Forming the loyal opposition


“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial
that will shake the faith of many believers.” – CCC 675

What was once unthinkable for many loyal Catholics has now become a necessity: open, public opposition to the designs of a pope. That is because Pope Francis is pushing hard for “reforms” that constitute a positive threat to every Christian marriage. You, Mr. and Mrs. Catholic, need to take this direct attack very personally. If there were ever any doubt that Pope Francis himself is behind the push to undermine Catholic discipline on marriage and the sacraments, that doubt should be firmly dispelled by his actions of the past year. He called an Extraordinary Synod specifically for this purpose. He has been constantly dropping un-subtle hints in his interviews, homilies, exhortations, and public acts. He has appointed men who support this agenda to positions of great influence. Likewise, he has removed or marginalized influential prelates who seemed likely to resist, most shockingly the brilliant and devout Cardinal Raymond Burke. The pope has now established a commission to completely “streamline” the annulment process, something no one expected to happen until after the Synod. He is obviously in a hurry and wants to keep the Synod fathers in check. The result will probably look a lot like what Bishop Tobin recently proposed (something he would never have dared to suggest without positive signals from Rome), effectively making annulments as easy to obtain as a no-fault divorce.

If Pope Francis succeeds in his designs, the traditional presumption of validity – so essential to the legal protection of marriage – will be turned on its head. Every Christian marriage will be perceived as a candidate for “annulment” predicated on the subjective whims of the spouses, resulting in tentative vows with one eye on the annulment door should “for better or worse” come to the point of “worse”. Remember, behind all of this mischief is the pope’s wild (and irresponsibly public) estimation that half of marriages are invalid anyway, a notion that he first floated in the famous airplane interview following World Youth Day.

Even more disturbing than the attack on marriage is the threat of ecclesiastically sanctioned sacrilege. Once divorced and remarried Catholics with spurious annulments are admitted to holy communion, there will be a push to formally admit everyone else – cohabitators (including same-sex couples), non-Catholics, and ordinary sinners who once thought they needed to be in a state of grace.

The question is: what can be done? We should pray, of course, like we’ve never prayed before, for Our Lord to save His Church and defend His people. But the Catholic faithful – that is, the orthodox core of the Church that receives the Faith with gratitude and guards it with zeal – need to make it clear that they oppose, reject, and condemn unequivocally any “reforms” that undermine the teachings of Jesus Christ on marriage. It is time to speak out, to write, to blog, to study possible responses, to play a little chess. The faithful, who can no longer rely on their pope to defend the truth, will also need a leader or group of leaders to organize them and strengthen their morale. Good priests and bishops who may have been in “wait and see” mode, hoping to teach and sanctify quietly, should consider whether the timing is right to publicly choose their side, speak directly to the crisis, and come to the assistance of the faithful. If the pope’s commission goes his way, and if the Synod goes his way, and if his “reforms” are finally imposed on the Church, I will expect the loyal opposition in the hierarchy to crystallize. Despite growing ecclesiastical confusion, I do believe that clarity is around the corner.


8 thoughts on “Forming the loyal opposition

  1. Nice to see you post again…

    I’ve made similar comments and posts already along the same vein, none of which are encouraging. It is a surety that if the rules and disciplines are relaxed, it will neuter 2/3rds of the marriage bona, the last one – Procreation – having already been neutered via contraception and NFP. The need for a Catholic Nuptial Mass or even pre-Cana conferences will be a moot point, as the Church will have effectively said “Your first marriage probably won’t be permanent, but that’s OK, ’cause you can do it all over again in a few years if it isn’t. And it’ll be OK, too. Here’s your coupon for a “Get Out of Marriage Free” card. Thanks, and pay at the front desk.” Far-fetched? Not so much, anymore…


  2. While what Pope Francis is doing is obvious, the damage you write has been on going for a while now though the separation and annulment scandal and its underlying causes.

    “You, Mr. and Mrs. Catholic, need to take this direct attack very personally.”

    I take it very personally ever since an FSSP priest gave my wife marriage advice that made me want to strangle him. In other words, the enemy at the gate are not those who are easily seen for what they are, but the overall culture we have all been inured into.


  3. Paul VI faced a similar situation with respect to contraception. Anscombe puts the point well:

    “From ’64 onwards there was an immense amount of propaganda for the reversal of previous teaching. You will remember it. Then, with the whole world baying at him to change, the Pope acted as Peter. ‘Simon, Simon,’ Our Lord said to Peter, ‘Satan has wanted to have you all to sift like wheat, but I have prayed for thee that thy faith should not fail: thou, being converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ Thus Paul confirmed the only doctrine which had ever appeared as the teaching of the Church on these things; and in so doing incurred the execration of the world.”

    It seems we may now have the opposite situation: the Pope may be seeking to loosen a discipline that many others in the hierarchy wish to uphold. I believe that God will preserve the Church from error, but even a supposed question of discipline can create fair amount of mischief and confusion (and, as you rightly point out, there are deep-seated doctrinal issues here). We can only pray that the synod “strengthens” the brethren.

    Mr. Culbreath, if you have a moment, what would you consider to be a successful resolution to the synod?


    • True, Paul VI sort of confirmed the doctrine (I suppose in some circles there is argument whether he put the unitive and procreative aspects on equal footing, and if that constitutes change), which then whet largely ignored. I suspect a similar outcome here – “official” confirmation of the doctrine with due pastoral concern for the particular situation as each is presented. Enough ambiguity to allow room for basically conflicting interpretation on a case by case basis.


  4. R.C.: A successful outcome for the Synod would be a specific commitment to: 1) eliminate frivolous justifications for annulment now encouraged by canon law; 2) restore orthodox catechesis on marriage; 3) restore orthodox catechesis on reception of holy communion; 4) restore traditional discipline re: reception of holy communion.


  5. The threefold power of the Church’s Government (Legislative, Judicial, Coercive) was destroyed during the 1962-1965 B.C.E and so we Christian Catholics have a govt that issues laws ( H.V.. for instance) absent coercion (punishment administered to those who violate it) and so H.V. is really but a counsel.

    The refusal of the Church to actualise the authority/power given to it by Christ means chaos and there is not one blessed thing we can do about it other than to keep promoting the traditional teachings of the Church publicly


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