Throwback Thursday: The Dark Side of the Papacy

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was first published back on September 22nd, 2015 and has been slightly re-edited.

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Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy
By Peter De Rosa
Crown Publishing, 1988, 484 pages

3 Stars

The Roman Catholic church presents a fanciful, pollyannaish, idealized version of itself as the “one true church,” perpetually guided by the Holy Spirit through an infallible pope from an unbroken line of apostolic succession all the way back to Peter, the alleged first bishop of Rome. But history tells quite another story.

In “The Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy,” former Jesuit priest, Peter De Rosa, plays the “devil’s advocate” by examining the role of the papacy throughout history. Credulous Catholic readers will be shocked to learn that many popes were devoted only to furthering their political, financial, and ecclesiastical power by whatever means necessary. De Rosa refutes claims to divine guidance and papal infallibility by recalling the early church’s metamorphosis into an all-powerful, authoritarian institution which initiated the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo (an unbreachable repudiation of infallibility), mandatory clerical celibacy, condemnation of civil democracies and freedom of religion, and the ban on contraceptives. Further historical embarrassments for the papacy and the RCC include:

  • Previous popes were sometimes denounced as heretics by their successors.
  • For centuries, popes reigned over a church that was ferociously anti-Semitic.
  • The Bible was placed on the Catholic church’s Index of Forbidden Books.
  • In their personal affairs, popes were often paragons of avarice and debauchery.

When this book was written, De Rosa was not privy to the pedophile priests and cover-up scandal tsunami that followed and that has rocked Catholicism to its foundations.

De Rosa is not an academic historian (no footnotes), but he credits a lengthy bibliography of scholarly sources. Intransigent Catholic traditionalists have slandered this book, but the muck is just too deep to overcome.* What is liberal Catholic De Rosa’s aim in exposing the papacy’s dark side? By demonstrating that the alleged vicars of Christ were not divinely guided, the author hopes Catholics will realize many of the current controversial dogmas (ban on contraceptives, clerical celibacy, male-only hierarchy, exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments, etc.) are concocted traditions without foundation that the hierarchy perpetuates to its own peril.

De Rosa pines for the liberality of pope John XXIII who “threw open the windows of the church” at Vatican II. But the church is reluctant to abandon its allegedly inspired doctrines for fear of losing credibility, for Rome has always boasted that it never changes. But didn’t Rome once teach that everyone not baptized a Catholic would go to hell? The current pope, Francis, now says even atheists will go to heaven if they lead “good” lives. Of course! If works are the means to salvation as Catholicism teaches then, taken to its logical conclusion, everyone who tries to lead a “good life” will merit heaven. So why should Catholics bother with their scrupulously legalistic religion if even atheists are “good to go”? Recent surveys reveal 75% of Catholics wonder the same thing and no longer bother to attend obligatory Sunday mass. But the house of cards came down decades ago for many Catholics when pope Paul VI forbade all forms of contraception while eagerly endorsing the natural family planning (aka rhythm) method. Most married Catholics legitimately asked, “What’s the difference?”

What is an evangelical Christian to make of the “Vicars of Christ”? Despite exposing the dark side of his church’s history, De Rosa is still an advocate of Rome’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit with priests as the ordained mediators between God and men. The Catholic church’s story is that of early-Christianity’s transformation into a legalistic, authoritarian institution whose cruelties, depravities, and corruption eventually overshadowed even pagan Rome.

The Reformers abandoned the legalism and ritualism of Catholicism and reclaimed the beliefs of the early church, which were based upon the scriptural Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Unlike pope Francis who preaches Universal salvation for all who are “good,” the Reformers pointed to the Bible, which proclaims that there are none who are good or righteous and can earn their way to heaven (Romans 3:10). But the Good News! is God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for our sins, and that whoever places their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

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*Since the above post was written four years ago, several conservative Roman Catholics have written books which cite embarrassing and unflattering episodes in their church’s history. An absolutely amazing development! Their strategy? By showing that the church has survived corrupt and/or heretical prelates in the past, the authors contend that the church will also survive the heterodoxy of progressive pope Francis.

Polar Opposite Popes?

The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision That Shook the World
By Anthony McCarten
Flatiron Books, 2019, 233 pages

It’s safe to say the average, church-going Catholic layperson fulfills their mass obligation every Sunday, but is unaware of much of the labyrinthine complexities of their religion. In regards to the papacy, the laity see popes come and go and assume it’s all a smooth, glorious process controlled by the Holy Spirit. Well, not hardly.

In this book, the author, a self-professed, nominal Catholic, examines that unique episode in recent papal history when Joseph Ratzinger aka Benedict XVI resigned and Jorge Bergoglio aka Francis I was elected.

Ratzinger had been conservative pope John Paul II’s right-hand theologian and head of the modern equivalent of the Holy Office of the Inquisition. In that capacity, his energies were largely aimed at reigning in radical and liberal clerics. When JPII died in 2005, 78-year-old Ratzinger was elected as his replacement, much to the chagrin of liberal prelates. But the new pope’s health was already deteriorating at the time of his election and developing crises within the church (e.g., financial improprieties, clerical sexual abuse) convinced him to step down in 2013. Ratzinger was the first pope to resign since 1415. Bergoglio was elected pope thirteen days later.

The two men are polar opposites. Whereas Ratzinger was shy, withdrawn, and uncomfortable in public, Bergoglio is casual and confident to a flaw. Whereas Ratzinger was a passionate defender of conservative dogma and doctrine, Bergoglio is a pragmatic liberal who is very willing to “soften” church teaching in order to make the institution more “relevant” and “pastoral.”

How could the cardinals have elected a staunch, hardline conservative in 2005 and a progressive liberal in 2013? Bergoglio was somewhat of an unknown commodity in the minds of many of the voting cardinals. Only after he was elected did they realize how far to the Left of Ratzinger he actually was. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics rue the day when Francis was elected and pine for the end of his tenure.

Plenty of background information is provided on both men. The author does a good job of examining how each man’s individual history shaped their conflicting ideologies. The reader is also made privy to the patronage, infighting, and political maneuverings that are part and parcel of a Catholic cleric’s rise to the papal office.

Evangelical Vatican-watchers will enjoy this examination of one of the strangest chapters of papal history. Ninety-nine point nine nine percent of Catholics could not be bothered.

Postscript 1: The office of the pope is a man-made institution and cannot be found in the Bible. For more information on the papacy, see the article below:

What does the Bible say about the pope/papacy? – Got Questions
https://www.gotquestions.org/pope-papacy.html

Postscript 2: The Netflix-produced film, “The Pope,” based upon this book, is currently in post production. Anthony Hopkins plays the conservative, pope Benedict XVI, and Jonathan Pryce portrays the progressive pope Francis. There’s no release date scheduled as of yet.

Is the Pope the Antichrist?

Antichrist Revealed: Described in Scripture…Fulfilled in the Papacy
By Carol White
Amazon Digital Services, 2017, 45 pages

Last week, I posted about a valuable little quarterly, the Ulster Bulwark, published by the Evangelical Protestant Society of Northern Ireland (see here). One of the books reviewed at the end of the quarterly was “Antichrist Revealed: Described in Scripture…Fulfilled in the Papacy” by Carol White.

I don’t study eschatology/end times although I have benefited in the past from those who do. The early Reformers were convinced that the Antichrist referred to in several prophetic books of the Bible was the office of the pope. Several of the confessions of the nascent Protestant denominations contained articles declaring the papacy to be the Antichrist. This interpretation lost favor in our increasingly ecumenical era, to be replaced by a belief that the “man of sin” would be a secular, political leader.

In this short booklet, the author seeks a return to the classical Protestant view. First, she evaluates all Scripture passages that refer to the “son of perdition” and follows with a brief history of the papacy, demonstrating how it has already fulfilled much of the prophecy in question. The author has done an excellent job in presenting her case. Who else has claimed the lofty title of “Vicar of Christ” for the last 1500 years? Who else would the world turn to for “spiritual guidance” in the case of a global catastrophe? This work is not some outlandish, Jack Chick-type, conspiracy polemic, but a measured evaluation of Scripture and history.

Identifying the papacy as the Antichrist of Scripture is strictly taboo in this era of tolerance and ecumenism. To suggest such a thing is an invitation to be relegated to the fundamentalist fringes. Did the Reformers and evangelical Protestants up until the 20th Century get it wrong? Read this booklet and decide for yourself.

“It is the bound and duty of every Christian to pray against this Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is, no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. Popery is contrary to Christ’s gospel and is the antichrist and we ought to pray against it. It should be the daily prayer of every believer that the antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood and for Christ, because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of his glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of his atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Spirit. And puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. If we pray against it, because it is against him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors. We shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas. And so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened because we turn our faces toward Christ when we pray.” – Charles Spurgeon

Order the Kindle ebook here.

Catholic radio apologist advises listeners to ignore pope Francis

I listen to Catholic talk-radio for about one hour each work day. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but it helps me to stay abreast of what’s going on in the RCC. Last week, I was listening to the 10/10/18 podcast of the EWTN “Called to Communion” Catholic talk-radio show (see far below) featuring moderator, Tom Price, and host, David Anders (above photo), and some controversial subject matter was broached, which doesn’t happen all that often on this show, which openly aims to convert Protestants.

At the 8:54 mark, Jerry, a Roman Catholic from St. Louis, called into the show and in his remarks he expressed that he was quite disturbed about the current pedophile priest and cover-up scandal and also made mention of archbishop Carlo Vigano’s highly publicized accusation that, in 2013 against Vigano’s advice, pope Francis had overturned restrictions previously placed upon pedophile cardinal, Ted McCarrick, by pope Benedict XVI, thus making himself complicit in McCarrick’s crimes. Jerry also claimed that Francis’ censure of conservative cardinal, Raymond Burke, was part of the pope’s campaign to “liberalize the church.” As would be expected, show moderator, Tom Price, became increasingly agitated by Jerry’s remarks and interrupted him twice. Show host, David Anders, then responded to Jerry’s concerns, in effect saying that Catholics need to focus on the church overall as a historic and consistent witness to the (Catholic) gospel rather than reacting to a passing scandal or the controversial teachings of Francis or any other individual prelate. Anders’ obsfucation is the standard public response these days by conservative Catholics to concerns about the scandal and Francis’ heterodoxy. The real question is, why is the pope still claimed to be infallible in matters of faith and morals when conservative spokespersons advise the laity to ignore him?

The above segment featuring Anders’ obligatory non-response to Jerry’s concerns was certainly interesting and was worthy of a post by itself, but as I continued to listen to the podcast I came across another noteworthy segment. At the 27:29 mark, Mike, a Catholic living in Dallas, called in with questions about Francis’ change to the Catholic catechism regarding capital punishment. The catechism had previously stated that the death penalty was allowable in rare circumstances, but on August 2nd, Francis changed the text to read that the death penalty is  “inadmissible under any circumstances.”  Mike wanted to know if Texas governor and Roman Catholic, Gregory Abbott, could morally uphold the death penalty as he had done previous to Francis’ August 2nd announcement? Anders had stumbled about with a stutter-laced response to a similar question two months ago (see here), but this time he was much more resolute. Anders opined that the allowance of the death penalty had been the licit teaching of the church for two thousand years, therefore Francis’ ban could only be his personal, prudential judgement rather than a dogmatic ruling on faith and that Catholics were therefore free to ignore it. As is standard practice throughout conservative Catholicism these days, the advice is to ignore the pope when he deviates from conservative and traditional teaching. Again I ask, why is the pope still claimed to be infallible in matters of faith and morals when he contradicts the teaching of previously infallible popes and conservative spokespersons advise the laity to ignore him?

 

The Papacy: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Absolute Power: How the Pope Became the Most Influential Man in the World
By Paul Collins
Public Affairs Publishing, 2018, 367 pages

In the past six months, I have read and reviewed several books from conservative Catholic authors that were very critical of the controversial papacy of Jorge “Francis” Bergoglio. Liberal Catholic and ex-priest, Paul Collins, takes the opposite tack.

The year was 1799 and the Roman Catholic papacy had reached its absolute nadir. Giovanni Angelo Braschi aka pope Pius VI died in the citadel of Valence, France as a prisoner of forces commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte. How did the papacy survive and eventually thrive to the point where the pope is now the most recognizable  and influential man in the world? In this fascinating book, Collins assesses how the beleaguered papacy ascended from the ashes to astonishing worldly heights.

The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the spread of Democratic Republicanism, and the introduction of Communism and Socialism forced the popes into a defensive position. Deprived of the Papal States and most of their temporal authority, the popes of the 19th Century were able to focus on marshalling Europe’s conservative/traditionalist Catholic population who yearned for social stability and even retrenchment. Some of the results were the now-embarrassing condemnation of democracy and religious freedom in pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors in 1864, the dogmatic definition of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1870, also sponsored by Pius IX, and the condemnation of religious freedom aka “Americanism” by pope Leo XIII in 1899.

Popes navigated the church through the perilous first-half of the 20th Century with its two world wars, always looking to advance the church’s temporal and ecclesial advantages. In perhaps one of the last major acts of militant Catholic triumphalism, pope Pius XII defined the assumption of Mary as dogma in 1950.

John XXIII was elected pope in 1958 and he ushered in an openness to liberal reform within the church with his Second Vatican Council. Collins is quite forthright in his admiration for John XXIII. The church seemed to flounder for a period, unhinged from its traditional conservatism, but John Paul II and Benedict XII were able to return the church back to conservative intransigence in their crusades to “reform the reform.” Collins sees in the current pope, Francis, another John XXIII-type who is attempting to once again move the church forward in accord with the agenda of the church’s liberal/progressive faction.

Competing church politics aside, Collins records in some detail how John XXIII, John Paul II, and now, Francis, were able to manipulate the worldwide media in order to advanceCapture38 the profile and “soft” power of the papacy.

Catholics are taught to think of their church’s hierarchy in hagiographic terms with all prelates in harmonious union with the pope, and infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. As Collins makes very clear throughout this book, Vatican politics contrastingly have been cutthroat and motivated by the acquisition and preservation of influence and power.

Pope Francis and the Catholic church are currently overrun by scandal. How will Francis and the church respond? In the end, could these current challenges further democratize and decentralize the church, which is the ultimate goal of Francis and his liberal allies? A less autocratic and dogmatic papacy would actually be a huge benefit to the cause of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue (with the pope still in the driver’s seat).

I highly recommended this book to evangelical Vatican-watchers and to incredulous Roman Catholics who suspect there is more going on within their church than what the folks at Catholic Answers and EWTN are letting on.

Catholic archbishop accuses pope Francis of covering up abuse, demands he resign.

I normally collect news stories over the course of the week and post them as part of the Weekend Roundup, but every once and awhile a story is so important, like this one, that it cannot wait.

Following closely on the heels of the news of U.S. cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, being stripped of his office due to allegations of sexual abuse, and then the pedophile priest and cover-up tsunami in Pennsylvania, we have another disturbing but unsurprising revelation. According to the story below, which is breaking across all major news outlets, archbishop, Carlo Maria Viganò (above photo, left), the former Vatican nuncio (ambassador) to the United States, claims to have informed pope Francis in 2013 that cardinal McCarrick had sexually abused children, seminarians, and priests, but that Francis did absolutely nothing. Viganò is calling for Francis to resign.

The Catholic hierarchy is corrupt from top to bottom.

I’ll be posting follow-ups to the story in the Weekend Roundup if not sooner.

Pope Francis Long Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse and Must Resign, Archbishop Says

The Catholic “Family Feud” Over Pope Francis

The Francis Feud: Why and How Conservative Catholics Squabble About Pope Francis
By Karl Keating
Rasselas House, 2018, 234 pages

It’s quite ironic that over the past year some of the strongest criticism of pope Francis has come, not from Bible Christians, but from conservative Roman Catholics. In his efforts to loosen dogma and liberalize the Catholic church, the pope has increasingly alienated the conservative and traditionalist factions of the church’s clergy and laity to the point where they feel they can no longer remain silent.

The four books below that are critical of Francis were all published in the last nine months (click on the title to see my review):

Conservative dissatisfaction with Francis centers around his lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorces in his Amoris Laetitia encyclical and for his heavy-handed administrative skullduggery targeting conservative prelates. Since these books were written, Francis has further infuriated conservatives by taking the first steps in allowing intercommunion with Protestants.

In “The Francis Feud,” Karl Keating, the founder of the conservative Catholic apologetics organization, Catholics Answers, analyzes the first three books and their reception within the conservative and traditionalist camps.

Keating sees “The Dictator Pope” as the most problematic of the three books with its several undocumented claims including alleged Vatican financial support of Hillary Clinton’s 2016Capture17 presidential campaign. Keating views “Lost Shepherd” as an improvement, but still prone to hyperbole. “To Change The Church” is presented as the most objective of the three and would evidently be the one that Keating might come close to personally endorsing if he had the fortitude for such candidness.

Positive and negative reviews of the three books from various conservative sources are included. It’s obvious that part of the reason Keating wrote this book was as a platform to respond to Catholic apologist, Dave Armstrong, who views any public criticism of the pope as disloyalty to the church. Keating makes clear that Armstrong is as prone to hyperbole as the most polemical anti-Catholic. I believe another reason for this book is that Keating has decided to take a few steps back from his previous glowing compliments of Lawler’s book, which were featured on that book’s dust cover.

It’s interesting that the founder and former president of Catholic Answers chose to analyse the “squabble” within conservative Catholicism over Francis’ papacy rather than directly critiquing Francis himself.

Bottom line: This book would be of interest strictly to an evangelical Vatican-watcher who is already somewhat aware of the mounting resistance to Francis by Catholic conservatives and traditionalists and the internecine squabbling that has resulted. But, whether it’s the conservative or the liberal version, Catholicism still teaches a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Pope Francis declares capital punishment “inadmissible under any circumstances.”

I had a different post planned for today, but after checking this morning’s news, I had to change my plans.

All of the major news sources are reporting today that pope Francis has announced a change to the Catechism of the Catholic church, the official compendium of Catholic teaching, regarding capital punishment (see article below). The 1992 edition of the catechism authorized by pope John Paul II was revised in 1997 to read that the death penalty was allowable only in cases in which the execution of the offender was an absolute necessity, adding that such cases “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent” (CCC 2267). Today, Francis changed the catechism to read the death penalty is “inadmissible under any circumstances.”

I, of course, have a couple of observations regarding this change:

  • The Catholic church boasts that it is “Semper Eadem,” always the same, but here we have another example of Catholicism’s constantly changing theology.
  • Since Francis has changed the church’s official teaching instrument to read that capital punishment is “inadmissible under any circumstances,” one must conclude that John Paul II was wrong in his allowance of capital punishment even on a very limited basis. How can two popes who are allegedly infallible on issues touching on faith and morals disagree on this issue?
  • Conservative Catholics will soon be criticizing Francis’ new teaching as a part of his effort to align the church with his Leftist/Progressive agenda while liberals throughout the world will be hailing Francis for his “enlightened, humanitarian” leadership.
  • Since the catechism now reads that the death penalty is inadmissible in all circumstances, it would now correlate that all Roman Catholics who participate in the legal justice system (legislators, prosecutors, judges, prison officials and guards), commit mortal sin by supporting or participating in state executions. Did Catholics who participated in executions prior to this change commit mortal sin or were they “grandfathered in” according to the previous teaching of JPII?
  • For multiple centuries, the Catholic church, via its popes and bishops, authorized the torture and slaughter of its opponents (see the Crusades, the Inquisition, anti-Jewish pogroms, forced baptisms of non-Catholics, etc.). Given its extremely violent and bloody history, it’s ironic to see how the church has now become one of the major opponents of capital punishment.
  • The Bible states that God uses civil governments to keep peace and order in society. As society moves farther and farther away from the Bible, godly principles are being abandoned. I am not eager to see anyone lose their life, but murderers themselves forfeit their own lives: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” – Genesis 9:6. We’re now witnessing cold-blooded killers being released from prison only ten or fifteen years after their crime.

Francis is so concerned with capital punishment, yet he and his church spiritually shackle millions upon millions with a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Eternal death awaits all of those who attempt to merit their salvation by way of the Catholic sacramental system. As God’s Word proclaims, there is only one way to eternal life and that is by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone.

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:30-31


Pope Francis changes teaching on death penalty, it’s ‘inadmissible’ in all cases
https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/08/02/pope-francis-changes-teaching-on-death-penalty-its-inadmissible/

Why did God mandate capital punishment for murder
https://www.gotquestions.org/capital-punishment-murder.html

 

Papal forgery: Missing that title to the continent? No problem. Have one of the monk scribes in the manuscripts department put something together

Anglican convert to Roman Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), is often quoted as saying, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant,” but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. The longer a person studies history objectively, the more they will be convinced of the untenableness of Roman Catholicism. I’d like to use this post to present just one rebuttal to Newman’s claim, but it’s a very revealing one.

Recently, I was reading a book which mentioned an ancient manuscript; the “Donation of Constantine.” I’ve seen many references to this notorious document in my studies of Roman Catholicism, but I will briefly summarize it here for those who may not be familiar with it.

When Constantine transferred the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD, it created a political vacuum in the West. As the bishops of Rome consolidated their power, they became the de facto emperors in the West, however there was no legal document granting them the administrative and political powers that they had gradually usurped over time. That embarrassing situation would soon be remedied.

An ancient document, the “Donation of Constantine,” mysteriously appeared in the chambers of the Vatican in the 8th century. The Donation was the missing legal document by which Emperor Constantine supposedly ceded to the bishop of Rome, Sylvester I, and his successors political control of Western Christendom. Pope Stephen II and pope Hadrian I both cited the document in their political negotiations with Pepin (King of the Franks) and his son, Charlemagne (the eventual Holy Roman Emperor), respectively. The Vatican would continue to use the document to justify its political authority for the next 800 years.

By the mid-15th century, church scholars began questioning the authenticity of the “Donation,” with many concluding it was a forgery. By the early 1600s, it was universally accepted that the document was an absolute fake.

So we know that the “Donation of Constantine” was created in the 8th century to justify the papacy’s political ambitions and was the basis of its claim to supreme temporal authority in Europe for 800 years. What might an objective person conclude about the “Vicar of Christ” in regards to the creation and use of such a fraudulent document? Rather than supporting its claims as Newman boasts, we see in this example and hundreds of others that history is the enemy of Roman Catholicism.

Catholics like to use the antiquity of their institutional church as a proof of its authenticity and authority. However, Protestants needn’t be intimidated by these claims. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it wandered from its Biblical foundation and substituted man-made traditions.

For more information on the bogus, “Donation of Constantine,” see the Wikipedia article below:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donation_of_Constantine

For information on additional RCC forgeries, see below:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Isidorian_Decretals

Yet another book about pope Francis’ heresies from a Catholic author

The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy
By Marcantonio Colonna* (aka Henry Sire)
Regenery Publishing, 2018 Revised Edition, 232 pages

After cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to the papacy on March 13, 2013, many were immediately impressed by his seemingly humble, pastoral approach, which was a noticeable contrast to the rigorous doctrinalism of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. When pope Francis’ off-the-cuff, theologically liberal remarks began making headlines, conservative Catholics attributed them to media misrepresentation, but after a short span it became entirely clear that Francis did not share their agenda.

We’re now seeing a growing number of conservative Catholic critics publicly voicing their deep displeasure with Francis. In this updated version of his controversial 2017 bestseller, historian, Henry Sire, examines Bergoglio’s past and the most eyebrow-raising aspects of his papacy.

When the college of cardinals elected Bergoglio in 2013, few were aware of his liberal proclivities, but an influential, progressive cadre had groomed the Argentinian as their candidate several years previous.

Francis and his progressive allies saw the unbending doctrinal rigidity of JPII and Benedict XVI as impediments to the church’s survival, and they seek to move the church away from doctrinal emphasis to a more pragmatic, “pastoral” approach. Sire devotes much space to Francis’ engineering of the lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees via the 2014 and 2015 synods and his guileful 2016 Amoris Laetitia encyclical. Conservative prelates who oppose his “reforms” are swiftly divested of their positions or influence (hence, the title, “The Dictator Pope”). Religious orders that cling to the Latin mass or other forms of traditionalism are targeted for “correction.” This revised edition was published before Francis’ latest airplane-aisle press conference in which he declared that individual bishops could decide on the issue of intercommunion with Protestants in their diocese.

Francis and his allies will continue to advance such progressive causes such as ending the rule of celibacy for priests, affirming sexually active homosexuals and blessing same-sex unions, and ending the ban on non-abortifacient contraceptives. The author points out that, despite his reputation as a reformer, Francis has kept at arms-length such glaring problems as the much-needed reorganization of the entrenched Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy), the ongoing priest pedophile scandal, and the murky and teetering Vatican finances.

Catholic conservatives are hoping that Francis’ reign ends quickly, but in the meantime Francis is busy “stacking the deck” by appointing new cardinals who share his views to ensure his successor carries forward his progressive reforms.

It’s satisfying to see these critical exposés of Francis from Catholic sources. Catholics once boasted that their pope, under divine guidance, could never lead their church into doctrinal error, but Francis has “reformed” that claim as well.

Catholic friend, what should you do now that your foundation is crumbling? Repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Jesus is the only Foundation worth standing on. After you have accepted Christ, then ask Him to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

*Historian and Vatican expert, Henry Sire, sought to cloak his identity by using a nom de plume, Marcantonio Colonna, when the first edition of this book was published in November 2017. When his identity was later uncovered, his membership in the Knights of Malta, a Catholic lay religious order, was suspended.

Click on the links below to see my reviews of other books written by Catholic authors that are extremely critical of Francis:

“The Political Pope: How Pope Francis is Delighting the Liberal Left and Abandoning Conservatives” by George Neumayr

“Lost Shepherd: How Francis is Misleading His Flock” by Philip Lawler

“To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism” by Ross Douthat