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What about the Recent Accusation of
Francis Falling into Heresy?

Dear Mr. Guimarães,

I have a high regard for your opinion. Could you tell me what do you think about the recent accusation by some scholars that Pope Francis fell into heresy? I would appreciate an analysis of it.

Thank you for your time.

    In Jesus through Mary,


The Editor responds:

Dear M.S.A.,

Thank you for your consideration.

I read the Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church. To respond to your question, I will divide my analysis in parts.

What to praise

As a first general approach, I believe that the author(s) and the signers reveal themselves to be concerned Catholics moved by a poignant problem of conscience: They cannot be silent in the face of the words and actions of Francis that contradict revealed truth. So, they resolved to speak.


An Open Letter to the Bishops charges Pope Francis with heresy

Since they anticipated that sending their letter to Francis would not change anything, they directed their message generically to “the Bishops of the Catholic Church” with the hope that there would still be good and courageous Bishops who would listen to their reasoning and admonish the Pope.

The ensemble of their attitude reveals that they have faith and hope. Also, their research shows that they made a serious effort to study the problem they address.

For all these points they deserved to be praised.

What to criticize

1. I found it a little difficult to follow the exposition of the accusations of the author(s)’ and signers’ because in the text the theoretical presentation of the charges is distant from the presentation of the proofs that substantiate them. The reader is obliged to make an act of confidence in the author(s) until he reaches page 4 and the proofs start to appear. It seems to me that the introductory part of the accusations is more like a conclusion. Instead, if each charge were closely preceded by their respective proofs, leaving the list of accusations for the end, the reader could better follow the discussion.

2. Reading the Open Letter, I found that the author(s) and signers implicitly present Pope Francis as separate from the other Conciliar Popes or even in contradiction to them. Now then, this is a fallacious position. What Francis is doing today is nothing but the consequence of 50 years of incessant similar action of five previous Popes.


Francis at Lund follows the examples of Benedict XVI who embraces German Lutheran Schneider after attending an ecumenical service praising Luther in Erfur, 2011, and John Paul II who kisses the ring of Anglican Rowan Williams, October 2003

For example, the Letter blames Francis for praising Luther and his doctrine of justification and for going to Lund and signing a document with Protestants. This is not a novelty. John XXIII invited Protestants to the Council and praised them many times. I remember reading a declaration of Protestant Roger Schutz, the founder of Taizé, saying that he heard from John XXIII that the Protestants are not outside of the Church of Christ. Later on Benedict XVI gave Communion to Schutz at the funeral of John Paul II and, when Schutz died, Benedict declared he was in Heaven.

Paul VI changed the Mass to please Protestants; he gave the Papal Ring to the Anglican head Ramsey as a symbol of “the betrothal” of Catholics and Anglicans. John Paul II praised Luther and his doctrine of justification many, many times. I remember that the texts of the Augsburg Accord – penned by then Card. Joseph Ratzinger – were an implicit approval of Luther’s errors on justification. John Paul II also went many times to Protestant temples and made the most censurable statements there. Benedict XVI also did not hide his admiration for Luther.

So, why are these scholars now trying to present Francis as someone with different ideas and separate from his predecessors? Why are they quoting documents by John Paul II and Benedict XVI as if the latter were authentic representatives of the pure Catholic doctrine, when this is not true?

I see here a lack of honesty. I also sense a lack of courage. The signers are bold enough to go against Francis when his prestige is sliding downhill, but have not the valor to go against the entire Conciliar Revolution led by six Popes in a row.

The same defect is noted in the examples the Letter gives of Francis’s heretical actions: he received the Tupac Amaru representatives at the Vatican, used a stang at the youth Mass, a rainbow-cross at a Synod, made an accord with China delivering the true Catholics to the communist wolf. Each of these examples was preceded by analogous actions made by the other conciliar Popes. The Letter omits these precedents.

3. At the end of their document, the author(s) and signers present a summary of theological opinions regarding the heretical Pope, that is, what the Church should do in the eventuality of a Pope falling into heresy.

They say that “canonists have reached a consensus on several points concerning the implications of a Pope falling into public heresy.”

This is not true. As studied in the best book on this topicTheological Hypotheses of a Heretic Pope by Arnaldo Xavier da Silveira – there is no consensus on the subject matter. There are different theological opinions, which are grouped into schools. None of these schools represents the official thinking of the Catholic Church.

Therefore, there is no decision of the Church on the matter. Each Catholic making sufficient studies is entitled to have an opinion or to follow this or that school, but any innuendo that the Church has decided definitively for this or that opinion is devious.

Departing from this pseudo-consensus, the signers try to impose the consequence that if the Bishops admonish Pope Francis and he does not recant, he ceases to be Pope. As I said before, they can defend this theoretically, but cannot take practical consequences from it under the risk of making themselves more authoritative than the Church.

Final appraisal

Since you asked my opinion, here is how I see the problem and how I place this Letter in the general panorama of the crisis we have been suffering since Vatican II.

I believe that all the Conciliar Popes fell into the heresy of universal salvation, not only Francis.

I follow the theological opinion that the Pope who falls into heresy continues to be Pope before the Church until the moment that his heresy becomes “public and notorious.” Notorious here means specifically known by all. I interpret this condition in this way: When a considerable part of Catholics know that the Pope is heretic, they deny obedience to him; thus he cannot govern the Church. Without authority he either has to resign or his acts lack influence on Catholics. In either case, the heresy is avoided.

Since I believe that this is the correct opinion, I see the Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops as an element that increases awareness that Pope Francis is a heretic. Although it is wanting in the points I mentioned, it is still another initiative that opens the eyes of many and helps them to take a position of resistance. I think something analogous happens with the Dubia of the four Cardinals, the Filial Correction of the 95 clergy and lay scholars and other public positions taken by this or that ecclesiastical Prelate.

I hope these considerations answer your questions.


    Atila S. Guimarães

Posted May 2, 2019



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