September 25, 2017

A Question for My Catholic Readers

Is this really a big deal?

A group of clergy and lay scholars from around the world have taken the very rare step of presenting Pope Francis with a formal filial correction, accusing him of propagating heresies concerning marriage, the moral life, and reception of the sacraments.
It's being reported as a big deal, but I'm skeptical of modern reporting on Christian denominations, and the only thing I really know about Catholics is that they are just like D&D. (At least that's what the Chick Tracts said.)

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 08:23 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 It is a reasonably big deal, because it shows that the learned and faithful are getting seriously worried and annoyed.  The Church can have some pretty big disagreements going on, without anybody trying something like this.

Of course, the more usual filial correction, historically speaking, has been stuff like Roman mobs expressing their discontent with bad doctrine. (Not super common, either. But it has happened.)

OTOH, when popes really are promoting bad doctrine or trying to ban acceptable doctrine they don't like, they usually drop over dead from natural causes. Not that there's any guarantee that will happen, but it has happened before. (Such correction by the Boss is usually heeded by the next pope elected.)

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at Tue Sep 26 22:40:54 2017 (BYYJV)



Suburban Banshee is certainly better educated in these areas then I am, but I'll give my perspective as a member of the laity. I seem to have missed the Sunday school sessions on obscure Canonical Law, but his Holiness seems to have precipitated a situation where opportunity to make up for this lack has abounded in recent months. I'd agree with Suburban Banshee that this is a reasonably big deal, but more as a warning sign of potentially bigger deals ahead if Pope Francis doesn't get some form of consensus formed. To date his track record on this matter is not promising and could be described as having screwed the pooch.

 In particular since a certain friar made known his own correction by posting it on the door of a church five centuries ago next month, the Popes have more and more driven change through their subordinate Cardinals and Bishops. They, by and large, ensured this by building consensus among the senior prelates more often then via proclamations and dependence on the vows of obedience of the priesthood. The ancient traditions of councils to determine theological matters dating back to at least Nicaea in 325 provided a solid framework for this. In addition Popes had a powerful tool in being able to control the elevation to the rank of Cardinal and the ability to assign dissenters to the ecclesiastical version of counting mess kits in Antarctica. Pope Francis has been pulling all three levers since his elevation, but it requires both subtlety and political finesse. They generally don't issue proclamations until they have their support firmed up, as they can cause significant backlash otherwise. Saint John Paul the Great was a grand master at this, and even he occasionally had some issues flare up.

This wasn't the first warning sign recently. Four Cardinals released a similar letter last June, called a Dubia, after they had repeatedly approached Pope Francis in private and as a group. This is fulfilling the direction of Matthew 18:15-20 where Jesus directs to offer correction in private, then in front of witnesses, then in front of the Church. Since the Cardinals are under a vow of obedience to The Pope, they presented it as a request for clarification. On the other hand, this new letter probably gives the four Cardinals political cover as Pope Francis would have to act against both groups.

 This new letter ups the game by taking it out of the realm of the episcopate and involving lower level clergy and lay scholars. Unfortunately the group who set this up has invited one significant issue on themselves as one of the most senior prelates who signed the letter, Bishop Fellay, is actually the leader of a schismatic sect known as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which Pope Francis was actively trying to reconcile with the Church.

Pope Francis has a limited number of options, most of which carry significant risks at this point. He can ignore them, like he did the Cardinals, and risk continued escalations. He can try to form another council to forge a consensus, but the last attempt at this seems to have hardened attitudes against the change and risks a disasterous conflict deadlocking the council. He can try issuing a Papal Bull or other such proclamation and risk causing a situation not unlike firing a cannon in a china shop from outrage. And no, Papal Infalability only applies in extremely limited circumstances and I suspect Pope Francis may have difficulty applying it in this case. Not to mention you'd better be right in applying it or your performance review with The Boss later might... suffer. Finally he can warn those involved that they are taking a schismatic stance and are at risk of excommunicating themselves, which runs the risk of 'martyring' them and creating a major rift in the Church.

 As for worst case scenario? Well, my reference to Matthew 18 above has one more step, treating the sinner as a pagan or tax collector. Let's all pray, whatever your faith, that it doesn't go that far.

Posted by: StargazerA5 at Wed Sep 27 21:19:36 2017 (0oc59)

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