Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is on a crusade to combat what he sees as a serious problem, “hypertrophic ultramontanism,” a condition he defines as follows:
A sort of excessive adherence to the person and policies of the pope by which one simplistically takes everything he says as a definitive judgment and everything he does as a praiseworthy example, wrapping the mantle of infallibility around all his teachings and the garment of impeccability around all his behavior.
I think we can all agree that this is one seriously distorted view of the papacy!
One wonders, however, where are those who genuinely think that everything Francis says – his numerous interviews, speeches, in-air pressers, etc. – is definitive? Exactly who is guilty of wrapping all of his teachings – heck, any of his teachings for that matter – in the mantle of infallibility?
I’ve encountered some fervent Francis fanatics over the years, but I’ve never run into even one such “hypertrophic ultramontanist” – not in person, not on social media, not anywhere. To the extent that these unicorns actually do exist, there is no evidence whatsoever that they are winning converts to their misguided cause.
In other words, all indications are that Dr. Kwasniewski, despite his good intentions, is at war with a straw man.
That said, the battle is real.
A rather dangerous form of hyperpapalism truly is on the loose, and it appears that its devotees are growing in number almost by the day, ironically, thanks in part to the influence and efforts of men like Dr. Kwasniewski.
What is this hyperpapalism of which I speak?
It is a sort of excessive adherence to the person of Jorge Bergoglio, whereby there is absolutely nothing whatsoever that he can preach, teach, say, or do that will in any way compel its adherents to consider that the man has no legitimate claim to membership in the Holy Catholic Church. In short, it is a detachment from plainly observable objective reality.
Dr. Kwasniewski and other leaders of the hyperpapalist movement are certainly well-informed concerning the requirements of membership in the Church:
Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body … Now since its Founder willed this social body of Christ to be visible, the cooperation of all its members must also be externally manifest through their profession of the same faith and their sharing the same sacred rites, through participation in the same Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws. (cf Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis 22,69)
Furthermore, it’s fair to say that frontline hyperpapalists know very well what the Church teaches regarding how one might be so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body:
For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. (ibid., no. 23)
Prior to March 13, 2013, I suspect that if one were to ask Dr. Kwasniewski et al. about the status of a self-identified Catholic who publicly, repeatedly, and even in writing insists – with unmoving persistence in the face of multiple corrections – that the Divine Law is sometimes too hard for men to keep, that God sometimes wills adultery, and that it’s not always a mortal sin anyway, they would say that this person is engaging in precisely the sort of public adherence to heresy that “of its own nature” severs that man from the Body of the Church.
Likewise, if prior to the advent of the Bergoglian reign of terror one were ask these same persons about the status of a man who publicly engages in multiple high profile pagan ceremonies over a period of years, surely they would say that these are acts of apostasy that, of their own nature, sever a man from the Body of the Church.
And yet, even though Jorge Bergoglio has done all of these things and much more of their kind, Dr. Kwasniewski and his growing band of followers still insist that the Argentinian apostate remains a member of the Body of the Church.
Why, one wonders, do they feel compelled to give Jorge Bergoglio a plenary pass?
It’s certainly not because they do not recognize his heresy. In fact, Dr. Kwasniewski and a number of his con freres even went so far in 2019 as to sign their names to a well-publicized Open Letter accusing Jorge Bergoglio of “public adherence to heresy.”
And that was before Abu Dhabi, Pachamama, and Taditionis Cojones!
Why then do they continue to insist that Jorge Bergoglio remains a member of the Church, as if he cannot be held to the same standard for membership in the Church to which every other human being has consistently been held throughout the centuries?
The primary reason among several is plain; they are hyperpapalists.
In other worlds, Bergoglio is effectively granted a non-revokable lifetime membership in the Church simply because the majority of self-described Catholics – many of whom are heretics in their own right – claim to accept him as pope.
But, but… if he’s universally accepted as pope, doesn’t that mean it’s a dogmatic fact?
A number of go-to citations from pre-conciliar theologians have been offered in support of this claim, but a careful reading of them reveals that they do not, and were never meant to, apply to a situation like the one in which we presently find ourselves. [Many such citations can be found HERE on the website of Robert Sisco and John Salza.]
It is important to ask oneself when reading any citation from a theological manual: What is the problem or situation being addressed? In other words, the context matters, sometimes a great deal.
In the present case, the theologians cited at the link above are not addressing the behavior or Catholicity of the man who claims to be pope, rather, they are speaking about “dogmatic facts” more broadly and pointing to papal elections as just one example. More specifically, they are primarily commenting on the degree to which doubts concerning canonical irregularities in procedure within a given conclave are put to rest in the face of so-called “peaceful and universal acceptance.”
What the theologians most certainly are not suggesting is that a man well-known for being an enemy of things Catholic, who disseminates heresy with unbending determination, and who willingly participates in pagan ceremonies, remains attached to the body of the Church under the solitary condition that the greater part of those who call themselves Catholic are naïve enough to believe he is pope.
The very idea is so preposterous as to hardly merit a rejoinder! And yet, this is the position of hyperpapalists like Dr. Kwasniewski.
There is, however, an indication that the previously mentioned pre-conciliar theologians do recognize that the man’s behavior is a factor to be considered with respect to establishing the identity of a pope as a dogmatic fact.
For example, the following citation comes from the eminent pre-conciliar theologian Msgr. Gerard Van Noort:
When someone has been constantly acting as Pope and has theoretically and practically been recognized as such by the bishops and by the universal Church, it is clear that the ordinary and universal magisterium is giving an utterly clear-cut witness to the legitimacy of his succession. (Sources of Revelation, p. 265)
What does it mean to constantly act as pope?
The word “constantly” implies something far more than simply walking onto the loggia at St. Peter’s dressed as a pope and receiving the near universal acclaim of the bishops. It suggests constancy in acting as pope; at the very least, that means manifesting the true faith – one of the three requirements for membership of any rank in the Church.
It is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that from day one, the man known as Francis constantly manifested an aversion to the true faith, even to the point of withholding the Sign of the Cross!
On the same webpage linked above, Cardinal Billot is cited as stating, “For the adhesion of the Church to a false Pontiff would be the same as its adhesion to a false rule of faith.” Billot, like others before and after him, believed that such is not possible.
And yet, is this not a perfect description of the hyperpapalist position? On the one hand, they insist that Francis is a true Pontiff, on the other, they rally the faithful to join them in going to war against his false rule of faith!
Cardinal Billot is referring to the Divine protection that is afforded to the Church, the same that prevents her from ever endangering her children with the poisonous food of error, not only when she teaches infallibly, but whenever she teaches authoritatively. This is why Pope Pius XII (and others) could teach the following:
Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine … Certainly the loving Mother [the Church] is spotless in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate. (cf Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 31,66)
At this, we have arrived at the root cause of hyperpapalism, namely, a corrupt ecclesiology that leads to an insidious mistrust of Holy Mother Church.
Simply put, Dr. Kwasniewski et al. do not believe what the Church has always taught concerning herself, the same repeated by Pope Pius XII as noted above.
Based upon my own interactions with hyperpapalists, Dr. Kwasniewski included, it seems rather clear that the only time they’re willing to trust that Holy Mother Church is not teaching false doctrine is when she does so in a manner that is properly understood as infallible. As for the countless Catholic doctrines that have been proposed non-infallibly – including those concerning the nature of the Church and the requirements of membership in her – all bets are off.
As such, the hyperpapalists believe that the faithful must measure whatever is being authoritatively proposed by the Church non-infallibly, whether by pope or by council, to determine for ourselves whether or not the teaching is perhaps dangerous and therefore open to rejection.
As the title to his most recent book suggests, Dr. Kwasniewski has even gone so far as to suggest that it’s time to “rethink the papacy” in light of the current “ecclesial disintegration.”
He apparently believes (with Francis as evidence) that the prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ that Peter’s faith may not fail has indeed gone unanswered, even though the Vatican Council insists otherwise (see Pastor Aeternus).
When confronted with eminently reliable sources attesting to the inerrancy of the Church and the fact that her non-infallible teachings are always safe to embrace – they are dismissed as timebound and no longer acceptable – that is, when they are even acknowledged at all. Dr. Kwasniewski even went so far as to state, publicly, that Garrigou-Lagrange “was a man of his age and culture,” and his writing on the inerrancy of the Church admits of some “real excesses” that need to be “pruned.”
Yes, my friends, hyperpapalism is real and it’s dangerous. Its proponents are essentially conceding that the Protestants have been right all along, one must be on guard against the false doctrines of the Catholic Church and her pope.
Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely must stand firm against the garbage that flows forth from Bergoglian Rome on a near daily basis, but let us be clear:
None of it is coming to us from the Church and her pope.