What Does It Mean to Resist the Pope? (Guest: Timothy Flanders)

During the pontificate of Francis there have been increasing calls to “resist” him, including a recent press conference announcing a “formal declaration of resistance to Pope Francis.” Can Catholics resist the pope, and if so, how do they do that without becoming Protestants?

Crisis Point
Crisis Point
What Does It Mean to Resist the Pope? (Guest: Timothy Flanders)
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Transcript:

Eric Sammons:

During the pontificate of Francis, there have been increasing calls to resist him, including a recent press conference announcing a formal declaration of resistance to Pope Francis. Can Catholics resist the pope, and if so, how do they do that without becoming Protestants? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point.

Hello, I’m Eric Sammons, your host, and editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, I just want to encourage people to like and subscribe, do all the things you’re supposed to do, I’m supposed to tell you to do. So do that. Follow us on social media @CrisisMag at all the various social media places. You can tell how much I always love doing that part of the program.

Today’s guest is Timothy Flanders. He’s the editor-in-chief of OnePeterFive and the author of multiple books, including City of God vs. City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present. Welcome to the program, Tim.

Timothy Flanders:

Thanks for having me. As always, always a joy to speak with you, brother. Jesus is king.

Eric Sammons:

Hallelujah. Yes, he is. Okay, so what we’re going to talk about is resistance to the pope, what that means, what it entails, what it doesn’t entail. You were at this press conference that was at the Catholic Identity Conference last week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There was a press release that went out before it. It was entitled, “Catholic Conference to Issue Formal Declaration of Resistance to Pope Francis.” Now, this got a decent amount of pushback in the Catholic world. I admit freely at the beginning of this program that I was very uncomfortable with that language myself, and I know others were as well. But you were at the press conference. You were at the conference, so you’re going to be the best person to tell us about what was said and what was going on there.

But I want to take a step back before we get to that, because I want to talk about the whole idea of resistance. The tag is the Recognize and Resist group, in which people who recognize that Francis is pope, not sedevacantists, they don’t believe Benedict’s the pope, but they resist him on some level. I think it’s the “on some level” that we have to talk about, because I think that’s where we can have some problems. First, why don’t I just ask you the basic question: what is our duty, as Catholics, to the pope?

Timothy Flanders:

Our duty as Catholics comes from the Fourth Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.” It’s an attitude of the virtue of justice. We might get into the distinction between the virtue of justice and the virtue of faith, which I think is at play here. But we owe the pope a general veneration as our Holy Father, the Father of the whole Church. We give him, the modern phrase is “submission of mind and will,” a religious awe, a religious submission of mind and will, to everything he says and does. Essentially, we can define it as benefit of the doubt, a docility to submit, a desire to submit, a love of him as a person and as the office, a prayer for him and for his intentions, and also the divine and Catholic faith given to his infallible ex cathedra pronouncements. It’s quite a big duty, I would say, that we owe to the Roman Pontiff.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. The phrase “religious submission of mind and will,” that’s a real controversial phrase. That’s from Vatican II Lumen gentium, I think 25, if I remember correctly. It’s this idea that I’ve seen been used to justify, “Anything he says, we have to accept,” because religious submission of mind and will. Because it explicitly states, “It’s not just infallible statements.” It’s not just religious submission of mind and will to infallible statements. How would you define what it means to have a religious submission of mind and will? I mean, that’s your mind, your will, your actions. I mean, that’s your being, basically, to the statements of the Pope, even beyond infallible statements.

Timothy Flanders:

Well, I would direct readers and viewers, listeners, to this article. If you’d like, I can share my screen here, Eric, and pull this up.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Of course, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

Timothy Flanders:

This is from theologian John Joy. The title of this article is “Submission to the Non-Infallible Papal Magisterium is Conditional.” What he does in this article is he mentions Lumen gentium 25, and he discusses what this is. Also, in another article, you can just search on his name. He has a number of other articles. Another one that’s very important is “The Pope is Not the Church and the Church is Not the Pope.” He points out how the profession of faith actually makes a distinction between submission to the Church as such, and then submitting with religious submission of mind and will to the pope and bishops. There’s actually a distinction between these two things.

This is where I would get further into distinction between the virtue of faith and the virtue of piety. It’s an easy thing to understand, I think, if we talk about the Fourth Commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” It means that the Catechism of the Council of Trent, for example, says, “Obey your father and mother in all things not contrary to the Catholic faith.” Obviously, a child needs to obey his father and mother and do everything they say. Take out the trash and clean the dishes, et cetera, et cetera. But if they say, “You can’t go to mass on Sunday,” that’s where we would need to resist the legitimate authority of our parents.

In the same way, we would give religious submission of mind and will, which we would obey the pope in all things. But if Pope Julius II said, “Go invade the Kingdom of Naples,” we would say, “No, Holy Father, that’s an unjust war. We can’t invade the Kingdom of Naples for your self-aggrandizement. That’s unjust.” Something like that sort of thing. Submission of mind and will is the same sort of submission we would really give to our mother and father. I think it’s an analogous way that we can easily understand.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Now, I think the reason Catholics get a little bit uncomfortable with some of this language is that I think most Catholics would agree, yeah, you can criticize the pope. You can disagree with the pope. But the word resistance; resistance really does seem to bring up a much stronger connotation than just criticizing him, saying, “Yeah, the pope said this about climate change, and that’s not really true,” or something like that. I think most Catholics, even the most hyper-papalist would be like, “Yeah, of course, you can say that and have that opinion.” Although, some hyper-papalists I’ve seen probably wouldn’t even grant you that. But the idea of resistance, how would we define then resistance? And why is that word in particular the one that’s used most often?

Timothy Flanders:

Well, the reason it is used is because that is the word that is used by the Holy Spirit to describe the primordial archetype of this whole Recognize and Resist movement. I’ll point you to another article as well, which is at OnePeterFive. This is by one of our contributing editors, Michael Sirilla, who is a theologian from Franciscan University. And that’s called “The Morality of Correcting the Pope.” In this, he points to Galatians 2:11, which says, “When Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face.” This is when Saint Paul famously rebuked Saint Peter. I didn’t really have this prepared, but I just looked it up really quickly. The Greek term here is anthístēmi, which means to stand against, withstand, resist, opposed, to set against. It’s literally anthí, which anti is the English equivalent, obviously. And stēmi means to stand. So I’m standing against you, and Saint Paul is doing it publicly.

In this article by Sirilla, he brings out the fundamental exegesis of this by the Angelic Doctor in Summa Theologiae, on his section on fraternal correction. He makes this very fundamental distinction here, Saint Thomas does. He says, “A public rebuke,” this sort of public resistance that is mentioned by the Holy Spirit through Saint Paul in Galatians, “would exceed the bounds of piety.” So in other words, if I stand up publicly and rebuke the pope, that would cause a spiritual scandal, because that would cause other Catholics to lose their respect for the pontiff, which is a scandal. That would be the sin of a scandal. Scandal is an occasion of spiritual ruin. So, in a family, if a teenage son or whatever disrespects his father, it teaches the younger children to also disrespect their father. Obviously, you’re a father. You understand that. My six-year-old’s already teaching his four-year-old brother how to misbehave. It happens.

So Saint Thomas says, “A public rebuke would exceed the bounds of piety,” but he makes an exception to that rule. This is where he says, Summa Theologiae Secunda Secunda Question 33, Article four, answer to the objection number two. And this will be linked below if anyone’s willing to look it up. So he says this. This is Saint Thomas talking. “It must be observed, however, that if the faith were in danger, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate, even publicly. Hence Paul, who is Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith.” And then he quotes Augustine and how Augustine exhorts the Pope, Peter, to follow Paul in that case.

So, here’s an example. So we’re talking about the virtue of piety, which has to do with justice. So we owe to every man his due. But then we enter into a different virtue, which is the theological virtue of faith. That’s where we would actually even risk a public scandal, because there’s something higher involved now, which is the faith, which Saint Thomas says, “An imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith.” And if you look this up in the old Catholic Encyclopedia, the one on newadvent.org, it says that what Peter was doing was he seemed to be teaching the heresy of Judaizing basically. So he was just giving the appearance that there was this heresy about, which was causing this imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith.

So in other words, this scandal created by rebuking somebody publicly was actually trumped by an even worse scandal to the faith. And that’s the only exception to that rule where we would, as Catholics, have to do something even more extreme basically, because desperate times call for desperate measures. So that would be this exception that is founded on the Angelic Doctor, which is founded on the words of the holy Scripture. This is really the justification for the concept of Recognize and Resist.

Eric Sammons:

It’s clear, for example, it wasn’t like Paul waited until Saint Peter was at the level of preaching heresy in order to say, “Okay, now I’m going to resist you.” It was just like, “No, you’re giving scandal. People could be led into heresy by your actions,” is what basically Paul is kind of saying. His concern is that Peter’s actions by hanging out with the Judaizers and not wanting to commune with the Gentile converts, he’s basically not himself saying, “Okay, I believe in the heresy of the Judaizers.” But what he is doing is by his actions, people could say, “Well, look what Peter’s doing, look what our Holy Father’s doing. I think obviously he’s a Judaizer.” Is that basically the sense of why Paul felt like he had to act?

Timothy Flanders:

Yes. I think what we need to understand is that the bar for resistance is rather low. There used to be a custom where the pope, one, for example, he would send his confession of faith to the other bishops and the other patriarchs. So he would say, “I’ve ascended the papacy. Now I’m going to send the patriarch of Constantinople this confession of faith.” And there was a controversy that arose regarding the Filioque, as you’re familiar with that controversy, because one of the pope’s confession of faith seemed to contain heresy. So there was a big controversy that arose. But the point here is that this was a sort of an occasion for resistance in a sense. Like, “Can you clarify what you mean by that? Because that sounds like heresy,” was what the Greek says.

Now we know that’s not heresy, but that’s another topic. The point is that the bar for resistance is rather low. There was also the papal oath, where the pope would make an oath to preserve the tradition and the liturgy. And so in the first thousand years of the Church, if somebody just sniffed heresy, we might even think that it’s extreme. Pope Honorius was condemned posthumously, because he seemed… I mean, he really didn’t positively promote the heresy. He essentially said, “We should just stop talking about this controversy and whatnot.” But he was condemned as a heretic posthumously. So the bar is low. You can just seem to be making this imminent scandal to the faith, and it could be a serious issue, because there is this assumption that the pope is guarding the deposit of faith scrupulously, strictly.

Today we’re recording this on October 6th, which is the Feast of Saint Bruno. So Saint Bruno was an eminent holy man who was consulted by popes as a holy man, and he actually condemned Pope Paschal. Pope Paschal he condemned as a heretic, because Pope Paschal reversed the prior agreement regarding the investiture controversy. So the bar is low, but as long as it’s the imminent danger to the faith. You can’t just rebuke a pope because you know don’t like his prudential decision about this political matter that’s contingent on this kingdom or whatever. It has to be something that’s totally attacking the faith seemingly. So a confession of faith that appears to have something different, like a creed. If the Pope Francis sent out the Nicene Creed and said, “I believe in the Nicene Creed,” and then he changed a sentence, everyone should be up in arms. That would be a seeming imminent scandal to the faith. And unfortunately, the current Holy Father has provided many such examples.

Eric Sammons:

So the bar isn’t, “Okay, what is the pope’s actual intentions? What is the pope actually thinking in his mind? Whether or not he is a heretic in his beliefs and that?” The bar is really more, it sounds like, “What is the impact?” So if, for example, the pope does something, and a lot of people interpret it a certain way, in a heretical way… Let’s just use the real world example of the pope saying, “Who am I to judge?” When he was talking about homosexuality and the priesthood and things like that. He was talking about, “Who am to judge?” Now obviously, just saying that is problematic, but it’s not heretical either. On one level, you could read that, in other words, in an orthodox manner. However, we both know lots and lots of people took that as the pope basically saying, “Homosexuality is okay, that there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Now again, I’m not saying what he actually thought or anything that, but essentially, lots of people took that. He made the cover of the top gay magazine back then, I remember. I can’t remember the, whatever it was. It sounds like from what you’re saying from what Saint Paul, what Saint Bruno did, stuff like that, that alone is enough to cause resistance. Just to resist, saying, “You shouldn’t have said that, Holy Father, because look at what happened. You need to clarify that.” And so instead of just saying, “Let’s popesplain it,” and say, “Oh, well, what he really meant was this, and it doesn’t mean that.” I mean, we could do that too, maybe in some situations. But really it should also be like, “No, what you said actually caused scandal. It caused scandal to the faith, and so we’re resisting you saying that in the context in which you say it.” Does that kind of jive with what you’re saying with what Saint Paul did, what Saint Bruno did, and others did?

Timothy Flanders:

Yeah. I would refer listeners and viewers again to a podcast that we did called Trad Response to Apparent Papal Paganism. This was after the Canadian trip and that controversy. In that I gave two principles from Saint Thomas. One is the principle of charity and judgment, which is where we should always assume the best about somebody, unless, if and only if, we have manifest evidence that to the contrary. So the thing you just put up, the thing you just mentioned. We have other suggestions or circumstantial evidence about what he meant at that time based on a quote, but we can’t really assume exactly what his intentions were in that particular case or in many such cases, so we have to assume the best. But at a certain point our reason must be applied to the situation.

If you have somebody who’s a thief who’s coming to steal from you, you could assume the best and think, “Oh, well, he must be starving. He’s a homeless man and he’s stealing from me because he’s starving.” But then he comes back the next day and steals from you again and again and again or whatever. He starts stealing your computer and all this stuff. Like, “Wait a second, I don’t think I can assume the best anymore about this person.”

Now, the other principle from Saint Thomas that I mentioned in that podcast is the principle of scandal. Saint Thomas says that the principle of charity requires that someone who is in the position to give scandal, sometimes we do things that are not a sin at all, because as I said, it could be totally well intentioned. Pope Francis is just saying, “Who am I to judge? I shouldn’t judge somebody’s heart,” or some well intentioned, perfectly legitimate thing to say. Let’s assume that for example. Saint Thomas says that even if you’re doing something that’s not a sin, and God knows, you know it, but nevertheless will cause a scandal, you should not do it anyways. You should still refrain from doing that, because then that will cause a scandal, which is an occasion for spiritual ruin. And that’s just charity on the other side. We have to have charity towards the pope. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt as much as we can. We can’t just jump the gun on anything he does or said.

And I want to concede here, as trad leader here, sometimes we do that as trads. Sometimes we do jump the gun if we heard Pope Francis say this or that. I think we do jump the gun sometimes, because we’re so used to that. So we need to have more charity towards the Holy Father, but then we would also ask the Holy Father, respectfully, “Your Holiness, please refrain from doing these things. Because even if you well intentioned and it wasn’t a sin at all, it’s an occasion for spiritual ruin.” So it should be refrained from, you should not do that even if it’s not a sin, because it is causing that scandal.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, so I think it’s kind of established that there is definitely a ability to resist the pope’s actions at certain times and all these things. But for example, in Saint Paul, he was an apostle. Saint Bruno was the leader of a very significant monastic movement, order. But you and I, I mean, you just run an online magazine. That’s all I do. What right do we have? We’re laymen. We’re not even theologians. We have no standing in the church other than just as laymen trying to be faithful. What right do we have? Is there something to be said for like, “Yeah, Saint Paul can do it, so maybe a Cardinal Burke or a Bishop Athanasius Schneider or something like that could do it. But really, we should keep our own thoughts to ourselves because we don’t have any authority from the Church to really speak out in this situation.”

Timothy Flanders:

This is a really good point. And first, let me concede, because again, I think that there are people in our movement, in our trad movement, who are relegating to themselves the office of theologian, which I’ve written about at OnePeterFive. The office of theologian is not merely just you got a PhD. It means that you’re a man of prayer, and you are assisting the bishop and the Magisterium in general to resolve theological matters. So you should be fluent in Latin, Greek, German, French perhaps if you’re studying those schools of thought. Many trad theologians, so-called, are relegating to themselves the authority to resolve what we call disputed questions. And again, I refer you to a real theologian, John Joy, because he’s published articles called The Disputed Questions of Papal Infallibility. A disputed question by definition is something that the Church authority has not resolved. So there’s a certain amount of difference of opinion.

The sedevacantist position for is a perfect example of this, because their whole idea is premised on relegating to themselves a resolved question and resolving it for themselves, even though the Church has resolved it. Namely, if a pope teaches error or heresy, does he immediately lose his office and can you just do that? That’s not a resolved theological question. Never been resolved. So we shouldn’t try to resolve these disputed questions. These are these things that are not clear.

But on the other hand, and for this I will quote Vatican II, Gravissimum educationis paragraph three. Parents are “the authors of education. Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring, and therefore must be recognized as primary and principle educators.” Now this is not just math and science. Primarily this is the faith. We have a duty as laymen, lay men and women, to form our children in the faith, to teach them their catechism. That’s our duty. We are the primary catechists of our children. And so we are tasked with this most grave duty to catechize our children with the faith.

When I say the faith, I’m talking about the things that are not disputed questions, the things that are absolutely certain. For example, I’m trying to catechize my son and prepare him for his First Holy Communion. So basic doctrines about Holy Communion, the Real Presence, you have to go to confession if you’re in mortal sin. Very basic things that all first communicants should know. These are not disputed questions, so I have the authority as a father, I have the authority and the most grave duty before Almighty God to form my child in the faith.

This is what I tried to point out about the press conference, which we’ll get into later, is that unfortunately the Roman Pontiff is calling into question settled dogma. He’s not calling into question disputed questions that the theologians are disputing and they’ve been disputed for centuries. He’s calling into question settled dogma. And one of those, the most recent, is the doctrine of Trent. Again, every first communicant should know that if you’re in mortal sin you can’t receive Holy Communion. This is the basic doctrine that every first holy communicant should know. So we’re talking seven-year-olds and sometimes younger throughout the entire world should know this most basic doctrine. So I don’t need to ask anybody’s permission to teach my child that. That’s a settled matter. So if the pope comes along and says, as he appears to in Desiderio desideravi, that the only “requirement” is faith, which suggests a Lutheran interpretation, not necessarily, but it suggests it. And Pope Francis’ words and deeds in other areas suggests that that might be the interpretation. And obviously in the context, Nancy Pelosi, who’s been excommunicated by her Ordinary, received Holy Communion on the day that document was published.

So these are settled matters. That’s why we do have the authority as lay men, because this is an imminent scandal to the faith. John Henry Weston in the press conference mentioned, I’m not sure if it was actually the press conference or his talk, but he mentioned how his adult daughter called him on the phone and asked him about a different scandal, something else, not this thing I just mentioned. But she asked him, “Did the pope really say that thing?” It was the question of fornication and cohabitation, which is just settled dogma. Fornication is a mortal sin; that’s a settled dogma. That’s something that we learn in our catechism.

That would be the distinction that we want to make here. We shouldn’t go excess and try to nitpick something that’s disputed. But in terms of these settled dogmas that we have a duty to raise our children in, we do have the duty and we have the right. I mean honestly, we’re just defending the faith of our children, just as I mentioned with this example from John Henry Weston’s daughter.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, okay, so that makes sense. For my kids, I make sure I teach them the faith. Let’s say one of my adult children hears what the pope says and contacts me and says, “Hey, I thought it doesn’t sound right to me, dad. It sounds like from what you taught me,” I’d say, “Yes, absolutely. It’s not right. That interpretation definitely is. You can’t be in mortal sin. There’s more than just faith to receive Communion.” Okay, that makes sense, because again, I’m the father, I have this responsibility to teach the faith to my kids. Even when they’re adults and they ask me, I still have the obligation and duty to teach them, but particularly when they’re minors, when they’re younger.

But what if I’m just some single dude with a website? How do I have a right then to put up on my website, “Hey, this is why this is incorrect, what the pope says.” Let’s say I give a great defense of it of why it’s wrong. I explain from Trent, I explain from these other places, and I explain why the pope is wrong. I’m very charitable in it. But at the same time, do I really have that right to do that? Because I mean, who am I? And I could be wrong, and I’m not teaching my own kids, and things like that. So what gives the right for just anybody at any time to kind of resist what the pope is saying?

Timothy Flanders:

Well, I mean, first I would say that public resistance is not for everyone, and this goes into the difference, because what if we are resisting out of pride or vainglory or a desire to get clicks or all sorts of sins that could creep up into our hearts at that time? That is something that one should do one’s own examination of conscience. So I’m certainly not saying that every layman is obliged to have some sort of public resistance, but I would still defend the right, hypothetically, for a layman who’s single, who has no duties to his children, because one, he has to save his own soul.

So if there is a seeming indication of heresy, he has to save his own soul. We’re talking about settled dogma that’s already been established. It has to do with the fundamental apprehension of the faith that’s given by the Magisterium. The Magisterium publicly promulgates a doctrine which I receive with the religious submission of mind and will. And if it’s an infallible pronouncement like the anathemas of Trent, I receive with faith. But if my reason is impaired by the fact that there is an apparent contradiction, I do not know what to do. All I can do is ask for clarification. And if there is an imminent danger to the faith, since I have the duty to save my own soul, I would then have the right to demand clarity, or resist if there was an imminent danger to the faith.

There’s also consideration of the common good of souls as well. In the mystical body of Christ, we bear one another’s burdens. And so even if I’m not a father, I’m not a parent, there could be a virtue in defending the common good of the Church as well. So that would be my consideration there.

But it has to be done with fear and trembling, because we’re in a situation, you know. We don’t want to have this sort of haughty attitude where we take any delight in this. And this was something again emphasized by the press conference. Nobody should like that situation. We shouldn’t even want to be in that situation. We should hope that we’re wrong, because we don’t want to be in the situation where we’re placing ourselves in opposition. It’s just a spiritually dangerous place to be for one’s own soul, so we should do that with fear and trembling and with much prayer and fasting.

Eric Sammons:

So let’s get to the press conference. So again, I mentioned at the beginning that this was last week, so I think it was on October 1st. So there’s this press release that went out beforehand said, “Catholic conference to issue formal declaration of resistance to Pope Francis.” And then in the press release it says, “Three prominent Catholic spokesmen will present articles of resistance against the Vatican and the pontificate of Pope Francis.” And it says some other things and details. When this came out, in the Catholic media there was some pushback that this sounds troubling, it sounds very Protestant. I told you this privately and I don’t mind saying it here, that I took issue with this language. I felt like this language of formal declaration of resistance to Pope Francis, this idea of presenting articles of resistance against the Vatican and the pontificate Pope Francis, what troubled me about that is, it’s hard, at least to me, not to see that the average Catholic would interpret that to basically be equivalent to Protestantism, some type of schism attitude.

Because it didn’t say, “We’re going to resist these specific things that Pope Francis did and said.” It said, “We’re going to resist Pope Francis. We’re going to resist the Vatican and the pontificate of Pope Francis.” And that seems to me a bridge too far, just a push beyond what I’m comfortable, at least, saying personally. Because to me, I don’t resist Pope Francis, the pontificate of Pope Francis. What I feel like I’m trying to do at times is resist things where I feel like what we’ve just talked about before, he’s giving scandals to the faith, what have you.

And so you were there, you heard what it was about. Were my concerns valid? Or was the press release written poorly? And what happened at the actual press conference?

Timothy Flanders:

Well first of all, I think that the instinct of discomfort… As I said, this is a discomfort that Mr. Michael Matt expressed himself. He is not even comfortable with doing this very thing that he said he was doing. I think there is a very Catholic attitude to being not comfortable with this situation, because we know there’s something incongruous about it. What we need to do here is we need to compare and contrast what Martin Luther did, of course, because this is obviously the critique here. Martin Luther was given a formal condemnation, Exsurge Domine, and he was given a time to recant before he was excommunicated. On the day he was supposed to recant, he publicly burned the bull of his excommunication. He also burned the Code of Cannon law, which basically is equivalent to someone in the United States publicly burning the Constitution in the United States, of the American flag. It was a clear declaration of violent revolution and violent rupture with the Holy Catholic Church.

I was obviously at the whole conference, and I was at the press conference itself, and in my view I do not believe that it did cross the line into Martin Luther territory, even though I agree that formal articles of resistance is very strong language. I mean, perhaps there was some better way to word that. But in my view, the wording of the actual statement was totally in line with a Catholic attitude. The Roman Pontiff was addressed as Holy Father.

As I said, I wrote about it at OnePeterFive, I asked the question, “Catholics should obey the Pope, so how do you resolve that confusion?” And John Henry Weston’s answer, I thought, was perfect. He said, “I don’t know how to resolve this confusion.” So right there you’re already saying, “I’m not a theologian.” A sedevacantist would say, “Oh, well, he’s deposed, because I’m a theologian and I resolved that problem.” Rather, he fell back and said, “Well, I have no choice but to defend the faith of my children, because I know my faith and I know that this right here is crossing the line from what we’ve been taught and what is anathematized by Trent,” et cetera.

Michael Matt also mentioned, “These things have not been resolved. And until they are resolved, we have no choice but to fall back on what has been publicly declared and settled dogma.” Again, implying that, I’m not a theologian, I’m not trying to resolve all these inconsistencies. All I know is that I have to resist what they imply and what they lead to and what we know the scandal is bringing. Because I can’t stand before God on judgment day and allow my children to be imbibed with these ideas which are heretical, at least at face value, at least on the what’s the scandals bringing.

So I did not find it to be crossing the line. But when we talk about something like formal articles of resistance, we’re talking about something that is not really something that has an established procedure. I mean, there’s an established procedure called the dubia. Submitting a dubium, that is an established procedure which has gone on for centuries. So they already tried that, as we know. The cardinals sent the dubia, and they were not answered. And in fact, it appears that the Roman pontiff has mocked and ridiculed such people who try to get their dubia answered under the official channels.

So I consider this to be the lay people’s best… And there’s other lay examples of this, but lay fathers who are non theologians, non experts, their best attempt to join what many other bishops, cardinals, and theologians have done in different other ways. And so I think that formal articles of resistance was simply just an attempt to put a name to something, because they were trying their best to be Catholic in this crazy mixed up situation.

I mean, just as we owe charity to the Roman Pontiff and we want to give the best benefits out here, as I said in my article, we need to be charitable to try to understand their best intentions, because obviously I think it’s quite obvious anyone who looks at these men and knows their work knows that they are striving with all their mind to be faithful Catholics. I think that the terms used here are simply just trying our best to put a name to something, which is our best effort to be faithful Catholics in our time.

Eric Sammons:

In some ways it’s almost like an act of desperation.

Timothy Flanders:

Yeah, act of desperation.

Eric Sammons:

We’ve tried everything and we’re desperate to keep hold onto the faith, pass the faith onto our kids. And we don’t know what to do, so we’re just throwing stuff up and hoping this is the best thing, and praying and fasting that this is the right thing to do, which I can understand that. I think the big thing that struck me was this idea of formal resistance to the pontificate or to the pope, rather than to individual things that he has done. In the press conference itself, was there any distinction made like that? Like, “Okay, we’re not saying every single thing the pope has ever done is wrong and we reject his whole pontificate,” because that does start to get into a sedevacantist attitude of, “We just reject the pontificate, and we look forward to the day it’s invalidated,” or is it more just like, “Yeah, these specific things he has done, they have caused scandal to the faithful, and that’s what we’re resisting”?

Timothy Flanders:

Yeah, there was essentially a list of grievances aired. I don’t think that there was… I mean, this is from my view looking at it. I think that if people take… As I said, there’s another article I refer readers and listeners to, which is called The Dubia of Vatican I. In that article I talk about there’s different schools of thought among these disputed questions about Vatican I. So if you start with an a priori assumption that the pope basically can never be wrong, then you must conclude that these men are in error in some way, or of bad faith in some way. But if you start from the assumption that these different questions about the extension of the extension of the infallibility of the papal office outside ex cathedra, because that’s settled, that’s settled dogma, we all agree on that, to what degree can the pope err? To what the degree can the pope be a heretic? To what the degree can the pope have a prudential error that causes scandal to the faith? All of these things are disputed among theologians, and they’re not settled.

So if you start with that assumption and then you add the Catholic doctrine of conscience, now this is needs a little explanation, and is, again, another article at OnePeterFive. I keep plugging all these articles. All of the citations are there is what I’m saying. I’m not just like blowing smoke here on a podcast just making this stuff up. All the information’s there.

Eric Sammons:

That’s what podcasts are for, just to make stuff up.

Timothy Flanders:

But there is in fact a Catholic doctrine of conscience. Now the liberal heretics have used this term conscience to justify all sorts of heretical, erroneous beliefs. But there is in fact a Catholic doctrine of conscience. That doctrine says that the organ of your conscience is what provides a practical judgment in a particular situation. So it’s applying abstract principles of right and wrong, justice, mercy, faith, et cetera, to a particular situation. And in this particular situation your conscience declares to you what is right and wrong.

Now the difficulty is when we’re in what I call war time, because I think in terms of Catholic doctrine, and liturgy for that matter, we’re in a situation which is like war time. As you mentioned in your podcast, the fog of war. We have the fog of war situation in terms of doctrine and in terms of questions about the liturgy. We’ve got Catholics left and right, and I’m talking about Catholics of goodwill who are striving to be orthodox faithful Catholics, who are disagreeing with one another on all sorts of different questions.

The Catholic doctrine of conscience allows us to understand that we have a duty to form our conscience, to know our catechism, to know our faith, to know right and wrong, to know the morals of the Church. Then we have a duty to act according to what our conscience tells us according to a truly formed conscience, not “my conscience allows me to just disagree with anybody.” The point I’m trying to make is that in war time, people disagree about the best course of action in a conflicting situation. In war time, usually there are military decisions which are both bad answers, for example. You have a you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t situation. That’s what war time is like. We have all sorts of collateral damage considerations and there’s just no right answer.

And I think we’re in a situation when we talk about Recognize and Resist or not or this or that, there’s sort of no right answer in simply the sense that the Church has not resolved these things by a definitive declaration of this or that is out of balance in these cases. And so different Catholics of goodwill are coming to different conclusions according to the formation of the conscience, according to their experience and what they know. They’re coming to these different conclusions, and that’s okay. That would be normal. This is normal Catholic life. And until these things are resolved, we’re going to have these competing conscientious decisions, if that makes sense.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Okay, I got a curve ball for you that I thought up while you were talking about Martin Luther before and his Bull of Excommunication, stuff like that. Let’s say it’s six months from now and the Vatican issues a decree of excommunication against you as the editor of OnePeterFive because you have not given religious submission of mind and will, let’s say, to the Holy Father. They say basically it’s because of your public resistance to the pope, they excommunicate you. What do you do?

Timothy Flanders:

Well, I would submit, because I don’t trust myself enough to be correct. I mean, that would be a great mercy actually, because then I would just be able to get an answer basically. But the difficulty in one’s conscience is when we have situations where, and we can give real life examples of Pope Francis removing a bishop for no reason whatsoever, and this has happened. Or removing a priest. You had John Lovell on your show, he’s, I think, the founder of Coalition for Canceled Priests. So his bishop suspended him in a non-juridical… What was the terminology? They made up terminology.

Eric Sammons:

It was completely made up.

Timothy Flanders:

So we have a situation. I would very, very happily submit immediately, especially if they just told me, “Here you were wrong in this, this.” Thank you, God. I could just move on with my life, and we had a decree which clarified what the errors were. But the difficulty is when we have a situation where an excommunication comes down and it just says, “You’re excommunicated because we feel like it,” or something that’s very vague or doesn’t make any sense.

Eric Sammons:

We didn’t like the tone of what you were saying.

Timothy Flanders:

So this is sort of the situation that we find ourselves in is that bishops or the pope seem to be making decisions that are entirely arbitrary that don’t have to do with law or principle or anything. They’re just sort of muscling their power. So I mean, I would certainly say on the public record that I would certainly submit and I would be happy to do that. I said the same thing with Timothy Gordon publicly. If we were debating an issue, if the Vatican decided that issue definitively, thank God. Then we can move on from this debate. We’d go to somewhere else. Because I think that we should have this discomfort, because we’re in an incongruous situation and we that would be a mercy to be condemned and then to realize that I can just submit to X, Y, Z.

I think the problem would be if, if the pope said, “You are excommunicated if you refuse to say that the death penalty is per se intrinsically evil,” for example. Then I would have a conflict in my heart, because then I would think, “Well, I have no idea how to understand this situation now, because it appears to me…”

Let me give you a better example, like the Dutch bishops. The Dutch bishops after Vatican II published a catechism which denied the Real Presence, denied the Resurrection of Christ, denying basic stuff. So if one of those bishops came and excommunicated you because you don’t deny the Resurrection, wait a second, wait a second. I have to die with faith on my lips, “I believe in the resurrection.” In that case what we would have no choice but to disobey that excommunication because we know with all our hearts that we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this is the situation that people are in, and that’s why we talk about the Catholic doctrine of conscience. We have to do our best to follow God. And unfortunately, excommunications, as we know from Saint Joan of Arc, are not infallible.

Eric Sammons:

So essentially if you’re excommunicated for something where you took a certain side on a disputed question, just say, “Okay, I was wrong and I submit.” But if it’s a question of being excommunicated because of your belief in something that is settled doctrine, Resurrection, and I would even say for example the morality of the death penalty, that you know, you can’t say it’s intrinsically immoral. You can say instances of using it are immoral, but not in and of itself. That if it’s on something like that, a settled question, then it’s like you don’t necessarily submit to it. Because in the case of Joan of Arc was famously, not every excommunication is necessarily an infallible statement that the person was actually wrong, right?

Timothy Flanders:

Yeah, but I mean, excommunication is basically a formal declaration that you are outside the Church, and therefore outside the ark of salvation, and therefore going to hell. So 99% of the time I wouldn’t think twice about it. I would just not even think. I would just, “Oh, I’ll just stop whatever I was doing so I can return to the communion of the Church.”

Eric Sammons:

But in the case of Joan Arc, of course, she died an excommunicate, and she’s also canonized saint.

Timothy Flanders:

Right. So she had a conscience situation where she essentially said, “No, I can’t recant this, because I know that it’s true. I know I have a mission from God.” And her case was in fact quite very rare. None of us get visions from Saint Catherine obviously. Yeah, almost none of us. And if we did, we’d probably be a kook, right? The canonization of Saint Joan of Arc is a vindication of the true Catholic doctrine of conscience, and a decree which states that an excommunication is not infallible obviously.

But, I think the thing to really, really emphasize here, because I think some trads as I said, some of us just go a little bit too overboard sometimes. I mean, Archbishop Lefebvre obviously is the big case. Just treating that sort of lackadaisically, it is not at all. This is the most grave thing possible because outside the Church there’s no salvation. So this is not something to take lightly at all. It is the most grave possible penalty that really the Church can meet out, so we should not take this lightly one iota.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah.

Timothy Flanders:

So it’s extremely grave, extremely important.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, 999 times out of 1000 you need to go along with the excommunication. There’s that one time. You’re probably not the one. You’re probably the 999.

Timothy Flanders:

Right.

Eric Sammons:

So last thing I wanted to ask you about is this idea, the Recognize and Resist movement as it’s called, it goes beyond just saying, “Okay, I don’t like what you said here, Pope Francis. I don’t like you said there, Pope Francis.” Practically speaking, it is often a resistance of the direction of the Church. The direction of Church leaders is probably better way to put it, how they are leading the Church. It goes beyond just, “Oh, the pope said this one time.” But no, it goes all the way down deep to how the bishops are doing things, how priests, how the mass is celebrated, how parishes are run, all that. There is a general resistance to most of the things that are going on in the Church today. I want to bring up Erick Ybarra, a friend of the program and yours as well. Great guy.

Timothy Flanders:

Yes, friend of mine. I respect Erick Ybarra.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, excellent guy. I’m still waiting for his pope book to come out here in the next few months.

Timothy Flanders:

Oh yeah, that’s going to be great.

Eric Sammons:

I’m dying for it to come out. But he has brought up the point, I think others have too, but he has brought up the point that there’s a certain problem with the idea of this whole Recognize and Resist in the sense that you can’t live like that as a Catholic very long, in that 100 years from now, are we still going to be a Recognize and Resist movement that disagrees with the direction the Church has been going over the past 160 years or something like that? I mean, that does seem to be real problematic. How would you respond to that, I think, pretty good criticism of the whole Recognize and Resist movement?

Timothy Flanders:

Yeah, I mean, as we’ve emphasized in this program, the Catholic attitude is to submit. That should be our instinct, sort of, and we should always feel a discomfort with any sort of resistance because it is incongruous, and we shouldn’t feel any pleasure in it whatsoever. A reluctant necessity should be our attitude. On the one hand, I do view our current crisis as we’ve written about at OnePeterFive regarding ultramontanism, I do view that our current crisis is part of a much larger epoch called modernity as many people already say it. But I think that there are seeds of different problems going on before Vatican II, and Vatican II only accentuates existing issues. Now it’s not that simple, it’s very complicated obviously. I’m not trying to oversimplify it. So there is a sense that there’s sort of a long term resistance.

But I want to quote here from Bishop Athanasius Schneider, certainly a friend and patron of OnePeterFive. He writes in The Catholic Mass page 41, he says this. “The Church has a 2000 year history, and the Novus Ordo has been with us only for about 50 years. Usually the crises in the Church have lasted about 70 years, similar to the Babylon exile in the Old Testament, or the exile in Avignon in the 14th century France. Today we’re going through a period of liturgical exile. Surely, Divine Providence will intervene and give us a hierarchy that will know how to repair the liturgy according to the census perennis of the Church’s tradition. The new rite will then be brought back more and more to the traditional liturgical form of the Church, come close to the traditional form of the mass.”

And so he mentions this, because I think that he makes a very astute observation in terms of this sort of 70 year paradigm. Because I think it is quite consistent in the Church that there are… In terms of, you think of the Arian crisis, which the most acute portion was from 325 to 381. But Arianism persisted, especially in the West. But in terms of publicly resisting most of the hierarchy, and I mean, Saint Jerome says that famously, “The Church arose and found herself Arian.” So we’re talking about a vast majority of bishops are Arian heretics. And even we have the Pope Liberius who may or may not have excommunicated Athanasius, another example of that.

So we do have situations, where even the Protestant revolt, we can consider that to be very much in fact in decline by the 1600s. But there’s complications that arise after that which cause it to advance again. And when we talk about the Latin mass, we see this same pattern already at play. Because this was promulgated in 1969. Joseph Ratzinger, even at that time, said that this was a breach in liturgical tradition. He was publicly critiquing Pope Paul VI, and this is an example of Recognize and Resist in the 1970s. So the Agatha Christie indult happens in 1971, and already in 1984 that indult is expanded. And then in 1988 we have the formal reestablishment of the Latin mass in the Roman rite with the FSSP.

So when we take the period from ’69 to ’88, that’s barely a generation. That’s a blink of an eye in Church history. That’s just rapid fire. Immediately it starts to reverse itself and reintegrate something organically to resolve the whole issue. We can look at the whole history up to Tradiionis custodes as really healing this thing in the Holy Spirit in the providence of God.

So if that weren’t the case, we’d have a harder case to make according to your objection, which I think is entirely valid. But I think we already see these things resolving themselves in Divine Providence. Now obviously we have the curve ball of Traditionis custodes, and that’s another story that we can get into. I think that this 70 year sort of Babylonian captivity is sort of a good paradigm to follow, because I think that God, ultimately the Church, the fathers and the mothers must pass down the faith to their children children. And so within a few generations we see these things already starting to resolve and resolve themselves. So I mean, even trads would certainly say that the pontificate of John Paul II was an improvement on prior situations. You know, universal catechism, Veritatis Splendor, or things like that. Even though we would disagree with many things of John Paul II’s reign, we could already see the Holy Spirit working to resolve the situation under John Paul II.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, so basically we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Novus Ordo a couple years ago. We’re about to hit the 60th anniversary of the calling of Vatican II. So however you date the beginning of the troubles, sometime in 1960s, 1970 maybe the latest, I think everybody would agree by 1970 that’s at least the latest start to the troubles. Then we’re talking 70 years, we’re talking as late as maybe 2040, something like that. But that the idea being that in general, most of this stuff will work itself out. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be lots of souls lost unfortunately, and we shouldn’t be actively working to try to make this happen. But what I’m trying to say is you’re predicting by 2040 everything will be okay.

Timothy Flanders:

Yes, we’ll have a big revival of the Church.

Eric Sammons:

I think these things happen in ways that we don’t expect, but I could see a path forward where by things getting worse, which is terrible, and I’m not only these people that says, “Oh, it’s good that things are bad, because it makes all the kind of halfway people leave.” Because I’m afraid I’m a halfway person, so I don’t want that to happen. But the idea being that the Church is, as Ratzinger predicted a long time ago, gets smaller, but that the kernel of faith of people left are those who do believe, who are the faithful remnant. And then from there, it grows out again. So that would be a path I could see, at least from my human eyes. I think Divine Providence could make it happen some other way.

But it doesn’t seem to me likely, because of so many people leaving, that the next generation who are Catholic, have chosen to be Catholic actively and they’re embracing the fullness of faith. Because the 60, 70 year-old-people who are boomer Catholics and they just kind of still have that 1960s mentality, they’re all gone, their kids have left, most of them, in the Church. And so the only people left are like these in our parish where we’re having tons of young people join. I just hear a story every week of a new young person who’s come back to the faith or something like that. That’s what’s left. Those are the priests, those are the bishops eventually, the sisters and things like that. So yeah, maybe the 70 year cycle. That’s what we’re going to hope for. I don’t know if I’ll be around still in 2040, but that’s okay. My kids probably will be, and I hope it does turn around for them.

Timothy Flanders:

I think one of the silver linings that we can see under the pontificate of Pope Francis, unfortunate as it is, is that there is a growing coalition of Catholics that are opposed to these base basic heresies as I mentioned. I want to mention this book from Arouca Press, Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies. This is a collection of sort of trads and non-trads all joining together for one purpose, which is to defend the faith against heresies. This is an unprecedented, this has never happened since Vatican II. There’s always been an animosity between these sort of two groups we might call the conservative and the trads. But now we see this broader coalition which is standing together to defend the faith against heresies. I think that this is a huge silver lining that God may be bringing out of this situation.

Eric Sammons:

Very good. Okay, well I like this. We’re leaving things on a more positive note, upbeat note, cause for hope, things of that nature. I appreciate you coming on the program. Everybody, you can find Tim’s stuff at onepeterfive.com, onepeterfive.com. We will link in the show notes to the various articles that Tim brought up so you can check his sources. You can make sure everything we’re saying isn’t just made up for the podcast or something like that, and learn more about this important subject. So again, thanks a lot. I really appreciate you being on the program, Tim.

Timothy Flanders:

Yes, thanks. Let me just plug the Lay Sodality of Prayer and Reparation-

Eric Sammons:

Oh yes.

Timothy Flanders:

… which Bishop Schneider just helped us launch this past weekend. Because besides the controversy, there was actually a 100 people plus committing to offering reparation to the Blessed Sacrament for all the liturgical abuses, both in Novus Ordo and just in general in terms of all sorts of problems that are occurring with the Blessed Sacrament. So this is something that really, I think, all orthodox Catholics of goodwill would be happy to sign on to. This was what is what we want to offer, along with the bishop’s effort to cause a Eucharistic revival, which we all want. We want to offer this reparation. If you go to onepeterfive.com/crusade, you can get all the information to join this Lay Sodality of Prayer and Reparation.

Eric Sammons:

Awesome. Yeah, I think that’s great, because it’s a matter of just… There is the critique of more traditional, but also even a lot of conservative Catholics, that you’re just about complaining about things. But here’s a case, actually, we’re joining in with the bishop’s promotion of Eucharistic revival and saying, “Okay, here’s a specific thing we’re going to do. Crusade, Eucharistic reparation.” I think that’s a great thing. So I really encourage people to go to that. We’ll link to that as well, but it’s onepeterfive.com/crusade.

Okay, everybody. Until next time then, God love you.

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