Priests and scholars appeal to Pope over ‘heretical positions’
The Australian (24th September 2017)
Pope Francis has been issued with a formal “filial correction” from 62 priests and lay scholars from 20 countries, including Australia, condemning “seven heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments’’ which the authors insist he has “directly or indirectly upheld”.
The 25-page letter, released in London today in six languages — English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese — states that the pope has, by his controversial Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) released last year, and “by other, related, words, deeds and omissions’’ caused “these heretical opinions to spread in the Catholic Church’’.
The letter, received by the pope at his residence at Domus Sanctae Marthae in the Vatican a month ago, says the group’s intention is also “to protect our fellow Catholics, — and those outside the Church … hoping to prevent the further spread of doctrines … profaning of all the sacraments and the subversion of the Law of God’’.
Its first paragraph says it was written “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 towards yourself’’.
The Australian signatories of the filial (from sons and daughters) correction are Father Glen Tattersall, Parish Priest of Melbourne’s traditional Latin Mass parish and University of New England adjunct research fellow Dr Anna Silvas.
The group was limited to allow input from all signatories, who have exchanged emails for months, in several languages. Participants include leading theologians and philosophers in Oxford, the US and Rome.
They argue that “modernism’’, the belief that “God has not delivered certain, definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time’’ has reached crisis point.
Another problem cited was the apparent influence of the ideas of Martin Luther on Pope Francis. The founder of Protestantism, they write, had ideas on marriage, divorce, forgiveness, and divine law which correspond to those which the pope has promoted. They also criticised the Pope’s “explicit and unprecedented praise” for Luther.
“Most Holy Father, the Petrine ministry has not been entrusted to you that you might impose strange doctrines on the faithful, but so that you may, as a faithful steward, guard the deposit against the day of the Lord’s return,’’ the letter says.
The last pope to receive such admonition was John XXII who was taken to task by a Franciscan priest, a Dominican priest and scholars at the University of Paris over an arcane debate about what happens to souls immediately after death. John XXII appointed a commission to study the issue and he recanted his former position before his death in 1334.
Many other popes throughout history have also created controversies and drawn criticism, but not formal corrections.
Father Tattersall said the letter, written with heavy hearts by all concerned, had nothing thing to do with disliking the Pope personally or his style: “All involved were compelled by the nature of truth to act out of loyalty to Christ, concern for the Church and for the good of souls. It was a burden and quite distressing to undertake.’’
The filial correction is likely to be followed by a “fraternal correction’’ from a small number of cardinals. At a conference in Kentucky last month, US Cardinal Raymond Burke, sacked by the Pope in 2014 as the church’s leading canon lawyer, said “confusion, division, and error” were coming from “shepherds” at the highest levels in the church.
Cardinal Burke also pointed to recent comments by the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said that the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Germany was not a major concern for the Church, which needed to be more concerned about intolerance towards same-sex attracted people.
The full text of the letter can be read here.