I see many people looking for a reason to finally commit to the belief that Francis is an antipope. Why? Why does this matter so much to you? Isn’t it enough to know that he is wrong and that he seeks ways — clever ways around the confines of his papal office — to lead the faithful astray?
I responded to such a concern in the comments this morning with something that I will share again here.
Francis is almost certainly a material heretic. Whether he is a formal heretic is not ours to prove. His opinions — not his teachings, since he is very careful not to exert an authentic magisterium that commands assent — do lead people to sin, and eventually hell.
But he is, by every measurable standard, still the pope.
The Christian faith is full of paradoxes, stumbling blocks, and hard sayings. We have had popes in history who had heretical beliefs; others who allowed heresy to flourish, and were thereby complicit. Others who lived such scandalous lives that they certainly — absolutely and without question — led others to sin, and likely to hell.
They were still popes.
Stop trying to solve this yourself. Is this your Church, or is it The Lord’s? Stop thinking that the tempest will sink the Barque, lest you be admonished, like the apostles were, “Oh ye of little faith…”
He can calm the winds and the seas with a word.
God is letting this happen. And God has established an authority structure in the Church that we must be docile to, insofar as we are able within the dictates of a well-formed conscience.
If Francis is really an antipope, how does that change your daily life? Do you cease your prayers? Will you no longer attend Mass? Will you stop your spiritual reading? Will you give up on your faith?
It certainly matters in the long run whether or not he is an authentic but diabolical pope or a false but diabolical pope. But either way, he is clearly in the service of the Prince of this World, not the King of Kings.
Does he scandalize you? Good. He should. If you have faith, you recognize that he wants to destroy it. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.
God. Is. Allowing. This. For. A. Reason. Do we trust Him or don’t we? Is it so important that we know the truth right at this moment to attain salvation?
During the Avignon Papacy, St. Vincent Ferrer backed the wrong horse. He thought Clement was the real pope, where St. Catherine backed Urban (who actually was the real pope.) Either way, both were saints.
Attend to the things of heaven. See to your sanctity and salvation. Stop worrying so much about this man who steals your peace. Yes, we need to know what he’s doing in the name of the Church, but we should not despair. The Scriptures made the fallibility of Peter in all but the authority of his office very clear for a reason. God knew we would face these times. Take heart. Have faith.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.