Francis: Anti-Christ? Only God knows…

Steve Skojec, at the blog One Peter Five (IP5) writes:  

Over the weekend, noteworthy Catholic blogger Ann Barnhardt published an essay in which she states that she believes “Jorge Bergoglio, ‘Francis’ to be an Antipope, never having been canonically elected, and that Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI is still the Roman Pontiff.” She goes further, asserting that

The sheer quantity of evidence, and the diversity of the confluent evidence sets, is now so utterly overwhelming that I believe that a person, fully informed of the dataset, would have to engage in the willful suspension of disbelief to continue to acknowledge Bergoglio as Roman Pontiff.

The same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication, lightning struck the Vatican twice.

The same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication, lightning struck the Vatican twice.

I am friendly with Ann. We’ve done a couple of podcasts together, and we correspond occasionally. When she’s right, she’s a rhetorical weapon of mass destruction, and one that can be a wonder to behold. That said, I don’t always agree that she’s completely dialed in (or needs to go to 11). And in this case, to be honest, I find her argument significantly less persuasive than she does. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to see it referenced in our comment box, as well as in other places online. This makes it difficult to ignore – in particular since opinions along this spectrum have, in the wake of one papal scandal after another, been showing up with increasing frequency in online Catholic discourse.

I’m not going to devote the time and research necessary to write a deeply substantive critique of Ann’s theory. Briefly, though, I do want to address some issues I have with her argument.

To begin with, three of the five prophecies she cites are of questionable provenance. The St. Francis of Assisi prophecy is the most significant of these, since to read it one feels as though it is meant for our present time. Nonetheless, it is considered apocryphal by scholars of Catholic prophecy like Desmond Birch and Emmett O’Reagan (among others). No one has traced this prophecy back to St. Francis himself — it does not appear in his existing works. The prophecy as Ann cites it comes from the 1882 book, Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi, by R. Washbourne. The introduction to this book itself states that it is a translation “made from the edition of the ‘Works of St. Francis’ published at Cologne in the year 1848. As the work is intended to be a practical and devotional one, no critical notes have been introduced, nor references to the authors from whom Wadding made his collection.” The Wadding in question was the 17th century Franciscan Friar Luke Wadding, whose own work is considered by some scholars to include spurious texts. In the editor’s introduction to a 1906 edition of Wadding’s text, now available online, we read that

Wadding’s edition of the Opuscula differs mainly from all preceding collections in this, that whereas the latter contained only those pieces which as regards both matter and form were the handiwork of St. Francis, Wadding felt justified in including among St. Francis’ writings many dicta of the Saint found in the early Legends.  […]

Thus it comes to pass that in Wadding’s edition, side by side with the undisputed writings of St. Francis, we find doubtful, even spurious, extracts from different sources attributed to the Seraphic Father. It must ever remain a matter of regret that Wadding, instead of following the oldest MSS. that he had at hand, was content to transcribe the incomplete and often interpolated parts of them he found in second-hand compilations, like that of Mark of Lisbon. His work from our standpoint is vitiated by imperfect research and unreliable criticism.

This 1906 edition, in fact, had many of these questionable writings removed by the Friars Minor of Quaracchi, including “all the colloquies, prophecies, parables, etc…”

The message of La Salette concerning Rome becoming “the seat of the Antichrist” bears some merit according to the Church’s prophetic understanding of that figure, but this section of the otherwise-approved La Salette apparitions has been in dispute for some time as a possible later invention of the seer Mélanie Mathieu, who was struggling with cloistered life at the time. Many scholars do not therefore consider this portion of the messages authentic. In any case Francis is most certainly not the Antichrist, though one could argue that he is a type thereof.

Finally, the Fatima message Ann cites is part of a rumored text, not part of any of the officially released secrets of Fatima. Fr. Paul Kramer — himself also of the same opinion as Ann about Benedict being the true pope — attributed this quote to a paraphrase of Cardinal Oattaviani concerning an unrevealed Fatima secret in May of this year. With no official documentation of this language, it serves as a point of interest, but cannot be relied upon for accuracy until the full texts of those messages is finally published.

Moving on to the question of Pope Benedict’s resignation, Archbishop Gänswein’s statements about an expanded papal ministry, though newsworthy because of his closeness to both popes, are still technically nothing but his own theorizing. Similarly, the idea that Pope Benedict’s abdication falls under the canonical invalidity of “substantial error” is, as far as any outside observer is concerned, tenuous at best. We don’t know that he actually believed that he could expand the Petrine Ministry into a diarchy (and in fact he has flatly denied the theories that there was some defect in his resignation) regardless of what Gänswein theorizes. Recall the letter that the Pope Emeritus sent to Andrea Tornielli in 2014:

“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry” and the “speculations” surrounding it are “simply absurd”.

Joseph Ratzinger was not forced to resign, he was not pressured into it and he did not fall victim to a conspiracy: his resignation was genuine and valid and there is no “diarchy” (dual government) in the Church today. There is a reigning Pope, Francis, who leads the Catholic Church and an Emeritus Pope whose “only purpose” is to pray for his successor.

I understand why people question this, but barring something concrete from Benedict himself, it remains within the realm of conjecture, not certitude, to assert that his abdication took place under different circumstances than he himself has admitted.

The questions surrounding the election of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio are, I think, somewhat more meritorious, inasmuch as we have the admission of the members of the so-called “St. Gallen Mafia” of a conspiracy to put Bergoglio on the Petrine throne. That said, we do not know that Bergoglio himself colluded with them, and if he did not, even their offenses would not invalidate his election (though they should, if Universi Dominici Gregis is to be believed, result in the automatic excommunication of those involved.)

Ann goes on to list “Bergoglio’s Litany of Heresies,” and she’ll get no argument from me that these are all deeply troubling. Are they all manifestly heretical, though? Are they obdurately and formally so? Again, this is where certitude fails. And if they did amount to material heresy, theologians remain uncertain about whether the Bellarmine/Suarez hypothesis really plays out as hypothesized.

The rest of Ann’s nearly 5,000 word essay deals mostly with her own competence to make such claims, and rebuttals to anticipated responses. Her argument, such as it is, is expended in the first half of her piece. In fact, if one removes her introductory statement and the sections on prophecy, Bergoglian heresies, her authority to make such statements, and anticipated objections/rebuttals, one is left with less than a thousand words of actual argumentation about the improper resignation of Benedict and the invalid election of Francis.

And I find neither section persuasive, for the reasons I’ve already stated.

Is it possible that Ann is correct? Yes, it is, but we can’t know it with certainty until the Church makes a declaration as such. Is it possible that she’s wrong? Yes, and I find this to be more likely. Not that it improves things — it’s a much harder situation to deal with if Francis is a validly elected pope than if he isn’t; in the latter case, he can simply be dismissed, and his works undone. In the former case, we have to contend with the reality of the most theologically destructive pope in Church history, and the fallout of that is most likely going to take generations to set right.

But again: I think arguments like these waste valuable time. Someone wrote to me a few weeks ago to get my opinion on another article along the lines of Ann’s essay. My response was as follows:

Frankly, I tend to stay away from these kinds of arguments. They can be interesting, but they can also tempt us to try to ascertain with some degree of certitude what can only be known by an authoritative judgment from the Church.

Is it possible that Francis was invalidly elected or that Benedict invalidly resigned? Yes. It’s possible. Will attempting to reach these conclusions on our own give us any peace of mind, or even a form of actionable certainty? Nope.

For my part, I trust that while Christ may be asleep in the boat as the storm worsens, He can quiet the waves with a word. He is asking us to simply be faithful enough to trust that He will do so when the time comes.

Eventually, this will all get sorted out. Whether Francis is an antipope or a valid pope, his papacy will undoubtedly be condemned by future generations. The charisms of indefectibility and infallibility still apply, and Francis will not be able to unmake them. Instead, he’s forced to go around them. And that means being sneaky and underhanded, which is what we’re all picking up on. He will lead many souls astray, but  Our Lord predicted that there would be such false teachers and prophets, and St. Paul said (Acts 20, IIRC) that there would be wolves who would enter in amongst the shepherds.

We’ll get through it. The way I see it, we all have enough headaches without trying to sort out a juridical mess that might just require divine guidance. And nobody wants to be a sedevacantist. They’re about as much fun as lemonjuice at a papercut party.

Ann is NOT a sedevacantist, as she makes clear. She just thinks we still have the same pope we had in February, 2013. Is she right? Not my call. Does it matter? On an objective level, of course it does. To know the true pope from the false one is better than not to know it. But we can’t know that with the certitude of an ecclesiastical judgment. Not yet.

Trying to figure out whether a man who claims to be pope is or is not the pope by reading things on the Internet and drawing conclusions from them is like trying to diagnose your own ailment by Googling your symptoms: the odds are you’re going to convince yourself you have some rare or incurable condition instead of whatever ordinary malady you’re actually suffering from; but even if you get it right and it’s something just awful, what are you going to do about it? You still have to go to the doctor to get it taken care of. You can’t just treat yourself.

Ann herself admits, practically speaking, that her conclusion really changes nothing for the average Catholic in the pews:

First and foremost: Masses in which an antipope is commemorated in the Canon by the priest offering the Holy Sacrifice IS A VALID MASS.  The Eucharist is confected, the Holy Sacrifice is offered.   

Further, I have been assured in the strongest possible terms that for me to receive Holy Communion in a Mass in which I know that Bergoglio has been commemorated as Pope is NOT an act of hypocrisy on my part. I know that the Mass is valid.  I know that the Eucharist was confected. I know that Our Lord is desirous to come to me and I to Him in the Sacrament of the Altar, provided I am in a state of grace.

If my position on Bergoglio is correct, which I obviously believe that it is, what this means is that the commemoration of him as Pope in the Canon is either ILLICIT, or MISTAKEN.  We have a clear historical precedent for this.  During the Great Western Schism, due purely to political intrigue and NOT any questions of heresy, there were three men simultaneously claiming to be pope.  One of these men was the True Pope, and the other two were antipopes.  These antipopes were not blaspheming heretics like Bergoglio.  Again, the entire situation was due purely to POLITICAL INTRIGUE.  And so, two giants of the Church – both saints and one a Doctor of the Church, backed different “popes”.  What this means is that one of these saints was wrong, and one was right.  Who was the saint that backed the True Pope?  It was St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, and laywoman. Did you know that St. Catherine was NOT a professed nun?  She was a Dominican tertiary (third order) who was given permission to wear the Dominican habit.  She was a laywoman.

And who was the saint, one of the true intellectual giants of the Church, who was wrong and backed an antipope?  It was St. Vincent Ferrer, who was a priest, and thus offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass many, many times having commemorated an antipope in the Canon.

Here is an interesting precision: St. Vincent Ferrer’s commemoration of an antipope is not even called “illicit” – it is called “mistaken”.

My suggestion is this: rather than worry about which one of the two popes in Rome is the real one — something the Church will resolve in time, without our help — I believe we should focus our efforts on combating the errors that Francis is promoting and Benedict is doing nothing to stop. And we should do so by promoting authentic Catholic teaching as an antidote. Coming to a better understanding of that teaching, and finding new and effective ways to disseminate it, is far more efficacious than idle speculation over something we can’t determine definitively and will never have the power to remedy.

Comment: 

The position taken by the author of the above article at One Peter Five is exactly that of Catholic Truth, as regular readers and bloggers here will know.  Steve’s excellent research work, especially with regard to the quotes offered to substantiate the theory that Pope Francis is the “anti-Christ”  (notably the quote popularly attributed to St Francis) makes the above article a singularly important contribution to the debate about this pontificate;  comments are invited which will, I’m sure, largely merely endorse the thrust of Steve’s argument that it is really pointless to speculate on the status of Pope Francis’ pontificate, because only God knows the answer to the “anti-Christ” question.  We have no authority or power to pronounce on this.  If necessary, the Church will do so in due course.  Our task is simple: we recognise Francis as Pope but resist his errors – as we resisted the errors of his modernist predecessors elected since the Second Vatican Council.  

17 responses

    • Pastor Geudens,

      With all due respect, this video is not only dated 2015, but the following comment appears below the film:

      “Steven my friend, Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Bible refers to the anti-Christ as “the Assyrian”. He doesn’t even have ties to the middle east. Pope Francis is simply not the anti-christ.”

      I think the other Steve (at one Peter Five) has got it right, as I’m sure, on reflection, you will agree.

    • DOTF

      This article discusses the question of deposing a pontiff. You are right that a Council would have to be called but that brings its own complications as you will see in the linked article.

  1. Good article. Steve Skojec nails it. As well as combating the errors and ambiguities of Pope Francis, we should also remember Blessed Jacinta of Fatima’s continual pleas for us to ‘pray and offer sacrifices for the Holy Father’

    • Westminster Fly,

      Well said. Am going to walk to the polling station today (to vote LEAVE in the EU referendum), instead of taking my car. Talk about not letting the world know when making sacrifices etc. Well… I don’t get many opportunities!

  2. You can read a description of the brief era of the anti-Christ and his extraordinary powers in The Church and Her Enemies, by Fr. Michael Muller, CSSR (published 1880). Jorge Bergoglio most definitely does not fit that description. That said, he certainly doesn’t fit the description of a pope, either – but as to whether he is an anti-pope, no idea. I think it would be more accurate to say that he is anti-Catholic! As to any extraordinary powers he may possess, he certainly has the power to cause a deep revulsion in me every time I have to look at his glowering face or read the latest rubbish that has emerged from his mouth.

  3. I think this is an excellent article. We have to acknowledge that we have the most troublesome papacy ever. However, we cannot draw any conclusions.

    My personal opinion is that Francis is the pope, that he is a terrible pope and we needs our prayers. I also believe Cardinal Ratzinger should disappear, never to be seen or heard of again.

    Something tells me that Francis is so erratic that he may well be the pope to regularise the SSPX. He may also be the pope to bring about the consecration of Russia. He may not perform it himself but I believe his actions will be pivotal.

  4. That is a very good article indeed from Steve Skojec and I agree with Petrus that we cannot draw any conclusions about anti-Christ because of this pope’s behaviour.

  5. Given the circumstances surrounding Pope Francis’s election, I too was beginning to wonder whether he was a valid Pope, given the prophecy of the Second Secret that the Pope (i.e. Cardinal Ratzinger) ‘would have much to suffer’. Perhaps Cardinal Ratzinger is still the true Pope but in captivity, held hostage by the perennial enemies of the Church. If the St. Gallen Mafia were able to conspire to elect Pope Francis then why could they not conspire to force Benedict XVI out? I know the latter said it was a free decision with no coercion but maybe he’s being told to say that or is saying it to prevent a schism or some other breakdown of the visible hierarchy. I personally could never say that I honestly believe Francis to be the Pope with complete certainty. All I can say is that I hope he is the true Pope and that Benedict resigned freely. I can say with 100% certainty that Francis a stooge used by the Church’s enemies, as identified by Bishop Fellay, to destabilise the Church from within and bring their diabolical program for the Church and Humanity into fruition.

    • Catholic Convert,

      If you read the One Peter Five article carefully you will see that it’s – to put it as simply, if bluntly, as possible – it’s not our job to worry about this. The election was valid, he’s been received as pontiff by the Church and if there is anything amiss, a future Pope and Council will tell us so. In the meantime, recognise him as pope blah blah.

  6. The most frightening part of the debacle of this Papacy is that, as one writer observed, “We deserve Francis.” And if faithful Catholics are so scandalized and repulsed by this “vulgar little man,” I can’t begin to imagine how many times more, exponentially, Our Lord has been offended by the blasphemies and sins committed against Him and against His Mother. After all, the state of man in the year 1917 was as pure as the driven snow compared to all the years since then.

  7. RCA Victor,

    ‘After all, the state of man in the year 1917 was as pure as the driven snow compared to all the years since then.’

    You’re so right, and what a frightening realisation that is.

  8. I was SO tempted to post a thread to discuss the following article from One Peter Five, and the headline would have read: Is Cardinal Marx “Gay”?

    But another thread is planned for later today, so I decided to post it on this thread instead, since it is the Pope’s clear agreement with the likes of Cardinal Marx on issues like this, that have caused so many people to consider him the “anti-Christ”. We have already concluded here that he’s not, but anyone reading this should be able to empathise with those who have come to that [wrong] conclusion…

    FROM ONE PETER FIVE…

    Cardinal Marx: Catholic Church Should “Apologize to Gay Community”

    Cardinal Reinhard Marx is the head of the German bishops conference and a member of the council of nine cardinals who act as Pope Francis’ closest advisers. He is also well-known as a heterodox bishop an extreme ideological progressive. He famously announced, in February 2015, that the German Church is “not just a subsidiary of Rome,” and that “Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.”

    And yet at some point, his concerns were assuaged, since he changed his tune to one of lock-step obedience by last October. Such docility!

    “We must try to remain together,” he said. “The Church is the only institution in the world that can reach unanimous agreement. Thank God we have the pope. We bishops do not have to decide. Church unity is not in danger. And once the pope has decided, we will abide by his decision.”
    As I said at the time, such a profound reversal indicated that here was a man who clearly had been assured that he would be getting exactly what he wanted. And so he did, as Amoris Laetitia has proven. In fact, Marx was given the task of presenting Amoris Laetitia in L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican. In April, the German cardinal praised Amoris Laetitia, saying:
    [H]e [Pope Francis] leads this doctrine back to its kernel and to the language that comes from the Gospels so that some things can be newly discovered. Even the indication that existing doctrines and norms of the Church are in need of an adaptation in the pastoral practice, is not [however] a novelty which Pope Francis introduces.

    In these examples, we see the profile of a man empowered. A friend and trusted confidante of the pope, a leader of his peers, a revolutionary who has united himself to the greater cause. A man in a position of such prominence must be very careful not to embarrass the boss, so to speak. He carries not just the weight of his own positions, but those of the very Vicar of Christ who has brought him into his inner circle. Which is why his comments this week in Dublin can’t be taken as merely his own opinion:

    A leading cardinal has said the Catholic Church should apologise to the gay community for its scandalous and terrible treatment of them, which had not changed until “very recently”.
    Speaking in Dublin, Cardinal Reinhard Marx said: “The history of homosexuals in our societies is very bad because we’ve done a lot to marginalise [them].”

    As church and society “we’ve also to say ‘sorry, sorry’ ”.
    […]

    Until “very recently”, the church, but also society at large, had been “very negative about gay people . . . it was the whole society. It was a scandal and terrible,” he told The Irish Times after speaking at a conference held in Trinity College.

    He said he had “shocked” people at the October 2014 extraordinary synod of bishops in Rome when he asked how it was possible to dismiss as worthless a same-sex relationship of years duration where both men had been faithful.

    “We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family, some were shocked but I think it’s normal, you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that]that is nothing, that has no worth,” he said.
    […]

    It is up to the state “to make regulations for homosexuals so they have equal rights or nearly equal . . . but marriage is another point”, he said. The secular state “has to regulate these partnerships and to bring them into a just position and we as church cannot be against it”.

    I don’t really think my commentary at this point is necessary.

    For what it’s worth (very little) the cardinal stops short of saying he supports “gay marriage.” His one concession to decency is that “in all the history of mankind that [marriage]was the relationship between one man and woman, two who are open to give life for the next generation and that is a special relationship I think.” Echoing Francis himself, he also asserts that the state “must be secular. The state is not a Christian state.”

    I can say to you with absolute moral certitude that as outrageous as they are, Pope Francis will not correct Cardinal Marx on any of these points. Francis has no qualms — none whatsoever — about being closely associated with a man who thinks this way. One can only surmise that this is because he unequivocally agrees with him.

    But it isn’t proper for a man of the pope’s stature to say such things. This is why we have his cavalry of stalking horses, his army of surrogates. This is why we have the Vatican communications strategy that we do.

    Meanwhile, in Austria, Cardinal Schönborn is the man whom Pope Francis entrusted with the interpretation of his magnum opus, Amoris Laetitia. When not praising cohabitation and gay relationships, Schönborn evidently enjoys donning the garb of the false (though comparatively noble) religion of the Sikhs. Source

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