This is a post I’ve contemplated writing for a while but have been very reluctant to do. The title alone should indicate why but rather than just make this statement, I want to give some background to my thinking on this issue and how I have come to this conclusion. Pure reason works on exceedingly few minds and I would humbly include my own among the multitude. I freely admit that this post will be much more personal than academic (when are blogs ever otherwise?), though I will do my best to thread it together with my reasoning.
In short, I no longer believe that Benedict XVI validly resigned and therefore believe that he remains the Vicar of Christ — the Pope. It follows from this that Pope Francis is an Antipope and every official function he has performed since his election in 2013 is invalid.
From here I will do my best to explain how I came to this conclusion.
I have been following Ann Barnhardt’s blog for many years now — even before I was received into the church in 2017. Since 2016, she has openly stated that she believes with moral certainty that Pope Benedict XVI resignation was invalid and that Pope Francis is therefor an Antipope. She has done extensive presentations on this in both written and visual formats. She is not alone in this as other notable Catholics such as Patrick Coffin and Dr. Edmund Mazza have also come out believing the same thing though coming to their conclusion in different ways. There are also a number of other prominent Catholics who have written books though I have not read any of these as of writing. Dr. Taylor Marshall was a big influence on me during my conversion and while not openly believing Francis’ election was invalid, certainly does not dismiss the possibility and to his credit — is not afraid to talk about it. Most recently Archbishop Viganò has all but come out as well and has for a long time referred to Pope Francis as “Bergoglio” in his various interviews and public letters.
As I covered in a more recent post on another topic, financial considerations are certainly influencing many prominent Catholics whether they are in traditional or more mainstream circles. Even throwing into question the validity of Pope Francis could end the careers of many within the church whether lay or religious. So one can not help but suspect that there are many who may have private misgivings but are too afraid to say so.
I could put my reluctance down to a few things. For a long time, I wasn’t sure though I was never willing to dismiss the possibility. Many prominent Catholics explained away questionable things Francis has said over the years as mistranslations or misunderstandings and at least in the early years, this was more plausible than not. There is a difference between reported speech published in newspapers and what comes directly from Francis himself. There are also inevitably misunderstandings due to language differences and due to the precision required when discussing matters of doctrine.
A big turning point was his refusal to respond to the dubia (doubts) by four cardinals in response to his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. This raised eyebrows due to the apparent contradiction with church teaching on marriage. Without going into detail, the main point to take away is that it is getting close to six years since the dubia and it has not been addressed at all. Given the high position of the people who wrote to him and the properly respectful method through which it was delivered, there is no good reason why he should not have responded very soon after.
Things have only gotten worse as the years have gone by. For a while it seemed barely a month was able to pass without something controversial being said or done by Francis. These slips became harder and harder to explain away as misunderstandings. Then there was the deeply disturbing Amazon Synod in 2019 which had a pagan goddess placed on altars and truly reality bending attempts to explain this away. This I think was a turning point for many but I remained silent. Then came 2020.
In 2020 it seemed the world turned upside down and it has not righted itself two years later. Perhaps it would be more apt for Catholics to compare it to a violent storm at sea. Catholics are on a ship — the bark of St. Peter, but the captain has been anything but reassuring to his passengers and crew in navigating the storm. Indeed he is steering straight into it with tacit support from many senior officers and crew. The response to the pandemic and vaccines was particularly disturbing as was his openly allying with many elements that have always been hostile to the church. Last years Traditionis Custodes which was the subject of my post around the same time was another blow and an abrogation of Pope Benedict XV’s Summorum Pontificum. There are whispers of worse to come and the total acceleration of evil happenings in the world since has even shocked many including those who aren’t religious at all. What is more damaging than any one example I could give, is the total lack of certainty from a person who Catholics should be able to look to for precisely that.
Different arguments can appeal to different people and one area I found particularly troubling was some questionable canonisations since 2013. Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have all been canonised and Pope John Paul I is about to be. Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII have not been. From what I know of all of these people, if I had to choose one, it would be one of the latter three. This I state with due respect to all as I grew up greatly admiring Pope John Paul II even though I wasn’t a Catholic. I’ve always been fond of him but since learning more about his pontificate — particularly episodes such as his kissing a Koran, I think at the very least, the process for canonisation should have gone on longer.
This is a problem that predates 2013 to some extent but it is a problem. A saint I’ve come great to admire since my conversion and who is one of my favourites, St. Thomas More was not canonised until four hundred years after his martyrdom. Another great, St. John Fisher, the only bishop to stand up to King Henry VIII, was canonised at the same time. St. Joan of Arc waited almost 500. There are examples to be sure of saints canonised earlier as St. Thérèse of Lisieux was within thirty years of her death but this is rare and she was obviously an exceptional young woman.
It is not lost on me that if these canonisations are invalid then some more deserving aren’t either. This would include St. Thérèse’s parents and St. John Henry Newman. This does make things somewhat messy but when things are put right, those deserving of the honour will receive it in time. Indeed, anyone deserving of the title would no doubt be happy to wait until the end of time for the sake of the church. Earthly rewards are nothing to those that heaven gives.
I think the reason these questionable canonsiations bother me so much is that saints are heroes of the church. They are supposed to be people we look up to and admire whether for their bravery, piety, the suffering they endured or simply a life of service. More often than not, all these qualities are present. There can’t be any question with the process and when there are even the slightest doubts about their sanctity. The current church, I’m afraid, gives a poor reflection when we look upon our saints of old.
There are many other arguments made but the one regarding saints is one I believe gets little emphasis but it is certainly of great importance. Others that have been covered more are Benedict XVI’s continued appearances in white and use of the apostolic blessing, the suspected coercion behind his resignation, the language he used in resigning, his confusion about the nature of his office, the shenanigans during the conclave etc. These despite what critics say, are all enough to warrant investigation at the very least. The withered fruits of the current papacy though are more outward evidence that something is very, very wrong.
Even with all I’ve mentioned, I was still reluctant to take the position I now have because of how new I was to the Catholic Faith. I was only received into the church five years ago. I only began attending church seven years ago. Who am I to tell Cradle Catholics who the pope is? Who am I to disagree with priests, bishops, professors, teachers and other prominent Catholics? These doubts have certainly swelled up in me as have other considerations. For example, won’t this be confusing for my children? Could openly stating this cause more harm than good? These are all questions worth asking but the simple answer is the truth should prevail however hard it may be.
Although I am not employed within the church, I do have financial as well as social incentive to remain silent about this. My employment, many friends and acquaintances are all potentially affected by being open about this. Most Catholics I know are very troubled by Francis but would stop well short of denying he is the pope. Cowardice is therefore also a reason for my reluctance to come to the conclusion I am honestly drawn to.
As of writing, I have not shared this with any acquaintances or friends within the church but I am planning to. As with many things in recent years, I would love to be found wrong. Part of me would love for this all to be a mistake and for the path the church is going in to somehow be the right one. Here the saints are brought to mind again as I can’t reconcile the church they served and the lives they lived with who and what I see at the head of the church today. I could spend thousands more words noting the contradictions, inconsistencies and outrages but I don’t think it is necessary.
Sharing this will certainly be difficult but not as difficult in a way as what I’ve been doing. I was asked for example very recently by someone in the Greek Orthodox church whether I believed in papal infallibility. I stated that I did and left it at that. Lingering there was what was unsaid. Even with what Pope Francis has said and done? The answers that served in 2013 about the conditions of papal infallibility no longer work with this wrecking ball of a papacy. Any day some new outrage will happen but the outrages that have already happened require increasingly desperate rationalisation and that I can’t do anymore. I also can’t leave church because I truly believe it is what it has always claimed to be and that it has long been undergoing an internal calamity that has manifest itself more openly in the last decade.
I will continue to attend, pray and obey the church but I can no longer acknowledge Pope Francis as the pope. I will avoid using this title from now on and when I refer to the pope, I will have Benedict XVI in mind. I hope and pray that this is rectified in my natural lifetime, but my stand is not contingent on this as it could go on for a long time yet. We could well see further confusion when either Pope Benedict XVI or Bergoglio dies. Both are very all and it seems something of a miracle that the latter still lives.
Pray for the Holy Mother Church!
Note: I may make changes to this post at times but the thrust of my position will not change.