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A Leaven In The World… Two Academics Enter the Lists Against The Filial Correction

October 16, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK, M.A.

The battle is joined and the duel of the academics over the fate of the Filial Correction is heating up. On one side of the ring we have Robert Fastiggi, Ph.D., and Dawn Eden Goldstein, STD. On the other side we have, as of this writing, 235 signatories of the Correction.
Many of these are also members of the academic world, and, like Fastiggi and Goldstein, also have a Ph.D. or STD after their names.
Some signers listed, although not currently breathing the rarefied air of academia, possess STLs and certainly academic degrees of some kind. A smaller number of the signatories are listed simply as pastors or religious.
Fastiggi and Goldstein, in “Critics of Amoris Laetitia ignore Ratzinger’s rules for faithful theological discourse” published by LaStampa.it, have entered the fray to take a swing at the Correction by arguing that those who composed it and those who support it are violating a teaching of Benedict XVI. They argue that, for this and other reasons, therefore, “it seems that the case for the Amoris Laetitia critics’ self-proclaimed ‘Filial Correction’ of Pope Francis is weakening.”
They claim that Joseph Shaw, in making the case that the Pope has demonstrated an intent to allow the marriage document to be used to support heterodox teachings weakens the case for the Correction because the statements the Pope has made in this regard are not “magisterial statements.”
De Mattei, in his Corrispondenza Romana of September 27, translated by Rorate Caeli, makes the opposite case, that of a strengthening effect of the Correction as support grows worldwide:
“The ‘filial correction’ addressed to Pope Francis by more than 60 priests and scholars of the Church, has had an extraordinary impact all over the world. There was no lack of those who tried to minimize the initiative, declaring the number of signatories ‘to be limited and marginal.’ Yet if the initiative is irrelevant, why have its repercussions been so widespread in all the media outlets of the five continents, including countries like Russia and China?”
He cites additional statistics to make the case for the widespread reaction to the Correction: “Steve Skojec on OnePeterFive reports that research on Google News resulted in more than 5,000 news articles, while there were 100,000 visits on the site www.correctiofilialis.org in a space of 48 hours.”
The alphabet soup of letters following their names no doubt implies a rarefied atmosphere around the thoughts expressed as opposed to the mere “entry-level” status of those with an M.A. conferred by a humble U.S. seminary, which group includes most priests today. Some have dismissed the Correction as a mere letter with 60 signatures.
Some folks ooze condescension these days in reaction to anyone who breathes a word in support of theological and sacramental facts available to anyone who cares to read them in black and white on the pages of the Catechism or the Code of Canon Law.
We would not presume to distract the exalted gaze of our betters. Those more likely to merit the honor of dialogue with Goldstein and Fastiggi are to be found among the many signatories who also inhabit the same world as they do.
All of the preceding notwithstanding, I will commit the presumption of commenting on their move against the Correction.
The controversy over Amoris Laetitia, which is at the heart of the matter treated in the Correctio Filialis for those readers who are unaware, reminds me of another moment in the life of the Church when it was instead the Pope who was opposed when he spoke out to defend marriage and the capacity for the gift of new life at the heart of the relationship it sanctifies. Then it was academics who ganged up against Paul VI and did their best to discourage any positive reception of what was and is undoubtedly a hard teaching for many, perhaps most, Catholics.
Dr. William E. May was one of those academics among an infamous group at the Catholic University of America who sided in 1968 with the many in opposing Humanae Vitae. That encyclical affirmed that any intention to frustrate the giving and receiving of life in the marital act, including that always present with the use of contraception, is a moral evil and thus to be absolutely proscribed.
Twenty-five years later, when I hosted a Humanae Vitae 25th Anniversary Conference in honor of Cardinal O’Boyle at a parish in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Dr. May honored us by speaking at the event. He told us that at the time of the dissent he sided with the other professors at Catholic University only for the reason that he sought to be included in the club of his peers.
Although counting heads in support of or against a theological matter does not determine the truth or error of it, certainly the evidence of resonance among a peer group of theologians, bishops, and others who treat of theology on an intense and continuing basis can count a great deal.
Numbers pro and con aside, Goldstein and Fastiggi hang their thesis of a “weak” Correction partly on the fact that Shaw made a comment about the Pope’s intentions:
“Dr. Joseph Shaw, one of the signers of the Correctio Filialis, recently wrote: ‘It is not that we’re saying that the text of Amoris cannot be bent into some kind of orthodoxy. What we are saying is that it has become clear that orthodoxy is not what Pope Francis wants us to find there’.”
They make the case that Shaw’s claim that Pope Francis doesn’t want orthodoxy, however, is based on subjective impressions derived from mostly non-authoritative statements of the Pope. This does not seem to be a very strong foundation for accusing the Roman Pontiff of promoting false teachings and heresies, they say. One should in this matter consider only his words contained in official teaching documents and disregard the rest.
This contention flies in the face of common sense. The Pope himself has made clear that he intends to teach magisterially even outside the bounds of certain documents.
Goldstein and Fastiggi continue their case thus:
“The supporters of the Correctio and other critics of Amoris Laetitia often try to contrast what Pope Francis says in this exhortation to teachings of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is interesting, therefore, to note that many of these same critics fail to follow the guidelines for theologians published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1990 when John Paul II was pope and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, was prefect of the CDF. These guidelines are contained in the instruction, Donum Veritatis (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian) (3) — a document that traditionalist opponents of Amoris Laetitia, such as Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, ironically claim to hold in high esteem.”
“Donum Veritatis was issued to explain the need for Catholic theologians to maintain communion with the Magisterium of the Church. Building upon Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium §37 and Canon 212§3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Donum Veritatis does recognize that theologians might have problems with certain magisterial teachings. If these problems persist, ‘the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented.’ The theologian, however, ‘should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties’.”
There’s just one catch to this thesis of Goldstein and Fastiggi: The framers and signatories of the Correction don’t have a problem with any magisterial teachings. It is rather the vague formulations that undermine magisterial teaching and the omissions of relevant magisterial teaching in Amoris Laetitia that has moved them to act and so many others to support them.
No, as De Mattei wrote so well, “The main enemy of truth is not error, but ambiguity.”

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