First, I sadly begin by saying that I have always had great respect for Patrick Coffin and consider him a friend and ally in the culture wars. When he was the host of Catholic Answers Live we probably did 100 shows together. We have traveled together. I consider him a dear friend.

However, I do feel compelled to comment on some of his recent public comments regarding Pope Francis — claiming that Pope Francis is an anti-pope and a dress rehearsal for the antichrist. You can watch his video and read his notes here. I consider these comments very ill-advised, incorrect and detrimental.

His argument is extremely weak and unconvincing, in fact, I am surprised that Patrick would consider himself correct in his assertion based on the weak arguments he makes. He is too smart to fall for this in my estimation. I have sympathy with a person who has problems with this pope, but to claim he is not pope is a whole different matter.

By no means am I personally happy with this pope, and I continue being frustrated with his papacy, but I will never cross the line to reject his papacy or to question that he is the duly elected pope or to suggest that Pope Benedict XVI never really resigned and is still the pope today.

If you want to know my thoughts on Pope Francis and how we should view his papacy and how we should respond, you can listen to my talk “How Does a John Paul II Catholic Survive in a Pope Francis World”  which I gave in the presence of about 10 bishops at a gathering of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

To date, there have been two respectful refutations of Patrick Coffin’s assertions. I consider both of these rebuttals to be accurate, respectful, charitable, concise and theologically correct.

I had thought to put a response together myself, but don’t feel I could do any better than these two rebuttals. Both are about an hour-long, but quick-paced and easy to follow.

Again, I love Patrick and am grieved that he has felt it necessary to take such a leap off the cliff and hope that he recants sooner than later. My prayers and friendship are with him.

1)   Michael Lofton on his Reason and Theology website and podcast HERE.

2) Validity of Pope Benedict’s resignation and Pope Francis’ pontificate HERE.

3)   Catholic Answers Live host Cy Kellett’s interview with Joe Heschmeyer below.

4) Recently discussed on Crisis Magazine’s interview “Is Benedict Still the Pope?


This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Ron

    Did the Church declare that stating a theory about the Pope as a sin?

    SSTEVE RAY HERE: No. But it is serious business and people should be warned of the innacuracy and danger of this antipope assertion. Had it been stated in private, that is one thing. But to have a friend of mine with great public influence state this in public is a serious matter indeed. And one that cannot go ignored.

    1. Eamonn

      An old chart used for auditing the Congregations did indeed give the denial of the legitimacy of a pope as an example of a rather high degree of error noted as mortal sin; granted, this rests on a denial of the theological principle of papal elections rather than what is historically certain. (Google “Cartechini theological notes” – you might find it a bit rigorist, but it is still a decent guide.)

      Similarly, denying the legitimacy of a pope is materially schismatic, and those who study such things for a living (“maiores,” as opposed to “minores”) do not really have much of an excuse, and the shadow of formal schism looms. It is not the Western schism here – the historical circumstances are not quite as confusing such that St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer would be able to disagree.

  2. Mary

    The elephant has been in the room for quite some time and no one wants to do or say anything. We let the statue of Luther in the Vatican go unchecked and then the Pachamama in the Vatican also went unchecked. When it was thrown in the Tiber, it was demanded for the the man to retrieve it. How much more blatant does the heresy have to get? So, do we just wait until the church collapses and then say where did we go wrong or what happened? This is our church & we need to come to her aid.

    STEVE RAY HERE: There have always been problems in the church and it’s not up to me to fix them. How did the church get along for 2000 years without my assistance? The answer is not to become fringe and declare Pope Benedict the 16th is still the pope. Pope Emeritus B. says he is not.

    It is the Lord’s church and he is building it. I gave a talk on what we should do as Catholics in the church today. I think if you watch it it might be encouraging to you. It’s on YouTube entitled “How can a John Paul II Catholic Survive in a Pope Francis World”.

    JP II Video

    1. Laney

      Nothing wrong with him stating facts Steve

      STEVE RAY HERE: Listen to the two podcasts I posted and then talk to me about the facts. Don’t be lightweight or kneejeck in these matters. It is best to know the facts before you follow a poorly devised argument with little or no facts and with partial truths and misrepresentations.

    2. Bill912

      The Church survived Benedict IX and Alexander VI. The Church even survived Pope Vigilius, who became pope through simony, and promised to declare the monophysite heresy orthodox. (After becoming pope, Vigilius reneged on his promise, was imprisoned for ten years, but, ultimately was the Holy Spirit’s improbable instrument to save the Church). The Church will survive Pope Francis.

      1. Vickg

        That you bring up these examples is telling.
        As you say, Francis may not be an anti-Pope but he is a trying influence in spiritually troubling and adverse times and often hits the hammer on the wrong note (with vigor). The Holy Spirit, as you point out, is always active in defense of His Church, but often allows evil for the sake of a greater good.
        Not too many serious Catholics could deny the rich history of soft-pedalling and moral equivocation of this papacy. My and I’m sure, if you are honest, your brain must get weary just recalling them. Exhausting!

        Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts. Yes, things can be very trying and frustrating. But it is a far cry from saying that he is not the pope. There have been some bad popes and many good popes, many smart popes and many dumb popes. However, time will judge our current Pope – and whether he is doing what we wish or not is not my problem. Jesus is building his church and he is in charge. I willing to submit to Jesus and his church. I am not able to change the issues in Rome even if I wanted to. To follow Patrick all one can do is cause confusion and rebellion.

        People like Patrick need to be very careful because causing a schism in the church is one of the worst sins we can do ecclesiastically. He is already finding that very few people are willing to side with him. Many times it is best to wait and let the Lord take care of things. Once a schism takes place, it is very hard to ever heal that schism. Just look at the “reformation“.

        I want nothing to do with causing or inciting rebellion or schism. This is exactly what Patrick needs to be careful of. My goal is to maintain unity and keep weaker folks from being shipwrecked.

  3. Theodore Seeber

    I find the defenses of the current Pope thin at best.

    But if we can have adulterers like Pope Sergius III as a valid Pope, sodomites like Pope Benedict IX as a valid Pope, both Pope Stephen VI and the man he persecuted after death Pope Formosus as valid Popes, then mere heresy or clerical Spiritual, Liturgical, Financial and Sexual abuse isn’t going to change who is Pope.

    Having said that, I’m to the point that I can no longer trust that the Pope is working with a full deck, or for that matter, in a spirit of good will. He’s still a Pope though, for good or evil.

  4. Dr. Ed Mazza

    “Heretical popes? The essence of Catholicism is that there be none. It is also its essence that, if necessary, the issue be faced squarely and judged fairly.” Fr. James Schall, SJ

    Lastly, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the United States answered thusly in a March 2021 interview:
    Reporter: “…it would seem that the approach you promote is very close to that of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. Can you tell us something about it?”
    Archbishop Viganò: From many parts of the Catholic world, especially in the conservative milieux, we hear it said that Benedict XVI is the “true Pope” and that Bergoglio is an “antipope.” This opinion is based, on the one hand, on the belief that his Renunciation is invalid (due to the way it was formulated, due to pressure exerted by external forces or the distinction between munus [office] and papal ministerium [ministry]) and, on the other hand, on the fact that a group of progressive Cardinals is said to have tried to have their own candidate elected at the Conclave of 2013, in violation of the norms of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis of John Paul II. Beyond the plausibility of these arguments, which if confirmed could invalidate Bergoglio’s election, this problem can only be solved by the Supreme Authority of the Church, when Providence deigns to put an end to this situation of very serious confusion.”

    STEVE RAY HERE: It is one thing to make claims against Francis, to dislike him, etc. It is quite another to claim he is the antipope and the dress rehearsal for the anti-Christ.

    You quote Schall and Vigano. Not sure what your point is. Can you quote them as supporting Patrick’s statement? Do either deny that Francis is pope or specifically refer to him as an antipope?

  5. Dr. Ed Mazza

    Fr. Schall says the issue should be faced, not avoided.

    Archbishop Vigano says Patrick’s arguments are conceivably plausible and an attempt should be made to confirm or dispose of them.

    STEVE RAY HERE: One can always discuss the matter, but yet, where have either of these two men stated that Pope Francis is an antipope? Discussions and dogmatic assertions are two different things.

    If the claim is that the pope is a problem, we agree (as do Schall and Viganó); but if the claim is that Francis is an antipope and dress rehearsal for the antichrist, then we don’t agree, and that also includes Viganó and Schall.

  6. Dr. Ed Mazza

    To be fair to Patrick, he used the phrase, “working hypothesis.”

    STEVE RAY HERE: Patrick made a statement and is digging in to defend it, but if that’s your perspective on his assertions, that is fine. You can have the final word and let’s discontinue for now, hopefully as respectful friends and brothers in Christ all working toward holiness and the same ultimate end. God bless!

    1. ben

      No, Mr Ray, you need to watch more closely before you falsely accuse a fellow catholic. Coffin takes great pains to define his working hypothesis as not a claim. Do your homework before you call in the dogs.

      1. Bill912

        If Coffin’s “working hypothesis” is “not a claim”, then what is it?

      2. Bill912

        And what was Steve’s false accusation? That he believes Patrick Coffin to be wrong?

    2. Steven O'Reilly


      In the notes to his most recent video, Mr. Coffin says: “Pope Benedict XVI is the true Roman Pontiff.” Seems he has moved beyond “working hypothesis” phase.


      STEVE RAY HERE: Seems so. I’ll-advised comments.

  7. Fr. John Higgins

    I have not studied the issues deeply, so I don’t have a valuable opinion on either Pope Francis being an “antiPope” or whether or not Patrick Coffin is correct or incorrect.

    However I do have a little light to shed on the process here. Matthew 18 gives us all a good way to handle serious disagreements. I’ve been reminded of this myself several times in my 40 years as a Priest.

    I hope the best for both of you and for Pope Francis!

    STEVE RAY HERE: Fr. John, thanks for writing. I agree that Matthew 18 needs to be taken seriously with all interpersonal relationships. I did write Patrick a personal letter which to this point has been ignored. Private matters should be held in private. As you recall in Matthew 18 says “if a brother offends you”.

    However, when someone makes an issue public and I start having people sending me emails and texts very disturbed by what they’re reading and asking for advice, it is no longer a private matter.

    Patrick has made it a public matter and I feel it proper and prudent to address it in public. St. Paul the apostle did the same thing as you read his epistles.

    If you don’t have an opinion on Francis being the pope or being an anti-Pope, I would suggest you do your homework because this issue is not going away. God bless and thanks for being a priest!

  8. John Behan

    He’s not digging. You’re wound up. Reading your reply posts about your “friend” you don’t care.. be a man Steve, you’re too old to act like this.
    Stop the public shaming. If he is a friend like you say- you should address him privately.
    Stop parading the issue yourself on your blog bro. and lighten up.

    Catholic Answers folks are pope protectors anyways.

    STEVE RAY HERE: if you think that I am a pope Francis supporter, I would suggest you listen to my talk “How can a John Paul II Catholic Survive in a Pope Francis World” Which I gave to the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

    Regarding this being a public or a private matter, I did write to Patrick in private very respectfully based on our friendship.

    However, I understand that Matthew 18 needs to be taken seriously with all interpersonal relationships. Private matters should be held in private. As you recall in Matthew 18 says “if a brother offends you”.

    However, when someone makes an issue public and I start having people sending me emails and texts very disturbed by what they’re reading and asking for advice, it is no longer a private matter.

    Patrick has made it a public matter and I feel it proper and prudent to address it in public. St. Paul the apostle did the same thing as you read his epistles.

  9. Tom+Govern

    So much controversy abounds Pope Francis, I think that he is kind and pastoral. I also think that his “staff”, whoever that is, needs to help him more. Way too many communication issues. I would love to sit down with him one on one. Remember, it was not the Cardinals who elected him, but the Holy Spirit.

    1. Bill912

      Actually, as Steve pointed out on a recent post, it IS the cardinals who elect the pope. Hopefully, they pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, but, ultimately, the cardinals do the voting. I sure wouldn’t want to blame the Holy Spirit for Alexander VI.


    We can call him all kinds of names but there is nothing anybody or we can do with that man sitting at the Vatican unelectable by us so we might as well PRAY that the Holy Spirit in him through him that Pope Francis continue to lead us who are 1.3 billion and still growing to the RIGHT PATH or go to Canada and join the truckers to oust the Prime Minister. Oh my dear, did anybody see the lines of trucks that go miles and miles? I do not know if we can do that with the Pope at the Vatican City.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Correct!

  11. Bob

    As a Protestant I find all this rather amusing. Trad Catholics almost deify the Pope (speaking bluntly) when he goes their way; then go all protestant toward the Pope when he teaches what they don’t like. At least Luther had the honesty to be consistently outspoken!

    1. Sean

      Your insight highlights the issue at hand for ‘Trad’ Catholics. When the pope follows magisterial teaching, they like him, but when he doesn’t, they don’t. It’s the deposit of faith that they love (i.e. teaching)-not the pope at hand. That’s the difference between ‘Trad’ Catholics and Luther, who opposed the teaching, and it’s the model of consistency. It’s important to properly understand the pope’s role in the church, and generally speaking, agreeing or disagreeing with him isn’t a protestant act. Changing Church doctrine is.

    2. Bill912

      Please define “go all protestant toward the Pope”

      1. Guillermo Bobe

        Sean: I have a book about Luther but it is in Polish. If you read polish I will share it with you. Model of consistensy, how many different protestant churches are out there?

        STEVE RAY HERE: Polish is a very difficult language and I only know a few words. Bu thanks!

  12. Tony


    I believe there have been nearly 50 anti-popes in the history of the Church. Were they recognized as such at the time or did it take the perspective of history for the Church to come to that conclusion?

    Also, I have no idea whether PF is an anti-pope, but the one argument that I think most plausible is the St. Gallen mafia scheming to influence the conclave. If that is true (and I think there’s very good evidence that it is) why wouldn’t that invalidate PF’s election? St. JPII seemed to denounce that pretty clearly.

    STEVE RAY HERE: I think you are correct about things made clear in history. But if you watch the videos by Catholic Answers and especially by Michael Lofton, you will understand why Francis can’t be an antipope. Also the Gallen mafia did not act in a way to invalidate the election. Again, listen to the two vidoes. No sense me trying to reproduce it.

    Thanks for writing Tony and for your irenic tone. God bless you!


  13. Sean

    Mr. Ray, you seem to be catching a lot of flak for what I saw as a sincere and measured response towards a friend. I too was surprised at the uncharacteristic weakness of Patrick’s argument. As you say, there’s a difference between not liking the pope and arguing he’s an anti-pope. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks Sean!

  14. Alisa

    “Never” Steve? In italics even? “NEVER”…pretty bold assertion given the tailspin Bergoglio has put us in. You cannot entertain a single scenario where Bergoglio acts in such a way as to contradict the tenets of our Faith so that you have to eat that word? Where do you think propping up known sodomites and pro-abortionists is going to take us?

    STEVE RAY HERE: You can speculate about the future if you wish. There are good popes and bad popes. I am not the one to make that determination. I am with the bishop of Rome whether I like him or not. It is not my job to fix Rome. Frankly, it is not my Church nor was I commissioned to replace Jesus in the building of it. It is my job to be faithful to Christ and his Church.

  15. Teófilo de Jesús

    I’m with you, Ray. All these rationalizations thrown against Pope Francis’s papacy are wrong and dangerous to the souls of those espousing them. They solve nothing, but further add to the confusion.

    Like you, I’m not happy with many actions and inactions by Pope Francis, but schism is out of the question for those Catholics pursuing holiness.


    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks Theo, and what a great name! God bless you!

  16. Sandra

    I agree with both you and Patrick, somewhat. I agree that he’s a “dress rehearsal” for the anti-christ. I somewhat agree that he’s a genuine Pope. We don’t know for sure if Bergoglio was a plant, was he elected without any fraudulent means? I’d like to know answers to my questions about this man and his election as Pope. I respect the OFFICE of the Pope but I’m not at all happy with Bergoglio and his Papacy.

  17. Eddie

    It seems to me most of the brouhaha is political. No one I know personally has ever intimidated in even the smallest way the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the Successor to St. Peter.

    Maybe me and my friends are too stupid to know and understand all of your sophisticated arguments. We will all be held accountable for misleading our Lord’s little ones.

    STEVE RAY HERE: Eddie, I agree with you completely. God is not putting us in situation‘s to trick us or to cause fear. He does not want us to live in uncertainty. Pope Francis was duly elected as pope and he is the pope. People who are trying to challenge whether he is the pope or not are causing a lot of confusion. You are certainly correct Eddie.

  18. Jeff

    Thank you, Steve. I am faithful to the deposit of faith and the teaching magisterium of the church, which, if understood properly, can never lead us astray, no matter who the Bishop of Rome is.
    Jeff K

    STEVE RAY HERE: Thanks! You are correct. Even though the Bishop of Rome can say things incorrectly in his personal life or unofficially. We are guaranteed that no pope can officially teach heresy or error in the church. As a man he is fallible; he’s only infallible under very strict conditions.

  19. Oliveira

    Francis is an anti pope because he supports islamic invasion of Euroe.

    STEVE RAY HERE: You have no idea what you are talking or even what an anti-pope is. And by the way, you forgot the “p” in Europe.

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