Friday, March 27, 2015

To what degree should a priest speak out?

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols receives congratulations from cardinals as he attends the Consistory at St Peter's Basilica
To what degree should a priest speak out? That is the question raised by HE Vincent Cardinal Nichols in the latest of his interventions in the media on the issues to be covered by the Synod, this time concerning, what has become known as, 'the Letter of the 500 Priests'

The Rite of Ordination nowadays tells us the that a priest exists to 'preach the Gospel'. The author of the Epistle to Timothy say "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine." 

I have tried to be faithful to solemn promise I made at my ordination to the priesthood to 'uphold everything that the Catholic Church teaches' consequently I felt obliged to be a signatory of that letter in the Catholic Herald asking for clarity over marriage and affirming the Church's teaching on marriage.

For none of the signatories I know who signed it was it in any sense a 'political' act but rather a credal statement of our belief in the sanctity of marriage as the Church has always taught it. For my part doing everything I can to promote the Church's teaching, including signing this letter is part of my priestly office. I know that one day I stand before God and be judged on how I exercised or failed to exercise my sacred  ministry.

Our beloved Holy Father has continuously emphasised the need for frankness and openness parrhesia in conversation over this matter, it is part of the lio or mess that he invited the youth to make in Rio, when they returned to their dioceses

As far as the Synod is concerned bishops do not go as individuals but as heads of local churches, in that sense they are answerable to their clergy and people, they also have to reflect, not the opinions but the faith of their local Church. The Cardinal suggests that clergy should restrict their comments to the 'discussion process in their dioceses'. Well in my diocese our bishop who resigned after fifteen years said, "I have been careful not to make sexual morality a priority", the problem is that 'care' shows and I am afraid I fear those 15 years will be reflected in the consultation process. The process in my diocese is a one day discussion on a document which begins by suggesting those who do uphold the Church's teaching are comparable to Donatists. The rumours are that the document which merely identifies itself as being from the Bishop's Conference and bears no author's name was actually written by the Cardinal himself who has made his position clear on numerous occasions.
The Westminster priests I know are sceptical of the consultation process in their diocese, it is sad that their Archbishop has now added intimidation to that scepticism, which in a diocese which has always had a reputation for being 'fatherless' only adds to its deep wounds.

His Eminence is not a Primate and therefore his remarks should be seen as being addressed solely to his own clergy, which would seem to suggest that they should not even mention marriage, lest their discussions become public. He puts priest in a very difficult position. We are supposed preach and teach and uphold the Catholic faith but not, according to him, in the media, presumably he means the public forum. and yet Cardinals, including himself, do so. What is 'in the media' in this sense? I have always regarded this blog as being an extension of my pulpit, friends regard pamphlet writing or articles in the same sense. Unless the doors are sealed and one's people sworn to silence the pulpit is a public forum. Does His Eminence really expect clergy to remain silent about the very thing many Catholics are deeply concerned about? If talk of marriage is ruled out what else does he wish to censor?

I think it is worth noting that Westminster Diocese seems happy to welcome all kinds of eccentric speakers who deviate from the faith but His Eminence puts the boot into orthodox clergy expressing orthodox beliefs in the discreet forum of the Catholic Herald.


John Nolan said...

When Vincent Nichols was appointed (after a considerable delay) I hoped he would prove to be an improvement on his predecessor. My hopes have not been realized. Since he became Archbishop he has signally failed, in his public utterances, to offer a robust defence of Catholic teaching.

Yet Nichols claims St John Fisher as his hero and exemplar, and has published a biography of the saint. In it he claims that apart from his orthodoxy in arguing for the indissolubility of Christian marriage, Fisher's great strength was his support of the clergy.

Rather ironic, don't you think? said...

Thank you Father for this post. It will encourage many, I hope. I could not sign the letter because A) I was not asked, and B) at the time some were signing it in December I was seriously ill in hospital .
Like you I am gravely concerned about the Cardinal's statement, though not surprised.
Keep true to your Baptismal and Ordination Commission. Best Wishes.

Long-Skirts said...


I send our children
To the slaughter,
One son of six
And now a daughter.

Why encourage
Staying poor
But pay high price?

Giving all
To those in need
Suffer wounds
For Mother's Creed?

All for Him
Take the thorn
Then ignored
Not worth their scorn.

Not worth the bother,
As feminists fail,
A wasted life
That takes the nail.

Where daily climb
Upon the Cross
Some Roman men
Count them as loss

But worry of
Debased desires
"No need forgo"
Just stoke those fires.

And at your legal
Unions wink,
"We don't condone
Though aid your kink."

Cassocks, habits,
Vatican Two in reverse --
Forward couples' Civil Unions
We'll pretend aren't perverse.

Fred Brown said...

Well said, Father. Sadly we are dealing with an ideology so I very much doubt that your honestly, clarity, and devastating reasoning will hit home.
I only wish I had known about this letter. I would certainly have signed it and I know at least one other priest that would have joined me. It will at least give light to the lie that many priests hold the same heterodox views as many of the Catholic (?) bishops.

Crouchback said...

Cardinal Hume got the red hat because those who choose these guys were afraid that Auberon Waugh would make jokes about Archbishop Warlock, then Waugh lampooned "Cardinal Hume's new kind of church"
Meanwhile in Scotland we had Cardinal Winning then Cardinal O'Brien, Ireland was dogged by one disaster after another. Archbishop Lefebvre noted that "Pope John Paul visits a country, kisses the Tarmac has a couple of million people at mass, returns to Rome and the church in the country he just left collapses"

Surely there must be something connecting all these utter catastrophes

There will be a canonisation for who ever comes up with an answer.

Obviously Marcel Lefebvre won't figure in any of the usual channels not while we have Cardinal Nichols Vatican II type prelates operating the levers of influence.

David O'Neill said...

How would the bishops know the feelings of their people unless the priests (who hopefully are aware of those feelings) publish it. If a bishop isn't told then he doesn't know

Liam Ronan said...

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, Father. I thank God you and the others had your letter published.

If it had been mailed to important personages in the chain-of-command perhaps it would have met the same fate as the 5 Cardinals' Book, "Remaining in the Truth of Christ: Marriage and Communion in the Catholic Church".

The faithful needed to know there are priests who are concerned for and solicitous of the doctrinal integrity of the Church. Sooner or later the very stones will cry out.

I am sure life will change for you following your witness to the Truth.

If things go altogether pear-shaped please remember (since you'll be running fast laps for awhile anyway) that Jeremy Clarkson's "Top Gear" spot is still open.

And there's always my cottage here in the West of Ireland where we can put you up.

God bless and keep you. You've done a genuine service to the Body of Christ.

Annie said...

"I am at a loss to understand why Vincent Cardinal Nichols seems to chastise priests for their 'allegedly conducting a dialogue, between a priest and his bishop . . . through the press.' The priests' letter is a statement of Catholic belief, not an opening gambit in a negotiation; it is addressed to a journal, and through him to lay and clerical public, not to a particular prelate. Moreover, the letter is a textbook example of clergy exercising a canonical right guaranteed to *all* the Christian faithful, namely, 'to manifest to sacred pastors (code for 'bishops') their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and *to make their opinion known to the rest of the Catholic faithful* . . .' Code 212, 3, my emphasis". - - from the blog of Canon Lawyer, Ed Peters

Lepanto said...

Thank you, Father and all the other priests for signing this letter. This is a great comfort to traditional Catholics in this time of confusion and uncertainty.

Jane said...

Dear Father Ray, may God bless you. Many, many thanks for your generous gift of your life to the Church and for your faithful, trustworthy teaching and ministry - shepherding your flock with love and kindness on the narrow path which leads to Heaven. We need you, we love you, we pray for you.

JARay said...

I found it very sad that the Cardinal made that "prohibition". I applaud all those priests who signed. I know one of them quite well. We exchange Christmas Cards and we were both at the English College, Lisbon, although I left it. He is a fine priest and, though from afar, I think that you are too, Fr. Blake. Please keep up your very good work.

Jacobi said...

Father, As a layman I am grateful to you for signing the letter. We need to know what is required of us as Catholics. That is one of a priests duties whether he be priest or bishop.

If the consultation document did suggest that those who held to Scripture Revelation, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church were “donatists” then that document is implicitly heretical and those who wrote and/or supported it should be identified and disciplined.

The Catholic Church is in trouble at present. There is nothing to be served by secrecy or silence. As the pope has said, frank and open discussion are now a necessity. As with Germany, the See of Peter is prime, not the Archbishopric of Westminster or of any other borough in the country.

We must all know on what side of the line our priests and bishops stand.

Patricius said...

"Speak freely- and be certain that every word you utter will be taken down and used in evidence against you."
- Anon

Francis said...

Father, thank you to you and your fellow priests for making this courageous stand. Don't worry about this making you a "marked man" in the eyes of the prelates -- you already had that badge of honour!

Faithful Catholics were appalled by the antics of the modernists at last year's synod and every effort must be made to steer part II in October 2015 away from the cliff edge. Thank God for our good priests and for social media and the power of the internet!

kiwiinamerica said...

Ed Pentin hit the nail on the head in The National Catholic Register....

"But his [Card. Nichols] response is causing considerable concern among some in Rome, and probably elsewhere, who feel that for priests to merely uphold the Church’s teaching in a concerted and public way is now no longer permissible."

"What this partly shows is that some Church leaders believe that promoting the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage and the family somehow obstructs Pope Francis’ will for the synod...."

That's the elephant in the room. Catholic priests and laity are now being persecuted for publicly supporting traditional Catholic teaching; see the Patricia Januzzi case in the US, for example. The truly rotten fruit of last October's Synod is clearly visible for all to see; cardinal against cardinal, bishop against bishop, priest against priest.

The Pope professes to want an open debate about these issues but then within the space of 24 hours, he warns against Synod "gossip" and a cardinal tells a group of priests to shut up.

The whole issue is absolutely saturated with hypocrisy.

lucianoeugenio said...

Go bless you Father

Thomas said...

Priests are not merely "branches" of their bishops' corporate personalities. They may speak publicly or write to the press, particularly the Catholic press, and especially about matters of doctrine and morals, as they see fit. It is their right and their duty. Using episcopal authority to silence clerics (Deacons too!) who do nothing more than proclaim the truths of the Faith or express valid opinions about ecclesiastical matters is an abuse of power. The Church is not a political party with a three line whip for the "party line" to impose the opinions of those in authority. There are objective boundaries to debate which are the defined teachings of the Faith and the demands of Christian charity. This letter contravenes neither. It simply affirms the Church's teaching. If that upsets some PR management strategy by the "bishops' conference" (a purely consultative entity with no magisterial or regional authority) or challenges attempts at ecclesiastical stage management in high places, then perhaps those who are attempting these things (or going along with them out of careerist habit of mind) need to examine their own consciences! It looks like speaking with "boldness" and "making a mess" only counts if you're on the 'right' side of the debate.

Gregkanga said...

Good on those 500 faithfull fatherly priests. In the battle of ideas, the Church militant needs every courageous soul in the frontline, ready to defend the Truth at any cost. We must always remember, for us the Truth is a living person, Jesus Christ. It is because of prelates like the Cardinal, that the Church has lost and continues to lose the battle in the public square. For years Into the Deep at has been in battle with bishops and priests of Cardinal Nichol's ilk. As a matter of fact, it is their method of 'dialogue' in a culture of secrecy and silence that precipitated the sexual abuse crisis and the current mess the Church is in here in Australia.

John Fisher said...

I suggest to Cardinal Nichols if he can't uphold the Catholic faith in an integral fashion he should resign as did that other Cardinal O'Brien who also failed to live up to the Faith. Putting pressure on clergy to shut up while scheming to undo our Faith is despicable. Didn't Wolsey also seek to bring pressure on the Pope and Church in England to serve the secular power?
Authority must be opposed when it fails to serve and uphold the Faith. We are not a top down Church but all keep each other honest! Uphold the Faith or resign!

Nicolas Bellord said...

According to Mgr Keith Barltrop, commenting on the Catholic Herald webside, the objection to the letter is that it was 'divisive'. There is an agenda for a 'nice' church where everyone and everything is acceptable and anyone who queries that is being divisive and should hold their tongues. That is why the letter was objectionable. We surely learnt all this when the 'Protect the Pope' website was shut down for the same reason. It was held to be divisive.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Extraordinary times? Or was it always like that. Mgr Ronald Knox preaching in the 1920s:

"We are in error if we speak of the uncorrupted Christianity of the primitive Church. There never was an uncorrupted Christianity; the cockle was there before the good seed had time to spring. ... So in the Church, God's chosen seed-plot, the nursery of all sanctity, evil can strike deep roots in human souls, be their position in the Church never so exalted; can cling there with a dreadful obstinacy, and can flaunt itself in such a way that the careless onlooker will see in the Church nothing but a tangled mass of foul growths. Be shocked, be grieved, be indignant at the scandals in the Church, but if you are a disciple of Our Lord's parables do not be surprised at it."

Nicolas Bellord said...

John Fisher: Cardinal O'Brien admitted to some unspecified sexual sins. However he always upheld the teaching of the Church in a most exemplary way. Did his accusers not like what he preached? They certainly seemed keen to throw the first stones.

Rod George said...

The fact that so many priests have had to sign this letter demonstrates how deep the crisis is in the church.The priests who signed the letter had every right to do so. We are living through times where dissent is tolerated and orthodoxy is being punished.As the October Synod approaches the enemies of the church will do their upmost to destroy it.There will be more testing times ahead for those who defend orthodoxy.To all the priests who signed the letter stand firm and preach the truth in season and out.

Liam Ronan said...

@Nicholas Bellford,
I suggested earlier that these times were 'extraordinary' in part because the means of communication available to most allows universal distribution of opinions, etc. in a way not possible not just in Msgr. Knox's time, but unthinkable a mere twenty years ago. What once might have been hidden (truth or error) can now be shouted to the rooftops of the world.

Secondly, I think it reasonable to believe that a Universal Apostasy is upon us in a way much more evident and grave than it was shaping up in Masgr. Knox's times.

Deacon Augustine said...

Fr. Ray, Cardinal Nichols has no authority whatsoever to dictate to any Christian that they should keep quiet about the Truth of Christ.

He would do well to read Pope Leo XIII's Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae - which speaks to our times like a prophecy:

"14...Amid such reckless and widespread folly of opinion, it is, as We have said, the office of the Church to undertake the defense of truth and uproot errors from the mind, and this charge has to be at all times sacredly observed by her, seeing that the honor of God and the salvation of men are confided to her keeping. But, when necessity compels, not those only who are invested with power of rule are bound to safeguard the integrity of faith, but, as St. Thomas maintains: “Each one is under obligation to show forth his faith, either to instruct and encourage others of the faithful, or to repel the attacks of unbelievers.”(12) To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe."

A man either devoid of character or who doubts the truth of what he professes to believe!!! I wonder who would fit that hat?

viterbo said...

"a credal statement..."

Keep forgetting where it comes from but "with GOD, ONE is a majority". I can only presume that 'One' is one with Jesus Christ and His unadulturated Vicars - the Holy See without stain.

Pelerin said...

l) A certain Mgr criticizes numerous aspects of the Faith and is rewarded with a weekly column in the Catholic press.

2) A Priest described by many as a dissident is still feted as a speaker at various Catholic events and will be one of the guest speakers at the 5Oth A & B celebrations.

3) 500 faithful Priests affirm the Truth in a letter and they get criticized.

Thank you Father Ray for your courage in being one of the 500

Thomas said...

A plea to all: do NOT make direct personal attacks on prelates of the Church or any other persons, alive or dead, no matter what the strength of feeling. It is not Christian, and it could be all the excuse some are looking for to try to shut down this very blog (even though comments are not the views of the host). Speak to issues, analyse situations, identify false arguments and defend the truth, but do not start mud slinging at named individuals.

Of course, the accusation of "divisiveness" is a false flag to try to silence objections to this attempt to alter Christ's solemn teaching. But if some people go overboard into emotional and personal vitriol, then it can easily be made to look like a genuine concern and will actually succeed in stifling debate. The priests concerned were careful to avoid any such tone in their heroic letter. It would be a shame to drag that down by false association with ill considered spleen venting from would be supporters.

I hope you don't mind me saying this Fr. It is not something I have been asked to say by anyone here, and I have no authority whatsoever to say it, but I feel compelled to say it nonetheless.

RichardT said...

There are over 5,000 priests in England & Wales, so 4,500, 90%, did not sign this letter.

Yes, some of them didn't see it and would have signed if they had, but how many?

Although the 500 give hope, the 4,500 are deeply worrying.

Frank Karwatowicz said...

I too as a layman congratulate Father Ray for his stand and to offer support in his dilemma. Thus we all, priests and laymen, must fight for truth, speak the truth and nothing but the truth. At times it is necessary, even, to get angry in the face of injustice, unfairness or even heresy. Jesus got angry on several occasions and acted accordingly. The majority of us Catholics have been too passive, especially in recent history. I live in a country whose leader speaks lofty words which all find comfort in hearing but then acts contrary to what he preaches. Perhaps our Church leadership bears a strong resemblance to my country’s dilemma. My confessor this morning said, “Don’t listen to the pope. Listen to Christ.”

Nicolas Bellord said...

Liam Ronan: You are right. It is rather like the time of the invention of printing which enabled the widespread distribution of ideas and was a factor in the reformation. However to-day the boot is on the other foot in that it is the orthodox who seem to be able to express their ideas most effectively. I get the impression that the liberal side say little on the internet and certainly they do not put forward their case very cogently. But perhaps I am wrong about and there are blogs which I do not read? But as Thomas has said it is very important that we do not damage the weapons we have by intemperate personal attacks. said...

Richarda AT.527 refers to the many priestswho did not sign. Earlier this week I souke to nine priests who had not brrn asked . It would be sad to read that omly the sinatories were /are faithful

Frank Karwatowicz said...

RichardT: Your comment reminds me of a recent election in my country in which the policies of our leader were soundly defeated as reflected in his loss of control of the legislative branch; yet in a public speech he stated that the majority of eligible voters did not vote hence, he would not have lost if they voted.
Such logic or reasoning is from a fairy tale.
How many of the 4500 priests who did not sign the letter would agree with its contents is speculation but not necessarily a worry, because, the 500, like the 300 soldiers of ancient Greece, may very well represent the sentiments of the entire populace, in this case, Catholic populace.

Jacobi said...

Thomas makes a good point. But we must be clear about this.

There is no cause for personal or wounding attack otherwise this may well be used to smother smooth free speech in the Church . At least one and I suspect maybe two have occurred in the blogging fields and heavens knows how many individual priest feel inhibited by bishops in airing their real concern about the meltdown in the Church.

On the other hand the time has come for free and open speech . The present Catholic Church in a complete and utter mess. Only today I have heard yet another of our scarce and ageing clergy is ill and out of action.

Instead of a re-building process we have a highly divisive ill thought-out,badly timed Synod.

Fortunately the Voris' of this world are not under these constraints and for that reason alone I recommend him.

steve jones said...

Our PP (one of the 90) has gone a little cool on F1 and even quoted from B16 during a sermon recently ...

I'm not I would have signed for the simple reason that I believe frequent communion should be discouraged and we should return to a pre-P10 ecclesiology.

The signatories seem to want to maintain some sort of status quo which is now an impossibility.

John Fisher said...

In the new caring and sharing Vatican II Church there are varieties of clergy. There are those who encourage others to sin by being ambiguous or promoting vice. They encourage others to jump of the precipice while staying at the top watching. There are others who mouth truths like a worn out mantra but in their own lives deliberately commit acts of depravity. In both cases there is a dissonance between words, acts. and authority. We are always told this is Vatican II and so it is.
In our worship it is the same. We have noble words and truths mouthed but nothing can change the fact the 1960's men like Bugnini were so puffed up with pride they attacked and forged the liturgical texts. They also used their authority to do so. When authority orders many just conform because it seems so inevitable. Others are forced to reject the deformation.
For the last 50 years authority has ordered us to distort and falsify our faith. Authority orders us to do as it wants. This is the greatest inconsistency. John Paul II kisses Korans and prays with pagans in an act of apostasy. Rather inconsistently he can write and mouth truths with a disconnect from his actions.
Francis is the same and so is Nichols. Words and action. Theory and practice don't have to harmonize. That is the deep conflict within the Church. It exists between Church and secular government. It exists within families. We are promiscuous in our thoughts, truth and lives. So no one can trust anything or anyone!

steve jones said...

We need to establish the fault lines so I've stopped believing in this V2 v pre-V2 or liberal v conservative or whatever narrative? It’s boring as well as inaccurate.

This partition is about accusing fellow priests, bishops and the laity of double standards. Let's start with that as a possible fault line: "meetings and synods are a waste of time - discuss".

TLM said...

Thank you Fr. for being courageous in standing for truth. Prelates in the hierarchy who try to silence faithful witnesses be they lay or clergy are of course wrong. The act itself of trying to intimidate and silence those who stand publicly for the truth of the Gospel of Christ is not of Catholicism. We are all going to some day stand before Christ to give an account, lay and clergy alike. I would hate to have to give account of trying to silence truth in the public square, no? I don't think those that do will fare so well. It seems to me that the modernist revolutionaries in the Church's 'Senior Prelates' are trying every tactic to silence those speaking out for Christ. First it was 'not charitable', then it was lack of 'Mercy', and now they seem to be resorting to 'Disobedience'. This Bishop is by far not the only one who is trying to put a lid on the Church Militant. He has lots and lots of company, unfortunately. But not to fret, the Church Militant of both clergy and laity is finding their voice and will not be silenced in the face of dissent. The dissenters will have opposition, and in the end......WE WIN, as promised by Christ Himself. The battle will become even more intense, and the persecutions will rise to a new level, but in the end....WE STILL WIN. What we must pray for is the grace and the courage that only comes from Almighty God to stand firm, come what may. As the Blessed Mother has indicated...'Satan is in the mood for battle'. We are not up against flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers. We need all the prayer, sacrifice, and help from Heaven we can possibly get. This war is a MEGA war.

Anna Vinsensia Koli said...

Thank you Fathers and especially for you. Well done.! I hope this can be inspiration for all the priests around the world to have courage for defending the truth.

croixmom said...

Insofar as a priest's work is for the salvation of souls, how could a priest do anything other than teach Holy Scripture and the doctrine of The Church?

God Bless you, Fr Blake!

Patrick Langan said...

Thank you Father Blake and God bless!!!!!

David O'Neill said...

Having just finished reading a book on Garabandal & Our Lady's prophecies I wonder whether this upcoming Synod is going to bring one of her prophecies to fruition. She said that cardinals, bishops & priests would lead many of the faithful to Hell.

Pelerin said...

Interesting comment from David O'Neill on Garabandal. It has reminded me of a talk I attended sometime in the 60s (at the local Co-op hall) where I bought a booklet (cost 1s 6d) on the so-called apparitions.

Interestingly the booklet bore a Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur of the diocese of Southwark and concludes with 'Whether the apparitions at Garabandal are true or illusory the theologians must decide.'I could not find any mention of the prophesy quoted in it and have been under the impression that Garabandal has been quietly put under wraps as being unproven. In fact some years ago I was about to throw the booklet away but felt unable to do so and instead wrote 'Dubious!' on the cover and put it back in the bookcase! I presume there must have been some pronouncement against it at the time.

This has however prompted me to search further - after all the 'seers' were mere children in 1961/62 aged 11 and 12 so should still be alive today in their 60s.

Eusebius said...

As a concerned layman, I write to express my unqualified support for the open expression of orthodoxy and my dismay at the attempt to rebuke and suppress it.

annmarie said...

I pray that the blood of the Eastern martyrs may be the seed of a return to the Faith in the West!

Thus am I saved from despair.

Would that it were not so and there were more who were faithful to the Church which formed our culture.

God bless you!

annmarie said...

May the blood of the martyrs of the East be the seed of a return to the Faith in the West!

Would that it were not so!

Those courageous men keep my hope alive, so do these priests.

Patricia Phillips said...

" . . . a diocese which has always had a reputation for being 'fatherless'. That says it all really. Cardinal Nichols is no father to his priests, or us, his laypeople. Tragic.

Pelerin - re: your comment above. The local ordinary ruled in 1996 that Garabandal was not of supernatural origin, and that this decision was final:-

frd said...

I'm another priest who did not know about the letter - and would have been delighted to add my name to the list if asked. Does anyone know who organised it?

John Farrell said...

When considering the present state of the hierarchy of England and Wales, I can think of no better reassurance than these comments from former times, by Frank Sheed.

We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope, but even if I criticized him as harshly as some
do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the Church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope (or a priest) could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church, although I might well wish that they would leave.