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Who are You to Judge the Doctrine of the Holy Father?

Tucho “Heal Me with Your Mouth” Fernández has given a new interview to the stalwart veteran journalist, Edward Pentin, in which it is appears that the ideology of hyperüberultramontanist dictatorship is expounded. Here we seem to see the false theology which underscores the gas lighting of a listening Church with simultaneous arbitrary, dictatorial powers.

Fernández begins with a hat tip to orthodoxy, affirming correctly that we should “never use the term ‘modernize’ to apply to the Church” since it would “subsum[e]” the depositum fidei into the “framework of a given epoch (in this case, modernity), which will also pass away.”

After Pentin parries this smoke screen with a penetrating question, Fernández lays his house of cards on the table:

When we speak of obedience to the magisterium, this is understood in at least two senses, which are inseparable and equally important. One is the more static sense, of a “deposit of faith,” which we must guard and preserve unscathed. But on the other hand, there is a particular charism for this safeguarding, a unique charism, which the Lord has given only to Peter and his successors.

In this case, we are not talking about a deposit, but about a living and active gift, which is at work in the person of the Holy Father. I do not have this charism, nor do you, nor does Cardinal Burke. Today only Pope Francis has it. Now, if you tell me that some bishops have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and schism. Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church. Unfortunately, today, not only do some progressives fall into this error but also, paradoxically, do some traditionalist groups.

As José Ureta discussed in his important essay (“Leo XIII: the First Liberal Pope who went Beyond His Authority”), this is the classic ecclesiology of the Liberal Modernists: “the only rule of faith is to be with the living Pope.” At that time under Leo XIII, those supporting the “doctrine of Pius IX” opposed the “doctrine of Leo XIII.” The hyperüberultramontanists claimed only the living pope counts. So it seems that the same is at work today.

Fernández says the pope has a special gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s true. But what has the Church defined regarding the nature of this gift? As Sammons rightly noted, it’s also a conservative charism:

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 (Pastor Aeternus).

In short, it is, at best, potentially misleading to use the phrase “doctrine of Pope so-and-so” since the doctrine of every pope must never be a “new doctrine” but must only be an act of religiously guarding the same deposit. It is quite rare that this phrase is ever used, and it is revealing that Fernández uses it here.

Notice the gnostic angle of the new head of the Office Formerly Known as Holy: “heresy and schism” results when anyone claims “a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father.” It is good that he says his two aspects of the Magisterium are “inseparable” but let’s break this down a minute:

  1. The static depositum fidei is publicly defined and understood by all. It does not require a “special gift” to be judged and understood.
  2. However, the “doctrine of the Holy Father” cannot be judged by anyone. This would seem to require a secret, gnostic knowledge.

If gnostic mysteries are necessary to judge the “doctrine of the Holy Father,” that would explain why the Holy Father 1.) refuses to answer dubia about his own doctrine and 2.) ridicules his critics as being ideologues. If a gnostic secret knowledge alone can understand and judge, then dubia can go unanswered and all the critics are hopeless cranks.

This gnostic hyperpapalism would imply that a relationship of logic between the depositum fidei and the “doctrine of the Holy Father” is not necessary. Because of a gnostic super-knowledge, the law of non-contradiction need not apply.

  1. The depositum says the death penalty is not intrinsically evil.
  2. The doctrine of the Holy Father says that the death penalty is intrinsically evil.

A seven-year-old First Communicant says, “Your Holiness, how can those two be true at the same time?” Tucho responds: “How dare you claim a special gift to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father! Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church.”

Fernández seems to be asserting that the charism of infallibility is not given to the pope merely for speaking ex cathedra. This charism of infallibility, according to him, covers over the whole “doctrine of the Holy Father.” It is true that “the first see is judged by no one” but this is for the case when the first see is himself acting as definitive judge. When the pope intends to speak ex cathedra and judge definitively, he is infallible. No one can judge him. But when the pope is shooting from the hip on a plane, a seven-year-old First Communicant may judge his doctrine if it contradicts what he was given from the Faith. As Cardinal Pell said “Previously it was: ‘Roma locuta. Causa finita est.’ Today it is: ‘Roma loquitur. Confusio augetur.’”

Fernández went on to dismiss the lack of clarity in the debates, using the de auxiliis controversy to justify this ambiguity, since it is here that “the Church grows and matures” and thus his office will “welcome these debates.”

Thankfully, the Cardinal-elect confirmed that marriage is only between a man and woman open to life, at least “at this point.” However, he added the slavery card to his house of cards:

[I]t is clear that even the Church does not yet fully grasp the full richness of the Gospel… Today the Church condemns torture, slavery and the death penalty, but this did not happen with the same clarity in other centuries.

This is the type of theological ambiguity that makes it easy for heretics to push their agenda. They point to something that might be possible to change, and equivocate with something that cannot. What is needed is all the proper distinctions so that the law of non-contradiction is maintained. St. John Henry Newman made these distinctions, but now we are on a runaway, hyperpapalist train where the Holy Father has a gnostic secret knowledge that no one can understand or judge.

Thank God that, despite this nonsense, the Mystical Body of Christ is still passing down the depositum fidei to First Communicants, and dispensing the life-giving, Sacramental grace contained in the Holy Sacrament.

A future pope will indeed judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, but until that time comes, we will hold on to the deposit of faith with the rigidness of our Trad godfathers.


T. S. Flanders
Exaltation of the Holy Cross


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