ROME, September 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Expressing “profound grief” and “filial devotion,” Catholic clergy and lay scholars from around the world have issued what they are calling a “Filial Correction” to Pope Francis for “propagating heresy.”
The Filial Correction, in the form of a 25-page letter, bears the signatures of sixty-two Catholic academics, researchers, and scholars in various fields from twenty countries. They assert that Pope Francis has supported heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the Eucharist that are causing a host of “heresies and other errors” to spread throughout the Catholic Church.
The correction was delivered to the Pope at his Santa Marta residence on August 11, 2017. No similar action has taken place within the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, when Pope John XXII was admonished for errors which he later recanted on his deathbed.
“With profound grief, but moved by fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, by love for the Church and for the papacy, and by filial devotion toward yourself, we are compelled to address a correction to Your Holiness on account of the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness,” the signers write in the letter.
“As subjects, we do not have the right to issue to Your Holiness that form of correction by which a superior coerces those subject to him with the threat or administration of punishment,” they state.
“We issue this correction, rather, to protect our fellow Catholics — and those outside the Church, from whom the key of knowledge must not be taken away — hoping to prevent the further spread of doctrines which tend of themselves to the profaning of all the sacraments and the subversion of the Law of God,” they add.
The signers respectfully insist that Pope Francis condemn the heresies that he has “directly or indirectly upheld,” and that he teach the truth of the Catholic faith in its integrity.
They say that they make “no judgment” about the Pope’s culpability in propagating the seven heresies they list. They add that it is not their task to “judge whether the sin of heresy has been committed” whereby a person “departs from the faith by doubting or denying some revealed truth with a full choice of the will.”
The letter was made public today, six weeks after the signers received no response from the Pope.
Duty to correct
The 62 clergy and lay scholars explain that, as believing and practicing Catholics, they have the right and duty to issue such a correction to the Pope “by natural law, by the law of Christ, and by the law of the Church” and that the correction in no way undermines Catholic teaching on papal infallibility.
The Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible (incapable of error by a special gift of the Holy Spirit) when certain conditions are met. He teaches infallibly in his ordinary capacity when a doctrine is consistent, constant, and universal in relation to what the Church and other popes have always taught. Or in an extraordinary capacity, he teaches infallibly when he speaks “ex cathedra,” that is, when he speaks in the capacity of his office as Apostolic pastor and teacher for the purpose of defining a “doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” The Pope is not infallible in other matters, such as when he gives an off-the-cuff interview or presents his personal reflection on a given topic.
“We adhere wholeheartedly to the doctrine of papal infallibility,” the signers state, adding that in their opinion “neither Amoris Laetitia nor any of the statements which have served to propagate the heresies which this exhortation insinuates are protected by that divine guarantee of truth.” The signers’ opinion that the exhortation is not infallible magisterial teaching is backed by leading churchmen, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke.
The signers list a dozen passages from Amoris Laetitia that they say “serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.”
Included in the list is the “smoking” footnote 351 where the Pope writes that those living in an objective situation of sin can receive the “help of the sacraments” to grow in the life of grace and charity. Many have interpreted this to mean that civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics living in adultery can receive Holy Communion, and the Pope has endorsed guidelines allowing this. Also included in the list is the text pertaining to couples living in adultery who, the Pope writes, see their situation as “what God himself is asking” of them, despite falling short of the “objective ideal.”
The scholars say that these passages along with a number of “words, deeds and omissions” of the Pope are “serving to propagate heresies within the Church.”
According to the signers, the “words, deeds and omissions” of Pope Francis that promote heresy include:
Refusing to answer the dubia (five yes-or-no questions) submitted by the four cardinals (two of whom are now deceased) asking him to confirm that Amoris Laetitia does not abolish five teachings of the Catholic faith.
Forcibly intervening at the 2015 Synod of the Family where he insisted on inserting into a midterm report a proposal (that did not receive sufficient votes) to allow communion for adulterers and a proposal that pastors should emphasize the “positive aspects” of lifestyles the Church considers gravely sinful, including civil remarriage after divorce and premarital cohabitation.
Endorsing an interpretation of the exhortation by Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn that allows for Holy Communion to be given to adulterers.
Affirming the statement of the bishops of the Buenos Aires region that allowed Communion to be given to adulterers, stating that “there are no other interpretations.”
Appointing to positions of influence within the Church men who publicly dissent from Catholic teaching on the sacraments, including Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and Cardinal Kevin Farrell.
Allowing guidelines for the diocese of Rome to be issued under his authority that permit adulterers to receive communion under certain circumstances.
Leaving uncorrected the publication in L’Osservatore Romano, the official journal of the Holy See, the Maltese bishops’ interpretation of Amoris Laetitiathat allows communion for adulterers.
The Catholic clergy and lay scholars go on to list seven “false and heretical propositions” which they say Pope Francis “directly or indirectly” upholds through his “words, deeds, and omissions.” These seven propositions, listed below, are summaries of the positions which they attribute to Pope Francis and deem to be heretical.
A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.
Christians who have obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom they are validly married and have contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of their spouse, who live more uxorio [as husband and wife] with their civil partner, and who choose to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act, are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity.
A Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action.
A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.
Conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, although one or both of them is sacramentally married to another person, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God.
Moral principles and moral truths contained in divine revelation and in the natural law do not include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid particular kinds of action, inasmuch as these are always gravely unlawful on account of their object.
Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.
The clergy and scholars state that these “propositions all contradict truths that are divinely revealed, and that Catholics must believe with the assent of divine faith.”
They add that it is “necessary” that such heresies be “condemned by the authority of the Church,” on account of the “great and imminent danger” they cause to souls.
As one of the signers explained to LifeSiteNews, St. Thomas Aquinas taught that faithful Catholics have a duty to correct an erring prelate. He quoted the following passage from the saint’s famous theological work Summa Theologiae:
If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter’s subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith, and, as the gloss of Augustine says on Gal. 2:11, Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects.
The signers conclude the letter, writing: “At this critical hour, therefore, we turn to the cathedra veritatis [seat of truth], the Roman Church, which has by divine law pre-eminence over all the churches, and of which we are and intend always to remain loyal children, and we respectfully insist that Your Holiness publicly reject these propositions, thus accomplishing the mandate of our Lord Jesus Christ given to St Peter and through him to all his successors until the end of the world: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.’”
One significant name in the list of signers is that of Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). He signed the letter after it had already been submitted to the Pope. It remains to be seen how Fellay’s agreement with the content of the filial correction will affect Pope Francis’ recent efforts to integrate the SSPX legally into the Catholic Church.
Signs of the times
The filial correction comes after more than a year of the Pope not dialoguing or engaging with faithful Catholics who have approached him directly with serious concerns about how he is steering the Barque of Peter, the Church. The Pope has been sent letters, petitions, video messages, and official questions (the dubia), but all to no avail. Significant dates of attempts to dialogue with the Pope include:
September 29, 2015 – 791,000 Catholics (including 8 cardinals, over 200 bishops, and numerous priests, religious, and lay faithful representing 62 pro-family organizations) petition Pope Francis to end the “widespread confusion arising from the possibility that a breach has been opened within the Church that would accept adultery… and would virtually even accept homosexual unions.”
July 13, 2016 – 16 international life-and-family advocates plead with the Pope to “unambiguously speak the truth of the Catholic faith, to end doctrinal confusion, to restore clarity, and to be the Holy Father that Catholics need.”
July 11, 2016 – 45 Catholic scholars submit a letter to the cardinals and Eastern patriarchs of the Church asking them to petition the Pope to “repudiate a list of erroneous propositions” that can be drawn from Amoris Laetitia.
September 19, 2016 – Four cardinals (two of whom are now deceased) submit to the Pope five yes-or-no questions (dubia) asking if the exhortation conforms to perennial Catholic teaching on the moral life. The questions were never answered.
January 18, 2017 – Three Eastern European bishops launch a “spiritual crusade” urging the Pope to “revoke in an unequivocal manner” pastoral guidelines stemming from Amoris Laetitia that allow adulterers to receive Holy Communion.
April 25, 2017 – The four dubia cardinals unsuccessfully ask the Pope for a private audience to discuss “confusion and disorientation” within the Church after the publication of Amoris Laetitia.