under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
THE CHURCH, THE POPE & CARDINAL MARTINI
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Can a pope make mistakes ? Contrary to fairly widespread belief among Catholics, he can. A pope is not indefectible. It is precisely because he can err that the Church has seen fit to lay down when it is that a pope cannot, namely—
(Vatican Council [I], Decree Pastor Aeternus, 18th July 1870)
When a pope says something which is difficult to reconcile with Catholic teaching many will ignore it or say the pope has been misquoted or endeavour to explain his words away. Others will assert that the pope’s words indicate the Church’s teaching has changed. The Dominican, Melchior Cano, theologian to the Council of Trent, provides us with a sense of balance :
Without detracting from the deference owed him, Catholics must adopt a robust attitude towards the pontiff of their day. A Catholic may, as St Paul with St Peter, have to tell a pope that he is wrong. Indeed, he may have a duty to do so.
All recent popes have made mistakes or errors of judgement. John XXIII erred, in the view of this writer, in calling an ecumenical council without adequate reason and (if the reader should disagree with that judgement) he erred in abandoning, at the instance of an episcopal pressure group, the rules he had promulgated for the council’s conduct. This ensured the council lost direction, became a vehicle for disputation rather than the Church’s good, and added years to its duration and enormously to its expense.
Paul VI erred in forsaking, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly on 4th October 1965, the Church’s infallible teaching against religious freedom. He erred in the dilatoriness with which he dealt with overt and scandalous challenges to the Church’s constant teaching against contraception before confirming that teaching, and in refusing to enforce that teaching in the Washington case. John Paul II erred in his dalliance with Feminism which led him to attempt to reconcile sacred scripture with its foolish ideology and to compromise the sacred liturgy by breaking the 2,000 year tradition excluding females from the sanctuary.
Benedict XVI erred in allowing that some good might be done through the use of a condom. He erred, too, in abdicating the office of the papacy.
These errors will continue to work harm within the body of the faithful until the Church is blessed with a pope who has the wisdom to recognise them and the character and strength to work to reverse their effects.
While a pope is not indefectible, and only episodically infallible, there is yet something which is both :
The Church is not a human entity, but a Divine one. Her head is Jesus Christ : her soul is the Holy Spirit : her end is the union of the individual believer with God the Father. She is the spotless bride of Christ. Popes, bishops and priests may commit errors : the Church abides in spite of them, infallible, indefectible.
A grasp of this reality was hidden from Carlo Maria Martini, quondam Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, who died on 31st August, 2012. His ‘spiritual testament’ published after his death confirmed his loss of faith incurred years earlier and expressed in Conversazioni Notturne A Gerusalemme—Sul rischio della fede.
Martini’s position was a logical consequence of the permission given the faithful by the bishops of the Second Vatican Council and confirmed by Pope Paul VI to allow the mixing with the Church’s sacred capital of the secular. Since the City of God and the earthly city are eo ipso incompatible it was inevitable the individual Catholic believer would find himself in one of three camps according as he embraced—
This last grounds the heresy identified by Pope Pius X 100 years ago in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, modernism. The faith of one who has embraced this position has metamorphosed : he is, thereafter, a Catholic in name only.
It is because Cardinal Martini’s faith was no longer Catholic that he felt free to attack the Church’s teachings as out of date, the Church’s structure as ‘two hundred years behind’, as needing ‘to undergo a radical journey of change’, to become ‘democratised’. It is because his faith was no longer Catholic that Martini could say ‘you cannot make God Catholic’, that he could see no difficulty in authorising the reception of the Blessed Eucharist by those in illicit unions. In this last we see the third category realised, the sacred made subject to the demands of the secular.
It was because Martini thought it appropriate to subject the sacred to the secular, that he was the darling of the secular media.
In a recent article on the Chiesa website Sandro Magister exposed Cardinal Martini’s influence on Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, citing as instance the following words of the Pope from an interview with him by Eugenio Scalfari, atheist editor of the Italian journal La Repubblica : “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God…” To which folly one might respond :
Cardinal Martini called for ‘a synodal’ Church. In his last interview he said the pope should surround himself with a coterie of bishops and cardinals if he wanted ‘the barque of Peter not to be submerged by internal waves and by a society that no longer believes in it’. Implicit in this advice is the modernist insistence that the Church should not endeavour to convert the world but conform itself to its mores. It seems Pope Francis has followed Martini’s exhortation with his appointment of a committee of bishops from around the world to advise him. His initiative, following the first meeting with its members, is to distribute a survey via national bishops conferences seeking the views of the faithful on the effects on the practice of the faith of the problems endemic in societies infected with the secular and atheistic. One can only wonder how such an exercise could be for the Church’s good.
Pope Francis has already troubled the faithful with comments seemingly dismissive of the moral issues of abortion and homosexuality, effectively mocking the heroic works opposing these evils, not (be it noted) by a largely quiescent clergy but by the Catholic laity, over forty years. One is entitled to ask whether he is contemplating an attempt to amend the Church’s teachings to accommodate a majority opinion among the faithful in favour of their relaxation. Let us not forget that the Pope’s eminence grise rejected two of the Church’s infallible teachings, that against contraception (repeated definitively in Humanae Vitae, 25th July 1968) and that against the possibility of women ever being ordained to the priesthood (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, 22nd May 1994) .
In the Scalfari interview the Pope said—
This is a paraphrase of the foolish opinion of Pope John XXIII in his Opening Speech to the fathers of the Second Vatican Council (11th October, 1962). It is not the teaching of the Catholic Church. In a recent article on The Catholic Thing website, respected commentator Fr James Schall S.J. compared this statement of Pope Francis with words of Justice Kennedy in a decision of the US Supreme Court, and remarked—
Pope Francis also said in the Scalfari interview : “Proselytism is solemn nonsense. It makes no sense.” With which one may contrast the words of Christ Himself—
The Pope’s summary dismissal of the work for which Almighty God established his Church must be unique in the history of the papacy.
With his rejection of the papal apartments and regalia and his accentuation of the office of bishop of Rome rather than that of Christ’s vicar on earth (including his off-hand dismissal of the faculty of judgement which belongs supremely to the office of Christ’s vicar) Pope Francis has exemplified Martini’s call for a church in which the pope governs not as monarch but through ‘service’. A recent remark of Canadian commentator David Warren, about the lord who disparages the trappings of his office, is to the point—
Twenty years ago somewhat less than 3% of the Catholic faithful (those who still bothered to attend Sunday Mass) frequented the tridentine rite. This figure has now grown to something approaching 10%. Conscious of this burgeoning attention Pope Benedict XVI endowed the tridentine rite with ‘extraordinary’ status and gave it general permission. A number of religious congregations, recognising the perennial value of its religious observance and the solemn vigour of its attendant Gregorian chant, have turned to the rite and its liturgical structure as a fit means of excluding the secular influence completely from the sacred.
In an interview with La Civiltà Catholica (19th September, 2013) Pope Francis remarked—
Christ’s Church is one : the Mass is one—novus ordo ; vetus ordo—the sacramental re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. How is it possible to ideologize the tridentine rite, to exploit it ? His remarks seem to reflect a fear over the gravitation to the old rite with its implied condemnation of the abuses that frequently characterise the celebration of the novus ordo. David Warren again—
The Catholic Church is not the church of Pope John XXIII, or of Pope Paul VI, or of Pope John Paul, or of Pope John Paul II, or of Pope Benedict XVI, or of Pope Francis—let alone of the modernist Cardinal Martini. It is the Church of Jesus Christ.
We have Papa Bergoglio with us until he dies—unless he takes the doubtful course of his predecessor. Should he follow Martini’s exhortations to their logical, modernist, conclusion we may find ourselves relieved of the incubus of his reign. For the Holy Spirit will not permit him to abandon the Church’s infallible teaching.
Whatever the Pope’s intentions it would seem his actions are going to precipitate a major reaction to the modernist evils which have afflicted Christ’s faithful people for the best part of 50 years, the fons et origo of whose promotion is the Second Vatican Council. Concerning which there is only one thing to be said—
Hasten the day : bring on the time !
 Quoted in Witness to Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul II, George Weigel, New York, 2001, p. 15.
 Cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 33, a. 4 ad 2.
 See George Weigel, The Courage to be Catholic, New York, 2002, pp. 68-72, 75, 83-4, 86.
 Hilaire Belloc, Letter to Dean Inge published in The Evening Standard ; reproduced in Hilaire Belloc, Essays of a Catholic, London, 1931. Cf. http://www.superflumina.org/PDF_files/belloc_inge.pdf
 ‘Night time conversations in Jerusalem : On the risk of faith’. We addressed this work in 2008 in the paper Cardinal Martini Loses His Way at http://www.superflumina.org/PDF_files/martini_theheretic.pdf
 8th September, 1907. But do not, Dear Reader, look for mention of it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church !
 Martini Pope. The Dream Come True, at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350623?eng=y
 Interview published in La Repubblica 1st October, 2013.
 This latter implicit in Martini’s call in Conversazioni Notturne A Gerusalemme—Sul rischio della fede for the Church to ordain married men and women.
 Culture at the “Heart of Liberty”, 28th October, 2013 at http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/culture-at-the-heart-of-liberty.html
 Mark 16 : 16