Are the Signatories to the Filial Correction guilty of formal Schism?

Canon Law on schism and excommunication:

Canon 751: “schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him”.

Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”

The “latae sententiae” excommunication is usually called “automatic”, but the literal translation is “wide judgment”, since automatic excommunications have a wide scope.

Are the signatories of the Filial Correction, and anyone else who whole-heartedly agrees with its contents, automatically excommunicated for the sin of formal schism? If the Filial Correction expresses refusal of submission, directly, or if it necessarily implies the same, indirectly, then the signatories and subsequent supporters of the Correction would be guilty of schism. What does the document say?

The title and its contents accuse Pope Francis of “propagating heresies”. Specifically, the Correction claims that “several passages of Amoris Laetitia, in conjunction with acts, words, and omissions of Your Holiness, serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.”

If some Catholics believe and publicly proclaim that the Roman Pontiff is guilty of propagating heresies by means of a papal document and by many other acts, words, and omissions, does this implies a refusal of submission to his authority? Yes. For the submission required in Canon 751 is not merely adherence to infallible teachings of the Pope (as the Correction seems to imply). Rather, the faithful are required to give the “religious submission of mind and will” to the “to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra” [Lumen Gentium 25]. The signatories are openly refusing submission to the ordinary Magisterium of the Pope.

Some licit theological dissent from teachings of the non-infallible magisterium is possible, without sin. But this licit dissent never permits the dissenters to issue a “formal correction”, as if they were certainly right, and the Supreme Pontiff were certainly wrong. And it never permits the dissenters to accuse the Supreme Pontiff of the grave sin of propagating heresy — which is really no different than accusing him of teaching heresy. For anyone who propagates a doctrine is a teacher of that doctrine. Therefore, though the Filial Correction attempts to distinguish its accusation of “propagating heresies” from the sin of teaching heresy, there is no real difference. If anyone were truly guilty of propagating heresy by so many words, deeds, and omissions as is claimed, they would in fact be guilty of teaching material heresy.

The signatories claim that this propagation of heresies by the Pope is responsible for “the great and imminent danger of souls.” And this accusation of gravely harming souls implies that they will not submit to papal guidance, whether on faith or morals or discipline, since they think his judgment to be so corrupted that he would both propagate heresy and cause grave harm to souls. No reasonable faithful Catholic could make such a set of accusations and then sincerely claim that they submit to the authority of the accused over matters of faith, morals, and salvation, and to his judgments in matters of discipline.

The signatories of the Filial Correction have decided that their understanding of the Faith is better than that of the Pope and that he has gone far astray from the teaching and will of Jesus Christ, in doctrine and discipline. They have placed themselves above the Vicar of Christ, to correct him, to judge him, and to condemn him, as if they had authority over him. They cannot claim to be submissive to the Roman Pontiff, while accusing him publicly — and falsely — of propagating grave heresies. They cannot claim to be submissive to the Roman Pontiff, while demanding that he submit to their correction, teach what they wish him to teach, and act as they wish him to act.

So, yes, the signatories and any subsequent supporters of the Filial Correction are guilty of formal schism, and therefore are automatically excommunicated.

That 1333 Claim

By the way, this claim is false: “This was the first formal correction since 1333.” The dispute in 1333 was over a personal theological opinion of Pope John XXII. He clearly stated that his position was opinion, and that theologians were free to disagree. The subject at issue had not yet been decided definitively by the Magisterium, although the majority opinion was contrary to that of the Pope. No “formal correction” was issued at that time. The Magisterium later decided the issue, in 1336, during the reign of a subsequent Pope, Benedict XII. Pope John XXII was not guilty of heresy, since he gave his erroneous opinion prior to the definitive teaching of the Magisterium on the subject.

There is no such thing in the Church as a licit formal correction of the Roman Pontiff. According to Unam Sanctam, the highest spiritual authority on earth is not able to be judged by any man, but by God alone.

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.

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6 Responses to Are the Signatories to the Filial Correction guilty of formal Schism?

  1. D says:

    Maybe this divorce/remarriage has been beaten to death… if so, ignore this, but if not… how would you say the Church should or should not show mercy here (the Pope said you take the wounded to a hospital and you bind his wounds, you don’t check his cholesterol).
    Let’s say due to a family crisis, a couple wants to return to the Church, as they feel they need strength from the Eucharist. Some years ago, a divorce was encouraged by a priest for one partner. Essentially then HE is culpable, the situation is kind of like the difference between a murder and manslaughter. Do you think when the couple re-entering the church has this new revelation, their misery is not compounded and they need even more the graces offered in the Eucharist? The whole reason to return in the first place is to receive the Eucharist — otherwise, an Evangelical Church would suffice. If they are refused, they might decide to leave the Pharisees behind, who are all about the letter of the law, making them pay for their clergy’s horrible judgement (those wink-and-nod priests)?
    Of course, the remarried couple can live together as brother and sister, and receiving is allowed. However, one spouse might change their mind, yet claim they still have marital rights, which in fact, they do. How is it one spouse can up and change the rules in the middle of the game? The Church would literally be responsible for the breakup of this second marriage, and the vow, “til death do us part,” trashed a second time, in a case where all they wanted from was the intimacy and strength offered by Holy Communion. People shouting “annulment” ignore the fact that if these divorced and remarried do go through with a SECOND divorce, what a grave harm it is to the children. No child deserves TWO divorces!

    • Alex says:

      It is not just for the divorse/remarriage. Too many churchgoers are in that cathegory, and many of them receive Holy Communion for decades, depending ont he country they are at.

      It is about that the fundamentalists in the Church do not want any substantial change in a doctrine that in its current form comes not from the first centuries or the apostles, rather from the late Middle ages. Those minority people who talk loudly now, prefer to preserve what many outside of the Catholic church would call “dark ages”.

      Now pope Francis’ “heresy” is the headline on CNN. Perhaps now cardinal Burke and his followers will be satisfied. If the pope resigns as his predecessor in the name of “unity” and covering the scandals, what better for them? Only, it is highly doubtful they will agree with the reformers’ camp to elect the next pope. We may have interregnum for years, or even more than one “pope”. The fundamentalists preaching unity (under their terms only) do not understand that it is they who walk away, and that their fundamental terms are unacceptable in 21st century by 95% of the catholics. But they are the “holy remnant”…what a gross sin of pride! Who else sinned with pride, oh yes it was satan himself…sorry guys, they are holy, just a bit…too much of it may be.

    • Jack Gallagher says:

      To Alex,
      What is the doctrine “from the Middle ages” to which you refer?

  2. Jack Gallagher says:

    I confess not yet having read the text of the so-called filial correction.

    But we are witnesses to this chaotic situation not due to the paranoia of a fringe group.

    The defense most often raised, about A.L. chapter 8, is that His Holiness didn’t really change a matter of “discipline”, much less doctrine, so as to allow Absolution to be granted to a divorced-Catholic-civilly-remarried when that penitent will not make a pledge to change their “more uxorio” lifestyle to a life of complete continence, and, that same text does not imply that a priest could grant absolution in such a case so as to give the penitent the impression that continuing to live “more uxorio” with their civil law “spouse” upon leaving the confessional is no longer sinful thereafter (such that it needn’t be confessed as a sin later in the future).

    But here’s the rub: Cardinal Kasper is on record saying that is indeed what A.L.’s language says – describing it as a point of “development,” fully intended by His Holiness, and that this is right and just in a spirit of Mercy designed to save souls. A fierce opponent of Kasper, theologian Joseph Seifert, agrees with Kasper’s assertion about what A.L. says, but clearly is in the camp of those believing that such a change of discipline is a danger to souls.

    I’m not fitted to “break the tie” here, to overcome this impasse, to adjudicate who is correct vis-a-vis any danger to souls.

    What I am able to point out, without the danger of being accused of schism or heresy, is that, even prior to the Synods and the publication of A.L., some unknown number of priests were already granting absolution to penitents in the circumstances I describe above vis-a-vis the “Internal Forum.” This is something my own Bishop Olmstead has written about – and he has strongly condemned that practice as invalid in the diocese of Phoenix – going so far as to tell such penitents who may have received such Absolution in the past that he, in his office as local Ordinary, refuses to recognize those past attempts at Reconcilation as valid (ergo, don’t present yourself for Communion in a church in Phoenix, because you remain in a state of objective mortal sin if you are living”more uxorio” with a civil law spouse – a “marriage” that the Church in his diocese of Phoenix does not recognize and will not ever recognize while he remains Bishop). Moreover, it is key here to note that he has written such guidance to his flock both before and after the publication of A.L. (he is firmly in the camp of those who defend Pope Francis as not really saying or implying any change at all in discipline in the administration of Reconciliation).

    Contrast that approach with the Bishop of San Diego, who renders both verbal and written guidance in direct opposition to Olmstead. He agrees with Cardinal Kasper about what A.L. says and the implications for granting Absolution.

    As I say, this muddling of what is required for Absolution has a history that pre-dates A.L. What is different now? It is obvious. What’s different now is that the past practice of so-called “Internal Forum” confessions (regardless of any dispute as to their validity) were utterly private. Now Bishops in places like San Diego “advertise” in published guidance that there is no longer a need for any Internal Forum to accomplish this (or argue about the efficacy of that prior practice). All you need now is a little “accompaniment” and a heartfelt rationale on why changing your “”more uxorio” lifestyle now would only serve to hurt a third party (e.g., a child of the new “union”) and you can approach a priest of your choice in San Diego, and you can/must be granted Absolution. You are then free to go home and “more uxorio” your heart out (and to apply for a seat on your Parish’s Lay Council – or even the Archbishop’s Lay Council).

    I need not worry much about being accused of schism. It’s not to my advantage to take sides here. His Holiness refuses to rebuke the Bishop of either Phoenix or San Diego. Both approaches are permitted, until His Holiness indicates otherwise. The Church is a like a supermarket, or dare I say, like a cafeteria. And here I had been worried about my lax standards as a Catholic, fearful that I might be judged harshly for being a “cafeteria Catholic,” especially in my younger days. I worried needlessly. All I had to do was bide my time until Pope Francis came along to create the impression that what I was doing wasn’t really all that sinful after all (as long as my “concrete situation” makes for a good accompaniment story, and so long as I have the wits to move to San Diego, or at least spend a weekend there, and find a nearby church in that Diocese to take my confession, I’ll be golden – who knew?). I can come back to my home in Phoenix after such a weekend, and my Bishop cannot take away what another Bishop has granted. In fact nothing would oblige me to even ask his opinion on the matter.

    • jack hope says:

      The point is not what Amoris Laetitia says for itself, but how it will be used for in the many dioceses. The Trojan horse the Conservative camp is afraid of.
      It’s always the same movie. It’s just like the many varieties of the Vatican 2nd reforms that were implemented in the 70s in many parishes, without any approval anywhere. This reflects a division on the field that does exist since at least half a century so widely, but this doesn’t mean that the Vatican 2nd propositions are anywhere wrong.
      The same with AL. It may be a mainly disciplinary problem on how the AL pastoral is applied, but it is still not enough to extrapolate an accusation of heretical behaviors allowed by the Pope from the document itself.
      I could say the real issue is that’s much more important what you do not say and do not write rather than what you say and write. But again, you can’t build up an heretical denunciation out of it, you simply have to pray more and more for the bishops and priests that allow these distortions to become rule.
      How AL will be applied is in primis the single bishop’s responsibility toward God, until such a widespread and maybe wanted omission of control from Rome could carry out a responsibility, because the Shepherd hasn’t protected the flock. But again, God judges the Sheperd, not the flock.

  3. Mark P. says:

    As Jack above points out, there are “concrete situations” addressed in Amoris Laetitia for which priests and bishops are to accompany the faithful in light of the document. However there are now also “concrete situations” of seemingly different approaches to this document across the Church and “concrete situations” of clergy and the faithful not knowing the exact approach one should take. But at least Jack’s diocese has provided some type of guidance and response. I have heard nothing from mine – even a search on our diocese website returns no useful results. And I am probably correct in saying that a large number of Catholics have no idea what A.L. is or what it addresses. So even if somebody was interested in asking for help in this situation, they probably don’t even know that a door is open to them. Perhaps our local bishop is waiting for a resolution to these questions? That could be the case.
    Sometimes I wonder, does the Church expect its flock to pick and choose various websites and resources to learn what She teaches? Or isn’t it the mission of the Church to teach, at the level of the local parish? I often ask myself, how would the Church teach us if none of us had the internet or the ability to read?

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