By now, many of us have heard about the apparent lightning strike in Argentina on December 17, 2023, Francis’s birthday. According to reports, lightning struck the statue of St. Peter at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás, destroying St. Peter’s key (one key was apparently already missing) and the hand that held it. Surely, some say, this is a sign from God that Francis has either lost the papacy or never had it.
As fascinating as this possible sign is, Francis has given us many reasons far more persuasive than this to question the legitimacy of his claims to the papacy. One could, for example, argue that the document Francis released the day after the apparent lightning strike — Fiducia Supplicans, which “authorizes” the blessing of same-sex unions — is a greater indication that he is an anti-pope. And, for those who have understood the theology behind the Synod on Synodality, that ongoing process makes Fiducia Supplicans look relatively Catholic in comparison.
Even though Francis’s “latest heresies” may be no more heretical than many others he has promoted (most of which have their roots in the Vatican II revolution) there is something noteworthy, and perhaps theologically significant, about the reality that more people are noticing Francis’s heresies and wickedness.
So if the lightning strike is a message from God . . . why now? Whether or not we trust the reports of the lightning strike, it does appear that we have seen evidence of the progressive manifestation of Satan’s influence over Francis and his collaborators. Thus, even though Francis’s “latest heresies” may be no more heretical than many others he has promoted (most of which have their roots in the Vatican II revolution) there is something noteworthy, and perhaps theologically significant, about the reality that more people are noticing Francis’s heresies and wickedness.
In connection with this progressive manifestation, one frame of reference for us to consider comes from St. Robert Bellarmine’s famous “fifth opinion” about the possibility of a heretical pope. St. Robert Bellarmine favored the opinion that God would never permit a pope to fall into heresy; but in the event that God permitted a pope to fall into heresy, he considered the following opinion (the fifth he considered) to be correct:
“Now the fifth true opinion, is that a pope who is a manifest heretic, ceases in himself to be pope and head, just as he ceases in himself to be a Christian and member of the body of the Church; whereby he can be judged and punished by the Church.”
As we know, not all Traditional Catholic theologians agree with this position — some, like Cardinal Raymond Burke, have adopted similar positions, but others have not. For purposes of considering the significance of the “progressive manifestation” of Francis’s heresies, though, it is worth examining certain points from an analysis of St. Robert Bellarmine’s fifth opinion by Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira, found in his study entitled Two Timely Issues: The New Mass and the Possibility of a Heretical Pope.
One of the real tragedies of the Vatican II revolution is the reality that most people identifying as Catholics would have been deemed heretics by pre-Vatican II (read “Catholic”) standards.
Xavier da Silveira considered St. Robert Bellarmine’s fifth opinion to be correct, but he saw that it left open certain essential prudential considerations:
“Having established the speculative principles on the theological hypothesis of a heretical pope, imposed with the adoption of the fifth opinion enumerated by Saint Robert Bellarmine, we now move onto prudential ground. Now one can ask, what is the result of all this? Is it not true that an eventual heretical pope will remain in office whether one adopts the opinion of Cajetan, Saint Robert, Suarez, or any other important theologian, and even if the whole rigorous procedure is followed, with admonitions and everything else? Can any of the opinions concretely solve the crisis? Is it not a vain effort, a mere empty academicism, to deal with this matter?” (p. 228)
Here Xavier da Silveira identifies a source of endless debate between those who believe the matter is “solved” once they declare a man to be an anti-pope and those who see no practical point to the exercise if it does not ultimately remove and replace the heretic. We can see this division even among those who believe John XXIII and his ostensible successors were not popes: a large portion of those who insist that Francis is not pope are content to believe that there have been no popes since Pius XII; whereas another portion of those who rejected John XXIII have seen the problem of not having a pope and have attempted to elect their own.
Crucially, none of these maneuvers to address the sedevacantist belief that John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI were anti-popes were adequate to prevent Bergoglio from convincing the world that he is Pope Francis. Something more is required, which Xavier da Silveira tied to a “supernatural spirit” which must animate those trying to react to a heretical pope”
“Because of these questions, it is not enough to say that the controversy will produce procedures and surprises about which little can be said in theory. It is not enough to try and predict maneuvers and strategies or set tactical guidelines to deal with a slippery and unpredictable reality. The real answer to these questions is to face the situation with a supernatural spirit so that the thick of battle does not cause those fighting the good fight to panic, but rather to always bear in mind this profound meaning of things.” (p. 228)
Even if we were to dismiss everything else Xavier da Silveira wrote, we can appreciate the wisdom of this conclusion that the answer to many questions surrounding a heretical pope is to “face the situation with a supernatural spirit.” How could it be otherwise if we know that God is permitting this horrific situation and will be the One Who solves it?
Today, for example, we have well-meaning Catholics trying to “solve” the Francis problem who see no issue with the fact that Francis’s predecessors have been promoting the heresy of false ecumenism since the Council. This is itself a problem.
Xavier da Silveira saw that the sensus fidei was key to this supernatural spirit in defense of the Church against a heretical pope:
“In defense of the Faith or of a specific point of Catholic doctrine, convergence in the tendencies of the combatants must be born with a supernatural principle, i.e., grace. Thus, it is not only a matter of uniting souls in a certain direction but of nourishing their faith. A Catholic movement in defense of the Faith will only have life and strength if it springs from the depth of souls inspired by the sensus fidei, which differs radically from natural tendencies. The sensus fidei is like a spiritual sense, which sees, appreciates, and judges all things in the light of the Faith. It is, as it were, the sensibility of a soul vivified by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, infused virtues, actual graces — that make present and lively the truths revealed by Our Lord — and wisdom, the savory science of the Faith.” (pp. 231-232)
We cannot possibly combat Satan and the work he is doing in Rome if we rely on our natural tendencies. We must instead fight like saints if we hope to prevail:
“If the Catholic people have a healthier, sounder part (sana pars), orthodox, fervent, and willing to fight for the Faith, the clamor of the faithful against heresy will rise vigorously even in the face of authorities.” (p. 231)
Many opponents of Francis today appear to have the requisite fervor, but we must seriously consider the collective orthodoxy of those who see Bergoglio as an imposter. One of the real tragedies of the Vatican II revolution is the reality that most people identifying as Catholics would have been deemed heretics by pre-Vatican II (read “Catholic”) standards. Today, for example, we have well-meaning Catholics trying to “solve” the Francis problem who see no issue with the fact that Francis’s predecessors have been promoting the heresy of false ecumenism since the Council. This is itself a problem.
A worsening of the crisis, which will ultimately convince Catholics to accept the reality that we have seen not only a progressive manifestation of Francis’s heresies but also a progressive manifestation of Vatican II’s.
Accordingly, those who have promoted the concept of “living tradition” — the heresy that immutable truth can evolve over time to become something that contradicts what it once was — have effectively undermined the development of this requisite supernatural movement described by Xavier da Silveira. That is why it is absolutely vital to reject not only the horrendous fruits we see (e.g., Francis) but also the entire bad tree that was planted by Vatican II. Until this is accomplished on a much wider scale, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which faithful Catholics can truly overcome Francis and whichever heretic the next conclave would presumably produce.
What happens in the meantime? Xavier da Silveira foresaw an inevitable clash, similar to what we see today:
“Saint Robert Bellarmine teaches that the heretical pope loses his papacy when his heresy becomes manifest. This is to be understood as a full manifestation, that is, one that imposes itself to acceptance by the sana pars of Catholics. If a block of Catholics considers the manifestation doubtful or insufficient, it is either because it is not full or the block’s members are not the true sana pars. A clash will become inevitable, with everything depending on the sensus fidei of Catholics and the movements of grace. For as long as he is tolerated and accepted by the universal Church, the heretic will be a true pope, and, in principle, his acts are valid.” (p. 234)
Why would God permit such a situation? We cannot know with certainty (absent inspiration from God) but it seems that God is allowing us to have such a terrible experience with the bad fruits of Vatican II so that we can finally reject the tree itself, which was formed by grafting anti-Catholic ideas onto the tree of the immutable Catholic Faith, as Cardinal Ratzinger once told us:
“The problem of the 1960s was to acquire the better of the values drawn from two centuries of ‘liberal’ culture. There are in fact some values which, although born outside the Church, can find their place purified and corrected in its vision of the world. This is what has been done.” (quoted in the January 1997 SiSiNoNo)
As the future Benedict XVI expressed, this grafting of anti-Catholic ideas onto the tree of Catholicism was what was done; and now it must be undone. Until that happens, we should absolutely expect a worsening of the crisis, which will ultimately convince Catholics to accept the reality that we have seen not only a progressive manifestation of Francis’s heresies but also a progressive manifestation of Vatican II’s.
Our supernatural approach to solving the crisis must involve all of the things we know we should be doing anyway: prayer, penance, breaking all attachments to venial sin, and resisting all errors contrary to the unadulterated Catholic Faith.
As a final consideration, Xavier da Silveira saw that the automatic loss of the papacy still required a legal declaration from the Church:
“The loss of the papacy, therefore, will not result from a deposition by anyone but from an act of the pope himself, who, by becoming a formal and notorious heretic, will have excluded himself from the visible Church, thus tacitly resigning the papacy. The Apostolic See being vacant, an ecclesiastical body such as the College of Cardinals or the imperfect Council can legally declare the loss of office by the heretic who was pope to render the fact official and make it unequivocally known by all. The Church may then proceed to the election of a new pope.” (p. 234)
Without such a legal declaration, we would be left with chaos and, in all likelihood, no pope. So we need some official act of the Church and, until we have it, our supernatural approach to solving the crisis must involve all of the things we know we should be doing anyway: prayer, penance, breaking all attachments to venial sin, and resisting all errors contrary to the unadulterated Catholic Faith.
Regarding the possibility of an imperfect Council, it seems reasonable and prudent for those Cardinals and bishops who still have the Faith to at least explore the possibility of gathering to prayerfully discern God’s will, with a determined desire to carry out God’s will, whether or not it means removing Francis and electing another pope. For better or worse, Francis has given us some relatively simple tests to discern which Cardinals and bishops still have the Faith: those who support the Synodal Church, Traditionis Custodes, and Fiducia Supplicans do not have the Faith and cannot be part of a solution to the Church’s crisis unless they renounce their errors and convert to Catholicism.
For the remaining shepherds: trust God and become saints. If you do this, you run no risk of a misstep by trying to more actively address the crisis because you will never do anything that God has not inspired you to do. And if you tell us, your flocks, to pray and perform penance for your intentions in this regard, we will do so willingly, rejoicing to finally have shepherds to follow again.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
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