Commentary on the Filial Correction

The filial correction being reviewed here is the one found on the website, titled “Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis” [Filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies], dated 16 July 2017, delivered to Pope Francis on 11 August 2017, made public on 23 September 2017. The Filial Correction has 62 signatories, listed here:

A. Accusations of Heresy

The title states that this correction concerns the “propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.” So the Filial Correction is really an accusation that the Roman Pontiff has spread heresies by his teaching in Amoris Laetitia, his other words and teachings, his deeds, and his omissions.

The signatories of the Filial Correction attempt to make this grave accusation, while claiming that they are not accusing Pope Francis of the sin of formal heresy (which is of the internal forum), nor of the canonical crime of public heresy. But if it were true that Pope Francis were guilty of propagating heresy, by his formal teaching in Amoris Laetitia, and by other words, deeds, and omissions, he would, de facto, be guilty of publicly asserting and teaching heresy. So the Filial Correction does imply that Pope Francis has taught material heresy. Propagating a heresy, in the way which is alleged, is equivalent to teaching that heresy.

The Filial Correction claims:

“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:”

It happens sometimes that scholars make a distinction, in a very pedantic manner, which does not really exist. So also in this case, if the Pope had committed the alleged acts, then he would in fact have taught material heresy.

Furthermore, if he had done so with a full “degree of awareness”, then the acts in question would also constitute formal heresy. When the Filial Correction says “with what degree of awareness we do not seek to judge”, they are saying that they obstinately doubt that the Pope is free from the sin of formal heresy. It is like saying to someone: “I will not judge whether or not you killed that person deliberately, thereby committing murder. Perhaps it was an accident, but perhaps not.”

So the signatories imply an accusation of teaching material heresy, and imply the possibility that Pope Francis has committed formal heresy. And that type of accusation is necessarily the sin of schism, since no reasonably faithful person would submit to the authority of a leader who teaches heresy and may be a formal heretic.

And by this claim, that the Pope is guilty of teaching material heresy and may be guilty of formal heresy, the signatories reject the teaching of the First Vatican Council, that each Pope has the “gift of truth” and the gift of a “never-failing faith”. The first gift implies that the Pope cannot teach material heresy. The second gift implies that the Pope cannot commit apostasy, heresy, or schism. The signatories are rejecting this teaching of the First Vatican Council.

** I utterly reject the Filial Correction, because it asserts, directly or indirectly, unjust and false accusations against the Vicar of Christ, and because it implies a rejection of the teaching of the First Vatican Council. **

B. Saint Paul corrected Saint Peter.

Yes, but Paul did not accuse Peter of propagating, teaching, or committing heresy. And the words of our Lord on correction apply especially to this present-day situation:
{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?

The signatories do not see the plank in their own eye, and they exaggerate the splinter in the eye of the Pope, as if it were a plank.

How common it is today among Catholics to refuse to be corrected by anyone, and to go around seeking to correct anyone with a different point of view! The signatories are displaying this common fault, to an extreme degree, by refusing to be taught or corrected by the Supreme Teacher of Christians, and by pretending to have the role and ability to correct the Vicar of Christ.

And at the very heart of this Foolish Correction, there is not filial love for the Vicar of Christ, but rather the pride-filled assumption that the understanding of the signatories on faith and morals, on doctrine and discipline, cannot possibly err. And they further assume that the Roman Pontiff can err to the extent of teaching material heresy, and of committing formal heresy.

They say that they are not judging whether the Pope is guilty of formal heresy (of teaching heresy with a full degree of awareness). And yet, by this expression, they assert the possibility (contrary to the teaching of the First Vatican Council) that a Pope might commit formal heresy.

C. Complaints about the Dubia

The Filial Correction and other protests against Pope Francis have repeatedly misrepresented the form of communication called a Dubium (Dubia, plural) as if it were a formal method for correcting a Pope. They speak as if the Pope necessarily commits a grave offense by declining to give a response.

In reality, a dubium is a doubt. It is not so much a question on any topic, nor a method of correction, but rather a request for clarification on a matter that seems to be in doubt. Very commonly, some dubia receive no reply, and, if there is a reply, it is from the CDF, not the Roman Pontiff directly. There exists no right to demand a reply. The Holy See is never obligated to give a response to a dubium.

In my opinion, the infamous Dubia of the four Cardinals is not in the form of an ordinary dubium, which humbly seeks clarification on a matter in doubt by the questioner. Instead, it is a set of challenges to the Roman Pontiff, implying that the authors of the Dubia have a better understanding that the Pope, and demanding that the Pope submit to their superior understanding. Most Popes throughout the history of the Church would not have given a reply.

The misrepresentation that the Pope’s silence in the face of the Dubia is somehow an error or offense or a way to propagate heresy is absurd.

D. Denial of the Charism of Papal Infallibility

The Filial Correction states: “We, however, believe that Your Holiness possesses the charism of infallibility, and the right of universal jurisdiction over Christ’s faithful, in the sense defined by the Church. In our protest against Amoris laetitia and against other deeds, words and omissions related to it, we do not deny the existence of this papal charism or Your Holiness’s possession of it.”

It is well-known that the commission of formal heresy (or formal schism) carries the penalty of automatic excommunication. And a number of Catholic authors have discussed the mere hypothetical that, if a Pope were to commit formal heresy, he too would be automatically excommunicated.

So the Filial Correction contains a contradiction. The text accuses the Pope of propagating heresy, and it insinuates that perhaps the Pope is guilty of formal heresy. For the text proposes that perhaps he has propagated heresy with a substantial degree of awareness, implying the formal sin, not mere material heresy. And yet the authors claim to believe that Pope Francis possesses the full authority of every Pope, to teach even infallibly and to rule by universal jurisdiction, from which authority any Pope would be deprived IF he ever could and did commit formal heresy. Both assertions cannot be true. If the signatories really believe that Pope Francis holds the fullness of his office, then they must necessary positively believe that he is free from the sin of formal heresy. And yet they imply that he may have committed that sin.

E. The alleged Right to Correct.

No subject of the Roman Pontiff, and no human person on earth, has the right to accuse the Vicar of Christ of teaching material heresy, nor of committing apostasy, heresy, or schism. The Filial Correction is not a correction, but an accusation of grave sin, and it is an accusation of a sin that no Pope can commit (per the teaching of Vatican I).

Faithful Catholics have the right to disagree with a personal opinion of a Pope, to disagree with his decision on discipline, and even to disagree, to a limited extent, with a non-infallible teaching. But they do not have the right to issue a formal public correction, which assumes that their understanding of the infallible teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium is inerrant, and which assumes that a Roman Pontiff can teach or commit heresy.

The claim, made in some news stories and in some commentaries by papal critics (though not in the Filial Correction), that a similar Correction was issued to Pope John XXII (22nd) in 1333 is false.

“Organizers said the last time such a correction was issued was to Pope John XXII in 1333 for errors which he later recanted.” [Daily Mail UK]

During the lifetime of Pope John XXII, some theologians disagreed with an opinion he asserted during some sermons, an opinion he plainly stated was not an act of the Magisterium. But it was not a formal correction, given with the assumption that the correctors were right and the Pope must be wrong. Rather, there was a theological discussion, with some theologians taking the side of the Pope and others disagreeing.

What Pope John XXII asserted was not a heresy, but a minority opinion, on a matter not yet decided by the infallible Magisterium. It was later decided, infallibly, by a subsequent Pope, specifically by Pope Benedict XII in the document Benedictus Deus (1336).

The teaching of Unam Sanctam, confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council, is still in effect:

“7. Therefore, if the earthly power goes astray, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual power goes astray, [it will be judged] by its superior; and truly, if the highest [power] goes astray, it will not be able to be judged by man, but by God alone. And so the Apostle testifies, “The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one.” [1 Corinthians 2:15]

“8. But this authority, even though it may be given to a man, and may be exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine [power], having been given by the divine mouth [of Christ] to Peter, and to him as well as to his successors, by [Christ] Himself, [that is, to him] whom He had disclosed to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: “Whatever you shall bind,” [Matthew 16:19] etc. Therefore, whoever resists this authority, such as it has been ordain by God, resists the ordination of God. [Romans 13:2]”

No one on earth has the authority to issue a formal correction of the Roman Pontiff.

F. Seven alleged heretical propositions allegedly propagated by Pope Francis

The Filial Correction claims: “These propositions all contradict truths that are divinely revealed, and that Catholics must believe with the assent of divine faith.”

Filial Correction: “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.’ “

The first proposition is a heresy, one specifically condemned by the Council of Trent. But it is not a heresy taught or propagated by Pope Francis. He did not say that the divorced and remarried do not have the strength to avoid all serious sin. He merely acknowledged the various factors, stated in the CCC, which can make an objective mortal sin not also an actual mortal sin. Sinners can avoid all mortal sin, but sinners often do fall into mortal sin, again and again. God will forgive them, as many times as they repent, especially in the Sacrament of Forgiveness.

“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.’ “

Pope Francis did not assert this error, which is a heresy. He merely distinguished the objective mortal sin of divorced and remarried persons who have sexual relations outside of a valid marriage, from the full culpability of actual mortal sin. Full knowledge and full deliberation are needed for the act to be actual mortal sin. The signatories and papal critics too readily assume that the divorced and remarried have both types of fullness, whereas the Pope proposes that some divorced and remarried persons do not fully realize that their acts are gravely immoral.

Similarly, the signatories are committing the objective mortal sins of schism and of scandal, yet they do not fully realize that these acts are gravely immoral, and so they are perhaps not guilty of actual mortal sin. And yet, they judge the divorced and remarried with a harshness which, if applied to their acts in the same way, would convict them also of actual mortal sin. Hypocrites!

“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.’ “

Pope Francis did not teach or propagate the above error. He simply has a more subtle understanding of the factors that may make an objective mortal sin perhaps not also an actual mortal sin.

“4). ‘A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.’ “

Pope Francis did not teach this error.

“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.’ “

Pope Francis did not teach this error.

These claims, that Pope Francis taught these numbered errors, is based on an uncharitable biased interpretation of his words. It is like two politicians in a debate, where the one politician falsely accuses the other of holding positions which he does not truly hold, as a way to attack and undermine an opponent. Conservative Catholics unfortunately see our holy liberal orthodox Pope Francis as if he were their enemy. And so they interpret his words with bias and even apparently with malice.

” 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.’ “

Pope Francis did not teach this error. He simply distinguished between a fallen sinner who commits an objective mortal sin without it necessarily being also an actual mortal sin, from the full culpability that may also occur in some other cases. The papal critics err by assuming that every objective mortal sin is also an actual mortal sin, or by considering full knowledge to consist merely of any knowledge of the teaching of the Church, without consideration of the many factors (listed in the CCC) which can reduce culpability.

“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.’ “

This seventh proposition is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. And it wrongly assumes, as in the other propositions, that objective mortal sin is necessarily also actual mortal sin. Instead, Pope Francis proposes that communion may be taken by someone who believes himself to be in the state of grace, by a judgment of conscience, because not all objective mortal sin is also actual mortal sin. But the holy Pontiff did not state that all divorced and remarried persons can or should receive holy Communion.

The Filial Correction is principally based on these seven errors, which Pope Francis is accused of propagating by his teaching, words, deeds, and omissions. But I have read Amoris Laetitia and have written a detailed commentary on it. I see no such errors. Only a biased and uncharitable interpretation of the Pope’s words and deeds could conclude that he was guilty of teaching those errors. Now it is possible for any Pope to teach some limited error in his non-infallible teaching. But such errors can never reach to the extent of heresy, as is claimed above.

This accusation, on which the Filial Correction is based, is a false accusation against the Vicar of Christ, and as such, it constitutes the grave sin of scandal, the grave sin of schism, and the grave sin of bearing false witness against one’s neighbor. The signatories accuse the Vicar of Christ of grave sins, but in truth they are the ones who are publicly committing grave sin.

G. The Filial Correction claims that the following assertions are teachings of the Faith:

“3. All the propositions that are contained in the Catholic faith are truths communicated by God.”

That statement is only true if properly interpreted. The infallible teachings of the Church are truths communicated by God. The non-infallible teachings may contain some limited errors, and therefore non-infallible teachings are, to a great extent but not entirely, truths communicated by God.

“4. In believing these truths with an assent that is an act of the theological virtue of faith, we are believing the testimony of a speaker. “

Yes, but only the infallible teachings of the Magisterium require the assent of the theological virtue of faith. Non-infallible teachings require only religious assent. [Lumen Gentium 25].

“5. … Because the truths of the Catholic faith are communicated to us by God, the assent of faith that is given to them is most certain. A Catholic believer cannot have rational grounds for doubting or disbelieving any of these truths.”

Yes, but this applies only to infallible teachings of the Magisterium.

“The theological virtue of faith and the act of faith can only be produced by divine grace. A person who has this virtue but then freely and knowingly chooses to disbelieve a truth of the Catholic faith sins mortally and loses eternal life.”

Yes, but this is only true of infallible teachings of the Magisterium (formal dogma) and only when the choice to disbelieve has the full culpability of actual mortal sin.

“8. … every truth of the Catholic faith is entirely and completely true, in that the features of reality that such a truth describes are exactly as these truths present them to be. There is no difference between the content of the teachings of the faith and how things are.”

Yes, but the Church also teaches: “It sometimes happens that some dogmatic truth is first expressed incompletely (but not falsely), and at a later date, when considered in a broader context of faith or human knowledge, it receives a fuller and more perfect expression.” [CDF, The Mystery of the Church, 5]

And, again, the fullness of truth is found only in the infallible teachings. Non-infallible teachings may err, though only to a limited extent.

“10. When the Catholic Church infallibly teaches that a proposition is a divinely revealed part of the Catholic faith and is to be believed with the assent of faith, Catholics who assent to this teaching are believing what God has communicated, and are believing it on account of His having said it.”

True. But Pope Francis has not contradicted any such infallible teaching. He has not taught the errors which he is falsely accused of teaching. And his critics themselves have misunderstood some teachings, such as the difference between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin.

H. The alleged influence of Martin Luther

Pope Francis, at one point, gave a speech which sought to point out some good in the work of Martin Luther, despite errors that of course exist in the works of any Protestant teacher or theologian. Pope Saint John Paul II acted similarly with regard to the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But the papal critics behind this Filial Correction have attempted to turn these words of Pope Francis into some type of assertion of Protestant errors — which obviously it is not.

One particular point of disagreement is expressed in the Filial Correction as follows:

“The gospel does not teach that all sins will in fact be forgiven, nor that Christ alone experienced the ‘judgement’ or justice of God, leaving only mercy for the rest of mankind. While there is a ‘vicarious suffering’ of our Lord in order to expiate our sins, there is not a ‘vicarious punishment’, for Christ was made “sin for us” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21) and not a sinner. Out of divine love, and not as the object of God’s wrath, Christ offered the supreme sacrifice of salvation to reconcile us with God, taking upon himself only the consequences of our sins (cf. Gal. 3:13). Hence, so that we may be justified and saved, it is not sufficient to have faith that our sins have been removed by a supposed vicarious punishment; our justification lies in a conformity to our Saviour achieved by that faith which works through charity (cf. Gal. 5:6).”

The above quote from the Filial Correction contains a significant theological error. Yes, it is true that we are not saved by faith alone, but we must have love and hope, by means of living a moral life and repenting from grave sin. But the claim of the Filial Correction that the sacrifice of Christ is not a vicarious punishment is an error. Certainly, the sufferings of Christ make satisfaction for our sins, and this is the source of the remission of the punishment due for our sins, given in every good Confession, given in indulgences, and given when we do penances for our sins. For our penances are made so very effective, despite being so little, by their union in love with Christ suffering for us on the Cross. He does then suffer vicariously, taking upon himself our punishments, and thereby greatly lessening what we ourselves must justly suffer when doing penance for our sins.

I. Omissions

It is quite a stretch to accuse the Roman Pontiff of propagating heresies by omission. The assumption is that the Pope should act as his subjects, who are fallen sinners, think that he ought to act. And should he decline to do so, he sins gravely and causes grave harm to souls. This is the constant assumption of the Filial Correction and of the papal critics — that their own point of view is absolute, and anyone who departs from it, even merely by failing to do what they recommend, sins against God.

The Filial Correction itself contains serious omissions. It fails to address the questions as to whether a Pope can possibly teach heresy or commit heresy. It fails to address the teaching of Saint Bellarmine, who held that no Pope can teach or commit heresy at all. It fails to address the teaching of the First Vatican Council on this subject. And the authors of the Filial Correction fail to admit their own fallibility.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

This entry was posted in Pope Francis. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Commentary on the Filial Correction

  1. Guest says:

    While defending the pope I’ve come to accept that if the pope can lose his faith, that the Church can defect. It’s logical. But we know the latter is condemned. So even if it’s not directly condemned by a council, to be able to believe that any valid pope can lose the faith contrary to a known dogma.

  2. Damian says:

    Great article. I prayed for you. Take care, greetings from Argentina, Buenos Aires.

  3. Alex says:

    This is not “filial correction” it is a declaration of war. As what the 4 cardinals did. Those people do not want any change to better. For everyobdy is clear the current status quo is rotten.

    Far not only the possibility of abandoned woman to have a second husband to raise her kids. No one applauds the divorse. But it happens. And when you are not the guilty side, what shall you do? Especially when there are kids involved? Jesus said, man should not leave his wife EXCEPT for adultery.

    In fact poipe Francis is too weak. He should make bigger changes than that, and sooner. Those fanatics who believe they are all correct, even to correct the pope who they say is in heresy, are heretics themselves. They should be formally excommunicated, because they already did so themselves.

    Jesus never taught the dark ages rules. never. And I don’t accept to live in the dark ages rules all my life. Catholic church will either change to better, or I will walk away to some better church that also have the sacraments of our Lord. Perhaps millions think like that. And pope Francis and the reformers understand that, but are too powerless to do something. Let they be aware they could be overthrown by those wolves, with faked abdication or worse. Who said, vatican would be attacked and pope murdered. Was it Pius X or Fatima?

  4. jack hope says:

    Excuse me for this long reply. I’m more an historian but sure not a theologian, all I know is that a tree will be jugdged according to its fruits.

    The encyclica was not emitted from ex-cathedra, so that the infallibility dogma can’t be applied to it, and this means that a dialectical confrontation on the issue is allowed and rightful, and of course it has flowed a lot, as it has often happened with other encyclicas (just consider Humanae Vitae). We can’t live any doctrine confrontation as an attempt to Pope’s Authority, if this is allowed outside a dogma as Amoris Laetitia is.
    We may discuss, we may debate, but we can’t pretend these confrontations should simply never exist. Because we should otherwise decide that the infallibility dogma does cover any word the Pope says: something the dogma itself carefully avoids to say.
    So, even if it is very true that any of us is Pope Francis and nobody of us has the Holy Spirit assistance as the pope has, to even think to judge him, that doesn’t mean that we cannot have any doubt and cannot ask for more explanations to the higher authority. It depends of course on the way we do it: a matter of prudence and good will.

    Inside a confrontation process that always existed in much worse and awful ways along the history of the Church, I find Dubia and Correctio filialis are still quite bland acts, compared to most of the papal oppositions of 1st millennium and Middle Ages, because the dubia of the cardinals don’t even discuss about an heresy, and the Correctio of 60 laymen is not accusing Pope of material heresy but of allowing heresy to spread (apparently a pope Honorius case). However I’m aware that it could be simply a tricky expedient. The Correctio filialis could be the beginning of something bigger, as you rightly put it: maybe the final schism you wrote so much about, and a huge mortal sin. I presume because of this no bishop wanted to sign it but Fellay (already schismatic).

    I can’t completely understand the exact meanings of the formal words used in Amoris Letitia, in the Dubia and the Correctio Filialis, and neither the differences between material and actual mortal sin, but I have a sensation that real point of debate is the extension boundaries of Matthew 16:19, the power (the key) to bind and loose on earth as well as in heaven.

    How much this power of binding and loosing may “suspend for some people and for some time” the Revelation words on marriage, in order to recover the lost sheeps?
    The issue is how it can be “freezed” what Jesus clearly stated: that divorce was allowed in the mosaic law because of heart hardness of Jews, that marriage between a single man and a sigle woman was the original plan of creation, and that a divorced who re-marries or any who marries someone divorced commits adultery.
    Adultery that can be repented at least in a frame of continence with the partner, if not by leaving the new union, with the Holy Communion as a bi-directional meeting with God, man that repents and opens to God, and God that physically gets into us sinners by eating Him.

    Conservatives appear to fear that Holy Spirit assistance to Church may defect as nobody has the right to change Jesus words, neither the Pope, and that this will cause a genetic mutation of actual Catholic Church toward something generical and more protestant. They are afraid because they already see that some dioceses are abusing Amoris Laetitia’s innovations to go even much more beyond, toward a much feared general dissolution. Some conservatives, knowing how the Vatican 2nd Council in the common practice has been pushed beyond its propositions using some particular cases as trojan horses to reform more than originally intended, feel somehow rightful to fear the worst.
    Progressives on the other side regard Conservatives as Pharisees binded to the formal law but unable to understand the dynamic process of harmonization of the Church to the present world in order to really take it to salvation as many sheeps as possibile.
    Some extreme progressives, some from the Rahnerian school, and some from prominent Jesuits, feel also the need to re-intepret Jesus words fron the Gospel to adhere more to the present day world, that is however a dangerous operation. They all invariably offer not to change the theoretical most noble ideal and the catholic doctrine of marriage, but only to change the pastoral practice, that is just perceived as a trojan horse by the Conservatives.

    The risk that a too widespread pastoral practice may erase the doctrine on long times, is for sure a matter of papal governance, assisted by the Holy Spirit, not anyone’s matter.
    In the past it worked sometimes to loose the pastoral practice and tight again gradually later,but it took very long times for the doctrine to become real common practice.
    In the western church, the celibacy of priest was a primary goal since the VII century, but it needed eight centuries more to be generally practiced. The abolition of divorce took somehow shorter times: it was a laical institution in the Roman Empire, but due to the fall in the west, it needed only other six centuries to be really repealed in the common practice. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the Roman Empire standed for other thousand years, the repeal of divorce was legally impossibile, and they had to find a compromise on second and third marriages, that exist until today, for example (oikonomia).
    It worked somehow better with the barbarians after the V century, who were not immediately asked to become fully catholic in their practice, because the Church decided to stand and wait for their sons and nephews to become more and more adherent in their life to the catholic doctrine.

    The decisions to abdicate the tight doctrine in the pastoral practice according to the historical situation, in order to gain a greater good later, is somehow no news for the Catholic Church, and it is for sure a Pope’s responsability. It doesn’t belong to Conservative or Progressive sides to decide anything of it, but to express fears, to advice e to underline risks they see is their own personal duty. For anything more, we have to wait and see if the tree will carry fruits or not.

    I think Pope Francis is correctly taking up an historical risk that belongs only to the Bishops of Rome, but we have to remind however that some pastoral risks historically allowed were revoked after by the popes as soon as they could, because these risks had caused more harm than good. In the liturgical field for example, the loosening of the Latin Mass and its vulgarization in the late Middle Ages after the IX century, had taken to such wrong behaviours and pesonalizations embodied in a corrupt clergy and laics, that after the Protestant Reform it became necessary to re-impose a one-only compulsory pattern for the Catholic Mass, the Tridentine Mass, to re-instate unity and sanctity.

    We have to remember too the pastoral reforms may drive to doctrinal changes later: the most famous case of all is the “filioque” in the Catholic creed, that began as a pastoral tool in the spanish Church of the 6th century to underline the divinity of Christ among an Arian majority of Barbarians, strictly rejected by the pontiffs in Rome up to the 8th century, and finally embraced by the whole Catholic Church after the 9th century. It’s an important case, because it led among others to a division from the Orthodox Church.

    We all owe obedience to the Pope and the Holy Spirit, when He decides to use the power (the key) to bind and loose on earth as well as in heaven. This doesn’t mean not to remind our own history, but to pray twice for the pontiff’s will.
    We all must NOT behave as the older and obedient brother that gets angry when his father kills the calf for the younger and profligate brother, because we must remind always that the salvation of the lost sheep is more joyful in heaven than the loyalty of the believer. As many more we go to heaven, the better.
    But in this part of the Church living inside a western world that blindly goes to self-destruction, as it is pushed by forces that prize rampant individualism and personal subjectivism, and with a demography nightmare in plain view, it could be quite dangerous to modify the pastoral practice in a direction to fatally accomplish the same mundane world that is killing us.

    • Ron Conte says:

      This comment is too long! Please keep comments to moderate length. But I’ll let it through this time.
      When the Pope is not teaching ex cathedra, we still owe religious assent to his ordinary teachings. We can disagree with those teachings to a limited extent. But we cannot issue a “formal correction” and demand that he conform his teachings, words, and deeds to the judgment of a small group of theologians.

    • Guest says:

      How do you know God’s will? He speaks through the Church. If the discipline is bound on earth it is bound in heaven. Jesus promised to never abandon the Church, so it cannot contradict His will.

      I am an ex-sedevacantist. We have to have faith that the Church is not a purely human institution.

  5. jack hope says:

    Thank you for the answers.
    The long reply was useful to me first, to recollect thoughts on the matter, and to put a little into an historical perspective the political sides running the Church today and some similar tasks the Church took in the past. Because we do exist inside several history processes, not just today, and because to believe doesn’t imply not to see risks and hopes.
    I believe too that Jesus will never leave the Church alone, and that the warrant of the Church is the sole authority of the Pope, I never felt the need to be a sedevacantist. I’m quite happy to leave the job of Peter to Peter.
    While I believe that the Pope is the only who can decide what to bind and loose in the doctrine as well as in the pastoral, I believe too that obedience is a virtue. And a virtue is a virtue just because it can be hard to follow it sometimes.
    We do not obey simply as a blind sheep, even the sheep looks constantly for the grass to eat while running. It can happen sometimes that they get too nearby the cliff and they need the shepherd to put them safe. To let other decide does not mean to let only others to understand.

Comments are closed.