A few days ago, OnePeterFive reported that Professor Josef Seifert, a prominent Austrian Catholic philosopher and defender of Life, had been removed by Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández, of Granada, Spain from his Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair at the International Academy of Philosophy. Moreover, the archbishop made an explicit reference to Seifert’s 2016 and 2017 writings, his published polite critiques of the papal document Amoris Laetita. This piece of news has caused much international discussion and drawn significant attention. Reports about it have been published in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.S., to name but a few. Professor Roberto de Mattei, the Italian historian and Catholic commentator, for example, has written an excellent analysis of the moral and intellectual crisis caused by this unjust dismissal. In light of the grave injustice to be found in the Seifert case, as well as the likely consequences stemming from it for many other sincere and doubting critics of Amoris Laetitia, we have decided to reach out to several Catholic scholars and authors, asking them to submit their own reflections about this case, also in light of a defense of Professor Seifert’s life work and of his academic and intellectual freedom. In the following, we gratefully present some of them to our readers.
Dr. Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy, University of Chile
I thank you for the occasion to publicly express all my solidarity and admiration for Josef Seifert, my excellent friend, teacher in Philosophy, brother in the Catholic faith and companion in the present difficult resistance against heresy within the very heart of the Church. I think the firing of Prof. Josef Seifert by Archbishop Martínez of Granada is an act of persecution, and a highly preoccupying one, against not only an outstanding Catholic philosopher, but a sincere and loyal son of the Church, who has always been moved by a relentless love of Truth.
As such, he had always been appreciated by Pope St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and many other defenders of the Catholic faith, not least by Card. Caffarra. I can give testimony of his profound grief and preoccupation for the present systematic destruction of the Magisterium that Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI dedicated to the defense of Catholic moral doctrine and the eternal principles of Natural Law: to this Magisterium he gave continuous and brilliant support with an impressive number of books and articles during more than thirty years. So it appears particularly hideous, not to say frankly diabolical, that he now should be dismissed from the Academy he himself founded and served for so many years out of love of the Truth and the Church.
I don’t make any judgment about the good faith of Archbishop Martínez of Granada; still, I’m obliged to note that his act proceeds from a profound misconception of the Papacy and Catholic orthodoxy. He seems to be assuming that this text of Amoris Laetitia is to be believed as if it contained a truth “de fide credenda”, and so to simply raise a doubt or propose a question about it must be judged as a sin against the Pope and the unity of the Church. Does the archbishop of Granada ignore that similar profound doubts and questions have been raised by a great number of qualified theologians in the whole world? Three or four, like Schönborn, Buttiglione, Fernández, Guerra, have ventured to defend the text, and have instantly been submerged by critics who very easily show the feebleness of the defense. Does he ignore that even four Cardinals of the Church have raised the same doubts? Have their doubts been answered? Has AL made any well-founded contribution to the moral doctrine of the Church? Or is it sowing doubt and confusion everywhere? So, who is attacking the Papacy? Who is menacing the unity of the Church? Martínez has no doubts: Josef Seifert.
Director Emeritus, The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London (1981-2000)
Research Professor, Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor Michigan (2001-2007)
Corresponding Member, The Pontifical Academy for Life (1996-2001); Ordinary Member (2001-2016)
I have known Professor Josef Seifert since I became a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1996. He has come to seem to me to be one of the few characters I would call ‘noble’. He has been extraordinarily dedicated in his devotion to the truth, both the truth as it may be known by reason and the truth as we know it from revelation. And he has combined this devotion with frankness, courtesy and charity in his dealings with others.
His two publications on Amoris Laetitia identify propositions more or less explicit in that Apostolic Exhortation which are subversive of un-revisable Church teaching and the necessary discipline of the sacraments. He has done so in a spirit of filial devotion to the Church and to the person of the Pope. A just perception of what he has done should inspire any bishop in his own ministry to avoid the errors of Amoris Laetitia in the interests of unity in truth. It is no service of ecclesial unity to ingratiate oneself with the Pope when papal leadership is destructive of unity.
It is truly shameful that Professor Seifert has been so unjustly removed from the Institute which he founded and to which he has devoted so much of his professional life. Saint Teresa Benedicta, lover of truth, pray for him.
From a priest and canon lawyer who has asked for anonymity:
Aquinas and Bellarmine indicate not only that it can be permissible, if a pope’s words or actions pose an “imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith,” to publicly rebuke him, but that this can even be a duty.
Aquinas, for example, teaches:
“…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.” [II-II Q. 33, art. IV. ]
Dr. John Lamont, Dr. phil.
Philosopher, Theologian, and Author
I of course fully support Professor Josef Seifert in his statements about Amoris Laetitia and denounce the injustice of his being forced into retirement by the Archbishop of Granada, and you are free to quote me on this if you wish. I think he should proceed canonically against the Archdiocese for this action, and take the case to the civil law if that is feasible.
John M. Haas, Ph.D., S.T.L., M.Div., K.M.
International Institute for Culture
Professor Josef Seifert has been a friend and colleague for decades. I would regularly have him lecture at Workshops in Bavaria on the relationship between faith and culture organized by my Institute. He is a creative thinker with a keen philosophical mind who has always been solidly orthodox with an unwavering commitment to magisterial teaching and the received traditions of the Catholic Church. Many Catholic scholars, including members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, have received advanced degrees from his philosophical academy. May his service to the Church continue.
Mathias von Gersdorff
Pro-Life Activist, Journalist, and Author, Germany
The punitive measure taken by the Archbishop of Granada concerning Professor Josef Seifert is truly “a preferential option for irrationality.” The worldwide renowned philosopher has merely raised – in a respectful manner – a question concerning a passage of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He did so by strictly remaining in the field of logic – one of his fields of expertise, and not in the field of theology. With an utmost sense of tact, he raises the question as to whether the said passage in the Apostolic Exhortation – possibly because of a lapse and not with the explicit will of the pope – really wants to claim that, if there are cases where God offers the way of adultery as the only and best solution, this would also apply to the act of stealing, the act of murder, etc.
If this would be the case, obviously the whole Catholic moral theology would collapse. In the face of the fact that Professor Seifert totally proves that this very sentence allows such a logical conclusion, he pleas that this passage will be explained, reformulated, or even removed and rescinded. Now, instead of dealing with the matter at hand, the Archbishop of Granada (Spain) has made use of his authority in order to degrade Professor Seifert and to dismiss him. If authority is being used in such a manner, earlier or later the principle of authority within the Church itself will be destroyed.
Director, Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, Mt. Jackson, Virginia, USA
Dr. Josef Seifert belongs to a long line of faithful witnesses who have taken a stand for the Truth – and been calumniated for it. As someone who was privileged to participate as an observer in an exchange of views among various experts in theology and philosophy regarding Amoris Laetitia, including Dr. Seifert, I can testify that he was always respectful of the authority of the Pope and of his Archbishop, merely seeking faithfully to fulfill his mandate as a Catholic scholar to uphold the doctrine of Holy Marriage as it had been handed down from the Apostles. Indeed, these are strange times when those who defend what all of the Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Council Fathers have upheld in their authoritative teaching can now be condemned as dissenters and stripped of their right to teach in Catholic institutions!
Mag. theol., Mag. phil., catechist, active in the pro-life field, Vienna (Austria)
As a graduate from the International Academy of Philosophy (IAP) in the Principality of Liechtenstein – which was founded by Professor Josef Seifert – I support Professor Seifert’s position as it has been expressed in his recent document “Does pure logic threaten to destroy the entire moral doctrine of the Catholic Church?” and I join him in his call to Pope Francis to rescind the incriminated passage in Amoris Laetitia (303).
Because the pure logic of AL 303 will indeed lead to a justification of all intrinsically evil acts. There exists then no reason at all to halt or to stop at adultery. For, the relativism as represented here by the pope will lead, with the same inner logic, to the justification of political crimes. That is to say, he who makes relativism his own position and rejects the teaching about the intrisece malum, (the intrinsically evil), may not any more then complain about the national-socialist crimes.
Dietrich von Hildebrand – one of the most important teachers of Professor Seifert and thus in a certain way himself the spiritus rector of the IAP – pointed already in the 1930s, and from Vienna, to the radically relativistic character of National Socialism.
Nowadays, however, one is miles away from such an analysis since National Socialism has received a “special status” in the history of ideologies. This special status is not justifiable.
Therefore, one should completely support Professor Seifert’s call to Pope Francis to rescind the above-mentioned passage – especially by those who themselves stem from the German-speaking realm!
In my view, Professor Seifert could have even formulated his own critique in a sharper way. Since Pope Francis had presented relativistic and Teilhardian ideologies already in his earlier teachings, one may certainly already exclude in this case any possibly well-meaning merely “pastoral motives.” One cannot exclude that, with his fundamental decisions that are now clearly recognizable as being openly heretical, Pope Francis, possibly, has excluded himself already from the Church.
This matter should be investigated by the cardinals, theologians, and philosophers, and urgently so.
Retired Professor of Philosophy of the Law, University of Perugia, Italy
This post has been updated.