How Do You Solve A Problem Like Bergoglio?

No, reader, I’m not asking for a practical answer for Catholics heartbroken, confused, or outraged by Pope Francis’ anti-Catholic statements and actions. While in centuries past, a Catholic emperor or council on rare occasions deposed an unworthy pope, that option was foreclosed by the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806—not to mention the hyper-papalist rulings of the First Vatican Council in 1870. That Council made the papacy absolutely supreme, but also impossible to correct. No one on earth may now judge or remove a pope. Historians of the Romanovs might have something to say about whether such an elevation was really a great advantage.

Nor am I holding out hope any more for a coup by disgruntled Swiss guards and a swift splash into the Tiber.

It’s fruitless for individual Catholic laymen to decide that they can see that this pope is a heretic, and hence that he must have forfeited his office. For one thing, this maneuver reduces the papal claim of infallibility to a cheap tautology: The pope is protected from error … until he errs, and then he’s no longer pope! What’s worse, it’s hard to see how we even have a visible Church at all, if the universal consensus of the bishops isn’t sufficient to determine whether a given man is currently pope.

Well then, what criterion could we use instead? How would the papacy re-emerge, and what would convince people of its legitimacy?

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