Here is the key passage, which can be found on pages 58–59 of Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser, The Gift of Infallibility, translated with a commentary by Rev. James T. O’Conner (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008)a:

        “As far as the doctrine set forth in the Draft is concerned, the deputation is unjustly accused of wanting to raise an extreme opinion, viz., that of Albert Pighius, to the dignity of a dogma. For the opinion of Albert Pighius, which Bellarmine indeed calls pious and probable, was that the Pope, as an individual person or a private teacher, was able to err from a type of ignorance but was never able to fall into heresy or teach heresy. To say nothing of the other points, let me say that this is clear from the very words of Bellarmine, both in the citation made by the reverend speaker and also from Bellarmine himself who, in BOOK 4, CHAPTER VI, pronounces on the opinion of Pighius in the following words: “It can be believed probably and piously that the supreme Pontiff is not only not able to err as Pontiff but that even as a particular person he is not able to be heretical, by pertinaciously believing something contrary to the faith.”

        From this, it appears that the doctrine in the proposed chapter is not that of Albert Pighius or the extreme opinion of any school, but rather that it is one and the same which Bellarmine teaches in the place cited by the reverend speaker and which Bellarmine adduces in the fourth place and calls most certain and assured, or rather, correcting himself, the most common and certain opinion.”

        Bishop Gasser makes it clear that the position of Bellarmine that the Council is endorsing is found in De Summo Pontifice, book IV, chapter VI. Here is what Bellarmine says in that chapter:

        De Summo Pontifice, Book IV, chapter VI: On the Pope as a Particular Person:

        It is probable and may piously be believed that not only as ‘Pope’ can the Supreme Pontiff not err, but he cannot be a heretic even as a particular person by pertinaciously believing something false against the faith. It is proved:
        1) because the sweet disposition of the providence of God seems to require it.
        For the Pope not only should not, but cannot preach heresy, but rather should always preach the truth. He will certainly do that, since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brethren, and for that reason added: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith shall not fail,’ that is, that at least the preaching of the true faith shall not fail in thy throne. How, I ask, will a heretical Pope confirm the brethren in faith and always preach the true faith? Certainly God can wrench the confession of the true faith out of the heart of a heretic just as he placed the words in the mouth of Balaam’s ass. Still, this will be a great violence, and not in keeping with the providence of God that sweetly disposes all things.
        2) It is proved ab eventu. For to this point no [Pontiff] has been a heretic, or certainly it cannot be proven that any of them were heretics; therefore this is a sign that it [i.e. a heretical pope] cannot happen. For more on this see Pighius.”

        Bellarmine does not see the cited position of Pighius as extreme. Rather, he offers two proofs in support of it, and he refers the reader to read Pighius himself.

        What Bellarmine teaches in book IV, chapter 6 is affirmed by Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, chapter IV, when it states that “this See of St. Peter always remains untainted by any error, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior made to the prince of the disciples: ‘But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’ (Lk 22:32)” [Denz.-H. 3070]. The possibility of a heretical pope is likewise rejected by Vatican I, when it affirms that the “charism of truth and never-failing faith was conferred upon Peter and his successors in this chair in order that they may perform their supreme office for the salvation of all” [Denz.-H, 3071]. The Council is not limiting itself here to ex cathedra papal definitions. It is affirming a papal charism that is incompatible with papal heresy. Now this does not mean that every teaching of the pope is infallible and definitive in the strict sense. Most papal teachings are not per se irreformable, and they are subject to development, charification, and revision. Vatican I, though –following what Bellarmine teaches in De Summo Pontifice, book IV, chapter VI–affirms a special protection from heretical papal teachings. This special charism is not presented in the form of a definition, but it IS affirmed by an ecumenical council. viz., Vatican I.

        I am not supporting any extreme position at all. I am simply affirming what Vatican I teaches and what Bellarmine teaches in De Summo Pontifice, book IV, chapter VI (to which Bishop Gasser specifically refers).

        Ronald Conte, Jr. does a good job of explaining what Bishop Gasser and Vatican I actually teach about the possibility of papal error in these posts:

        • Professor Fastiggi,

          I’m afraid this still appears to be a clear misreading. Bellarmine of course doesn’t deem Pighius to be extreme – As Gasser himself notes Bellarmine accepts it as “pious and probable” (with the caveat however, as you of course are aware, that “probable” here doesn’t indicate Bellarmine believes it is the better view, merely that it is an allowable and arguable opinion).

          Rather it is Gasser who accepts and notes Pighius view is “extreme”, and indeed it is due to the fact he makes a more extensive claim that even Bellarmine doesn’t adopt Pighius view as his own preferred opinion, but rather accepts the more modest claim in his ‘fourth opinion’ as the better view.

          Therefore Gasser is able to reject the claim Vatican I is defining the “extreme opinion of Pighius”, because it is only adopting what Bellarmine also accepted as the better view – The more limited ‘fourth opinion’.

          Therefore I don’t think it is at able tenable to present as the teaching of Vatican I an opinion that it expressly rejected as being part of its definition.

          • Dear Scott,
            With all due respect, I think you’re misreading my prior posts. My reason for responding to Mr. Monaco’s article was that he claims Vatican I allows for the possibility of papal heresy. I then cited passages from Bellarmine and Vatican I that argue against this position. I am in no way dogmatizing an extreme position as you claimed. Nor do I believe I am misreading Gasser’s Relatio because he points to what Bellarmine teaches in Book IV, chapter VI of De Summo Pontifice as in harmony with the Draft of Vatican I. You still continue to appeal to Book IV, chapter 2 without taking note that Gasser specifically refers to what Bellarmine says in book IV, chapter VI. You also state that “it is Gasser who accepts and notes Pighius view is ‘extreme.” This is a misreading of the text. Bishop Gasser was reacting to someone else’s claim that Pighius’s view was extreme. Gasser then notes that Bellarmine calls the view of Pighius “pius and probable.” How can a pious and probable opinion be extreme? You also misread Bellarmine because you don’t take into account that he offers two proofs for Pighius’s position in book IV, chapter VI. In this chapter, as I noted before, Bellarmine states:
            “For the Pontiff not only should not but cannot preach heresy, but also should always teach the truth, and without doubt (sine dubio) he will do that.” You claim that “’probable’ here doesn’t indicate Bellarmine believes it is the better view, merely that it is an allowable and arguable opinion.” Such a claim reveals a lack of understanding of Bellarmine’s position as developed in book IV, chapter VI. In this chapter, Bellarmine doesn’t merely claim that the view of Pighius is “an allowable and arguable position.” Instead, he offers two proofs in support of it, and he also moves from saying the Pope will never DEFINE something that is heretical to saying that “without doubt” (sine dubio) the pope will always TEACH the truth. I think some interpreters of Gasser rely too much upon footnote 29 of Fr. James O’Conner found in his translation of Gasser’s Relatio. This footnote is somewhat incomplete because it fails to take note of Gasser’s specific citation of book IV, chapter VI of Bellarmine’s text. Fr. O’Connor, though, does make it clear that the Draft is dealing with the Pope in his role as a PUBLIC person. Teaching heresy is a public act, and neither Bellarmine (ultimately) nor Vatican I believe the Pope, as a public person, can teach heresy. This is what is most important.

          • Hi Scott,
            I’m not following the Pighius/Gasser/Fastiggi/Scott arguments, but I noted the reference to Ron Conte. I read Conte with caution. He’s hard to escape on the internet as he has many articles on many topics out there. He claims to have a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology, but he holds no advanced degree, and he is not licensed or certified as a theologian by any certification board. I read him with caution–his own site comes with a lengthy acknowledgment/disclaimer.

  6. Pope Peter by Joe Heschmeyer (Catholic Answers Press) is a good explanation of the full extent of, and limits to, the Pope’s authority.

  7. I pine for the long past days when people living in a small Catholic village had not even any knowledge or concern of just who was sitting in the Chair of Peter. We need a pope who speaks very seldom and rules almost never. Instead, we have “activist” popes drunk with power and in love with their own hair-brained theories and impulses on how to produce a “new and improved” Church. They have been just about as successful with their initiatives as any of the visionary authoritarians of the modern era.

  8. As I mentioned on Twitter, the description of the position on the papacy in which you link to “Where Peter Is” is a total misrepresentation of our view. You write:

    “However, there are those in the Church who, clinging to misguided notions of religious adherence and the submission of will and intellect, believe that the pope can change teachings by virtue of his office, and that Catholics who question such actions are pseudo-schismatics.

    What is often ignored in these neo-ultramontane circles is that the pope’s power is indeed limited by natural and divine law.”

    1. We do not “believe that the pope can change teachings by virtue of his office,” if by that you mean that he can contradict infallible teaching simply by imposing his will.

    2. We absolutely do not ignore the fact that “the pope’s power is indeed limited by natural and divine law.” Of course he is limited by divine and natural law. A central purpose of his office is to be the Church’s guarantor of orthodoxy.

    3. The key point of dispute between radical traditionalists and Catholics who submit to the pope in matters of faith and morals is whether the faithful have the authority to reject the pope’s authoritative judgement and official teachings on faith and morals.

    4. I reject the idea that you or me or Taylor Marshall or Cardinal Burke or whoever can veto the official teachings of the pope on matters of faith and morals when he exercises the Magisterium. The reason why I reject it is because it’s not something the Church “actually” teaches about the papacy.

    5. You don’t point to a single official teaching of the Church to back up your argument, you rely on historical examples that even you admit are shaky, and somehow you are trying to limit the pope’s authority over the liturgy.

    6. How do you grapple with Pius XII’s Mediator Dei 58, in which he teaches, “the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.” It seems to me that you are exercising veto power over a pope again.

    7) I would ask that you please change the text to reflect our actual position on the papacy, which is summed up by these two paragraphs from Pastor Aeternus:

    “6. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”[60]

    7. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.”

    • Good heavens! I cannot imagine the mental gymnastics you have to go through to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions that continue to pile up under Bergoglio. “Where Papolatry Is” indeed!

      • Who cares that Francis quoted Congar? How does that change what Francis said?

        As far as I’m concerned Congar was typical of that generation of clerics who treated the Church and the Catholic Faith as their personal intellectual play things. They do the playing and the laity are just along for the ride.

    • It’s odd how WPI rarely discusses dissent from the left (which has gone on for decades upon decades). For example, WPI will run multiple pearl clutching articles about Trads and their “schismatic mentality” whilst all but ignoring actual schism and doctrinal error coming from Germany. WPI will roast EWTN, but says nary a peep about the National Catholic Reporter et al who have led dissent against the Popes for decades. In my opinion, WPI is NOT a honest broker.

      • ‘Where Peter Is” is nothing but a feckless avatar of the Mark Shea and Patheos crowd masquerading as orthodox Catholics. They are not fooling anyone who has an ounce common sense and Catholic sensibilities. I’m sure the USCCB loves them for the “pray, pay, and obey” vaccine they are peddling, but no one else bothers with WPI.

        • “If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment”-GK Chesterton

          Reason enough, in my opinion, not to engage with angry, unhinged leftcath trolls.

    • Thanks Mike, for your excellent portrayal of the Pope’s “powers”. I have read many of your essays and find them all to be trustworthy. I also liked the article written to commemorate the anniversary of the Pachamama event. I found it illuminating. Anyone who is really interested in the truth about it should read that article.

  9. An article on this very subject was written years ago by an actual canon lawyer, not a graduate student, at CanonLawMadeEasy. It’s called Are There Any Limitations on the Power of the Pope? Quite a coincidence that even the title is nearly the same.

    • “Quite a coincidence that even the title is nearly the same.”

      How so? I’ve seen plenty of articles and books with similar (or even the same) titles. And there have been a lot (a LOT) of articles and books about papal power and authority. Even a quick glance at the article at reveals plenty of significant differences. For example, the latter (not surprisingly) focuses almost exclusively on canon law–something that John Monaco never even mentions in his piece.

  10. Great article, but for the poetic: “It is the Holy Spirit, the uncreated soul of the Church, who guides the Church into all the ruth (Jn 16:13).”

    The Holy Spirit is not an or the uncreated soul of the Church. The Holy Spirit is God Himself, the third Person of the Blessed Holy Trinity, Whom Jesus sent toe receal and lead us into all Truth. All praise and thanks be to God!!

    God bless, C-Marie

    • Might want to take it up with Saint Augustine:

      So none of you must say, “I have received the Holy Spirit; why aren’t I speaking with the tongues of all nations?” If you want to have the Holy Spirit, consider this, my dear brothers and sisters: our spirit, by which every person lives, is called the soul; our spirit by which every single human being lives, is called the soul. And you can see what the soul does in the body. It quickens all its parts; it sees through the eyes, hears through the ears, smells through the nostrils, speaks with the tongue, works with the hands, walks with the feet. It’s present simultaneously to all the body’s parts, to make them alive; it gives life to all, their functions to each. The eye doesn’t hear, the ear doesn’t see, the tongue doesn’t see, nor do ear and eye speak. But they’re alive, all the same; the ear’s alive, the tongue’s alive; different functions, life in common. That’s what the Church of God is like; in some of the saints it works miracles, in other saints it proclaims the truth, in other saints it preserves virginity, in other saints it preserves married chastity; in some this, in others that. All doing their own thing, but living the same life together. In fact, what the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the body of Christ, which is the Church.” The Holy Spirit does in the whole Church what the soul does in all the parts of one body. But notice what you should beware of, see what you should notice, notice what you should be afraid of. It can happen in the human body—or rather from the body—that one part is cut off, a hand, a finger, a foot; does the soul follow the amputated part? When it was in the body, it was alive, cut off, it loses life. In the same way too Christian men and women are Catholics, while they are alive in the body; cut off, they have become heretics, the Spirit doesn’t follow the amputated part. So if you wish to be alive with the Holy Spirit, hold on to loving-kindness, love truthfulness, long for oneness,12 that you may attain to everlastingness. Amen. (Sermon 267.4)

      You seem to assume that this title/description of the Holy Spirit denies His divinity? How so? He is indeed uncreated–which is an overt declaration of His divinity. The soul is the animating principle of a being, so to say the Holy Spirit is the “soul of the Church” is say, as Augustine rightly does, that He animates and gives life to the Church, the Body of Christ, just as Holy Spirit fills the newly baptized with sanctifying grace, that is, divine life itself.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Are There Limits to Papal Power? – Catholic World Report – The Old Roman
  2. The limits of papal power - JP2 Catholic Radio
  3. Article at Catholic World Report asks: Could the pope suppress the rosary?
  4. The Rights of Immemorial Tradition and the Limits of Papal Positivism - Catholic Family News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.