Book Review: Love for the Papacy and Filial Resistance to the Pope

Source: District of Asia

By Roberto de Mattei, Pp. vi+208, Angelico Press, 2019.   Price ₹ 1589 (Amazon India).

Contemporary writing on the question of a ‘Heretical Pope’ is abundant.  Whatever be the reasons of this ‘abundance,’ whether they be the shocking acts of Pope Francis which is startle the very foundations of the Church or a growing awareness on the part of Catholics of the need to respond to this crisis, it is important that this writing should be imbued with the right principles of ‘de Ecclesia’.  Without this we are bound to err.  We do not have to look at the Sedevacantist solution, but among right thinking Catholics, how they deviate easily and draw conclusions which are erroneous.  To quote one example, ‘the Open Letter to all the Bishops of the world to depose Pope Francis’. This open letter has some serious defects in its conclusion.  [The problem in this ‘open letter’ is presented by, was analyzed carefully and explained why such conclusion is unacceptable in the latest Courrier de Rome as well (cf. Abbé Gleize, “Si Papa” in Courier de Rome, May 2019, p. 1-5].

The volume under review collects and presents nineteen articles and four lectures of Professor Roberto de Mattei. Professor de Mattei is no new-comer in the field of Ecclesiastical history.  This volume maintains the solid qualities of well-informed and balanced scholarship that have drawn to his writings the attention of traditional and even non-traditional scholars alike. As a historical treatise, it is perhaps one of the best of its kind as the arguments he develops are truly saturated with profound love for the Church.

“This principle of fraternal correction inside the Church has been valid for all time, even with regard to the pope, and so it should be valid also in our times.  Unfortunately, these days anyone who dares speak the truth-even if he does so respectfully with regard to the Shepherds of the Church—is classified as an enemy of unity, as happened to St. Paul, when he declared: “Am I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4: 16) – Archbishop Schneider (p. 101).

Professor de Mattei explains what this ‘all the time’ means. He takes us through the history where this ‘filial resistance’ takes place.  Starting with St. Paul, he analyzes briefly some of outstanding examples of how even saints (and especially saints) ‘opposed Peter to his face because he was wrong’.  It does take an ardent charity.  And that is the point.  “Resistance” is not a purely verbal declaration of faith but an act of love towards the Church, an act that leads to practical consequences.  Those who resist are separated from one who has caused the division in the Church; they criticize him openly and they correct him (p. 4).  Some of the historical episodes are well known, while some of them perhaps not for those who are not well versed in sacred history.  It is a mine of information and a model of objective evaluation of the facts concerning the history of the ‘filial correction’. The lecture on “Tu es Petrus: True devotion to the Chair of St. Peter” is highly recommended.  He points out that there could be an excess on both sides: for e.g. concept of two Churches – “Catholic Church and Conciliar Church”, “the error of papolatry”, “Catacombism”…

“There is time to keep silence and a time to speak”.  And today is the moment to speak.  And also, there isn’t only a tempus loquendi, but also modus loquendi, a manner to speak, a way the Catholic should express.  Amongst the virtues one needs, the professor stresses the need ‘for profound spirit of charity, which is love for God and love for Church.  (p. 153).

‘This is a subject that Catholics bound to Tradition must study in great depth today… Without in any way denying the infallibility of the pope and his supreme authority in government, is it possible (and in what way) to resist him, if he fails in his mission, which is to guarantee the unaltered transmission of the deposit of the faith and morals consigned by Jesus Christ to the Church?’ (p. 84). 

His solution is always on the level of Grace. And in order to procure graces we must be disposed, that is to say, we must be saints. ‘Sufficit diei malitia sua: sufficient for the day is the evil thereof (Mt 6, 34). We needn’t expect to resolve tomorrow’s problems today without the grace that tomorrow brings. All the Saints lived in this spirit of abandonment, fulfilling the Divine Will in the way it was made manifest [to them] moment by moment, without allowing themselves to worry about the future. “Their secret – writes Father Garrigou-Lagrange – was living moment by moment what the Divine action wanted to make of them”.

It will be the Blessed Virgin Mary, the destroyer of all heresies, who will show us the way to continue professing the true faith and resist evil actively in ways that the situation will impose [on us]. We are not infallible, and the Pope is, but only under determined conditions.  The Divine Promise is infallible: “Ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi” (Mt 28, 20). “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world”. This is the source of our unshakeable confidence. (p.130)

On a minor critical note, these were articles gleaned from various sources and were written during the span of the last six years.  And so, the arguments were a little repetitive, and this could have been easily avoided, if the editing work were more perfect.  But this does not in any way eclipse the substance of the articles.  One or other details of his interpretation may perhaps be questioned, but it is generally acknowledged that his main conclusion marks a definite advance in the science and praxis of ‘filial resistance and are likely to remain. 

The book will be no less useful to priests who frequently have to give advice (or to calm down the over-excited or to rouse the sluggish) on such an important question.  They will draw considerable profit from it.  

Fr. Therasian Xavier SSPX