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A Response to Patrick Coffin’s “Seven Pieces of Evidence That Francis Is an Antipope”

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In recent years, people have been discussing the legitimacy of Pope Francis’s papacy. Patrick Coffin, former host of Catholic Answers Live, released a video presenting an argument that suggests Pope Francis is an antipope. Cy sits down with Joe Heschmeyer to evaluate Patrick’s main points.


Cy Kellett:

Is it possible that Pope Francis is not the pope? Joe Heschmeyer is next.

Cy Kellett:

Hello, and welcome to Focus the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Little bit of a special episode this time. Joe Heschmeyer is here. We’re going to discuss a recent video that just dropped from Patrick Coffin, who was, at one time, the host of this program and of Catholic Answers Live.

Cy Kellett:

A beloved figure in Catholic media, real pioneer in Catholic media, but we found ourselves not agreeing with everything that Patrick had to say. So we thought it best to just produce an episode where we discuss what he said and what is behind the idea that Pope Francis might not be the pope. Here’s what Joe Heschmeyer had to say. Joe Heschmeyer, welcome to Catholic Answers Focus. It’s kind of a very special episode of Catholic Answers Focus.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Thank you for having me on.

Cy Kellett:

And a special episode because we’re responding to a video posted by Patrick Coffin, longtime host of Catholic Answers, and really an extraordinary figure in Catholic media. Someone who I personally owe a great debt to. I followed him in that chair, but only after having learned from him for a long time. He really opened up new possibilities, I think, about how to present Catholic media. So very grateful to Patrick. He posted a piece of video, a little bit of video, and looking at it, we thought, well, we have this association with Patrick, and this is the kind of video that we actually usually respond to. So we thought-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Even if it wasn’t a former Catholic Answers-

Cy Kellett:

Right. Even it wasn’t Patrick. Right. And so we thought we better respond to it. It’s called Seven Pieces of Evidence that Francis is an Antipope. You’ve seen the video?

Joe Heschmeyer:

I have seen the video.

Cy Kellett:

Well, let me just start off. A general sense that you took away from it? Or?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Sadness. I mean, it’s really conspiratorial video. We’ll get into maybe more of the details of why I’m going to say this. But I think it misunderstands the way that God leads His church, to imagine that there’s these little breadcrumbs, you just have to piece together just so, and that’s going to reveal that the guy everyone thinks is a pope isn’t really the pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

That never in the history of God’s revelation, Old Testament, New Testament, 2000 years of church history, has that been the way Israel or the church was run? That one person was thought by everyone to be the person God had chosen, but he’d secretly left these little breadcrumbs. And if you pieced them together just so … Now, certainly, he usurps the world power. You got Herod and Jesus and all of that. I’m not talking about that. We don’t have like everyone thought Peter was the apostle, but really he’d secretly chosen someone else, and they were just pretending it was Peter, that kind of thing isn’t of God. That’s not how he operates.

Cy Kellett:

It does produce little lot of it. I find myself becoming anxious. It does produce anxiety, but Patrick invited dialogue about this. He said listen with an open mind. I hope we did listen with an open mind. Sometimes you see stuff on the internet and you don’t, and you engage it just on emotional level, but this is Patrick Coffin, and we wanted to listen respectfully.

Cy Kellett:

I think that to sum up what it is Patrick is saying in this video, Seven Pieces of Evidence that Francis is an Antipope, is that essentially there’s been a plot or conspiracy, and that at the center of it is Pope Benedict. That Pope Benedict, at least possibly, one of the reasonable explanations that Patrick is pointing to is that Pope Benedict might have allowed for a false pope to sit on the throne for a time. You want to hear a little clip about that?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Let’s hear the clip.

Patrick Coffin:

And in his very first homily as the Roman pontiff, Benedict asked for prayers that he might not flee out of fear of the wolves. You remember that? Did that catch your attention? It got my attention. Think about it. Maybe he didn’t flee the wolves, maybe he outfoxed them. Two things are certain. First, if his abdication was intentionally false, it was a master stroke, pure genius, because it revealed all the corruption that he knew was simmering just below the surface of the church’s life, but he was too weak to confront it. Second, our Lord, Jesus Christ has not left us orphans.

Cy Kellett:

The first thing to say about that from my perspective, and then I’ll let you approach it. I cannot reconcile that view without thinking that that means that Pope Benedict lied. And I do not believe that Pope Benedict would lie on a grave matter.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. This sounds more like a Tom Cruise film than it does like the action of a Catholic pope. Like in this view, in this conspiracy theory, Benedict is actually a bad actor, for a good cause, but he’s like he’s acting wickedly to try to bring good about. Which if you know anything about Catholic theology, anything about Joseph Ratzinger or Benedict XVI, that’s not him at all, and that’s not us at all. It’s impossible that that could be what’s going on here, if you take seriously the prohibition against lying.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But also let’s just draw out the idea that this is some kind of really elaborate sting operation that we didn’t know who the bad actors were in the church, and Benedict had to pretend to resign to get them to come out of the woodwork. That isn’t true on its face, first of all. I mean, many of the people who we view as bad actors now, we viewed as bad actors then. And there’s just basic problems with how much of a sword does the pope wield? Do you excommunicate everyone who you disagree with even a little bit? Or are there limits in which you just wait for a guy, hope he repents? Those are Prudential questions. You don’t need a fake resignation to realize, oh, Cardinal de Neils doesn’t agree with Cardinal Burke on many things.

Cy Kellett:

Right.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But then finally it’s been almost nine years now. So if this is a sting operation, we’re just waiting for the pope to say, “Surprise, I’m still the pope.” I don’t understand exactly how in a fake resignation, Benedict knew his successor would be Francis, and knew that this would draw out all of the bad actors in the church in the first place. You have to really do a whole lot of legwork to even make this conspiracy theory coherent, that he’s intentionally pretending to resign for dubious reasons.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Basically he would’ve had to know the future about, well, here’s who they would choose if I resign today. Here’s what these bad actors are going to do if they think Pope Francis is the pope. To say it doesn’t make sense is kind of an understatement. It wouldn’t work as a movie. It doesn’t work as real life at all.

Cy Kellett:

Seven Pieces of Evidence that Francis is an Antipope, as we watched it, it seemed that there were eight actual pieces of evidence marshalled. I think what the thing to do then is, okay, if the conclusion that Patrick comes to is that it’s at least possible that this was a fake resignation on the part of Pope Benedict, that does seem provide a hermeneutical key, a way of-

Joe Heschmeyer:

That’s the conclusion he’s coming to.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So how’s he getting there?

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. So let’s look at the actual evidence and see what we think with seven points, and then what we thought is an eighth point.

Joe Heschmeyer:

If I may, just to do him justice, he’s open to the idea this is an elaborate sting operation. The other thesis that he seems to be half advancing is maybe Pope Benedict doesn’t know he’s the pope, which is also just, we’ll just say uncharted territory. We’ve never had a situation where someone was unwittingly unaware the pope while strenuously denying they were the pope, and trying to resign.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I would suggest this is also an impossibility that the pope has the ability to resign. You’re not going to catch him in some kind of legalistic trap where he has to stay pope against his will and against what he’s explicitly stated. You’ve got two theses that he’s advancing. He’s not totally married as far as I can tell to either one. One, sting operation. Two, unknown pope. Even Benedict realizes it, but he’s still the pope.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So Joe, how about we just take a look at Patrick’s arguments. We’ll try to follow the argument through. Let’s play the next clip, please.

Patrick Coffin:

In this video, I present seven pieces of evidence that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who is now called Pope Francis is an antipope. Now, you can rewind it, but I said antipope. I don’t mean bad pope, although there’s lot of bad to be had. And I don’t mean antichrist. Although him being a remote dress rehearsal for the antichrist makes a lot of sense. An antipope is a man falsely believed to be the pope, but is not duly validly elected to the Chair of Peter, while the real pope is on the throne.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. In all fairness, let’s just address that. He’s not calling him the antichrist or a bad pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Although he does seem to think he might be the dress rehearsal for the antichrist. He certainly has a negative view, should we say, of Pope Francis.

Cy Kellett:

I got to say in the last few years, a lot of stuff seems like a dress rehearsal for the antichrist. It seems like a lot of this could come in handy later if someone want to make use of it. I’m not saying that to dismiss it, I mean that quite sincerely.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. It’s not a new phenomenon, Pius X makes the same point in the 1910s. That you have these stirrings that seem to be foreboding something wicked about to happen. That seems like the arrival of the antichrist of the world. And so if that’s been the situation for more than a century now, it’s understandable. First of all, it’s understandable people are-

Cy Kellett:

Maybe we should pay attention.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Well, true.

Cy Kellett:

That’s what I’m thinking.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But we also shouldn’t be too quick to maybe jump the gun.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So the antipope thing though, and one of the things that we’ll do here, we won’t play the clip, because it’s long. This is actually common. We’ve had lots of antipope, so I’m not really breaking new ground here.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I think that’s not true. Meaning, in the past it’s true. There are people who have claimed to be pope who weren’t, but what he’s suggesting, either of the two thesis is that someone who didn’t claim to be pope was. So it’s actually the inversion of the ordinary course where normally you have-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. An antipope is a guy who says I’m pope, but he’s not. Not a guy who says I’m not the pope, but he is.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So his claim is that Benedict is in this kind of weird inversion of an antipope where he doesn’t think he’s the pope or says he is not the pope. He’s either lying or diluted about being the pope, says he isn’t, but actually is, which is this strange inversion. That is unprecedented. I mean, whatever you make of his thesis, that’s never happened. We don’t have any kind of precedent for that kind of thing in the history of the church, where the real pope doesn’t know he’s the pope, and says he’s not the pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Papal resignations are valid. And so to invalidate a papal resignation, he’s got a high evidentiary burden, we’ll say. To try to show the case he’s trying to show. But it is clear. Again, I want to be fair to his argument for what it is. He’s not a state of a contest. He’s not saying the chair is empty. If anything, he thinks it’s overcrowded.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah, the chair is crowded. Right. Okay. Fair enough. So how about we take a look at the seven.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Please.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. A couple of them, I would argue. Items one and four on his list of seven are essentially etiquette questions. So I want to dispense with those first, if we could. So could you just review point one and four.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. So the first point he makes is that the term Pope Emeritus is confusing and has no precedent. And then he has this kind of inapplicable comparison to President Nixon if he stayed in the White House. It doesn’t really work for a few reasons. One of which is that Vatican City is a sovereign city state. And it isn’t like the Pope Emeritus is staying in the papal portion of Vatican City. It’s more like if Nixon retired to D.C. It doesn’t really work as an analogy.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But then his fourth point is that Pope Benedict’s correct form of address is still your holiness. I want to give credence to the merit of this argument, which is this, when Benedict announced his resignation, we had this collective moment in the church where we said, “What do we do now? How do we call him? How should he dress? Is he going to go back?”

Cy Kellett:

How are we supposed to deal with this?

Joe Heschmeyer:

And he didn’t know. Meaning like, he wanted to be called Cardinal Ratzinger again. And was actually persuaded against it. And so the question of, well, how do you dress? How are you called? All of those things, there hadn’t been a papal resignation in half a millennium, more than that. I mean, the last time a pope resigned was before Protestants had existed. That’s how far back you’ve got to go.

Joe Heschmeyer:

We can say two things. Number one, we know from church history that popes can resign. And number two, that still left a lot of questions we didn’t have clear answers to. So like Saint Celestine V, after he resigns, he ends up being imprisoned by his successor to make sure he doesn’t rise up and form some kind of other sect. That obviously isn’t the only way of handling things. Francis doesn’t have-

Cy Kellett:

Maybe even not the best way of handling things.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Arguably, not a good way. Like putting this monastic kind of pope in a prison cell, when all he wanted to do was go back to his monastery and pray for the church. I don’t know. It was one of those things. We were dealing with uncharted territory. So maybe there’s a better way of signifying Pope Emeritus than we found.

Cy Kellett:

Maybe even a better term than Pope Emeritus.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Exactly. We have a model for this not in the papacy, but in the episcopacy. Meaning, with the average lifespan getting older and older, and the introduction of mandatory retirement ages in Canon law, there’s a growing number of elderly, former bishops, and they’re often referred to as Bishop Emeritus. Now, they also would be given like a titular see, where they’re the bishop of such and such a place that doesn’t exist anymore. But they’re known colloquially and commonly as Bishop Emeritus, in my own diocese.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Archbishop Naumann is the bishop, and Archbishop Emeritus Keleher is a former archbishop. It raises all sorts of questions. At mass, when you’re praying for the pope and for the bishop, some priest will insert and the Bishop emeritus, all of those are questions we’re still working out, even at the level of the episcopacy for non-conspiratorial reasons. Just because in the old days, the way you stopped being a bishop or the pope was that you died, and often at a young age. Quite frequently, violently. Now, there’s more people who are retired. And it isn’t the teaching of the Catholic church that you have to stay in office until you die, especially if you are mentally infirm or physically infirm. The church is actually very clear on the opposite.

Cy Kellett:

But it is the teaching of the Catholic church that a pope and a bishop, and even the pastor of a local parish, these are not just administrative or juridical roles, these are fatherly roles. And we don’t want to just … See, this is where I think part of the problem may arise from is you want to make clear, he’s not the pope, but you also want to make clear, he never stops being the papa. And so the Bishop Emeritus in your archdiocese is?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Keleher. James Patrick Keleher.

Cy Kellett:

Keleher. Well, you don’t want to just put him on an ice flow and send him away. He’s still a revered and important part of the community. That role never goes away. And-

Joe Heschmeyer:

And it doesn’t go away, I would stress, especially with the papacy, doesn’t go away even with death, which is why we say things like Pope Saint John Paul II. We don’t say Pope Emeritus Saint John Paul II. We don’t go back to calling him like Karol Wojtyła.

Cy Kellett:

But now we’re in a weird position, this came up earlier, where right now Pope Benedict is Pope Emeritus Benedict. When he dies, he’ll go back to being Pope Benedict. So it just points to the-

Joe Heschmeyer:

And the strange way actually would probably be most accurate to continue to call him Pope Benedict.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Even now. But the problem with that-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Even now. But the problem is that people would not understand this distinction.

Cy Kellett:

Right. So should he be wearing white after he leaves office? Should there be another word besides Pope Emeritus? Patrick, perfectly reasonable to raise these, and maybe we’re getting it all wrong. Maybe we’re getting it all wrong now. Who knows?

Joe Heschmeyer:

These are questions he asked, and the questions canonists ask, questions theologians ask, about how do we best signify this reality that we have had a hard time … I want to be really clear, being the pope is a totally different reality than just wearing a white cassock. Norbertines and Dominicans wear a white cassock and aren’t the pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

If the pope decides to wear different clothes one day, he doesn’t stop being the pope. These are trappings, the titles, all of this stuff. They’re symbols of how do we best express the reality? And maybe at the symbolic level, we could be doing a better job, but that has literally nothing to do with Pope Benedict being validly the pope or not, in the question that we’re asking.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Let’s make a really clear distinction, because this is going to come up in several of the arguments that he raises. As you said, there is a real spiritual fatherhood. Pope means Papa. It means father. And when you are the father of the Church of Rome and of the global church, that spiritual fatherhood doesn’t just dissipate upon your resignation or death. You continue to pray for them. You continue to intercede for them. And that goes on forever.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So right now you can bet that all of the popes in heaven continue to intercede on behalf of the church, continue to pray for the church, for the same reason, by the way, that Saint Joseph is called the protector of the universal church, because it was his job to protect the church on earth in the first century. That he has to take care of Jesus, the head, marry the body, at the time when the church is just those two people.

Joe Heschmeyer:

He’s made the protector of the church in that sense, not the head in like a papal sense, but he is given a spiritual authority, and the church still continue on today, which is why he’s the patron of the universal church. Well, so it is here that even though the juridical office of the papacy is no longer inhabited by Benedict or St. Peter or St. Pius X, or whoever you want, if they’re in heaven, or if they’re on earth praying for the church, they continue to have that real spiritual relationship.

Cy Kellett:

I think it’s important that you say about popes if they’re in heaven, because-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yes. I remember my Dante.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. But the marks of the papacy that are unconfusing, all the trappings of the papacy have accrued to Pope Francis. Most importantly, the liturgical trappings. This is not just something to sneeze at.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Let’s make a really clear distinction. Patrick Coffin’s arguments are these technical nuanced, and I’m just going to say legalistic kind of arguments. He’s going to argue that Pope Benedict, he resigns the ministerium, but not the munus of the papacy. These are Latin synonyms. This is a subtle legalistic argument that an ordinary person doesn’t have any framework in which to understand this distinction.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Instead, it’s really easy, because here’s the thing, and this is the thing that I think a lot of Protestants get wrong. It’s not a trick or a trap. It isn’t like true Christianity is something that like only one or two people have figured out. And so the obvious answer is the right answer when it comes to this. That the Catholic church is the true Church is the easy answer. And God wants it to be the easy answer.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Saint Optatus of Milevis or Optatus of Milevis, if you prefer, and against the Donatus, book two chapter four gives a really simple test. Now this is back in the early fourth century. So the early three hundreds. He’s writing against the Donatus, and he points out that they are out of union with the Bishop of Rome. And so they’re schismatics.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And he then responds to an objection. He says, but you alleged that you too have some sort of a party in the city of Rome. It is a branch of your error growing out of a lie, not from the root of truth. In a word, where Macrobius, that’s the guy they have in Rome, to be asked where he sits in this city, will he be able to sit on Peter’s cathedral? That’s the seat, the chair. I doubt whether he’s even set eyes upon it. And schismatic that he is, he has not drawn nigh to Peter shrine.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And then he goes on to say, behold in Rome are the shrines of the two apostles. Will you tell me whether he has been able to approach them or has offered sacrifice in those places where, as is certain are the shrines of the saints. So to put that in maybe more modern English, if you want to know who the Bishop of Rome is, who’s the pope, well, it’s the guy who celebrates mass, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s inside the walls. Those are his churches. It’s that easy.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And who’s got the authority to do that? Who’s got the right to do that? Pope Francis, undeniably. Even if you think someone else should be the pope, if you just say, okay, who’s making rules at St. Peter’s? Who’s the one restricting masses at the side alters? Well, it’s Pope Francis, because this is his church to do with as he will. I mean, St. Peter’s there. By the historic way, we could tell who the pope is. Very clearly, Pope Francis is the pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And the point here is that this is the obvious answer. Early on, even before the fight against Donatism, you have the fight against gnosticism. The gnostics claim Jesus had a public set of teachings and then a secret set of teaching for the special few. And the Christian response is this is hogwash.

Cy Kellett:

That’s not how it works.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. That Jesus is trying to get everyone to know the truth, he’s not going to make it super hard to figure out you got to have the decoder ring on just right to understand. So anytime you come across this stuff, Bible codes, where it’s like every 17th letter means this. All of that stuff is way too gnostic. And this is way too gnostic. Making these subtle like, well, in Latin, this declension. No, stop. You’re making it too complicated.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Christianity is easy, which is why we’re Catholic. Knowing who the pope is, is easy. Knowing which is the true church is easy. And the church fathers are actually emphatic on this. That even if you find other groups claiming to be Catholic, if you go into a random town and say, “Where’s the Catholic church?” Even the non-Catholics will point to the Roman Catholic church. All of that points to this reality.

Joe Heschmeyer:

The same arguments can be used against everybody. Anglo-Catholics claiming to be Catholic. Protestants saying that the true church is super hard to find, but it’s their 17th split off of a denomination. All of it can be answered with this same simple point. Jesus makes it easy to find the true church. It is the mustard tree, the successor of St. Peter who celebrates mass at the tombs of Peter and Paul. There’s your guy. Be in union with him. And we know that guy is Pope Francis.

Cy Kellett:

All right. Then points two and three have to do with the nature of the ex pope. In addition to the etiquette questions about, why is he wearing white? Why is he addressed as his holiness or your holiness? Those are all pope like things, popish.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Papal.

Cy Kellett:

Papal.

Joe Heschmeyer:

There it is.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Fair enough. But there are more profound questions of what is the nature of this role? And he gets to that in points two and three.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I’ve teed up some of that. In point two, he claims that Benedict resigns the ministerium, but not the munus of the papacy. In point three, he’s especially looking at a speech that Archbishop Ganswein gave, where he talks about an active member and a contemplative member. Ganswein is also super clear in his speech that he doesn’t think that there are two popes. He thinks there is one pope, and one person who shares in the Petrine ministry, but isn’t the pope, in the sense that we mean. I get that that’s confusing.

Cy Kellett:

It’s confusing. Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Another way of saying that is like, well, how many popes are there in one sense, there’s one Pope Francis. In another sense, there’s 265, because everyone has ever held that office shares in that Petrine ministry. What do we mean by that? Well, go back to the early church, the Council of Chalcedon, when Pope Leo intercedes. It’s called the Tome of Leo. The Council of Fathers, both Eastern and Western respond that Peter has spoken through Leo.

Joe Heschmeyer:

What they mean there is that even though one guy, Pope Leo, is the valid pope, in the juridical sense, the sense of who’s making the day-to-day calls, in this spiritual sense of this Petrine succession, Peter continues to intercede and he continues to work through his successors. So just as Benedict will continue to safeguard and protect the church after his death, he continues spiritually to do that in this contemplative role.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So he’s not making day-to-day calls. And he may not even agree with all the day to day calls that are made, but his role is to pray for the holy father, and to intercede for him in this unique, privileged place. So that’s, I think what we should understand, both this ministerium and munus distinction, and this speech by Archbishop Ganswein.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I think the other thing to say is like, none of the validity of this is going to turn on, well, a guy who knew the pope gave a speech that was potentially confusing. Worst case scenario, just say, well, maybe he should have had a speech writer take a look at that.

Cy Kellett:

Or maybe he’s just wrong. Maybe his conception of it is wrong. That would be fine too.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And so all of that’s to say, none of that invalidates his resignation. If you’re looking at evidence that Pope Francis isn’t the true pope because Benedict couldn’t validly resign properly or didn’t validly resign because he was like part of a secret plan, none of those … He crossed his fingers behind his back before he said he resigned theories hold water. You need something a lot more substantive than that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Look, the other thing, and I think this is worth just saying, because the first six of these seven or eight points that he makes are all about the validity of Benedict’s resignation. And so I want to just give you a little bit of the Canon law here. Because in Canon 332, it makes it clear, it’s super easy for a pope to resign. And here’s why, because the First See, the Holy See is judged by no one. The pope doesn’t have to report to his superiors, submit his two weeks notice and wait for them to approve it. He has no superiors on earth.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And so Canon 332 section one says the Roman pontiff obtains full and supreme power in the church by his acceptance of a legitimate election together with Episcopal consecration. And then it explains how to ordain someone. If you elect someone who’s not a bishop yet, but none of that applies here. Section two says, if it happens that the Roman pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested, but not that it is accepted by anyone. So in other words, he doesn’t have to tender his resignation to anyone. All that’s required is that he freely resigns. In other words, if you put a gun to the pope’s head and say, “Sign this or else.”

Cy Kellett:

That’s not valid resignation.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Exactly. If it’s done with coercion, you torture the pope, none of-

Cy Kellett:

Or even if the pope is mentally incapacitated and you just said, sign here, but he didn’t know, that would not be free.

Joe Heschmeyer:

But Pope Benedict has repeatedly, including in his resignation itself, stress that this is a free resignation. So the people claiming he’s still the pope have to say, he’s either diluted or he’s lying about it being a free resignation.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So I think I just stressed, the bar for validity is so low, that you would have to have some overwhelming of it. Someone was torturing him while this happened, and we’ve got the video, but there’s nothing. It’s like, well, he worded it in kind of a weird way. First, he didn’t. Like they’ve overthought it. But second, that’s not good enough. That’s not even close to enough evidence to throw into question the validity of the resignation.

Cy Kellett:

He had an intention, he made the intention clear, the intention was accepted by everybody.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And that’s all. In fact, even the intention being accepted by everybody isn’t even strictly required, but it was.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. But it’s-

Joe Heschmeyer:

All the cardinals, the ones who loved him, the ones who hated him, everybody came together, they participated in a conclave. Nobody sat out saying, “I don’t think he really resigned.” Everybody knew this was a valid resign.

Cy Kellett:

I imagine that there’s not that many people who love Pope Francis who are making this argument. It seems to me that this is related to a real disappointment of Pope Francis, and maybe a sense that there’s just something wrong with this whole Francis papacy. So when we have that kind of experience of something, this is really disappointing, I don’t like this at all, we sometimes cope through legalism.

Cy Kellett:

And I’ll give you an example. A couple years ago, the New Orleans Saints won the national football conference championship, and then it was taken away from them by the most obvious bad call in the history of football. And so there’s people say, “Well, they won it. Really they’re the champion.” And they mean it. But they’re not.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Yeah. St. Louis Cardinals fence. If you mention the call to them, they know that you mean the game six call in 1985 in which, what’s his name? Don Denkinger? The first base umpire in the Kansas City Royals Cardinals game calls a Royals player safe who is very clearly out, at the top of the ninth inning. We go on, the Royals go on to win that game. Cardinals fans were so upset about this that they lost the next game. It’s like they just gave up. That’s a loser.

Cy Kellett:

By the rules of the game, these things are wrong. These are bad calls. This shouldn’t have happened to the … Probably should have happened to the Cardinals, but it shouldn’t have … I don’t know. But it shouldn’t have happened to the Saints.

Joe Heschmeyer:

That’s more confusing here when we’re talking about Catholic cardinals.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. But that kind of legalism does not establish what actually happened in the real world.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yes. I mean, look at the last several elections in the U.S. The losing side always has some reason why their guy technically deserved to win or why the other guy technically deserved to lose. Allegations of voter fraud or Russian interference or-

Cy Kellett:

Hanging Chads.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Hanging Chads. Those ones are actually legitimately difficult questions. Hanging Chads actually went to the Supreme Court. Most of these, even if your guy gets trounced, the losing side will always say, well, on the technicality. Doesn’t matter how much Obama destroyed McCain by, he was born maybe in Kenya.

Cy Kellett:

Oh, that’s right. Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Those kind of things actually just win the election. Actually just persuade other people. But when we don’t want to do that, we try to find some technical legalistic reason why our side is right and the other side is wrong.

Cy Kellett:

Which brings us to point five.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Exactly.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So point five.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Point five is the most egregious example of this. He argues there’s three errors in the Latin, in the papal resignation.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Errors in the Latin of Benedict-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Benedict resignation.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And to that I would just say, even if that’s true, literally who cares?

Cy Kellett:

Literally doesn’t matter.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Go on the Vatican’s website, I could point you several translation errors and things. They’re frequent. This is not uncommon. And it has no bearing whatsoever. This is the equivalent of Wesley Snipes saying he doesn’t have to pay taxes because some versions of the 16th amendment had grammatical difference from other versions. It’s a bad argument, legally, it’s a worse argument theologically. That’s not how the real world works. It doesn’t turn on like, well, in this copy, you put a comma here, and in that copy, you put it there. Or you have it in the accusative-

Cy Kellett:

It’s called emissions and errors, right? Like it’s basic part of … Yeah. Okay. But if it’s incidental, it doesn’t matter.

Joe Heschmeyer:

It would be like saying, these two synoptic translations, Matthew says this, Mark says this, very similar thing. Because they have these slight variations in how they express Jesus’ words, can’t really say what he said, so we’ll just throw it all out. It doesn’t work. Like that’s a bad argument against Christianity. It’s a bad argument against Benedict’s resignation. That we expect that there’s going to be these minor differences. Who cares? It doesn’t matter.

Cy Kellett:

Point number six is there wasn’t a universal, peaceful acceptance of this election of Pope Francis.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now, that is a very obscure theory. Cardinal Louis Billot, I believe is how you pronounce … It’s French. Anyone who is a long time listener knows I’m a terrible French pronouncer, speaking of grammatical errors. Said this, basically just to break down the thesis, and other people have said it before. I think it goes back to John of St. Thomas.

Joe Heschmeyer:

That there are some elections that are going to be harder. You have a conclave and then two people come out and one of them claims to be the pope. And then another one also claims to be the pope. Or claims the election wasn’t valid and they need to redo it. You’ll occasionally have those in the history of the church. The most difficult of those was the so-called papal schism, or papal schism. That you have two, and then three people claiming to be the pope, and there’s a lot of confusion.

Cy Kellett:

Even saints were on both sides of-

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right. Those are the hard cases. The easy cases are where everyone says this one guy is the pope. You don’t have to take a closer look in those cases. You have to take a closer look in the hard cases.

Cy Kellett:

But either way, there is a legitimate pope in both cases.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right. Right.

Cy Kellett:

One of them is just hard to tell.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So far as we can tell, Optatus test of which one’s in Rome, St. Matthew, Peter and Paul is actually a really good … Yeah. Because it was the Roman line in the case of the papal schism. In Cardinal Billot test, his argument is if you’ve got universal, peaceful acceptance of the election, you have an infallible sign of the validity. That it doesn’t matter if you could go back and second guess this or that decision in the process, because you can always do that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

In every election you can say, well, was every cardinal acting in good faith? Here’s this grammatical thing over there. You can literally always do that. And you’ll be able to do that in the next papal election. I’m just calling it right now. And you’ll be able to do that in every election for the rest of your life. That’s terrible way to live your life as a Catholic. The guy everyone knows is the pope is the pope, is the easier way of expressing universal, peaceful acceptance.

Joe Heschmeyer:

If you ask Siri or ask Alexa, who is the pope? They’ll tell you Pope Francis. If you ask Pope Benedict, who is the pope, he’ll tell you Pope Francis. If you ask a Catholic or a non-Catholic, overwhelmingly they’re going to tell you Pope Francis. Now, in response to this, Patrick Coffin says, “Well, I thought he was weird from the beginning.” That’s not an argument, I think for a couple reasons.

Joe Heschmeyer:

First of all, universal doesn’t mean literally every single person on earth has to agree. In the same way we’re talking about development of doctrine about what’s always been believed by everyone everywhere, you can find heretics who didn’t believe it. We don’t mean it literally like every soul under heaven. Like St. Vincent’s canon, if you’re familiar with that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Likewise here, the fact that you found him weird doesn’t mean he wasn’t validly the pope. That’s not what universal peaceful acceptance means. The fact that it’s not peaceful in the sense you don’t like him, doesn’t mean that he’s not validly the pope. Everyone knows he’s the pope is basically the standard. And I think by that standard, you have enough to say, infallibly, we can know this is the pope.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. There were no cardinals who stood up and said, no, he’s not the pope. There was no-

Joe Heschmeyer:

There’s like two bishops, I think. There’s a retired bishop who thinks maybe Benedict is still the pope, but it is incredibly fringe. You don’t have a faction. And significantly, you don’t have a claimant, because Benedict doesn’t claim to be the pope.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. That’s a very interesting point. All right. So point number seven, and then we will get to what we’ve think is point number eight.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Let’s mark. We’re transitioning here. The first six points are all about the resignation. Now he’s going to turn to, well, regardless of the resignation, is the election of Pope Francis valid?

Cy Kellett:

And he does some quoting of Pope John Paul, who in the late 90s rewrote the rules for the election of a pope, but also in the context of rewriting the rules gave instructions, basically, and said, “And this is the spirit in which it should be done and all of that.” And he says that there’s a group called the St. Gallen Mafia, and there is such a group, but he’s saying they cheated, and they didn’t follow Pope John Paul II’s rules.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. So what he’s doing is he’s taking this 1996 Apostolic Constitution out of context. What he does is he blends together paragraph 79 and 81, and then goes to 82, and then tries to top it off with what would sound to anyone listening like the conclusion, but is actually way back up in 76. And it’s a very misleading presentation of what St. John Paul II has to say.

Joe Heschmeyer:

You can listen to him give it, but I’ll give a basic recap. He says in paragraph 79, now I want to mention in paragraph 79, 81 and 82, he’s dealing with what he calls matters to be observed or avoided in the election of the Roman pontiff. And some of these are literally just advisory. They’re him encouraging you as pope to do or not do certain things.

Joe Heschmeyer:

For instance, he says, if you get elected pope, he encourages you to accept that election. You’re free not to. You’re free to say, “I decline the election as pope.” He’s just giving you spiritual encouragement that God will give you the grace even if you don’t see how you could possibly be the pope. But we know that a man is free to decline the papacy. It’s happened before, it can happen again. But he’s also warning against certain things.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So in 79, he forbids anyone, even if he’s a cardinal, during the pope’s lifetime without consulting him, to make plans concerning the election of his successor, or to promise votes, or to make decisions in this regard in private gatherings. Now, he says there he’s confirming the prescriptions of his predecessors. Now, taken at a literal legalistic level, that would invalidate the document itself. Meaning, John Paul II is preparing for the election of his successor by laying out the procedure for the … That’s not what he’s talking about.

Cy Kellett:

What he’s talking about?

Joe Heschmeyer:

He’s talking about conspiracy like, okay, here’s our guy. We’re going to finagle to get him. But regularly you’ll have Catholics who say, “I’d really like to see this person become the next pope.” The term papabile is there for a reason. And this is really widespread. Now, maybe they shouldn’t do that. It doesn’t invalidate the election of Pope Francis. The Cardinal Ratzinger fan club that thought it would be great if Ratzinger became pope, and then he did, that didn’t invalidate his election. The fact that Catholics want one person and not another one to become the next pope is just not enough to render the next person not the pope.

Joe Heschmeyer:

There’s two other parts that are really critical about this. He looks at paragraph 81, 82. 82 just says not to make any promises, like any quid pro quo deals. And if you do, they’re not legally binding. Like if someone says, “I’ll vote for you, if you promise to do this,” and you say, “Okay,” John Paul II says that’s not binding. You can’t be forced into a quid pro quo in exchange for the papacy. In 81, he says the cardinal elector shall further abstain from any form of packed agreement promise, or other commitment of any kind, which could oblige them to give or deny their vote to a person or persons.

Joe Heschmeyer:

If this were in fact done, even under oath, I declare that such a commitment shall be null and void, and that no one shall be bound to observe it. And I hear by impose the penalty of excommunication, latae sententiae, upon those who violate this prohibition. It is not my intention, however, to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So let’s talk about what’s forbidden and what’s permitted by John Paul II’s schema there. What’s forbidden is this old thing that we had in the church for a long time where certain Catholic heads of state, specifically the Holy Roman emperor had a national veto. And we saw this exercise most controversially in the papal election of 1903, that one of the cardinals was elected by a majority, but the Holy Roman emperor didn’t like him. And so demanded that his cardinals or the cardinals in his country exercise this veto to prevent his election.

Joe Heschmeyer:

They actually refused to, but one of the Polish cardinals exercised that veto on behalf of the head of state. That kind of national interference in election is noxious, even by a Catholic head of state. And so the man who ended up winning that election on the next ballot, St. Pius X, quickly got rid of and forbade that national detail. That’s the kind of meddling we’re talking about. To take a modern example, if the Chinese government says cardinals in, you are required to vote for this candidate, and you’re required not to vote for that candidate, that kind of outside meddling is strictly forbidden. And the meddler is excommunicated.

Joe Heschmeyer:

That is a very, very different thing from saying, “I think you should support this candidate. I think they’d be really good.” That’s permitted. And not only is that permitted, that’s explicitly permitted. That it is not my intention, however, to forbid, during the period in which the See is vacant, the exchange of views concerning the election. In other words, this whole thing, the St. Gallen Mafia as it’s called, or the St. Gallen group, or the Circle of Friends as they call themselves, which actually sounds the most mafia like of all of them.

Cy Kellett:

That’s the scariest one.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. Right. It was a group of, I think it’s fair to say more liberal leaning bishops and cardinals in the church who would get together and spend time in St. Gallen, I think Switzerland. And there were only three of them or four of them who were still of voting age, by the time the conclave came about. They were not a majority. Anyone suggesting like, oh, they controlled the election. This is three or four votes.

Joe Heschmeyer:

They liked Cardinal Bergoglio. They probably had voted for him in the election in which Pope Benedict won, and he had probably declined, even though John Paul II would’ve said, “Oh, don’t decline.” And then he accepted in the second election. In that case, they might have encouraged everyone around them to vote for Cardinal Bergoglio. But that’s literally what happens at a conclave. In other words, at a conclave, it’s not like everyone votes, and then it just turns out one person on the first round of ballots got two thirds. Rarely do a majority or two thirds of the cardinals agree on who they think would be the number one pick.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So I might say, here are the three guys I would like to see as pope. Here are the three guys you’d like to see. Which one has the best prospect of winning? Who should we really support here? That kind of stuff happens at a conclave. This is why it’s a conclave. And not just everyone votes from home. You’re meant to convene. You’re meant to be in conclave. And the exchange of ideas is not forbidden, but encouraged. And that includes ideas, not just about who would be an ideal, but who’s an actually electable kind of candidate. Like maybe I love Cardinal Burke, but I know he’s not going to get more than one or two votes.

Joe Heschmeyer:

So I decide, “Okay. Well, I also like this other cardinal over here.” That sort of thing is explicitly permitted. So to the extent the accusation is that cardinals we didn’t like conspired by trying to get other people to support Bergoglio, that’s literally what they’re supposed to do. We may not like the direction they exercise their influence. That’s not a crime. They’re not excommunicated. And that doesn’t invalidate the election.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Which leaves to the last point on this kind of 1996 Apostolic Constitution, Patrick quotes this line, should the election take place in a way other than that prescribed in the present constitution, or should the conditions laid down here not be observed, the election is for this very reason, null and void. Without any need for declaration on the matter, consequently it confers no right on the one elected.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Now, that sounds really ominous in light of all the paragraphs we just saw. Like what if somebody does a thing that pope told them not to do? Here’s a problem. That line doesn’t come at the end of this section. That line was well before it. That line comes in paragraph 76. This is really important. So section five of the document, this is paragraph 62 to 77, lays out the election procedure. And if you don’t follow the election procedure, you do something really weird, you don’t actually have the election, you do something else, that’s not a papal election.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right. Right. We’ll just flip a coin.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah, exactly. Something like that.

Cy Kellett:

No, that’s not a valid election. There was a procedure to elect the pope, and you didn’t follow it.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And then after that, and after that kind of warning, you then turn in section six, beginning with paragraph 78, the matters to be observed or avoided in the election of the Roman pontiff. In other words, while you have a valid election, how should you conduct yourself as individual cardinals? And in a way that does justice to your calling?

Joe Heschmeyer:

That has nothing to do with the validity of the election. In the same way that we can say, here’s how to have a valid U.S. election. And then we can say, and also get out and vote. That get out and vote does not mean if someone doesn’t vote, therefore the whole U.S. presidential election is invalid.

Cy Kellett:

Especially because it became after the declaration that if you don’t do these things.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And one section is clearly labeled as a procedure, and one section is clearly labeled as rules of conduct for how individuals should conduct themselves.

Cy Kellett:

All right. I think we’ve covered that one.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I think that’s the most common objection that you’ll hear for why Pope Francis isn’t validly the pope. I mean, you always have to get to the papal resignation stuff, but even if he resigned validly, people say, “Well, it doesn’t matter. Maybe there just is no pope because we can’t accept this election.” And it’s based on a fundamentally, I would even go so far as to say dishonest read of the document in that it’s moving paragraphs around in places they aren’t, to try to make them say something that they don’t.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. Let’s do some audio now because we were saying … Patrick gives us seven pieces of evidence that Francis is an antipope, but there’s kind of an eighth. And so this is the eighth. Let’s hear that audio.

Patrick Coffin:

Catholics who are absolutely resistant to the possibility that Francis is our latest antipope, are in a bind. They have to keep defending, have to keep domesticating and explaining away the words and deeds of the one person in the world most responsible for destroying the reputation and integrity of the Catholic faith.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. So that’s what we might call, I don’t know, it is a little bit, you might call that an emotional appeal, but they’re is an argument there.

Joe Heschmeyer:

It goes on from there for a few minutes of just him saying, here’s a bad thing that you don’t like. Here’s a bad thing you don’t like that Pope Francis did.

Cy Kellett:

How can you explain that? And the fact is I think that he’s wrong about our obligation to explain it.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yes. It’s very much the same argument that an atheist says, well, how can you believe in a loving God? How do you explain cancer? How do you explain this kid who dies in a fire? And the answer in both cases is I can’t. I don’t need to though, because it’s not impossible that there’s a reason I don’t know why Jesus is permitting a certain thing to happen. So there’s really two levels here.

Joe Heschmeyer:

One is that some of the things on this long litany, he mentions that the head of Pfizer met with Pope Francis. That’s just not a scandal. Even people who may be morally odious meet with the pope regularly. You’ll have no shortage of those examples with every pope that they’ve … Was it Leo or Gregory who met with Attila the Hun? It won’t have any shortage. He even throws in the line, we can only speculate about whether money exchange happens, which is just outright calumny.

Cy Kellett:

You should not say something like that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Like maybe he bribed him. That’s unhinged. I’m sorry, but that crosses such a clear line of Christian charity. Oh, well maybe the pope accepted money from Attila the Hun too. Here’s some letters to Genghis Khan. Maybe the pope was secretly [inaudible 00:50:17]. No, just stop. You deserve better than that as a Christian, and you owe your neighbor, especially your neighbor who’s your spiritual father, better than that, as a Christian. Even if you don’t believe Pope Francis is the pope, even if Protestant owes-

Cy Kellett:

Don’t accuse him of taking a bribe.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Exactly. That’s such a base allegation for which there’s literally zero evidence, other than that a person who has money met with the pope. Which if that’s your standard, every pope throughout history must have taken bribes because all of them encountered rich people.

Cy Kellett:

Okay. But there are things that a reasonable person might find quite scandalous about Pope Francis. And might be quite actually scandalized about. A person at home, I don’t know, who really teaches natural family planning, has lived natural family planning, has a good size family. I don’t know a big family, nine kids, 10 kids.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Rabbit sized.

Cy Kellett:

And then the pope says on an airplane, Catholics don’t have to breed like rabbits. Might find that cruel and insulting that the pope said that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yes. Discouraging at the very least.

Cy Kellett:

And discouraging. Yes.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I mean, because especially, it does hit close to home, because it sounds like-

Cy Kellett:

It’s not technically wrong. I mean, no one has to breed like a rabbit. You’re a human being. That scandalizes people. I don’t want to just focus on the ones that Patrick might be wrong about, but what about what he’s right about? And he says, if you’re going to say that this is a legitimate pope, how do you explain that?

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I want to give a nuanced answer to it. I want to say there’s a few categories. One are things that the pope just wasn’t wrong about. Two would be things that the pope seems like he’s wrong about, but maybe have been taken out of context. Three are things that I think he’s wrong about because I’m wrong, and I actually need to learn from him. There’s a reason I’m leading with those three, because I don’t want to just assume every time I disagree with him I’m right and he’s wrong. But there are times when I think I’m right and he’s wrong.

Joe Heschmeyer:

There are times where I think that was the wrong thing to do, and that’s not new. We’ve got John Paul II license plates, but I think kissing the Quran when he’s overseas was a huge blunder. I think the Assisi conference was inadvertently a desecration of holy places. I think it was well-intentioned and totally misguided. I think there are times when even holy people sin. And you know who else? The Catholic church.

Joe Heschmeyer:

There’s two signs of a coin here that I think we have to be very cautious of. There are people who in their attempt to defend the papacy, think they need to defend everything the pope says and does. And they’ll defend the things that are probably indefensible. On the other hand, there’s people making the argument Patrick Coffin is making that if you believe in the papacy, you have to defend everything he says and does, and they’re making the same argument, and in both cases is false. It’s not what the Catholic church teaches. The pope is not infallible in everything he says and does. It’s okay to think that a prudential decision was imprudent. It’s okay to think that some non-dogmatic statement was imprudent or even false. That is well within what the church teaches.

Cy Kellett:

But I want to go a little further than that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yes.

Cy Kellett:

You could have a really bad pope who materially damages the prospects of Christianity, and even turns whole sections of the planet against Christianity, but that doesn’t mean he’s not the legitimate pope, and that God doesn’t have a reason for allowing that.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Exactly. There was a period in the church’s history that was called the pornocracy, because of how pornographic the ninth century popes were. And they were gross. And I’m not sure that those popes ever were in heaven. And if they were, it speaks to a repentance or the incredible mercy of God. That it was-

Cy Kellett:

I’m going to go with number two.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. The saeculum obscurum, the dark age of the papacy was really dark. Not like this dark age in the sense of lack of learning. I just mean there was a period of real moral corruption, that you had a series of bad popes. You go back to the renaissance-

Cy Kellett:

They’re like Roman emperors in a way. They competed with Caligula for [inaudible 00:54:36].

Joe Heschmeyer:

And again, we can say some of this stuff we only know through their enemies, and so it may be over inflated and all of that. But even if it wasn’t-

Cy Kellett:

That’s true with Caligula too.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Not true. But even if it wasn’t, they aren’t making some statement on faith and morals in an infallible kind of way that is … We can say that person is our spiritual father and he’s an imperfect, maybe even a bad father. Those two claims are non-incompatible. And so Patrick’s challenge that if you’re a Catholic who believes the pope is the pope, you have to defend everything he says and does, would be an impossible standard historically. To say, oh, you have to defend John XXII, denying that the saints enjoys the Beatific vision.

Joe Heschmeyer:

He denied [inaudible 00:55:19], and was quickly corrected by the theologians of the University of Paris. Popes make mistakes. They sin. They commit errors from time to time. None of that contradicts what the church teaches about papal infallibility. All of that is well within the scope of what we believe as Catholics. And so trying to hold the papacy to this impossibly high standard, or trying to hold individual Catholics to the impossibly high standard of explain why Jesus permits a bad thing to happen, that’s bad theology.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And in either way, bad things are happening. If the church is so corrupt that a pope had to fake retire to bring out all the corruption, if that’s the truth, I’m going to need Jesus to explain that to me too. Do you see what I’m saying? Like if I’m going to demand answers from Jesus, I’m going to need an answer for all of this.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Right. If you’re going to say that Catholics who believe the pope is the pope, have to explain every bad thing that happens under his watch, then Patrick’s own side would seemingly have to explain all of that and why Jesus permitted a fake papal resignation. Permitted the real pope to lie about being the pope. Plus all of that bad stuff that still actually happened. It’s a matter of history at this point that Pope Francis said certain things, and that people were scandalized by it, and maybe even walked away from the faith.

Joe Heschmeyer:

That’s not something that goes away if you just say, well, he wasn’t really the pope. You still have to explain, well, why did Jesus let everyone think he was the pope then? You aren’t solving the problem of evil, you’re compounding it by hypothesizing an elaborate conspiracy theory that’s apparently motiveless.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. And you’re taking an obviously saintly man and saying he’s a liar and a deceiver.

Joe Heschmeyer:

It does no service to Pope Benedict to say that he’s lying about not being pope.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Or even in some Jesuitical way. Maybe not lying. None of that is the case.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And also it’s insulting to everyone’s intelligence to say he thought he resigned, but he didn’t understand the papacy as well as I do. Like this is one of the greatest theologians in the church, you think you’re going to get him on some technicality on the difference between munus and ministera? It’s just…

Cy Kellett:

All right. So before we close then, and I’m very grateful that you came and did this with us. I do think this needs to be addressed. I think that the danger is a kind of continuing to scratch at the itch of people’s conscience, of people’s misunderstanding and confusion and all that. So that those who really should be at peace about certain things cannot find any peace, and are put in a state of great anxiety or terror or something like that. The truth is Pope Francis is the legitimate and true pope of the Catholic church. Even if he won’t say it himself, he’s the vicar of Christ.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And he also has said it himself.

Cy Kellett:

He doesn’t use the word vicar of Christ.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Oh, he has recently 2019.

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. But he-

Joe Heschmeyer:

It’s not in a Pontifical yearbook. That’s the-

Cy Kellett:

Yeah. Right. But he is the vicar of Christ. Is he the best one ever? Is he the worst one ever? I leave it to your judgment. But he is the one who holds that office quite legitimately. And the Lord holds all of us in His hand, He can change that when He is ready to change it.

Joe Heschmeyer:

And let’s just point out, you don’t really need to decide who your favorite and least favorite pope is. In the same way like when you hear the instruction, obey your father and mother, it doesn’t say, rank your father and mother compared to all other fathers and mothers. Maybe you give your dad a world’s best dad mug. Hopefully you don’t give him a world’s worst dad mug. But whether you think he is the best or worst dad, that doesn’t change the commandment.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I hope people listening to this are finding their minds put to rest by two things. Number one, Jesus isn’t trying to trick you. The successor of Peter is the one who’s obviously the successor of Peter. And that’s Pope Francis. Number two, our duty is to obey, and we don’t have to adjudicate how well we think we could do the job compared to him. Or, I don’t think he should have done that, or … You don’t have to do that. Don’t worry about that. Jesus is very clear about the mind your own business passages. Like in John 21, when St. Peter’s asking about John, and Jesus says, “What is that to you? Come follow me.” There it is. You don’t have to decide John’s business, you need to follow Jesus.

Cy Kellett:

And this is something I think we want to always attend to ourselves and encourage our fellow Catholics to attend to, which is, there’s nothing in the world that’s stopping you from embracing the fullness of the gospel and living it. And that’s what you’re called to. And that I know saintly Catholics, who I think actually, and genuinely saintly Catholics, who I think barely know who the pope is, they’re not thinking about that. They’re thinking about the people they’re feeding at the food pantry this Saturday. They’re thinking about who’s assigned to clean the altar garments this week. That’s not a bad way to be. I mean, most of the saints never really bothered much with who was the pope at the time. They just went out and they were saints.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Yeah. I think that there is a major problem, being too online and adjudicating every controversy, even the ones that don’t need to be adjudicated. There was a great piece on Catholic culture recently. It may have been by Phil Lawler. It may have been my Jeff Meir, I don’t remember. But it made this argument, basically that there are people who are spending a lot of time worrying on, what if the pope, or what if the bishop orders me to do something immoral?

Joe Heschmeyer:

But the examples of that historically, including in the present pontificate are so exceedingly rare. That maybe the pope says something that makes it seem like sin is okay, but he’s not ordering you to sin. And so your duty is to obey Christ and follow Christ. You don’t have to disobey the pope. Like this imaginary crisis of, I need to choose between obedience to Christ or obedience to his vicar, is an imaginary one, which is ironically way more spiritually dangerous in real life than the elaborate hypotheticals people are dreaming up.

Joe Heschmeyer:

I had a woman in adoration harangue me about whether the pope is going to order priests to do gay marriages. It’s an unhinged conspiracy theory that never happened and never will happen. Those kind of things, the lack of obedience and the lack of charity coming out of a totally implausible hypothetical scenario are doing real spiritual damage today, to try to protect against an imaginary threat tomorrow. That’s not of God. Like sin now because you might be forced to choose obedience or schism later. Don’t. Just don’t fall for that trap is what I would encourage people to do. If you’re anxious, if you’re worried about tomorrow, spend less time online, spend more time in prayer, and live more in today rather than fretting about the past or the future.

Cy Kellett:

Thanks, Joe. Really appreciate it.

Joe Heschmeyer:

My pleasure.

Cy Kellett:

It feels so sensitive to have this conversation, given who Patrick Coffin is and what he has meant to this apostle, what he’s meant to so many people, but I think it’s okay to disagree every now and then. I hope we disagreed in a respectful way. I hope you agree. And I hope you found all of this interesting. We’re very grateful to Joe Heschmeyer for sitting down and having this conversation with us.

Cy Kellett:

If you find this kind of conversation interesting, and you’d like to have more of it, please subscribe. We do this every week. There’ll be another episode later this week. As a matter of fact, we’d love it if you would subscribe, whether you’re listening on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or one of the other services, or if you’re watching us on YouTube where we’re really trying to grow this channel.

Cy Kellett:

If you’d like to give us some comments, we’d love to hear your feedback. Just throw them down in the comments or send us an email at [email protected] [email protected] Don’t forget if you do like this material, if you hit the like button, that helps us grow as well. I think we’ll leave it right there. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Thanks for being with us. We’ll see you next time, God willing, right here on Catholic Answers Focus.

 

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