Bad Popes And Historical Perspective

Tiepolo, Immaculate Conception.

Tiepolo, Immaculate Conception.

In case you think it never happened before that a Pope goes around spreading heretical messages or beliefs (though not proclaiming them dogmatically; we are not there yet), this is a sobering reading from the always great priests of the SSPX.

You may want to take the time to read the SSPX “Letter to Friends and Benefactors” No. 78, of April 2011 in its entirety. You find the text in its original setting here. Please note this letter, in part, quotes an older text, which is why then Cardinal Ratzinger is called “your Eminence”. 

I have allowed myself to reproduce here the parts which I think are relevant for today’s post. Emphasis in the original.


[…] On Sunday, December 11, 1983, the Pope preached in a Protestant church of Rome after having more or less invited himself to do so. […]

[…] On May 10, 1984, the Pope visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand; he took off his shoes and sat down at the feet of a Buddhist bonze, who himself was sitting in front of the altar on which there was a large statue of the Buddha. […]

[…] In his book The Ratzinger Report (1985), Cardinal Ratzinger claims that in extreme cases the other religions are “extraordinary” means of salvation. No, your Eminence: Jesus Christ and He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody comes to the Father but by Him! [..]

[…] In August of 1985, the Holy Father proclaimed to young Muslims in Casablanca that we Christians adore the same God as they do—as though there is a Most Holy Trinity and an Incarnation of God in Islam! […]

[…] A few days later, he went with some animist priests and their escorts to the outskirts of Lohomay, to a cult in the “holy forest” where “the force of water” and the divinized souls of the ancestors are invoked. And at least two times at Kara and Togoville—at Kara just before celebrating Holy Mass!—he poured water and cast corn flour into a dried-out cucumber skin, a gesture professing a false religious belief. […].

[…] And now on January 25, 1986, he called upon all religions to gather together in Assisi to pray for peace. According to the newspapers, the date of October 24, the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, might be chosen. “What God are people going to pray to, who explicitly deny the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ? Truly the devil came up with that idea,” commented Archbishop Lefebvre. […]

[…] Lastly, in the course of his journey to India, the Pope spoke only of dialogue and mutual comprehension between religions in order that they promote together human brotherhood and social well-being. […]


We could, of course, go further back in history and find other examples of Popes just as bad. Pope Liberius excommunicated Athanasius, Pope Honorius was declared a heretic by the Third Council of Constantinople with the following words:

“And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to [Patriarch] Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”

It is, therefore, clear the concept of Papal Infallibility does not cover everything that a Pope teaches. This was clearly recognised during the First Vatican Council, when Papal Infallibility was given strict and well-defined boundaries. 

How is, then, a faithful Catholic to react to the antics of bad, or very bad, or outright heretical Popes? The above mentioned Letter gives us a clear, perfectly Catholic answer to this (emphasis mine):

Do you think, my dear friends, that to lay out these things gives us joy? It fills us with grief to write them down, our sole concern being the welfare of Mother Church. Similarly, we are far from wishing to judge the Pope—we gladly leave this delicate task to a later judgment of the Church. We do not belong to those who hastily declare that the Papal See is vacant, but we let ourselves be led by the history of the Church. Pope Honorius was anathematized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council because of his false teachings, but no one has ever claimed that Honorius was not Pope. However, it is impossible for us to close our eyes in front of the facts.


Being a good Catholic does not consist in becoming blind, and stupid. Things are what they are. If we have to live with a bad Pope, well we have to live with a bad Pope. It does not help anyone (not the Church; not the Pope; not one’s own chances of salvation) to stick one’s head in the sand and pretend scandal is not happening. The Pope is not above scandal. In fact, no one is so much not above scandal as the Pope.

But to refuse to stick one’s head in the sand does not mean to cry that the end is near, the sky is falling, or the See is vacant. Honorius was Pope, and we do refuse to close our eyes in front of the facts.

As always, proper knowledge of history helps us to put things in the proper perspective. Unsurprisingly, as this generation neglects history it falls pray of the opposite errors of Papolatry and Sedevacantism.

You, my dear readers, will do nothing of all this. You will remain steadfast in your faith in our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church no matter what should happen. You know that no generation of Christians has not been challenged, and those who have been challenged the most have created a solid foundation for the faith in the centuries to come.

No panic, no desperation, and no Sedevacantism. This will be, very probably, a rough ride. 

Il buon giorno si vede dal mattino, says the wise Italian: one sees the beautiful day from the morning. What kind of morning we had in the last weeks is too evident for me to waste words.

Let us be prepared for a bleak day, and pray the Lord that we may – if it pleases Him – be spared the worst punishment. If it should happen that the day is not so bleak after all, so much the better. Still, it’s wise to be prepared, and I think it’s fair to say the day of this Pontificate has no real chances of ever becoming the buon giorno  we were hoping for before that fateful 13 March. 

On the upper right hand side of this page is a link to an interactive Rosary, just one of the many ways you can join countless Catholics in this most beautiful devotion.

Let the Rosary by our sword against heresies and bad doctrines. We are only wretched sinners, and can do but little. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to help us in this difficult hour.

A good Easter Monday to you all.  



Posted on April 1, 2013, in Catholicism, FSSPX and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Gosh, those examples from the 1980’s you provided are astonishing, aren’t they? Thanks for the uplifting words at the end of your post, though. I like that phrase, “Let the Rosary be your sword”. Amen to that.

    • Elizabeth,
      if you go on Sedevacantist sites you will find many more examples, all of them would have caused our grand-grandmothers to cry for days on end. In fact, Sedevacantist sites are good in that they uncover and publish the filth. Where they err is in the conclusion they draw from it. Still, we must keep our eyes well open in front of the mess we are in.


  2. Best post ever, and very much the view of my late (pre-war Jesuit educated) father (RIP).

    • Many thanks!

      I suspect your father (I took care to say a requiem) belonged to a luckier generation than us, and we belong to a luckier generation than those who are young now.


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