How Should Catholics Respond to the Pope’s ‘Paradigm Shift’?

Chilean author José Antonio Ureta believes faithful ‘resistance’ to destructive innovations is a necessary act of charity.

José Antonio Ureta is the author of Pope Francis’ Paradigm Shift: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? — An Assessment of his Five-year Pontificate.
José Antonio Ureta is the author of Pope Francis’ Paradigm Shift: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? — An Assessment of his Five-year Pontificate. (photo: Edward Pentin)

In view of the “paradigm shift” said to be taking place during this pontificate, one that critics say breaks with the Church’s teaching and tradition, how should a concerned Catholic respond? Is it legitimate, for example, to resist Church authority, including perhaps even the Pope, and if so, how? 

Chilean author José Antonio Ureta offers some answers to these questions in his new book, Pope Francis’ Paradigm Shift: Continuity or Rupture in the Mission of the Church? — An Assessment of his Five-year Pontificate. The book has yet to be published in English but a detailed summary can be found here  

In this June 23 interview with the Register in Rome on the sidelines of a conference examining new and old modernism, Ureta explains where he and others believe that Pope Francis is erring, why resistance to error is an act of charity rather than dissent, and why he believes the term “paradigm shift” can only really apply to one event in the life of the Church: the Incarnation. The author also warns against the temptation to sedevacantism (the belief that the See of Peter is vacant), which he says is “no solution at all.”  

Ureta is a member of the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute founded by the eponymous Brazilian Catholic thinker.  The Institute to which Ureta belongs says it takes Oliveira’s “filial, sincere, and loyal spirit” to the Pope “as a model” and that resistance is a part of that. “It is not revolt, it is not acrimony, it is not irreverence,” the institute says in publicity that accompanies Ureta’s book. “It is fidelity, it is union, it is love, it is submission.”


Mr. Ureta, what made you want to write this book? Why did you feel this book needed to be written?

I think a lot of people — ordinary, good Catholics — are distressed with all the changes they see with this papacy. They are perplexed, they are confused, and they don't know what to say, what to do. And so some of them say: “Well it’s the Pope or the bishops who are the leading magisterium so we have to follow. I don’t understand, but I will follow.” Others are getting so distressed that they say that all this is just pure heresy, and so if these are heresies he cannot be the Pope. Then they put one foot at least on this very slippery slope of sedevacantism which is no solution at all. 

So [the book] is to show to them that it’s true: There are very distressing statements and gestures, they don’t correspond to the traditional teaching of the Church, but they don’t involve infallibility. The popes can err and the bishops obviously can err when leading the Church into such a direction. We have the right to resist because St. Paul said “If we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let him be anathema.” 

So I took as issues the abandonment of the non-negotiable values. The accepting the neo-Marxist agenda of the social movement, these radical ecologies, immigration. Obviously on normal things the Pope can err and he is erring. So I go through each of them, with a lot of references — there are like 500 references. Everything is just quoting. It’s very well documented and so it’s undeniable that he is teaching or promoting wrong things. But we can disagree, we can resist. And what this book presents is a kind of middle of the way, a balanced attitude that any Catholic can take.


So what’s the solution for you? And what do you say to those who are perhaps tempted by sedevacantism? What is the answer to come to terms with the issues you mention?

The first is obviously to preserve our faith. That is our duty because it is our salvation, and the salvation of others, maybe people in the family. So we need to stick with the traditional faith. Now, that is a very practical and serious problem: Can we still receive the teaching of the Church from the lips of those pastors who are demolishing the Church? Can we receive the sacraments from their hands? 

It’s a very difficult question because in the same way in the family, the relationship between a child and his father presupposes confidence. The relationship between the faithful and the pastors has to be in a climate of confidence but now these pastors are so engaged in this self-demolition that there are no conditions for such coexistence (or convivenza in Italian which is more expressive) — this familiar coexistence between pastors and the flock. So I think that in those cases we can stop a kind of daily coexistence with those pastors, and then come close to those who really defend true Catholic doctrine. 


You say in the book: “The reader will find clear and substantiated answers to these questions over these five years of this pontificate, both in the doctrinal field and regarding the conduct that one should have.” Could you expand on what you mean by that?

It is mainly in the last chapter on resistance. The answer is precisely this: Theologians throughout history have insisted that because the charism of infallibility doesn’t cover every teaching and every gesture, every act of the pope or of the pastors, they can err. And if we are using our reason we can recognize anathema with the teaching of our Lord and Savior in the gospel, and then recognize this disagreement. We have full right of not following these novelties that are not guaranteed by either the previous dogmatic definition or the universal teaching of the Church — Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus (That which has everywhere been believed in the Church, always been believed, and by all universally). And so there are a lot of quotes from theologians regarding this initiation of resistance.


You talk about resistance not as revolt, not as acrimony, and not irreverent but as an act of fidelity. Do you see that as an important point to get across, because some people say, for example, that the dubia was an act against the Pope whereas its authors see it as an act of charity to the Pope and to the faithful, to ensure he does not err. Is that also the point you want to get across?

Exactly, because when someone does something wrong, it is an act of charity, a fraternal correction. Not warning of the mistake that’s being committed is complicity with the evil that's being done and with the bad effects of this evil on the person who had carried these out. So it is an act of charity and, yes, it’s very difficult when it is to enact not fraternal charity but filial, because then how does one do it in a very respectful manner? But there are situations where we have to in our family lives sometimes. We have to. If we don’t, we are not fulfilling our filial obligation.


On the definition of “paradigm shift”: What should people understand by that? For the ordinary Catholic, how can they better understand what they’re trying to do with this paradigm shift?

It’s a very confusing use of the term. We can understand that in science to some extent there are some paradigm shifts. In religious matters there was one paradigm shift, which was the Incarnation and Redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we passed from the ancient law which didn’t save by itself through to the new law where we are saved. So this is the real paradigm shift which actually is the kind Cardinal Kasper doesn’t recognize because he says for the Jews, salvation is still about being faithful to the ancient law. So for them there is no paradigm shift. But now he proposes a paradigm shift for Catholics. Now, once our Lord came, it is not possible to have another paradigm shift because we’ll be in denial of our Lord. We’ll be somehow going away, departing from his teachings and from his saving actions.


But could it also mean, as some of its proponents contend, bringing the Church “up to date,” bringing her into the 21st century, into a fuller engagement with a whole new world which is different than how it used to be? Is here any truth to that?

The Church is one and is apostolic. She cannot suffer a metamorphosis through our history in order to become something different than it was in the beginning.


Based on what the world is like?

Exactly. The great theologian Jacques-Bénigne Lignel Bossuet of the 18th century said “the Church is Christ shared and communicated.” So if the Church separates from Christ, there is nothing more to share, and nothing more to communicate. So what is being attempted to communicate is what the Church received from the world, basically.

So now we have to go out and preach again if we’re living in a very neo-pagan society. Are we to adopt neo-pagan values to evangelize this neo-pagan society? It’s very interesting St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: Corinth at the time was a place, because of the geographical situation, of a lot of merchants and military men who traveled through it. So it was a city of corruption, of prostitution. Plus, there was a previous time when there was a kind of worship of a goddess of fertility and the worship was a house of tolerance in the temple. To those people, St Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, preached not only the fidelity in marriage but virginity. For the first time, the Church proclaimed the ideal of virginity. To whom? To those who denied it. 

Today for instance, there’s this new [Oct. 3-28] synod on the youth. They’re saying now that all these young people don’t share at all the Church’s teaching on sexuality and this and that. Well, those are like the Corinthians whom St. Paul saw. Let’s preach to them the ideal of chastity and virginity.