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Pat Candelora wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can I believe in papal primacy without embracing papal jurisdictional supremacy and be a Catholic in good standing?


  { Can I accept papal primacy without papal jurisdictional supremacy and be a good Catholic? }

Eric replied:

Pat —

According to the First Vatican Council:

1831 [DS 3064] [Canon]. If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.

Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (p. 455). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.

So the answer to your question is No; you would fall under condemnation if you obstinately doubt or knowingly and deliberately reject papal universal jurisdiction.

This position is essentially the Eastern Orthodox position.


Pat replied:


  • But what else would we expect a Roman council to say?



Eric replied:

Pat —

First, be sure to use Reply All so all of us on the staff can see your reply.

It wasn't a Roman council. It was an ecumenical council. About 70 Eastern Rite bishops attended. Even the Eastern Orthodox bishops were invited (though all refused to attend).

We can see the principle of universal jurisdiction going all the way back to the first century document, the First Epistle of St. Clement. Here St. Clement of Rome, one of the early popes, writes the Corinthians with the express purpose of rebuking them for overthrowing their priests. Obviously Corinth is not in the natural territory of Rome, yet St. Clement wielded authority over them nonetheless, saying:

"But, if some shall disobey the words which have been spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in no small transgression and danger."

Glimm, F. X. (1947). The Letter of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. In F. X. Glimm, J. M.-F. Marique, & G. G. Walsh (Trans.), The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1, p. 54). Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press.

The problems with not having a single head of the church are evident in Eastern Orthodoxy today where Moscow and Constantinople have excommunicated each other, making it impossible to divine which one is the authentic Orthodox Church. Those who reject papal universal jurisdiction and would join the Orthodox Church are confronted with an insoluble question:

  • Do I come into communion with Moscow, or with Constantinople?


Pat replied:

  • Has Francis given us anything that we must give full assent to?
  • Is the Church in crisis, at least in part, because of him?


Bob replied:


Thanks for the question.

The Church is clearly in crisis, a development that has been decades, and longer, in the making.

Pope Francis can be seen as the culmination of a diabolical undertaking to infiltrate and destroy the Church, as is evident from the recent confusion he has helped to create. Pope Francis may not be aware that he is being used in such a damaging and anti-Christian way, but the evidence is becoming clearer by the day:

  • alignment with global organizations with anti-Catholic agendas
  • contradictions of perennial Church teaching on matters such as homosexual civil unions
  • the death penalty
  • communion for the divorced and re-married
  • and the list goes on and on.
  • So is he a legitimate Pope?
    <Yes, as far as objective analysis holds.>

  • Are we obliged to obey him in matters that contradict the perennial faith?
    <No. His authority stops at that line.>

No Pope has the authority to contradict Church teaching on matters that are beyond dispute, nor in matters that do not pertain to faith. If a Pope were to command you to violate the commandments of God, you cannot obey Him because he would be usurping his authority. He is vicar for Christ, not a substitute or above Him (Christ). Francis regularly injects himself into economic matters and policies of which he has no business. The Economia Francesco (website) is such an example, which clearly no Pope in history has ever undertaken or would undertake.

So, we have problems. The only solution is to pray for the Pope but keep in mind that God gives us the leaders we deserve.

  • If we have a disillusioned, confused and not-so-great-Catholic for a Pope, what does that tell you about the state of affairs in the Church? <Francis is simply a mirror.>

Catholics need to put their house in order, one family at a time. We must become holy for the Church to become holy. We will see clarity and renewal when we have suffered a terrible purgation, which is unfolding before our eyes. Now is not the time to be tepid.

Embrace the full Gospel and commit to serving Jesus Christ no matter what the cost.


Bob Kirby

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