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 Laetitia that 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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
The filial correction comes as a “formal correction” of the Pope from cardinals may be imminent.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the dubia Cardinals, told The Wanderer last month that this “formal correction” would involve a clear presentation of the Church’s teaching on the points at issue, alongside what the Pope is actually saying on those points. “If there is a contradiction, the Roman Pontiff is called to conform his own teaching in obedience to Christ and the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.
“It is done very simply by a formal declaration to which the Holy Father would be obliged to respond,” he said.
Burke said he and the other three cardinals – Walter Brandmuller, Joachim Meisner, and Carlo Caffarra (the latter two now deceased) – issued the dubia “in order to give [Pope Francis] the occasion to set forth the Church’s unchanging teaching.”
“Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the five dubia, so it is now necessary simply to state what the Church teaches about marriage, the family, acts that are intrinsically evil, and so forth,” he explained. “These are the points that are not clear in the current teachings of the Roman Pontiff; therefore, this situation must be corrected. The correction would then direct itself principally to those doctrinal points.”
In an interview this week with Australia’s Catholic Outlook, Burke said the need for a response to the dubia is urgent because of the “harm done to souls by the confusion and error.”
“The urgency weighs very heavily on my heart,” he said.
The Filial Correction and its signatories, along with a summary statement and press release, can be viewed at www.correctiofilialis.org.
Editor’s note: Diane Montagna contributed to this report.
Signatories of the Filial Correction
Note: The letter delivered to Pope Francis on August 11 contained 40 names. 22 more names have been added since that date.
Dr. Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg
European editor, Empirical Journal of Same-Sex Sexual Behavior
Prof. Jean Barbey
Historian and Jurist, former Professor at the University of Maine
Fr Claude Barthe
Philip M. Beattie BA (Leeds), MBA (Glasgow), MSc (Warwick), Dip.Stats (Dublin)
Associate Lecturer, University of Malta (Malta)
Fr Jehan de Belleville
Dr. Philip Blosser
Professor of Philosophy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Archdiocese of Detroit
Fr Robert Brucciani
District superior of the SSPX in Great Britain
Prof. Mario Caponnetto
University Professor, Mar de la Plata (Argentina)
Mr Robert F. Cassidy STL
Fr Isio Cecchini
Parish Priest in Tuscany
Salvatore J. Ciresi M.A.
Director of the St. Jerome Biblical Guild, Lecturer at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College
Fr. Linus F Clovis Ph.D., JCL, M.Sc., STB, Dip. Ed
Director of the Secretariat for Family and Life in the Archdiocese of Castries
Fr Paul Cocard
Fr Thomas Crean OP STD
Prof. Matteo D’Amico
Professor of History and Philosophy, Senior High School of Ancona
Dr. Chiara Dolce PhD
Research doctor in Moral Philosophy at the University of Cagliari
Deacon Nick Donnelly MA
Head of Department for the Study of Ancient and Medieval Thought at the Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Professor of philosophy at Saints Cyril and Methodius Theological Faculty, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic
H.E. Mgr Bernard Fellay
Superior General of the SSPX
Christopher Ferrara Esq.
Founding President of the American Catholic Lawyers’ Association
Prof. Michele Gaslin
Professor of Public Law at the University of Udine
Prof. Corrado Gnerre
Professor at the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose of Benevento, Pontifical Theological University of Southern Italy
Dr. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi
Former President of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), Professor of Ethics at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan
Dr. Maria Guarini STB
Pontificia Università Seraphicum, Rome; editor of the website Chiesa e postconcilio
Prof. Robert Hickson PhD
Retired Professor of Literature and of Strategic-Cultural Studies
Fr John Hunwicke
Former Senior Research Fellow, Pusey House, Oxford
Fr Jozef Hutta
Prof. Isebaert Lambert
Full Professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, and at the Flemish Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Dr. John Lamont STL DPhil (Oxon.)
Fr Serafino M. Lanzetta STD
Lecturer in Dogmatic Theology, Theological Faculty of Lugano, Switzerland; Priest in charge of St Mary’s, Gosport, in the diocese of Portsmouth
Prof. Massimo de Leonardis
Professor and Director of the Department of Political Sciences at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan
Msgr. Prof. Antonio Livi
Academic of the Holy See
Dean emeritus of the Pontifical Lateran University
Vice-rector of the church of Sant’Andrea del Vignola, Rome
Dr. Carlo Manetti
Professor in Private Universities in Italy
Prof. Pietro De Marco
Former Professor at the University of Florence
Prof. Roberto de Mattei
Former Professor of the History of Christianity, European University of Rome
Former Vice President of the National Research Council (CNR)
Fr Cor Mennen
Lecturer in Canon Law at the Major Seminary of the Diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
Canon of the cathedral chapter of the diocese of ‘s-Hertogenbosch
Prof. Stéphane Mercier
Lecturer in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Louvain
Don Alfredo Morselli STL
Parish priest of the archdiocese of Bologna
Writer and essayist
Dr. Claude E. Newbury M.B., B.Ch., D.T.M&H., D.O.H., M.F.G.P., D.C.H., D.P.H., D.A., M. Med;
Former Director of Human Life International in Africa south of the Sahara
Former Member of the Human Services Commission of the Catholic Bishops of South Africa
Prof. Lukas Novak
Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Charles University, Prague
Fr Guy Pagès
Prof. Paolo Pasqualucci
Professor of Philosophy (retired), University of Perugia
Prof. Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy in the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Chile
Former Professor of Church History and Patrology at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Father Anthony Pillari J.C.L., M.C.L
Prof. Enrico Maria Radaelli
Philosopher, editor of the works of Romano Amerio
Dr. John Rao
Associate Professor of History, St. John’s University, NYC; Chairman, Roman Forum
Dr. Carlo Regazzoni
Licentiate in Philosophy at University of Freiburg
Dr. Giuseppe Reguzzoni
External Researcher at the Catholic University of Milan and former editorial assistant of Communio, International Catholic Review (Italian edition)
Prof. Arkadiusz Robaczewski
Former Professor at the Catholic University of Lublin
Fr Settimio M. Sancioni STD
Licence in Biblical Science
Prof. Andrea Sandri
Research Associate, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan
Dr. Joseph Shaw
Tutor in Moral philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford
Fr Paolo M. Siano HED (Historiae Ecclesiasticae Doctor)
Dr. Cristina Siccardi
Historian of the Church
Dr Anna Silvas
Adjunct research fellow, University of New England, NSW, Australia
Prof. Dr Thomas Stark
Phil.-Theol. Hochschule Benedikt XVI, Heiligenkreuz
Rev. Glen Tattersall
Parish Priest, Parish of Bl. John Henry Newman, archdiocese of Melbourne; Rector, St Aloysius’ Church
Prof. Giovanni Turco
Associate Professor of Philosophy of Public Law at the University of Udine
Member Correspondent of the Pontificia Accademia San Tommaso d’Aquino
Prof. Piero Vassallo
Former editor of Cardinal Siri’s theological review Renovatio
Prof. Arnaldo Vidigal Xavier da Silveira
Former Professor at the Pontifical University of São Paulo, Brazil
Mons. José Luiz Villac
Former Rector of the Seminary of Jacarezinho