|Catholics should always have a deep respect for the Papacy|
I will keep this very simple: For those tempted to "resist" Pope Francis I tell you: Do NOT set yourselves up against Papal authority, unless it is absolutely justified, because by doing so you are falsely seeking to set Christ against His Vicar.
In an article I wrote entitled "Obedience to the Catholic Church" I explained how Jesus established the authority in the Catholic Church through the Apostles, with Peter as their Head (cf. Matt. 16:18). Through Apostolic and Papal succession, the Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, with the Pope as the successor of Peter, as the Head. And, as successors to the Apostles, it is the Bishops duty in union with the Pope to safeguard and protect the faithful in the purity of the Catholic faith.
Sadly, we currently have some in the Catholic Church who are now openly advocating resistance against Pope Francis, like the American Dr. Kelly Bowring for example, who on Sept 2, 2015 posted an article stating that "Taking offense at Pope Francis is just the beginning", while offering no justification for doing so, other than to present a number of prophesies concerning doctrinal heresies that he and others like him believe the Pope will soon issue. In other words, Dr. Bowring and a few others are beginning to promulgate open rebellion against Pope Francis for a bunch of "what if's" that have not even occurred.
Instead of committing open schism, Dr Bowring cleverly poses his fabricated accusations in the form of a question, saying:
"The main question I am raising, based on solid prophecy and on his own behavior, is whether Pope Francis is a fraud, an impostor, a destroyer, a charlatan, a freemason, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a false shepherd – even quite literally the false prophet of the Book of Revelation, one of the greatest deceivers in the history of the world. And isn’t it worth noting that prophecy does not warn us about simply a bad pope to come in our times, but about a pope who will be the false prophet himself? Let me be clear, as faithful Catholics, we are permitted to question and critique the pope, and especially in this case even at times have the duty to do so.
Much prophecy indicates we have entered the last times. Pope Francis’ words and actions consistently confirm that he at least a candidate for the false prophet."
In his article, Dr Bowring even twists one of our Lord's beatitudes, stating "Blessed Are Those Who Take Offense at Pope Francis" Really?!?!?! Who could possibly think that Jesus would bless anyone for taking offense of His appointed Vicar when there is absolutely no valid justification for doing so? If he or others could even name but one heretical official teaching on faith and morals that Pope Francis has made that would be considered binding for all Catholics--the answer is they cannot, because there are none. Thus, their accusations are completely baseless and have no foundation, and all they serve is to incite dissension amongst the faithful.
Let us be clear: Making false and unfounded accusations such as these is akin to unjustly accusing a person for a crime that he has not committed (and even more disconcerting is the fact that in this case the one being falsely accused is the Pope, the visible Head of the Catholic Church!). To do so is not only unjust, it is gravely sinful. In my opinion, putting such false accusations in the form of a question does not negate them from being against the 8th Commandment of bearing false witness.
Based on Pope Francis' own behavior?
According to Dr Bowring's own words, his baseless accusations that "Pope Francis is a fraud, an impostor, a destroyer, a charlatan, a freemason, a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a false shepherd" is "..based on solid prophecy and on his own behavior.."
So, Dr. Bowring's grave accusations are "based on solid prophecy and the Pope's own behavior", however he fails to mention any of the Pope's behaviors that could possibly even begin to substantiate such unwarranted accusations. He does however devote a whole paragraph to the idea that "The Great Apostasy Commences"
---Well, I would have to agree that an Apostasy is indeed commencing, perhaps though it is better defined as a Schism, and it is precisely those such as Dr. Bowring who are leading it by fomenting schism by unjustly accusing Pope Francis of all sorts of alleged doctrinal errors that he himself has not even formally issued.
Meanwhile, there have been a flurry of others lately who are fomenting revolt against Pope Francis for some of his Papal appointments, for his encyclical on the environment, for certain "off the cuff" comments that he has made, and for a whole host of other alleged reasons. While there certainly is nothing wrong with an occasional, measured, and well reasoned constructive criticism of the Pope or the Church in certain matters where we are free to do so, it is quite another thing to make false and unfounded accusations against the Pope. And for those reading this who are currently tempted to "resist" Pope Francis I repeat: Do NOT set yourselves up against Papal authority, unless it is absolutely justified, because by doing so you are falsely seeking to set Christ against His Vicar, and if by doing so obstinately on authoritatively defined matters concerning faith and morals, you risk setting your own selves outside of the Catholic church through the schismatic act of formally rejecting the primacy of the Pope.
I would like to state upfront that I have nothing personal against Dr Kelly Bowring--in fact, I have read a couple of his early books which in my opinion were quite good, and awhile back I even wrote a recommendation for one of his books at his request. I bear him no animosity and I would be sincerely overjoyed if he and others of similar disposition were to recant their current accusatory and hyper-critical position vis a vis Pope Francis.
|Never forget that the Holy Spirit guides and protects the Church|
For those concerned about the alleged possibility of some future official doctrinal or dogmatic errors against faith or morals being issued by Pope Francis or some future Pope, well, the official teaching of the Church on this matter will assure you that your concern is completely unfounded. The Holy Spirit is the key in these matters. It is He who is the guardian of the Deposit of Faith. We must recognize that the Paraclete will NEVER allow any heresy to be formally issued or taught by the Pope or the Magesterium in communion with him.
Without going into too much explanation here since there are many articles on the internet concerning Papal Infallibility, such as this excellent one from Catholic Answers, suffice it to say that it is possible for a Pope to error on matters pertaining to faith or morals, because Papal infallibility applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals. A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible; they bear only the weight of his own personal opinion. Only what he solemnly defines as doctrine or dogma is considered to be infallible teaching. And therefore it is ONLY IN VERY SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES where one can possibly be justified in disagreeing with the Pope on matters of faith and morals. As for the Pope's opinions on matters NOT pertaining to faith and morals, such as his opinion on environmental issues for example, well these are simply his own opinions and bear no authority other than that of a well educated and deeply pious man.
Respecting the Office and the Primacy of the Pope
I mention the possibility of disagreeing with the Pope, not because it has anything to do with Dr. Bowring's unjust and unfounded accusations, but only because it is the recent basis of other peoples criticisms against Pope Francis. So yes, there can be occasions (albeit rare occasions) where one can justly disagree with the Pope on matters of faith and morals that have not been formally defined, but obviously it must be done very respectfully, and obviously without false accusations, and with all due respect to the Papal Office. Obviously, on the vast majority of the instances when the Pope himself speaks on matters of faith and morals there is certainly no need to take issue with what he is stating.
However, there are unfortunately some today who are simply looking to pick a fight with the Pope for one reason or another over usually very unimportant matters, and I personally can assure these people that their hyper-critical disposition concerning the Vicar of Christ is not at all pleasing to God, and in fact does great disservice and even harm to themselves, and if done publicly, then also to the faithful.
For sure one CAN respectfully disagree with the Pope on matters that are NOT binding. Some confuse this with FORMALLY rejecting the Pope, as if disagreeing with him on certain informal matters is no different than calling to reject or overthrow the Pope. To the contrary, one may freely (albeit respectfully) disagree with the Pope on any secular matter. One may even disagree with the Pope on general statements from him about faith or morals, that he has not proclaimed as official teachings, though obviously when it comes to faith and morals one should take great caution and be most respectful, because it is obvious the Pope will not often error in such areas, even when making "off the cuff" statements, but nevertheless it does occur occasionally.
What is beginning to happen now is some are calling to reject the Pope based on non-binding matters that they can simply respectfully disagree with him on. They are calling for mutiny in the Barque of Peter, and setting themselves up against God's anointed representative, thus they are showing themselves to be wolves seeking to overthrow the shepherd, and scatter the sheep.
The Barque of Peter and the Captain of the Ship
We have all heard of the rich symbolism that is often used where the Church is referred to as our Holy Mother, and the Pope is often referred to as our Holy Father. Well, we should ask ourselves what kind of faithful sons or daughters of the Church would seek to fling fiery arrows of accusations at their father at every turn? Or again, another rich symbolism of the Church and the Papacy is the Barque of Peter, with the heavenly Captain of the boat being Jesus, and His appointed representative, the Pope, being the earthly captain who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to guide the boat safely through often treacherous waters. What then should we think of certain passengers on a boat who frequently question the Captain's rightful authority and his judgement on navigation and other important matters, thus stirring up mutiny--especially amidst certain storms---when the Captain gives of himself completely in his appointed mission, all for the well being and concern of his passengers?
I will close by stating that as Catholics we should be exceedingly grateful not only for the Sacraments, but also for the inestimable security that is afforded to us by Jesus through following the Pope, the successor of Peter, and the thousands of Bishops, successors to the apostles, who in union together form the Magisterium, knowing that through them we possess the promise and assurance that the defined doctrines and dogmas as taught by the Church are free of any errors.
The Church is likened to Noah's Ark
A very wise and astute man recently made this analogy:
"Basically, the Church is like Noah’s ark – the ark of salvation.
-The Devil will try anything to get us to jump overboard;
-The Captain (Pope) seems erratic at times and we don’t understand or appreciate some of his directives, statements and personnel moves;
-The fellow passengers grate on us as some of them are complete miscreants and don’t follow the Ark rules, but yet they insist upon remaining; while the more cunning ones who think they know better than the Captain seek to sow mutiny amongst the other passengers.
-The ark isn’t going quite in the direction that we think is best,
-And to top it off, the stench of the proverbial animals is nigh unbearable (the stench being all the many sins of the "faithful".)
Yet, while all of the above may be true, but the Ark is STILL the only path to salvation that Christ instituted, and if one jump overboard, the sharks will have their opportunity with them.
-I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against It." (Matt 16:18)