March 30, 2013, IN THE FIRST MONTH OF FRANCIS’ PONTIFICATE; edited on October 7, 2013 – Two Hearts Press LLC (www.TwoHeartsPress.com).
By Dr. Kelly Bowring, Author of best-sellers “The Secrets, Chastisement, and Triumph” and “The Signs of the Times”
There is a plethora of biblical prophecy and private revelation that some are interpreting today to indicate the possibility that a Pope may become the false prophet (click here for a discussion of some of them). All prophecy is fulfilled in its time.
What do we make of such private revelation? We must be cautious, and continue to discern with prayer and docility to the Church and the Holy Spirit, and even be open to considering such prophecies as possibly being true, while remembering the words of Pope Urban VIII: “In cases which concern private revelations, it is better to believe than not to believe, for, if you believe, and it is proven true, you will be happy that you have believed, because our Holy Mother asked it. If you believe, and it should be proven false, you will receive all blessings as if it had been true, because you believed it to be true.”
One of the serious issues that are raised by some recently reported heavenly messages regards the notion that Pope Benedict XVI would leave the papacy before he died and that his successor would be the false prophet (as discussed in Revelation 13). This is a difficult message and must be considered with delicate discernment. What is clear is that at least part of this prophecy came true — Pope Benedict XVI “resigned”. But whether this prophecy about his successor being the false prophet is true or not, we do not know.
Even if it were true about the Pope being the false prophet, we must never take it upon ourselves to decide as such… we must wait for the Church to direct us in such matters. No matter what, we must remain faithful to the Church. And while we have seen some strong contention expressed recently by various Cardinals, including Cardinals Burke, Müller and Caffarra, about some of the things Pope Francis (and his theologian Cardinal Kasper) is saying and doing, we are never personally permitted to believe the Pope is invalid, unless the highest legitimate authority of the Church (possibly including Pope emeritus Benedict himself) were to indicate that he is. This would indeed happen if Pope Francis ever officially denied or changed a doctrine of faith and morals.
So, we must also be cautious about and even somewhat critical concerning any prophecy that is construed to be related to the current Pope, and in this current challenging situation we must personally declare the following:
1. I accept the teaching of the Universal Catholic Church that the Pope when speaking on faith and morals is infallible.
2. I accept, as legitimately elected by the recent conclave, Pope Francis (as the validly elected Pope).
This includes “all acts of the Magisterium [which] derive from the same source, that is, from Christ… For this same reason, magisterial decisions in matters of discipline, even if they are not guaranteed by the charism of infallibility, are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful” (Donum Veritatis), which every member of the Catholic faithful is obliged to offer Pope Francis.
Time Will Tell
Time will make things more clear in this delicate matter, as to whether various prophecies and biblical and heavenly messages deserve increased regard or repudiation concerning Pope Francis. Otherwise, these various prophecies will continue to validate themselves as events unfold and they come true.
Important Question and Clarification
The most common question people are asking right now about such prophecies is whether a validly elected Pope could even be the false prophet. The answer is – YES.
Though, while it is possible, it would be quite improbable.
So, how could it happen that a validly-elected Pope could become the false prophet (an invalid pope or an anti-pope)?
Pope Paul IV’s Papal Bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio teaches that if anyone was a heretic before the Papal election, he could not be a valid Pope, even if he is (validly) elected unanimously by the Cardinals.
As well, Canon 188.4 (1917 Code of Canon Law) states that if a cleric (pope, bishop, etc.) becomes a heretic, he loses his office, without any declaration, by operation of law.
Can. 194 §1. (1983 Code of Canon Law) confirms:
“The following are removed from an ecclesiastical office by the law itself:
– a person who has publicly defected from the Catholic faith or from the communion of the Church;
§2. The removal can be enforced only if it is established by the declaration of a competent authority.”
St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Antonius, St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and many other theologians all taught that a heretic cannot be a valid pope.
“If however, God were to permit a pope to become
a notoriously and contumacious heretic,
he would by such fact cease to be pope,
and the apostolic chair would be vacant.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Church Doctor
Here are some more citations on this possibility: http://www.protestanterrors.com/pope-heresy.htm
However, ecclesiastical law requires that the faithful must presume we have a valid Pope, unless the Church’s highest authority formally declares otherwise.
So, one may consider the possibility that an “anti-pope” could potentially come from a valid conclave, and this does not constitute a false or “heretical” position.
Thus, it is actually possible to remain faithful to the Magisterium AND consider that the prophecies about Pope Francis being the false prophet plausibly might be authentic… and even that the Church herself states that this IS at least possible.
Criticizing and Disobeying a Pope
We might ask whether it is ever acceptable to criticize the Pope. The answer is ‘yes’. An example of this was done in Scripture by St. Paul who confronted Pope St. Peter, writing about the encounter saying: “And when Cephas (Pope St. Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him, before everyone, to his face because he clearly was wrong” (Galatians 2:11-14). St. Thomas Aquinas confirms, saying: “There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects.” Explaining the correctness of resisting wayward ecclesiastics, even popes, St. Augustine writes, “It is possible for subordinates to have the boldness to resist their superiors without fear, when in all charity they speak out in the defense of truth.”
How to Treat a Heretical Pope
The Popes themselves teach it is possible for a Pope to be a heretic. What to do if this happens? Ven. Pius IX answers: “If a future pope teaches anything contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him.”
The Saints agree. Even if the many should follow the Pope into heresy, and “even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ,” says St. Athanasius.
St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., even wrote as follows:
“Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body, it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed.”
Time will make this matter more clear.
May the Lord continue to guide us in His truth and in faithfulness to His Church.
For more information on biblical and modern prophecies and how they relate to the signs of the times, go to www.TwoHeartsPress.com.