We were warned that these days were forthcoming. Well now they’ve arrived, and the question is: Are we up to the challenge to keep the faith in spite of them? For us it is important to recall that the forces of darkness have tried and failed to crush the Bride of Christ outright, and that out of that failure a new and even more diabolically clever strategy seems to be emerging—to leave the Church standing but to infiltrate her, as Pope Pius X predicted they’d do. “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church,” predicted Our Lady of Akita, as well. And so gathered here behind enemy lines, in occupied territory, we’re up against Luciferian deception where there are no easy answers and no easy way out.
So rather than outlawing the Catholic Mass (as they did so often in history), for example, they "reformed" it this time. And their New Mass is a disastrous novelty that may nevertheless retain its technical validity—with Christ truly present to be reviled, ignored, effectively mocked on Novus tables just as He was on Calvary’s Cross. It may be tempting in the face of such devastating sacrilege to stand up and denounce all New Masses as “invalid”. But are they? Sacrilege does not guarantee invalidity, and to suggest that it does may well be to miss the more horrific point of what’s really going on here. (Nor does mere technical validity translate to mean that we have a moral right to expose ourselves or our children to something that has done so much documented damage throughout the world to the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.) Retaining technical validity may well be Satan’s masterstroke, for if the abuse-ridden New Mass is invalid then only mere bread and wine are being ignored, abused, reviled or in some other way disrespected. Would the Father of Lies settle for that?
And so too with the Pope—if only it were true that Francis is not the pope! But what if the diabolical nature of the crisis at hand is to be found in the very fact that he is, despite the myriad scandals? In the face of the growing scandal, it’s understandable that some want to proclaim Peter’s chair empty but, again, would the Father of Lies settle for that, or would he demand the real thing to hold up in triumph before the Face of Christ Crucified? In his pride, would Lucifer settle for some harlot imposter, propped up in the place of Christ’s spotless bride? These are the questions that must be discussed. And, of course, since diabolical disorientation impacts each and every one of us, we could certainly be wrong in how we see it all. But what is not up for debate is this: When we “defend” Pope Francis as a valid pope (as John Salza does in the following article) we are not defending his multitudinous scandals. In fact, it would be so much easier for us to simply announce he’s lost his office. But we believe that he has not, and that's the problem!
Even in Amoris: Which dogma has Francis officially and unequivocally denied? Name one! You see the problem? One cannot be a public and pertinacious heretic by default, weakness, innuendo or ambiguity. This is why Francis will not answer the dubia—because thus far he has clarified nothing, including his own suspected heresy. Does this mean that we are defending Amoris Laetitia? No, of course not! It means that we are being as careful in refuting it as they were in writing it. It is up to us—faithful Catholics everywhere—to be “wise as serpents” as we attempt to withstand and then undermine his Modernist agenda, without effectively removing ourselves from the battlefield altogether by making dramatic proclamations of illegitimacy and invalidity that only serve to make our adversaries very happy. What they want most of all is for us to make of ourselves Francis's judge and jury, and thus render our resistance illegitimate on its face.
Don’t take the bait. Stay in the trenches and fight. This can’t go on much longer, and to abandon our beloved Church at this critical moment of her passion is simply not an option. Pray for Pope Francis. MJM
* * *
Sedevacantists will quote anyone and anything that they think supports their ludicrous position that a Pope whom they personally judge to be a heretic lost (or never had) his office, even if the Church doesn’t know about it. They will not only quote from the Church’s traditional theologians (invariably using partial quotations, wrenched entirely out of context, as we prove in True or False Pope?), but also Novus Ordo apologists (like Steve Ray) who actually reject their Sedevacantist position, and even notorious Modernists (like Yves Congar) when they support their theology. Unfortunately, those who are looking for a simple, quick and easy explanation for the current crisis are often deceived by these tactics, including even former traditional Catholics who have recently departed from the Church by becoming Pope Francis rejecters.
Who is the latest authority that the Sedevacantists are quoting to support their position? Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke. You read that correctly. The Cardinal of the Conciliar Church who recognizes that Francis is the true Pope. The Cardinal who says Pope Francis did not cross the line into heresy with Amoris Laetitia. The Cardinal who the Sedevacantists accuse of being a traitorous Modernist. That Cardinal Burke. You can’t make this stuff up.
In an interview His Eminence gave to Catholic World Report on December 8, 2016 about the dubia he and the other three Cardinals submitted to the Pope, the Cardinal was asked about whether a Pope could become a heretic and fall from his office. Here is the actual question and the Cardinal’s answer:
“CWR: Some people are saying that the pope could separate himself from communion with the Church. Can the pope legitimately be declared in schism or heresy?
Cardinal Burke: If a Pope would formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope. It’s automatic. And so, that could happen.”
Now, quite unbelievably, certain Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters are running amok with the Cardinal’s statement, as if it supported their heretical theology that they can personally decide who is a true Pope without the input of the Church’s authorities. They don’t seem to be embarrassed by the fact that Cardinal Burke went on to say in the same interview that it is the College of Cardinals, and not vigilante Sedevacantists, that judges whether the Pope “formally professed heresy.” This is yet another example of how Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters will quote anyone and anything, even if the quotation, when read in context, explicitly rejects their position! The tactic only reveals their desperation.
Cardinal Burke: The College of Cardinals Must Establish the Pope’s Heresy
Before we look at the context of Cardinal Burke’s statement, let’s play along and analyze the statement itself (which, of course, the Cardinal did not intend to be an in-depth theological explanation of the treatment of a heretical Pope). The Cardinal states that the Pope would have to “formally profess heresy” before he would lose his office. With this statement, the Cardinal is properly noting the distinction between the material element of heresy (the proposition itself which directly contradicts a truth infallibly proposed for belief by the Church) and the formal element (which is pertinacity – the willful and conscious rejection of such a truth) – both of which must be proven before the Pope would be found guilty of “formally professing heresy.”
Thus, by saying the Pope must “formally” profess heresy, the Cardinal means that a Pope must not only publicly profess a heretical teaching (the material element, which Burke denies has happened in the case of Pope Francis), but also have pertinacity of the will in doing so, which must also be public (the formal element). That is the reason for the “formal corrections,” which establish whether a Pope who professes heresy does so willfully and contumaciously. Without public pertinacity, the Pope does not “formally profess heresy,” even if his teaching is heretical, and even if he has committed the mortal sin of heresy in his heart.
Note that when theologians say it is “the act” of the Pope himself that causes the loss of office (as Cardinal Burke does), they are referring to the act being the dispositive cause, not the efficient cause.  Yet, these same theologians also teach that the Pope retains the Pontificate formally (that is, he retains his jurisdiction, and hence must be obeyed as Pope) up to the point that the Church issues a declaration. For example, Billuart, who holds this theological opinion, explains that “before this declaration [of the Church] it is not permitted to refuse him obedience, because he keeps jurisdiction until then.” Only upon the declaration of the Church does Christ – the Efficient Cause – act by formally disjoining the man from the Pontificate.
Who is it, then, that authoritatively determines whether the Pope has “formally professed heresy,” and issues the declaratory sentence? Cardinal Burke answers the question. Back to the interview:
“CWR: Who is competent to declare him to be in heresy?
Cardinal Burke: It would have to be members of the College of Cardinals.”
There you have it. According to Cardinal burke himself, whether the Pope formally professed heresy must be determined and declared by the College of Cardinals, which is the part of Burke’s interview that the Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters conveniently omit from their most recent apologia. And as Billuart observed, as long as the heretical Pope has not been declared deprived of the pontificate by the proper authorities, “it is not permitted to refuse him obedience, because he keeps jurisdiction [i.e., remains Pope formally] until then.”
Warning an Heretical Pope
As we explain in detail in True or False Pope?, if a Pope has not openly left the Church, or publicly admitted that he knowingly rejects what the Church definitively teaches on faith or morals (which none of the conciliar Popes have done), pertinacity would need to be established another way. The other way, according to Divine law and canon law, is by issuing an ecclesiastical warning to the suspect. And, as Cardinal Burke explains, these warnings must come from the Cardinals, who are responsible for both electing the Pope to the Chair of St. Peter, and warning the Pope when he strays from the Faith.
This is what the same Cardinal Burke was referring to in his prior interview with the National Catholic Register when he said: “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.” If the Pope would fail to respond to or heed these warnings, the Church would presume his pertinacity. Thus, whether the Pope has “publicly professed heresy” is determined through the issuance of warnings/corrections to the Pope from the College of Cardinals, the next highest authorities in the Church, not individuals with no authority in the Church.  To date, the Cardinals have not issued Pope Francis any formal acts of correction, although this may be on the horizon.
Cardinal Burke: Pope Francis is not in Heresy
As we alluded to, another obviously contradictory element of Burke’s interview for the Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters is that he evidently does not believe there are materially heretical propositions in Amoris Laetitia – at least not directly heretical. And when Cardinal Burke uses the phrase “formally professing heresy,” he no doubt means professing a proposition that is in direct opposition to what the Church teaches is contained in the Deposit of Faith. This is the greatest form of deviation from Catholic truth. If the proposition does not directly contradict an article of faith, it may be dangerous to the integrity of the Deposit, but does not qualify as heretical, properly so-called. In fact, the very technique of Modernism intentionally avoids such direct opposition to the faith, and instead equivocates on doctrine which gives rise to multiple interpretations and explanations. This tactic enables the Modernists to insinuate error into the minds of their victims without clearly and directly denying an article of Faith. This is certainly an extreme danger to the Faith, but it nevertheless enables them to escape the censure of formal heresy.
Back to the interview:
“CWR: Some critics say you are implicitly accusing the Pope of heresy.
Cardinal Burke: No, that's not what we have implied at all. We have simply asked him, as the Supreme Pastor of the Church, to clarify these five points that are confused; these five, very serious and fundamental points. We’re not accusing him of heresy, but just asking him to answer these questions for us as the Supreme Pastor of the Church.”
And a little later in the interview:
“CWR: Just to clarify again, are you saying that Pope Francis is in heresy or is close to it?
Cardinal Burke: No, I am not saying that Pope Francis is in heresy. I have never said that. Neither have I stated that he is close to being in heresy.”
As we can see, the Cardinal who explains that only the College of Cardinals can judge the Pope a heretic, also maintains that Pope Francis is not even close to being in heresy. At a minimum, Cardinal Burke means that the College has not established Francis’ pertinacity through warnings, but it may also mean that he and the other Cardinals who submitted the dubia do not believe there are even material heresies in Amoris Laetitia (although, in the same interview, he stated that the document is “a source of great confusion and eventual spiritual harm in the Church”). That the 45 theologians who on June 29, 2016 submitted their critical analysis of Amoris Laetitia to Cardinal Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, requested that the Church authoritatively qualify 11 of the 19 identified harmful statements to be heretical shows that reasonable theological minds can disagree on whether there are material heresies in the document. But the fact that there is honest debate about whether Amoris Laetitia contains heretical propositions often means the Church would ultimately judge them to be lessor errors on the scale of theological censures. Time will likely tell.
For the Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters to use Cardinal Burke’s recent statement in support of the very theological position that the Cardinal rejects shows just how desperate they have become, and that they will quote anyone and anything to justify their anti-Catholic rebellion against the Vicar of Jesus Christ. But, as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures” - and using a quotation from an authority who actually disagrees with your position, just because it is in current events, is desperate indeed. But this is what the Sedevacantists have always done, especially with their butchering of the teachings of Cajetan, Bellarmine, Suarez, Billot and many others, as we have demonstrated in our book and many articles.
In conclusion, we affirm with Cardinal Burke and the unanimous opinion of the Church’s greatest theologians that true Catholics remain in union with the man the Church universally accepts as Pope, even if they must also resist his errors from time to time. We also affirm with them that a Pope would lose his office for “formally professing heresy,” only if it is according to the judgment of the Church, and certainly not according to the judgment of private individuals. This is not only the teaching of the Church and all her theologians, but common sense – a natural virtue that is often missing among those who have been so scandalized by the crisis.
 The formally heretical act of the Pope causes him to lose the Pontificate dispositively, but it is Christ Himself who deposes the Pope authoritatively and formally. Hence, the act of the Pope is the dispositive cause, while the act of Christ removing his jurisdiction is the efficient cause that results in the loss of the pontificate formally. This is another distinction that the Sedevacantists and Francis-rejecters have failed to make.
 For more on this process as it potentially relates to Pope Francis, see my article “Pope Francis Refuses to Answer the Dubia – What Happens Next?,” The Remnant newspaper, Two-Part Feature, January-February 2017.
 http://sspx.org/en/amoris-laetitia-critical-analysis. This author does believe that Amoris Laetitia contains material heresy.