Cards played up front: Benedict is Pope. No soap box or dissertation to follow. But when doing a gut-check, and cross referencing that with a well-formed conscience, that’s what I get. Others do the same and get Bergoglio as Pope. Not a problem.
It’s time for those of us who care enough to have remained Catholic to establish a modus vivendi: you say Francis, we say Benedict. The dispute, to be adjudicated in finality who knows when, ought not rip Church Militant further into shreds.
Keep your stance asserting Bergoglio as Pope, if you must. We will not accuse you of the slightest wrongdoing. More importantly we won’t ask you to be silent. Will you extend the same courtesies to us?
We keep hearing that among those of us outside Rome, the episcopacy, or College of Cardinals, none has the authority to decide this. It is quite true. But it feels like someone is trying to use this fact to quiet us down. There is a sense of, “we have decided that no one can decide to disagree with our opinion that it’s not Benedict. Just accept it.” Things shouldn’t be like that among Catholics.
In the absence of an authoritative declaration, to clear up honest confusion (and frankly suspicion), neither obedience nor unity need be offended when Catholics formulate and share an opinion on the matter. When faced with such blatant contradiction between ostensible statements and visible signs of who is (are) the Pope(s), the only thing we’re left with for the time being, is to duly form our Catholic consciences, and rely on them, each one of us. I would never interfere with your conscientious decision to believe what you were told to think since 2013. But our sensus Catholicus takes us somewhere else. We’ve been lied to for so long, all of us, as were our parents and grandparents, that visceral sense and our conscience are all we’ve got left. It just seems like someone is insisting that we must refer to a perfectly round closed shape as a square, or we must think that two men equal(s?) one pope, or else we’re anathema. We just don’t want to square the circle anymore, but it’s okay if you do. No anathemas ought be leveled at anyone. If, in our lifetimes, the Church Herself corrects us (or you), no problem. It is the obligation of those in authority to provide us with clarity.
So feel free to call Bergoglio Pope and believe it, and we promise never to deny the licit nature of your intention. But until the appropriate authority takes action, please allow us the same courtesy.
We won’t attempt to silence your denial of Benedict’s ongoing Papacy, if you don’t stifle our position of asserting it. And please don’t accuse us of sedevacantism. We’re in no way attempting to assert the absence of a true Pope. After all, amidst this decades long diabolical disorientation, and because of both confusing and contradictory signs and statements from Rome, we think that Benedict is Pope. He most assuredly is Pope not because of our private opinion. It’s the other way around! Furthermore, and like your stance, mere opinion it shall remain until affirmed (or corrected) by those in proper authority.
Incidentally, if we wanted to hurl the s-word right back, we could. With Benedict as Pope, this might make the other guys the s-word, and not us. A massive s*** fight is not what is needed. (Leave that to Martin Luther and whatever demon oppressed him.)
Bottom line: let’s not hand Bergoglio yet another victory in his career built on dividing and conquering. 2017 is nearly upon us. The last thing Catholics need is to go into what could be a date with destiny hurling rhetorical brickbats at their brethren over a situation created by revolutionary criminals. If there is one thing that unites us in spite of this intra-religious dispute, it’s the fact that the wretched man Bergoglio/Francis wields power, whether Pope or not. You never know, our mutually allowing one another to loudly contradict each other might just force them to act Catholic for once in their lives. Imagine the headline, “Benedict and Francis definitively speak out to clarify growing confusion, correct their missteps.” Could there ever be a better reason than that to risk being wrong?