The Vicar of Christ

Both Pius X and you, Most Holy Father, received the fullness of the authority to teach, sanctify, and govern in obedience to Christ, Who is the head and pastor of the flock at all times and in all places, and whose faithful vicar the Pope must be on this earth. That which has been subject to a solemn condemnation cannot, over time, become an approved pastoral practice.

These words, taken from Bishop Bernard Fellay’s recent petition to Pope Francis before the upcoming Synod on the Family, should be common knowledge among all Catholics. Sadly, that is not the case. During his recent trip to the United States, social media and news outlets (Catholic and secular) were filled with the spirit of neo-Ultramonantism, shouting down anyone who would dare question any of the Holy Father’s words or actions as he addressed the President, Congress, the United Nations, and, yes, faithful Catholics as well. There is, admittedly, a contingent of American Catholics who drink deep from the well of (politically conservative) liberalism; their critiques — unimaginative, ignorant, and ideologically charged — needn’t be paid any mind. But there is a more serious, and apparently growing, body of believers who see in this Pontificate a noticeable, perhaps even radical, break with the reigns of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and even Paul VI. To mention as much is tantamount to heresy in conservative Catholic circles, though liberal Catholics, the sort that expect the Holy Father to revamp the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family, have no problem identifying Francis as a “Radical Pope” destined to set the Barque of Peter on new course through the dark waters of (post)modernity.

The Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Christ, not the Oracle of God — a point that Fr. John Hunwicke has found necessary to drive home again, and again, and again. And just recently Elliot Milco, editor of The Josias and maintainer of his own excellent web-log, has started a series of posts critiquing the new Ultramontanism. The first two parts are available here and here; a third part is still in the works. Read them both. In fact, read them both twice.


  1. I thought you re-entered the Orthodox Church. Now your About Us page says you’re canonical a Greek Catholic. What gives? Understanding the nuances of your posts would help if you updated us on the status with whom you are in communion.

    1. I don’t think my posts, or their purposes and intentions, would change even if I were a member, nay, leader of a UFO cult.

  2. Unfortunately, the papal projectile for almost a century has been more and more in the direction of a papal personality cult; and the present incumbent seems to epitomize this development. It seems almost cultish that his recent rock-star status “masses” in America have been more about seeing him, than Christ present on the altar. They modernist Roman Catholics have happily destroyed the most ancient Apostolic tradition, the Roman rite, and have replaced it with liturgical dreck and the only interest on the part of most Roman Catholics, priest as well as lay, has been the pope, and damn little else. So very sad; if it was not also frightening.

    1. Dale, I completely agree with you. I find the adulation many Catholics have given Francis creepy. I hadn’t even seen such levels with JPII, who at least there was no question of his Catholic orthodoxy, had a lot more natural charisma than this guy and was far more theologically and intellectually astute. I’m paraphrasing, but one of my Facebook friends basically said she’d follow Francis off a cliff. As I said, just plain creepy.

  3. So, Protestants, Orthodox, and a not insignificant number of Catholics believe there’s a problem with the papacy, especially as it has come to be understand in modern times. Hmm, maybe there’s a problem with the papacy and its position in Catholic thought, at least since Vatican I or perhaps since the centralization of administration in the early 20th Century.

    1. aka, this is very true. What I find interesting is that at the present time, many Roman Catholic theologians are trying very hard to back away from the doctrine as it was actually defined in Vatican I; which states, categorically by the way, that the infallibility of the pope is a personal charisma not dependent upon the consent of the Church. And that the Pope’s pronouncements are irreformable. It is all too bizarre for words.

      The present attempt to explain infallibility is to attempt to state, incorrectly according to the documents, that the Pope’s infallibility is shared by the whole episcopate with a song-and-dance about the magisterium (whey they got this one, I haven’t a clue).

      It is all fundamentally dishonest.

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