(LifeSiteNews) — On this week’s special episode of Faith & Reason, guest hosts Father Charles Murr and LifeSiteNews senior editor Dorothy Cummings McLean join John-Henry Westen to react to Father James Altman’s video on the pontificate of Pope Francis, discussing the possibility that Francis is not Pope.
Fr. Murr, recounting conversations he has had privately with fellow priests, acknowledged his own confusion and the fear surrounding the question. “People are afraid,” he says. “Laypeople that I know… many of them, and priests, are afraid even to approach the subject. A lot of priests… fear retribution for any opinion that they would have. And we’re sort of seeing that that’s the way this particular pontificate is.”
McLean recalls how she felt during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014, when media reports claimed that the bishops discussed the “gifts” homosexuals bring to the Church and Holy Communion for those in “irregular” unions. Recalling her initial shock and eventual relief that the media reports turned out to be false, she states, “I’ve known something has been wrong with this papacy since the [Synod].”
Discussing the three possibilities surrounding the invalidity of the current pontificate, Murr begins by mentioning the issue of Benedict XVI’s resignation, and addresses agreements made for papal elections, recalling that St. John XXIII ascended to the papacy because he agreed to have Cardinal Domenico Tardini act as his Secretary of State.
Looking to Francis and the role of the Saint Gallen Mafia in the conclave of 2013, he points out that “you’re in trouble” if the Saint Gallen Mafia worked in tandem to get Francis elected, and that “if Cardinal Bergoglio was in agreement with that Mafia, we have a problem, because no pope… can accept an election as pope with any conditions attached.”
McLean commented on the confusion the current pontificate has brought into the Church, saying that the contradictory statements the Pope makes are such that “it’s almost a cliché to say that Pope Francis has learned the lessons of Peronism.”
“Pope Francis will tell whoever he’s speaking to what they want to hear, as did, anecdotally, the Argentine dictator Peron,” she continued. Considering the reasons for Francis’ contradictions, she considers the desire to be “loved by everybody” as a possibility. She also suggests Francis could be contradicting himself in order to exert control over people, though she clarifies that she does not wish to be uncharitable by presenting the possibility. She also suggests that Francis’ contradictions could be part of a plan to “sing a new Church into being.”
She also observes that “Pope Francis being held up as an absolute monarch” is frightening “in a strange way.”
“It’s a bit of a table-turn because… conservatives thoughtlessly said things like that,” she continues, recalling that conservatives would accuse people of heresy for disagreeing with John Paul II during his pontificate. She says that such a view is “foolish,” however, as the role of the papacy in the Church is to protect the deposit of faith and unify the Church.
Fr. Murr also notes a “logistical problem” if Francis is not Pope in light of Benedict’s death in December, namely that the vast majority of cardinals have been appointed by Francis. McLean, reacting to Father’s point, also discusses a canonical problem for those who would say that Francis is not Pope, and asks “who among us has the munus… to say whether or not Pope Francis is the Pope?”
In reference to canon law, she says that no one can lose their office in the Church unless it is declared that they have in fact lost it, something that the Church Herself must do. But she admits she is unsure of what the canon means on the issue. “It is not up to me to say [Pope Francis is an antipope],” she declares. “I am a lay woman… I have an M.Div., and… it’s… beyond my pay grade to say that Pope Francis is… not the Pope, or that Pope Francis is an antipope.”
She also discusses another problem with the proposition that Francis is not Pope: It would be the first time in Church history that an antipope would not oppose a true pope and that seemingly all of the cardinals and the overwhelming majority of bishops see Francis as Pope.
“I can only assume that Pope Francis is the Pope and remains the Pope until someone who has the authority, and frankly… I cannot think who that would be except the next Pope says that he is not the Pope,” she states. “Unless I am wrong, the only person who can judge Pope Francis is a subsequent Pope.”
Murr agreed with McLean, explaining that McLean’s point was the reason for the confusion surrounding Francis. “My opinion is that Francis is the Pope, and that’s the problem,” he declares. He also offers a caveat regarding the cardinals appointed by Francis.
“Don’t underestimate the cardinals who… were just named cardinals,” he warns. “They’re not all of one mind, and they’re coming from very, very different places in the world. Those are not necessarily his ‘people.’”
Despite the confusion Francis has sown in the Church, however, both Fr. Murr and McLean have hope for the future.
“I think something great is going to come [out] of all this chaos,” Murr states. “I think order is going to come out of this chaos. I think it’s going to be insisted upon by most of the cardinals voting for the next pope.”
McLean, pointing to the effects of Traditionis Custodes, notes that people are “taking an interest in the traditions of the Church because of Traditionis Custodes, or because they perceived how cruel it was to… root up the flowers that were growing perhaps in the wrong part of the garden.”
Murr also pointed to the promise of Our Lord, that the Church would last until the end of time, saying, “That’s what we have to hang onto, that’s the truth.”
“It’s not going to be the end of the Church, and as a matter of fact, I’m looking for a real resurrection. Maybe this is what we needed.” He further observes that while someone would have to look into the legitimacy of the current pontificate, we must in the meantime keep our eyes on Christ.
“Don’t look at this, that, and other thing that’s disturbing,” he advises. “There’s a lot disturbing and we can talk about it. But ultimately our focus is on Christ. These questions that we brought up today are very interesting questions, and they will be resolved.”
“I don’t think I’m going to see it,” he adds, telling Westen and McLean that they are young enough to see the answer, calling the answer “marvelous.”
“Maybe this is the purification that the Church has been in such need [of] for the last 50 or 60 years.”
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