With Vatican on the Defensive, Now is the Time for Formal Correction

“The Great Firewall of China,” says Wikipedia, “is the combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the People’s Republic of China to regulate the Internet domestically. Its role in the Internet censorship in China is to block access to selected foreign websites and to slow down cross-border internet traffic.”

Information is power, and in a totalitarian communist regime like China’s, one must be very careful about allowing the proletariat a chance to have too much to think. Among the common websites blocked by China’s nationwide internet filter are Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

Among the websites not blocked by the Great Firewall is correctiofilialis.org — the website erected by the authors of the Filial Correction to provide access to their documentation and provide an opportunity for others to sign on.

And yet that same website has already been blocked by the Vatican. According to Italian news website Ansa.it,

The Secretariat for the Holy See’s communication has blocked access to the web page … to the initiative accusing the Pope of seven heresies, linked to what he writes in “Amoris laetitia “.

You can no longer access the page in the Vatican computers in any language. Outside the Vatican, however, the page is reachable.

“Access to the webpage you are trying to visit has been blocked in accordance with institutional security policies,” is the warning that appears. No Vatican computer, therefore, could join the petition.

While the Vatican has chosen to ignore the correction in the hopes it will go away,, the usual papal defenders in the media have closed ranks, issuing haughty and dismissive criticisms of those who issued the correction, not its substance.

Fr. James Martin lamented how “some of the same people who said under John Paul II and Benedict that any disagreement with a pope was dissent, disagree with Francis.” (One would be hard pressed not to take note of the irony here.)

Massimo Faggioli, a progressive theologian and historian at Villanova, went after the Filial Correction in a series of Tweets. “This ‘correction’ to Francis,” he wrote, “is actually very useful because it shows … the very limited number and marginality of this [sic] theologians…”  In a followup article at the National Catholic Reporter, Faggioli pointed out that the list of signatories includes “no cardinal and no bishop, in a Catholic Church that has more than 200 cardinals and more than 5000 bishops.” He discounted the presence of Bishop Fellay — characterized as “schismatic” — and apparently did not know that the Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Henry Gracida, has also signed on. (Nor did he seem to realize that a correction from bishops would be “fraternal” and not “filial”, which is likely the reason they were not asked to sign.)

Austen Ivereigh, the papal biographer, took a stab at a class warfare attack: “Like the petitions contra Humanae Vitae or pro women priests, this will be ignored. The magisterium doesn’t bow to middle-class lobbies.”

Stephen Walford — the papacy’s newest useful sycophant — also made a cameo in the NCR piece, claiming that the correctio “is based around claims the Holy Father has never made — lies essentially — and a massive dose of hypocrisy.” As in his other recent essays attacking those asking for theological clarity from the pope, Walford completely avoids addressing the specific and documented claims made in the correction, which cite chapter and verse from papal writings and actions and those portions of Scripture and Magisterial teaching they contradict. Instead, he contents himself with disparaging the authors, saying: “their own judging of what is acceptable for a pope to teach is nothing short of Protestantism”.

Get that? A document that asks a pope to adhere to Divinely-revealed truth and decries the clear influence of Martin Luther on his thought and work is Protestantism. 

Meanwhile, coverage of the Filial Correction continues to spread around the globe, with stories not just in the Catholic media, but the mainstream as well. A Google News search this morning pulled over 5,000 results for “filial correction”. Here is just a sampling of the headlines from major outlets:

“Catholic Clergy and Scholars Publish ‘Filial Correction’ of Pope Francis for ‘Seven Heresies’” (Breitbart)

“Group accuses Pope Francis of heresy” (USA Today)

“Pope Francis accused of ‘upholding heresies’ about marriage & moral life” (RT)

“Conservative Theologians Accuse Pope of Spreading Heresy” (New York Times/AP)

The Associated Press picked up by the New York Times showed up elsewhere as well. The copy that appeared in the Chicago Tribune quickly became one of Facebook’s top trending stories on Saturday.

After publishing our own report on the Filial Correction, we received a number of requests from individuals asking how they could sign. Since the original intent of the correction was that it be a work of pastors and qualified Catholic scholars, there wasn’t really an option for the average pewsitter to attach their name. On Saturday evening, I drafted a Change.org petition in support of the Filial Correction with language I thought might make it work as an “unofficial” show of support for the formal effort. I stuck it on my Facebook page in a non-public post asking for feedback. I considered it a draft.

When I got back from Mass on Sunday, however, I was astonished to see that it had been shared. In less than 24 hours, and without any real attempt at promotion, it had garnered over 1600 signatures. After putting the word out, even more began pouring in. The petition now has 4300 signatures and counting. (You can sign it here.) It seems that something Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium is now manifesting itself in an unexpected way: 

“In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation.[96] As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.”

In an essay published by 1P5 this morning, William Briggs made a critical examination of those who are complaining most loudly about the Filial Correction:

If the naysayers thought the supernatural element the most important, and not politics, there would have been immediate and lively discussion of the seven points of the Correction. Are they really heresies? All of them? Why? Why not? “Let’s dig into this most important matter,” they would have said. “The salvation of souls is paramount, and heresy cannot be countenanced. Here is where we agree, and here where we disagree on the theological points.”

Only after we figure out, really investigate, and agree on each the points are the motives of the writers and signers of the Correction up for grabs. To focus on personalities first is an inversion—and very telling.

It is very telling, and what it tells us is that they are squarely on the defensive. After ten months of weathering scrutiny over the dubia, the changes made at various Vatican congregations, academies, and institutes, the sordid behavior of clergy in Vatican-owned apartments, and more, the Filial Correction appears to have touched a nerve that is driving the point home: things are very much not as they should be in Rome.

If the remaining dubia Cardinals — and those other members of the curia and the episcopacy who have the courage to support them — have been waiting for the right tactical time to make their move, this is it.

The world is watching – and waiting.

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