Rebellion in the Church
We are living in an era of culture wars, and the Church is not immune from it.
Typically the noise in these social conflicts, today amplified by social media, is marked by hype, distortion and fear-mongering. These are some of the tools that have helped demagogues and extremists record electoral successes in many parts of the world.
These are also the tools that are being employed by some of those who have set themselves up in opposition to Pope Francis.
A narrative has taken hold that suggests that the pope’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia is doctrinally unsound — particularly in its vague pastoral provision on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Of course it isn’t, as even Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine and an outspoken critic of the Holy Father, has acknowledged.
Indeed, all of Amoris Laetitia is a fair reflection of the 2014-15 Synod of Bishops on the Family. If the pope is in error, then so is the majority of bishops.Opinion pieces attacking the pope on all manner of things are getting broad audiences. Character assassinations of the Holy Father are in full swing.
Still, the rumpus around it continues. Last year four cardinals presented their unanswerable questions, the famous “dubia”, to the Holy Father and then presented their letter to the media, publicising their dissent.
Opinion pieces attacking the pope on all manner of things are getting broad audiences. Character assassinations of the Holy Father are in full swing.
And now a group of right-wing theologians, priests and laity have issued a “filial correction” of the pope, accusing him of heresy. Naturally they leaked the content to the media.
The PR work of that group deserves our respect; their “correction” does not.
Their letter accuses Pope Francis of propagating seven heretical positions on marriage, moral life and the sacraments in Amoris Laetitia and other “acts, words and omissions”. It is a serious but poorly substantiated charge which, since it was made public, is also a calumny.On whose apostolic authority are they acting to issue a “filial correction”? Whom do they represent?
And it has no ecclesiastical authority. This group’s only bishop is Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St Pius X, which is separated from Rome; other signatories are also aligned with that group.
On whose apostolic authority are they acting to issue a “filial correction”? Whom do they represent?
Their flamboyant claim that the last time such a correction was issued was in 1333 can be dismissed as PR nonsense. Every pope has received letters accusing him all of manner of heresies. An authentic filial correction of a pope would require a complex process led by a representative group of people with the apostolic authority to do so — not a group of malcontents writing a stern letter.
Their public letter constitutes an open declaration of rebellion against the Chair of St Peter. No matter how these people couch their protest in the language of “concern” and invoke a theology which one may struggle to locate in the Gospel, theirs is not an initiative for sincere dialogue. It is rebellion.But the anti-Francis lobby’s mission has been accomplished: to create confusion and to plant the idea among some of the faithful that Pope Francis is playing fast and loose with doctrine, theology and canon law, and may therefore be disregarded.
That cannot be tolerated. Those signatories who fall under the authority of the Holy See — priests in communion with Rome and Catholic theologians — should be held to account for participating in this impertinent attack on the Vicar of Christ.
But the anti-Francis lobby’s mission has been accomplished: to create confusion and to plant the idea among some of the faithful that Pope Francis is playing fast and loose with doctrine, theology and canon law, and may therefore be disregarded.It is a dangerous game, for it attacks not just one particular pope but the papacy in general. But the centre must hold, whether one likes the incumbent pope or not.
The sustained attacks on the Holy Father also have a long-term goal: to influence and intimidate those whose task it will be one sad day to elect his successor. By creating chaos, and then blaming it on Pope Francis, his opponents are hoping that the next conclave will elect a pope who is more to their taste, one who does not place God’s love and mercy above the law.
It is a dangerous game, for it attacks not just one particular pope but the papacy in general. But the centre must hold, whether one likes the incumbent pope or not.
One may disagree with a pope on many things. Fair dialogue must be allowed to exist. But it is a betrayal of the Church to deliberately undermine the Chair of St Peter.