And now, since Cardinal Burke’s two interviews last week confirming their intentions, everyone is asking, “What happens next?” And the grand soap opera of the Bergoglio pontificate has closed out the week on yet another cliffhanger.
The cardinals’ questions were not on small matters. In so many words and by implication, they asked the pope whether the Church still taught that there is such a thing as objective moral reality; whether scripture could be trusted as a moral guide; whether the Church has been wrong for 2000 years; whether God is a liar. Is there still a Catholic Faith, or were we all fools? And, perhaps of most immediate moment, are you, your holiness, still interested in being the pope of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?
I don’t know anyone who isn’t either privately or publicly suggesting that this is the “beginning of the end” of the Bergoglian pontificate, that we have all known has been heading straight for exactly this precipice. And now, after fifty years of struggle in our quiet civil war, the cliff is finally in sight. However politely the questions – and interviews – are worded, the truth is that the choices before the pope are now simple: recant or be deposed. The questions, despite what he seems to believe, cannot be dodged. Does the pope adhere to the Catholic religion? Is he trying to overturn it and put something of his own – and his handlers’ – devising in its place? Remaining silent isn’t an option.
Cardinal Burke himself hinted at the next necessary steps when he told Edward Pentin, “There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”
None of the cardinals is yet publicly using the D-word, of course, but a quick Google search will reveal that there is a growing body of historical, theological and canonical information being made available, most of it very recently, on the subject of deposing a pope for heresy. For the moment, however, we’re all still one big happy family, just having dialogues and asking politely for “clarifications” of “errors”.
And we also can only guess at who and how many in the episcopate are supporting them. But the guesses can be educated. The American archbishop Thomas Gullickson, canonist and nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, for instance, posted to his Facebook page the note, “Father does a great job in this article.” This was above the now-famous 2014 piece for the Remnant by Robert Siscoe titled, “Can the Church depose an heretical pope?” A signal if ever I saw one.
There’s a long way to go yet. “Error,” even serious error, isn’t the same thing as heresy, still less “obdurate, formal” heresy. But Rorate Caeli and others are dead-on when they say that it is astounding, almost unprecedented that bishops or cardinals have been forced to effectively demand that the pope assert that he is a Catholic and that he is not deliberately acting to overturn the Catholic Faith. And Cardinal Burke’s hint at what they will be obliged to do if the pope refuses to answer must now, following this weekend’s papal antics, be seriously considered.
Whatever longest-term outcome we may be hoping for, each step must be taken with utmost care. To prove formal heresy – particularly the formal heresy of a pope – is a grave matter indeed, and to ensure that history will record that they acted on the side of Truth, these men cannot afford to make a single mistake. This is not something that will be resolved in a matter of weeks, therefore. But the fact that the cardinals have made their intervention public – and said that they did so because the pope refused to respond – means that our fears that nothing was being done have been proved wrong, thanks be to God.
What happens next is really the question of the hour, but it is also obvious, given what we know about this man and his determination to implement his agenda. We saw this crucial weekend that Francis Bergoglio has not the slightest intention of changing his course. He followed his usual pattern, giving his responses obliquely, unofficially in yet another interview and in his consistory address, using ambiguities and pointed insults, always playing the victim. His chosen mouthpieces have even gone so far as to openly insult and ridicule the cardinals and their letter. If I were among the latter, my response would be simple: “So be it. You’ve brought this on yourselves.”
What will happen next is therefore not difficult to discern, since it is dictated by the realities which will continue moving forward according to their logical momentum. It is like the Titanic disaster: the ship had a particular speed and course that night, and a particular set of restrictions dictated by physics and mathematics. It was moving at a particular speed, weighed so many tons, was so many yards long; the rudder was that particular size and no other; the turning radius was exactly that wide; there was exactly that much time available between sighting the iceberg and altering course. Simply put, by the time they saw the ice, it was too late. Math is math and nothing can alter it.
We are at the point where the decisions have been made, and all the actions taken and now the Church is merely a projectile, subject to the inexorable demands of logic and reality as Titanic was to the laws of physics. Sides have been chosen, battle lines drawn and opening skirmishes have begun, with Francis’ chosen favourites openly attacking those bishops who would maintain the historic Catholic Faith. As of this week, the Catholic Church’s quiet little cold civil war, that has been going on since 1965, has blossomed into something much more open and more vicious.
But as always with this pontificate, the blessed silver lining is clarity. Francis Bergoglio is going to go down in history as the Great Clarifier, no matter what he says or does not say to Cardinal Burke. Although the letter was addressed to the pope, effectively the cardinals’ dubia are aimed at the entire Church; all Catholics from pope to pewsitters, must believe and profess the same Gospel. This means that the questions are aimed at all bishops as well, and however the pope decides, they are going to be obliged to make the same decision either for or against Christ. If nothing else is accomplished, it will from this time forward be very easy to clarify who is and is not a Catholic bishop. Just as Amoris Laetitia was intended as a litmus test for compliance with the New Paradigm, so the Cardinals’ dubia provides a similar service to Christ.
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If all factors remain steady – that is, if Francis Bergoglio does not repent and the cardinals do not get cold feet – what will happen, what has to happen, is this:
- Bergoglio will continue not to respond, allowing his proxies to speak for him as always. He will continue to attack as “enemies” and “detractors” anyone who tries to recall him to his duty.
- The cardinals, after an interval in which they may issue another warning, must do their duty and denounce his heresies for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. This must happen if for no other reason than that the faithful are being led by this pope over the cliff of mortal sin.
- After the formal denunciation, therefore, the episcopate, clergy and laity will divide into two groups. The Catholic side will be very small, and will seem weak and powerless and foolish in the eyes of the world. They will have only the truth of the Faith as their weapon and shield.
- The second will have all the material institution of the Church, all its monetary resources, the psychological asset of its material patrimony of churches, schools, universities, hospitals etc. and the political power of recognition and support by the secular world, as well as the adherence of nearly all those who continue to call themselves Catholics.
- Bergoglio will demand the acquiescence of the Catholics with his usual threats and insults. He will empower his followers at the national level to punish priests, seminarians, teachers, university professors, et al, if they do not embrace the New Paradigm.
- The standoff can only possibly be broken by what canonists call a “declaratory sentence” that Bergoglio is a formal and obdurate or pertinacious heretic and has by his own actions lost the office of the papacy.
- Their duty then will be plain. The Catholic Church cannot function without a pope, and they will be obliged to call a conclave.
What will things look like after the schism is complete? We can easily extrapolate that from what things look like now. The vast majority of the Catholic world, lay and clerical, have no problem at all with Francis or with the entire New Paradigm of Vaticantwoism. The Church will consist, as it always has, of believers, but there will be no buildings. The reality, visible to the eyes of God, will be that the larger body will be what we might call the Bergoglian sect. They will have all the appearances of legitimacy and will be respected and at last embraced by the world, who will think that the tiny group of objectors are fools and “dissenters.”
The necessity of this outcome – always barring miraculous interventions, conversions or the Parousia – was clear to those who knew the Faith from the day following Walter Kasper’s February 2014 consistory address. That already notorious heretic laid out the course that this “Sankt Gallen Mafia” cabal, of which Bergoglio is merely the chosen instrument, from that day, and none of them have deviated from it a single iota since then. Fr. Brian Harrison was perhaps the first one to put it clearly. In a letter to Robert Moynihan, Fr. Harrison warned of “the immensity of a massive, looming threat that bids fair to pierce, penetrate and rend in twain Peter’s barque – already tossing perilously amid stormy and icy seas.”
“The shocking magnitude of the doctrinal and pastoral crisis lurking beneath this politely-worded dispute between scholarly German prelates can scarcely be overstated. For what is at stake here is fidelity to a teaching of Jesus Christ that directly and profoundly affects the lives of hundreds of millions of Catholics: the indissolubility of marriage.”
Fr. Harrison was able to make his prediction not based on any supernatural gift of foresight, but merely by applying his rational intellect to the objective realities. It is the nature of reality that actions have inevitable logical consequences. The simple math is that they want to leave Christ behind; we cannot go where they are leading because we love Christ and won’t leave Him.
Now, it must be acknowledged that Francis Bergoglio has a few options and it is possible that it won’t go as far as this extreme outcome. It may be that he will balk at staring down an actual sentence of heresy. It is hard to know for sure, in a game of such unimaginable stakes, what any man will do. He might blink. It is possible that at some point he could agree to assert the Catholic Faith, at least publicly.
I expect that the cardinals would offer him the option of remaining silent and inactive. That by itself would be a blessed relief. And then they could be given the de facto governance of the Church, and set about correcting his “errors” publicly. This would put an end to the immediate, smaller, Bergoglian, crisis. The revolution would be at the very least put on hold until the cabal could find another way forward, perhaps with another pope. But of course, this would make it more difficult to correct the larger problem of which Bergoglio is only a more threatening symptom.
Another possibility is that he will carry out the threat he made during his last burst of apoplectic rage at the last Synod. When 13 cardinals politely asked him to please fulfill his promises of an open and transparent synodal process, he is reported to have had a complete meltdown, screaming that he would “throw them out.” If that is the case, the four cardinals could be removed from the college, and all the world would clearly understand that Bergoglio will not recant and that our worst fears about his intentions are true. After that, it will be up to someone else to decide whether this is the kind of man they want to follow.
Nevertheless, all of this, even if any of it is to actually come to pass, is still a ways off. We will have to wait and see if Jorge Bergoglio has the nerve to see the revolutionaries’ plans through to the end. (Personally, I’m betting he does. Narcissists of his caliber rarely recant, even strategically.) At the moment, however, we have seen him being both cunning and bold with his refusal to answer the dubia and making pointed insults and attacks through his proxies.
He has brought us to the very edge of the precipice thus far with a meticulously orchestrated campaign of hints and ambiguities, advances and retreats, statements that barely skirt the edges of denounceable heresy, obfuscations, deflections and outright lies. All his worst outrages – particularly his blasphemies – have been “unofficial,” given in “off-the-cuff” comments in homilies, audience addresses and his notorious interviews, always with a wink, a nudge and a nod. He has continued, up to yesterday, his well-tested strategy of allowing his underlings to draw out the necessary conclusions from his ambiguities, like a group of Delphic priests interpreting their oracle.
This means, of course, that the ball is now back in the court of the four cardinals, while the rest of us fire up the microwave for another batch of popcorn. Get your Rosaries ready, ladies and gentlemen, because we’re not done.