Sixty major Catholic Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, and laymen have signed a declaration issuing a formal “correction” to Pope Francis for preaching heretical teachings and ask him to clarify statements he has made or repent of heretical teachings. The document is the first time in at least five centuries- before the Protestant Revolution- that this has happened:
Most Holy Father,
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.
We are permitted to issue this correction by natural law, by the law of Christ, and by the law of the Church, which three things Your Holiness has been appointed by divine providence to guard. By natural law: for as subjects have by nature a duty to obey their superiors in all lawful things, so they have a right to be governed according to law, and therefore to insist, where need be, that their superiors so govern. By the law of Christ: for His Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to rebuke Peter in public when the latter did not act according to the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2). St Thomas Aquinas notes that this public rebuke from a subject to a superior was licit on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith (Summa Theologiae 2a 2ae, 33, 4 ad 2), and ‘the gloss of St Augustine’ adds that on this occasion, “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” (ibid.). The law of the Church also constrains us, since it states that “Christ’s faithful . . . have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church” (Code of Canon Law 212:2-3; Code of Canons of Oriental Churches 15:3).
Scandal concerning faith and morals has been given to the Church and to the world by the publication of Amoris laetitia and by other acts through which Your Holiness has sufficiently made clear the scope and purpose of this document. Heresies and other errors have in consequence spread through the Church; for while some bishops and cardinals have continued to defend the divinely revealed truths about marriage, the moral law, and the reception of the sacraments, others have denied these truths, and have received from Your Holiness not rebuke but favour. Those cardinals, by contrast, who have submitteddubia to Your Holiness, in order that by this time-honoured method the truth of the gospel might be easily affirmed, have received no answer but silence.
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 (Lk. 12; 1 Tim. 6:20). We adhere wholeheartedly to the doctrine of papal infallibility as defined by the First Vatican Council, and therefore we adhere to the explanation which that same council gave of this charism, which includes this declaration: “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles” (Pastor aeternus, cap. 4). For this reason, Your Predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, praised the collective declaration of the German bishops, who noted that “the opinion according to which the pope is ‘an absolute sovereign because of his infallibility’ is based on a completely false understanding of the dogma of papal infallibility.”
…The final part, called ‘Elucidation’, discusses two causes of this unique crisis. One cause 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. Modernists hold that God communicates to mankind only experiences., which human beings can reflect on, so as to make various statements about God, life and religion; but such statements are only provisional, never fixed dogmas. Modernism was condemned by Pope St Pius X at the start of the 20th century, but it revived in the middle of the century. The great and continuing confusion caused in the Catholic Church by Modernism obliges the signatories to describe the true meaning of ‘faith’, ‘heresy’, ‘revelation’, and ‘magisterium’.A second cause of the crisis is the apparent influence of the ideas of Martin Luther on Pope Francis. The letter shows how Luther, the founder of Protestantism, had ideas on marriage, divorce, forgiveness, and divine law which correspond to those which the pope has promoted by word, deed and omission. It also notes the explicit and unprecedented praise given by Pope Francis to the German heresiarch.The signatories do not venture to judge the degree of awareness with which Pope Francis has propagated the 7 heresies which they list. But they respectfully insist that he condemn these heresies, which he has directly or indirectly upheld.The signatories profess their loyalty to the holy Roman Church, assure the pope of their prayers, and ask for his apostolic blessing. (source)
As the document notes, this is not an absolute condemnation of heresy, but a step before it. It is listing of heretical teachings that the Pope has spoken, the sources from where this conclusion was derived, and asking him in a direct manner to address with a explanation his positions or to repent of their heresy.
This situation has been building up for some time in the Church. They very short, condensed answer to this story is that it is not an issue over whether or not the Faith is correct, but about certain teachings which as the document notes, Pope Francis has publicly announced and which he has refused to clarity.
Pope Francis has been a subject of controversy for many Catholics. Some love him. Others completely hate him. Both the love or hate for Francis is unusually strong for a pope, and considering that the last formal anti-pope was around 1445, such divisions have not been seen in the Church between fellow Catholics since almost a century before the Protestant Revolution. There is a precedent in Church history for the angst one sees to day, but not in any contemporary sense for the last 500 years.
As the document lays out, there are seven specific points which are being called into question, all of them surrounding the issues of marriage and the family, as the Catholic Blog OnePeterFive has translated from the Latin:
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.’ (source)
Last year, the American Raymond Cardinal Burke and three other Cardinals issued a formal Dubia to Pope Francis, asking him to clarify his statements on the above-stated matters:
It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?
After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?
After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object? (source)
All of this is a very serious matter. What is being stated is that Pope Francis, for the first time in centuries as it concerns a Pope, is being formally accused in accordance with Church procedures of heresy by attempting to redefine divinely revealed teachings.
While the charges are serious, this is also an excellent teaching opportunity for the power and limits of the pope. Contrary to what many Protestants and even non-Christians think, the Pope cannot arbitrarily teach anything he wants in his formal capacity as pope. Sure, he is an individual with an opinion and his opinions on various matters may be right or wrong, but that is when he speaks in the capacity of his personal views as an individual, not as the temporal guardian of the Church. When speaking as the Pope, his job is not to create new dogmas because dogmas are divinely revealed truths from God. Since God is the author and not man, it is for man to understand and expound upon that which already exists, not to redefine, create or eliminate anything because it is not his place to do so because the dogmas are not his. The dogmas are like a trust fund, where God is the one who created the trust and who is belongs to, and the Pope is the guardian, or trustee, of the trust. The Pope’s job is to watch over the trust, and he cannot add to or subtract anything from it. He can only report what is already there.
This is why the charges are so serious- because Pope Francis is being charged with attempting to illegally modify the contents of God’s deposit of Faith he gave to His Church. It is another way of saying that the Pope is attempting to rob God or even worse, play God by attempting to speak in His place instead of as His representative.
A second point that is to be made is that what is taking place here, while it is something that has not been since the 15th century, is not new as far as Church history is concerned. There have been many popes who were heretics or just bad people. However, as noted above, the Pope is merely a trustee. He did not create the teachings of the Church, and he cannot eliminate them because they do not belong to him. Likewise, since they do not belong to him, his behavior as a person or his individual ideas cannot change or affect them in any way. The only thing that the pope can do is affect the perception of the Church, for better or worse. Indeed, he has a moral responsibility to make sure that the dignity of his office is preserved and that he represents Christ’s Church well, but even if he does a terrible job, his behavior as an individual does not change the teachings of the Church.
For example, there was a Pope in the early Church name Liberius who wanted to make peace with the Arians, a group of heretics in the early Church who denied the divinity of Christ. As such, he signed an ambiguous declaration of faith that could be interpreted as either being Catholic or Arian without any clarity, and he likewise upheld the excommunication of St. Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt who was later canonized for being a staunch defender of the Faith against the Arian heresy.
Fr. James Martin, appointed head of communications for the Vatican by Pope Francis.
No, this photo is not a joke. It is also not a joke that he is a supporter of homosexuality and homosexual unions.
If this sounds familiar, it should because this is similar to what is happening today. Pope Francis’ ambiguous statements have paralyzed many in the Church, and due to his refusal to clarify them even when formally asked by fellow bishops he refuses to, and the result has been widespread confusion and disorder. In the meantime, as we have pointed out, there is a tremendous movement in the Church, lead in particular by heretical bishops from Germany, Holland, and even the USA, to legitimize communion for divorced and remarried as well as to give legitimacy to the horrendous abomination of homosexual unions. The latter has been made a particular issue in the USA due to the appointment of Fr. James Martin by Pope Francis to the Vatican department of communications, especially in light of how Fr. Martin is a passionate advocate of homosexual unions, brags that homosexuality can lead to sainthood, and even made the abominable statement that Mary, Mother of God may have been a lesbian.
Again, the issue here is not that Fr. Martin is clearly a heretical priest who is worthy of death for multiple crimes, but that he was appointed by Pope Francis, that after he made and continues to make and defends his past statements that Pope Francis will not do anything to correct him, and that Pope Francis has a clear history from the beginning of his papacy and continuing forward of making statements that would seem to support heretical or sinful positions while at the same time refusing to clarify his statements.
Finally- and the most important part to remember- is that what is happening with Francis today does not mean it is THE END OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. This is a common statement made so often but it fails to take into account the history of the Church as a whole. To put some context around this, consider that there have been 42 formal anti-popes, not even mentioning actual heretical popes. These are false claimants to the papal office, and does not even matter if they are heretics or not in that context. Since the last antipope was around 1445 and up until then there had been 207 popes, that means that there was at least one anti-pope every 34 years. Considering that the average lifespan of a person today is around 80 years, one can say that up until 1445, it was completely possible that a man could see two antipopes during his lifetime.
The Church has survived 42 antipopes and many heretical or just plain bad popes. She has continued to grow and will continue to grow, even if there are periods of great persecution or even apostasies in her ranks. Even if she has not had a major heresy or controversy involving the pope in 500 years, it does not mean that she is suddenly going to collapse- it just means that she is long overdue for what has traditionally happened throughout Christian history. Like the common cold, she will recover and continue on as before.
If anything that one is seeing today, it is simply the fulfillment once again of the promise given in Sacred Scripture:
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -Matthew 16:18-19