This is going mainstream and this commentary is one of the best summaries of my own thoughts on the subject I’ve seen anywhere. https://turningpointproject.com/is-francis-a-pope-or-a-pretender Is Francis a Pope or a Pretender? William Kilpatrick The arguments in his defense don’t stand the test of time In the wake of Bishop Joseph Strickland’s removal by Francis, the question of Francis’ own status has resurfaced. Is he really the pope? Or is he an imposter or an anti-pope or something worse? When the question was initially raised years ago, quite a few Catholic theologians and commentators came to Francis’ defense. They quoted scripture, canon law, and past theologians, and they seemed quite confident that they were right and that critics of Francis didn’t know what they were talking about. But, as the years passed and as Francis’ appointments, actions, and pronouncements became more obviously out of line with Catholic teaching, many of the arguments in defense of his legitimacy began to wear thin. One frequently-used argument was that the although Francis seemed to flirt with heresy, he never went over the line because…well, because, as pope, he was being protected by the Holy Spirit from falling into grave error. As Jeffrey Mirus observed in one of his columns, “the Holy Spirit through the charism of infallibility, makes it impossible for a pope to bind the whole Church to error.” But this is a circular argument. It assumes as true the thing that has to be proven—namely, that Francis is really the pope. But, as Francis continues to rewrite the faith along heterodox lines, Catholics will be forced to reconsider the role of the Holy Spirit in all this. If Francis is really the pope it must mean that the Holy Spirit does not provide nearly as much guidance to popes as Catholics have supposed. If Francis is really the pope, it means that the Holy Spirit gives popes much more leeway than many of us had imagined. The oft-used argument that there have been several bad popes (about thirty) has the same effect. If the Spirit permits bad popes to be elected, then it must mean that the Cardinal-electors have more freedom to make a mess than is commonly thought. But if the Holy Spirit permits the election of bad popes, why are we so sure that he would prevent the election of a false pope? Does he ensure that the majority of cardinals will be immune to deception or self-deception or to political pressure—or blackmail? As you might have noticed, the argument that the Holy Spirit protects popes from serious error cuts both ways. On the one hand, it can be used to argue that popes will be protected from serious doctrinal errors; on the other hand, it can be used, to argue that if a ‘pope’ is leading people into serious sin and error, there is a good chance that he’s not the pope and is therefore not under the protection of the Holy Spirit. As it happens, Dr. Mirus admits the point. He acknowledges that If Francis is not the legitimate pope, then the question of the Church’s teaching authority does not come into play because “any errors such a ‘pope’ might teach would not really have been authoritatively taught. Thus, Christ’s promise to be with the Church will not have failed…” But the main concern of Mirus and other defenders of Francis’ legitimacy is that the “not pope” argument undermines the credibility of the Church’s teaching authority. At this point, however it seems that the faith of many Catholics will be more badly shaken should Francis turn out to be the true pope. How, it will be asked, could God allow his Church to be ruled by a man whose teachings contradict what Christ taught? Why does God permit the confusion and demoralization that Francis has wrought? Why does Francis bear so much animosity toward good and faithful Catholics like Bishop Strickland? The possibility that Francis is the pope does far more damage to the credibility of the Church than the possibility that he is not. If Francis continues to introduce novel and divisive changes to Church teachings on an almost weekly basis, then the credibility of the Church and the papacy will decline rapidly. If, on the other hand, he is revealed to be an imposter intent on subverting the Church, then much of the current turmoil would be seen in a new light. It would be seen not as the result of some inherent flaw in the Church, but as the result of a deliberate plot to destroy the Church. If Francis is actually an enemy of the Church, then it makes sense that he would favor harmful innovations—that he would be open to same-sex blessings, that he would participate in pagan rituals, that he would put the John Paul II Academy for Marriage and the Family in the hands of a man who would not be welcome in the homes of most Catholic families, that he would put another such man in charge of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, that he would issue a motu propriocalling for a radical paradigm shift in Catholic theology and on and on. All of these innovations have sown confusion in the Church. But that, it seems, is what they were intended to do. If Francis were really a false prophet, then it would be understandable that he thinks conversion is undesirable, that he tells seminarians to forgive all sin in the confessional even if there is no repentance, and that he maintains that sexual sins are nothing to worry about.