Pope Francis & Focolare Movement

Chapter 51

Student: A long account might be written about the aforementioned matters, but since I wish to bring this treatise to a conclusion soon, I believe consequently that we should shift our attention to the issue of the religious. Concerning which I ask whether the religious who do not resist a heretic pope are to be numbered among the collaborators in heretical wickedness.

Master: A distinction must be made about the religious. For certain religious, as a rule, send away some of their brethren to be schooled in theology, and also commit to many the office of preaching and of hearing confessions. Furthermore, quite a few of them travel about the world for different causes, frequently moving from place to place, and they communicate a great deal amongst themselves even though they are scattered throughout the world. Hence it so happens that they know public events occurring not only in the Roman Curia but also in schools and universities and in other crowded places easily, certainly, and accurately.

There are other religious whose custom is to continuously reside in certain places, who do not change their habitat and rarely leave their cloisters, nor do they send some of their brethren to schools or to other places. Remaining fixed in various places, these religious are known to have little or no communication with one another, and therefore they are frequently ignorant of many events which occur in the Roman Curia and in other crowded locations, events which are well known to others.

Let us assume that the pope was a public heretic, in other words that he publicly defined a statement which is an explicitly condemned heresy, or that he publicly preached or taught an assertion contrary to the truth established among all Catholics: for instance, if he publicly preached that Christ was not born of a virgin, or that there will be no resurrection, or that there is no hell, nor are some souls suffering in hell [an oblique allusion to Pope John XXII's sermons on the Beatific Vision]. There would be a very strong presumption against the first kind of religious that they could hardly fail to know that the pope is a heretic, because such religious are not ignorant of public events occurring in the Roman Curia. Indeed they write themselves so many letters to and fro, particularly of freshly breaking developments, that hardly anything of significance occurs in the Roman Curia without being quickly and in short order publicly known in all of their residences throughout the entire world. Therefore if such religious were to support a heretic pope after his treachery had been made public, one must presume that they knowingly supported heretical wickedness, and therefore should they say or hold that the pope is catholic and faithful, they are to be judged collaborators in heretical wickedness.

Student: What if they do not say that the pope is catholic and faithful, and yet obey him while not dealing in any way with the issue of his faithfulness or faithlessness.

Master: Some reply that in this case, if they cannot prevent the pope's treachery from actively influencing others, they should not be thought collaborators in heretical wickedness, but should be reckoned to be collaborators of a heretic. Because they cannot prevent the treachery of a heretic pope, nor correct those who believe his errors, nor impede others from believing his errors, they do not appear to be at fault by remaining silent with respect to his treachery. But by obeying him they are hardly immune from sin.

Student: What about the other kind of religious.

Master: Of the others it is said that the presumption against them is not as strong that they know or are bound to know that the pope is a heretic. Therefore they must not immediately be judged as favouring heretical wickedness, or that they would sin by obeying a heretic pope. They must rather be carefully examined to discover whether they know that the pope is a heretic or whether they ought to know this because of the things they have heard, and depending on the outcome of such an examination they are to be thought either guilty or free of guilt. For if they do not know that the pope is a heretic and do not labour in grossly passive ignorance, they are completely free of guilt in obeying a heretic pope. If on the other hand they know that the pope is a heretic or don't know it because they don't want to know, or labour in grossly passive ignorance, they sin mortally by obeying a heretic pope and can in no way be excused from guilt.

Student: What should the religious do if the pope were to become a heretic.

Master: The answer is this. It is the task of the first kind of religious, if they are preachers or confessors or lecturers, taking appropriate circumstances into account, to reveal to their listeners the treachery of the heretic pope when they preach and read or hear confessions, so that these listeners may beware of his noxious doctrine. It pertains to other religious of this kind, when they travel about the world, to concentrate on informing those with whom they speak, when the opportunity to do so is there, of the heretic pope's treachery, not by publicly preaching to them but by simple conversation. As to the second kind of religious, if they know that the pope is a heretic, it is their task not to grant him in any way the obedience due to a pope. They are also bound, using whatever means are appropriate to them, to urge others not to obey the heretic pope.