The Pope and Remaining in the Bark
Fr. Jordi Rivero, November 5, 2020 –updated 7/2021
Jesus gave Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and, even though He had to severely rebuke him, He confirmed his call. We need to remain with the pope in bark, even if we are troubled by some of his statements.
The Lord has spoken to us many times about “remaining,” but not in the sense of remaining in the lazy comfort of a couch. St. Paul urges us to remain in the race to win, giving ourselves fully, even while facing what may appear to be impossible opposition. The tendency of the flesh, the temptation, is to give up or to despair.
Today, I want to focus on a particular doctrine of our faith that is under attack: the supreme authority of the pope in matters of faith. As the storm becomes more threatening, sometimes due to the confusion generated at the Vatican, we may be tempted to abandon the bark or to close our hearts to anything that comes from the Pope.
The devil is a brilliant strategist. St. Ignatius teaches that he studies our defenses to discover our weak points. The devil learns what doors are easiest to pry open to enter our hearts. If we are firmly pro-life, he is not going to attack us there. He knows where we hurt, what is disturbing us, and that is where his lies are most effective. He will then cause a problem and will try to make us react without trusting in God.
When the Israelites saw the Babylonian army advancing on Jerusalem, they were terrified, so they went to Jeremiah seeking guidance from the Lord. He told them: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die.” (Jer. 42:15-16). The Israelites did not listen. They saw a real danger and did not trust in the Lord. They did not remain in Jerusalem.
Today, many Catholics are troubled by some shepherds who seem to be asleep as the wolves ravage the flock. They feel abandoned, and the enemy seizes the opportunity to plant doubts in their hearts. The result is that Catholics who not long ago would say, “we are with Christ if we remain with the pope,” are now separating themselves from the pope. What happened? They are being shaken by the storm within the Church. They were ready to battle against the world, but now they are facing a storm within the Church. Many are troubled by some of the pope’s statements. Satan then comes to set the trap by offering false solutions.
I’m receiving messages of people who are aware of the spiritual battle going on and, finding no guidance from their shepherds, are seeking solace in messages that resonate with their concerns. But some of those messages are themselves problematic, and down the road incite anger and separation from the bark of Peter.
Archbishop Viganó, for example, says true things, but also claims that, at the Second Vatican Council, “hostile forces” caused “the abdication of the Catholic Church” through a “sensational deception.” He further claims that “The errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in nuce (in a nutshell) in the Conciliar Acts,” thus accusing the Council of overt error. He also refers to Pope Francis as “Bergolio” to avoid referring to him as pope.
Let us be clear: If we only accept the popes we like we have become judges over the Church and do not believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church. Even though the Second Vatican Council was pastoral and did not declare any new infallible doctrine, it is part of the Church’s magisterial teaching. The Catechism teaches:
Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. (CCC 892)
Schisms have been, at times, a reaction to something wrong in the Church. Luther protested against the abuses and corruption among the Church’s shepherds, but pride blinded him to become the judge of how reform should take place. The result was the great schism that remains to this day.
Schisms begin like cancer growing in the heart, planting contempt, pride, condemnation. They are often a false solution to a real problem. One begins to secretly find satisfaction when those bad shepherds are vilified. One is tempted to read those attacks with less and less concern for objectivity. We need to remember St. Teresa of Avila's advice: "Never affirm anything unless you are sure it is true."
The saints also see what is wrong in the Church, but they hold on to the faith that the Lord made Peter the visible head of the Church and promised that the gates of hell will not prevail. The saints know that Peter was wrong on many occasions. He was used by the devil to try to keep Jesus from going to the Cross, then denied Him three times. Yet, Jesus ratified His election as the first pope. St Paul confronted Peter, but Peter remained the head of the Church. The saints respond in faith and choose to remain faithful and trust in the promises of the Lord. This does not mean indifference. They remain focused on running the race, so God can use them to bring about true renewal beyond what would seem possible by the humble lives they lived.
What can we do?
When Mother Theresa was asked: “What would you do to improve the Church?” Her answer was: “I would change myself.” This is what Jesus taught: First, we must remove the beam from our eye, come to self-knowledge and knowledge of Him. Then God will work through us as He pleases. The saints prove that no crisis in the Church can stop us from becoming saints if we have faith.
- The Lord has called us in our community to be victim souls for our shepherds. We believe in the power of suffering for them united with Christ.
- We don’t try to justify them. Pope Francis has said things that seem to contradict what previous popes have said. But we choose to remain faithful to the magisterium, which is the criteria to discern any comments from a pope or a bishop.
- We do not judge as if we were a superior authority. We try to understand and if we cannot reconcile the pope’s words with Catholic doctrine, we allow our hearts to be pierced, we choose to love the pope and suffer with Christ for him while we continue faithful to the truth that cannot change.
- We know that not all that a pope says is magisterial teaching. Casual comments and interviews are not. His opinions on vaccines or the weather are not.
- But we would be wrong to disregard the vast body of the pope’s teaching because we do not agree with a few of his comments.
St. Cyprian, Father of the Church, wrote: “If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?”
There are times when saints had a prophetic message for a pope. We should learn from them since they fulfilled their mission according to God's will.
God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena regarding the shepherds of the Church:
You must not reverence them for themselves, but for the authority I have entrusted to them. Therefore, you must not sin against them because if you do, you are really sinning not against them but against me. This I have forbidden, and I have said that it is my will that no one should touch them.
For this reason, no one has an excuse to say, “I am doing no harm, nor am I rebelling against holy Church. I am simply acting against the sins of evil pastors.” Such persons are deluded, blinded as they are by their own selfishness… It is me they assault, just as it was me they reverenced. To me redounds every assault they make on my ministers: derision, slander, disgrace, abuse. Whatever is done to them, I count as done to me….
The virtuous must not lessen their reverence, even should these ministers fall short in virtue. And so far as the virtues of my ministers are concerned... [they are] stewards of…my Son’s body and blood and of the other sacraments. This dignity belongs to all who are appointed as such stewards, to the bad as well as to the good.
You should hold [these sinful ministers] out to me with tears and great desire, so that I in my goodness may clothe them with the garment of charity… Indeed, I have appointed them and given them to you to be angels on earth…as I have told you. When they are less than that, you ought to pray for them. But you are not to judge them. Leave the judging to me, and I, because of your prayers and my own desire, will be merciful to them.
The more you offer me sorrowful and loving desires for them, the more you will prove your love for me. For the service neither you nor my other servants can do for me, you ought to do for them instead. Then I will let myself be constrained by the longing and tears and prayers of my servants and will be merciful to my bride by reforming her with good and holy shepherds.
St. Catherine of Siena wrote:
I know very well that many defend themselves by boasting: “They are so corrupt, and work all manner of evil!” But God has commanded that, even if the priests, the pastors, and Christ-on-earth were incarnate devils, we be obedient and subject to them, not for their sakes, but for the sake of God, and out of obedience to Him
Mark Mallet, in his article entitled “This is a Test,” argues that we are experiencing a difficult trial in which our Catholicity is being tested:
- If you have lost your peace over anything happening in Church today, you are failing the test. Our peace comes from trust in Jesus, who is the Lord of history and is with us in all trials… Phil 4,6: “Have no anxiety at all.”
- If you think that the Second Vatican Council, or the Novus Ordo Mass, or any of the magisterial teachings since St. Pope John XXIII are the cause of the upheaval, you are failing the test. Our Catholic faith teaches us that the Holy Spirit guides all the Councils of the Church. There may be many controversies in them, but the result is Christ’s teaching to His Bride. In addition, Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II –the great defenders of the Council, are canonized saints, a further sign of God’s approval upon their magisterium.
- If you say that the hierarchy is destroying the Church, you are forgetting the promise of Jesus: Mt 16:18: “I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Shepherds have an important mission, and they can do much harm if they are unfaithful, but the Lord will always prevail.
- If you are judging the pope, you are failing the test. The pope can make mistakes, we may disagree in things that are not defined by the magisterium, but we owe him the respect of his office as the vicar of Christ. It would be our loss if we ignore the immense richness of his teachings because there are some that we struggle with.
- If you have said that Pope Francis is a false pope and the real one is Benedict XVI, you are failing the test. The pope emeritus wrote:
- “it’s actually a straightforward matter… no one has tried to blackmail me. If that had been attempted, I would not have gone, since you are not permitted to leave because you’re under pressure. It’s also not the case that I would have bartered or whatever. On the contrary, the moment had—thanks be to God—a sense of having overcome the difficulties and a mood of peace. A mood in which one really could confidently pass the reins over to the next person.”
Cardinal Sarah: “The truth is that the Church is represented on earth by the Vicar of Christ, that is by the pope. And whoever is against the pope is, ipso facto, outside the Church.”
We will have trials, but the Holy Spirit gives us light and strength in our weaknesses and tendencies, the areas where Satan attacks us. We need to see them and go deep. Are we falling into anger, hate, resentment, cynicism? St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross wrote, “We can turn evil into an opportunity for purification.”
Pope Francis: We need to take up the spiritual means that the Lord himself teaches us: humiliation, self-accusation, prayer, and penance. This is the only way to overcome the spirit of evil. It is how Jesus himself overcame it.
Message from Jesus to Love Crucified Community:
Your power of intercession lies in your willingness to suffer ALL that I permit in your lives as ONE in My sacrifice of love. Your prayers receive the full power of the Holy Spirit in your abandonment to suffer all with Me. As you trust in My love manifested in My great suffering for you, you enter into the mystery of suffering for Love. These are My little victim souls of love that God is raising up to defeat the forces of darkness. Pray with Mary for many more souls to respond to the trumpet-call from heaven. Pray for trust in my love for you to be solid, unshakable. Pray for perseverance for all My victim souls as they are being sent into the battlefield to wage this great battle for souls. Pray for purity of heart so that Satan cannot deceive you. Know that you are My Mother’s white army of victim souls for these decisive times. Pray with My Mother through the power of the oblation of your lives united in My perfect sacrifice of love. Your faith is your protection against the deception of Satan. 10/31/14
God has given us a mission, a way of life. It may appear insignificant, like a mustard seed, but if we believe, we will move mountains. For years the Lord has been telling us about the power of a victim soul united to Him, the power of our ordinary life, the little things that are done for love as ONE with Him.
The Catechism on the pope
882. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
937. The pope enjoys, by divine institution, “supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls” (CD 2).
2034. The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.
 Complete Works, Vol 3, 256.
 St. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, "On the Unity of the Catholic Church", n. 4; The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 220-221
 SCS, p. 201-202, p. 222, (quoted in Apostolic Digest, by Michael Malone, Book 5: "The Book of Obedience", Chapter 1.
 Benedict XVI, Last Testament in His Own Words, with Peter Seewald; p. 24 (Bloomsbury Publishing)