For Catholics around the world, the wait continues for the two remaining” Dubia Cardinals” to issue the promised “formal correction” to Pope Francis as regards Amoris Laetitia. Today, however, in what is being described as an “epoch-making act” unlike any taken “since the Middle Ages,” a group of Catholic clergy and lay scholars have taken a similar measure of their own, making public a “Filial Correction” that was first delivered to the pope on August 11th. The occasion of the publication of this document is today’s Feast of Our Lady of Ransom and of Our Lady of Walsingham. Versions of this correctio are now available in English, Spanish, French, and Italian, along with supporting documents and a list of signatories, on a new website created to support this effort: correctiofilialis.org
Anticipating the objection of those who will claim that simple clergy and laymen have no place in correcting a pope, the authors make their purpose clear:
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 (cf. Summa Theologiae 2a 2ae, 33, 4). 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 (cf. Lk. 11:52) – 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.
The letter also takes an unprecedented step, using the word “heresy” in reference not just to possible interpretations of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, but also to other recent “words, deeds and omissions” of the pope.
“Most Holy Father,” the letter begins, “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.” [emphasis added]
The 25-page document, which was delivered with 40 signatures, has continued to garner support while its existence was kept secret from the public, having grown to include 62 members of the clergy and lay scholars from 20 countries around the world. The list of signatories includes well-known names of Catholic leaders, theologians, and authors such as Fr. Linus Clovis, Deacon Nick Donnelly, Christopher Ferrara, Dr. Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, Martin Mosebach, Prof. Roberto de Mattei, Bishop Bernard Fellay, and many more. The authors stress that they will be welcoming additional signatures through a form on their website.
A summary of the document says that these 62 “also represent others lacking the necessary freedom of speech”, calling to mind the recent abrupt dismissal of renowned Austrian philosopher Josef Seifert from his position as the Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair at the International Academy of Philosophy in Granada, Spain after he publicized some respectful questions about Amoris Laetitia. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, one of only a few outspoken champions of Catholic teaching amongst the global episcopacy, described Seifert’s firing as “not only unjust, but … ultimately an escape from truth”. For his part, Seifert has had to take both canonical and civil legal action to fight his summary dismissal without cause – actions which signatories of the correctio could also be forced to take in the event they face similar disciplinary action in retaliation for their involvement.
The full title of the document is Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis, which is translated as “A filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies.” It states, according to the authors, “that the pope has, by his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, and by other, related, words, deeds and omissions, effectively upheld 7 heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments, and has caused these heretical opinions to spread in the Catholic Church.”
This correction is comprised of three parts:
First, there an explanation from the signatories as to why they have “the right and duty” to “issue such a correction to the supreme pontiff.” They emphasize that this correction does not come into conflict with the dogma of papal infallibility, because the pope “has not declared these heretical positions to be definitive teachings of the Church, or stated that Catholics must believe them with the assent of faith.”
Second, there is the “correction” itself. In this section, the passages of Amoris Laetitia are listed “in which heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged”; also listed are “words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical.”
Third, there is the “elucidation,” which examines more deeply the roots of the present situation. “One cause,” write the authors, “is ‘Modernism’. Theologically speaking, Modernism is the belief that God has not delivered definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time.” The authors insist that because of the great confusion that follows from Modernism’s presence in the Church, the signatories are obliged to “describe the true meaning of ‘faith’, ‘heresy’, ‘revelation’, and ‘magisterium’.” The authors go on in the “elucidation” of the correctio to focus in a particular way on the influence of the thought of the arch-heretic Martin Luther on the pontificate of Pope Francis.
The passages from Amoris Laetitia giving rise to the greatest harm are listed, along with several other “words, deeds, and omissions” of the pope which “in conjunction with these passages of Amoris laetitia are serving to propagate heresies within the Church”. These include:
- The refusal of the pope to answer the dubia
- The intervention of Pope Francis in the Relatio post disceptationem for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to include proposals for Holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics “despite the fact that they did not receive the two-thirds majority required by the Synod rules for a proposal to be included in the Relatio.”
- The papal interview of April 2016, in which a journalist asked if there were any new “concrete possibilities for the divorced and remarried” as a result of Amoris Laetitia, and to which the pope responded, “I can say yes. Period.” [Readers can view our translated video of that exchange here.] Also mentioned here were related statements of Cardinal Cristoph Schönborn, who was given the unofficial role of interpreting Amoris Laetitia by the pope, and who affirmed that in “certain cases” the pope intended “the help of the sacraments” for people in these situations.
- The letter of Pope Francis affirming the guidelines of the Bishops of the Buenos Aires’ region, which “offers the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist” in “a specific case” “when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained” and “there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability”. Of these guidelines, the pope wrote, “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”
Several other examples of papal actions that support these same interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, allowing communion for those living in an objectively adulterous situation, were also listed.
The authors then turn to the seven “false and heretical propositions” that have been promoted within the Church. They insist that they, and the signatories who have joined them, “do not not venture to judge the degree of awareness with which Pope Francis has propagated the 7 heresies which they list.” It is the purpose of their correction, however, to “respectfully insist that he condemn these heresies, which he has directly or indirectly upheld.”
The seven propositions of the correctio itself, though issued in Latin, have also been translated by the authors as follows:
By these words, deeds, and omissions, and by the above-mentioned passages of the document Amoris laetitia, Your Holiness has upheld, directly or indirectly, and, with what degree of awareness we do not seek to judge, both by public office and by private act propagated in the Church the following false and heretical propositions:
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 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.’
For each of these propositions, citations are given from both Scripture and the Church’s magisterium documenting where they come into conflict with Catholic teaching. “These propositions” the authors write, “all contradict truths that are divinely revealed, and that Catholics must believe with the assent of divine faith.”
The authors conclude the correctio as true sons of the Church:
At this critical hour, therefore, we turn to the cathedra veritatis, 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.”
It is difficult to predict what, if any, impact this correctio will have on a papacy that has steadfastly ignored a previous filial appeal with nearly 800,000 signatures, the circulation of a theological censures document authored by 45 theologians and scholars amongst the entire college of cardinals, and the five dubia presented by four cardinals who have, as yet, not been able to even obtain a papal audience over a year after their initial intervention and in the wake of the deaths of two of their number.
Nevertheless, the language used in this latest document advances the case further than anything that came before it, and some speculate that it may help establish that the pope is guilty of public and notorious material heresy. If so, his failure to respond could be an important step in determining that the pope is “incorrigible and pertinacious” in the promotion of heresy, and possibly trigger additional remedial actions further down the road.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.