Wednesday 17th July 2019

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Pope Francis: The Charge Of Formal Heresy

May 14, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. BRIAN W. HARRISON, OS

There has been a spate of sharply critical Twitter comments in the wake of my recent Wanderer column explaining why I declined to sign the Open Letter to Bishops denouncing Pope Francis for the canonical delict of heresy. (It was originally just a private email circulated to friends, but at the request of the editor of The Wanderer I gave permission for its publication.)
Many of the criticisms were apparently prompted by my first expressed reason for declining to sign the letter, namely, “because I don’t think you can judge someone — especially a Pope! — to be a formal (i.e., pertinacious or obstinate) heretic without first hearing what he might have to say in his self-defense. That’s an elementary question of due process!”
Readers were quick to point out that for years Pope Francis has already been asked again and again to respond to criticisms of his very troubling doctrinal statements — notably via the dubia Cardinals’ submission — and that again and again he has refused to do so. Therefore, these readers conclude, it’s now quite in order accuse Francis of formal heresy because he’s had plenty of chances to respond and has ignored them all.
Sorry, but that conclusion doesn’t follow from its premises. Unlike everyone else in the Church, who can be summoned by ecclesiastical authority to answer charges of heresy, the Pope is under no canonical obligation to respond to such charges, or to answer any dubia. And remember, the Cardinals’ five dubia were not charges of heresy at all, but questions as to whether, after Amoris Laetitia, certain traditional doctrines were still to be held by Catholics. So the Pope’s silence does not necessarily imply a negative, i.e., heterodox, answer to those questions.
Likewise, in making the comment cited in the previous paragraph, I was not so naive as to expect that the Pope will in fact respond to the charges of heresy made by the authors of the new Open Letter. Indeed, I was taking for granted that he almost certainly won’t. My point was simply that, in the unique case of the Pope, his refusal to reply to those charges does not entitle his accusers to jump to the conclusion that he has no satisfactory answer and is therefore a formal heretic. Rather, when there’s no realistic possibility of hearing what Francis might have to say in his own defense, we simply have to abstain from accusing him of formal, pertinacious heresy. Using (or abusing) his supreme papal privilege, he’s stymied us, and we just have to accept that.
That doesn’t mean we have to remain silent in the face of the many objectively shocking doctrinal statements made by the current Successor of Peter. I myself have repeatedly published criticisms of such statements, in The Wanderer, The Remnant, The Latin Mass, and in postings on the OnePeterFive and LifeSiteNews websites. And I have just added my name to the 4,000 or so other signatories of the new “Appeal to the Bishops to Investigate Pope Francis for Heresy,” adding the following comment: “I am signing this petition because, while I have publicly expressed my disagreement with certain aspects of the Open Letter to Bishops accusing Pope Francis of the canonical delict of (pertinacious) heresy, I agree that the Bishops should investigate the complaints of its signatories — in the first place, by seeking responses to them from Pope Francis.”
I doubt very much that our bishops will collectively take action on the basis of this petition, but I think it is correct to ask them to do so. If they did, then as a large group of Successors of the Apostles, they would have a much better chance of persuading the Pope to respond to these charges than the simple priests and lay people who signed the Open Letter.
The other main complaint of my Twitter critics has to do with the Pope’s dangerously ambiguous Abu Dhabi statement that “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race, and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” I cited my dissatisfaction with the Open Letter’s treatment of this statement as another reason why I declined to sign it. For the authors put the worst possible interpretation on that statement by ascribing to Francis the heresy that “God not only permits, but positively wills, the pluralism and diversity of religions, both Christian and non-Christian.” Since Pope Francis himself neither used nor implied the words placed in italics here — the very words that make the proposition heretical! — this accusation would have been presumptuous and unfair even if the Pope had never clarified his meaning in an orthodox sense when talking to Bishop Athanasius Schneider. (Francis told the bishop that he could make it known that the Pope’s true meaning in regard to religious diversity was merely the permissive, not the positive, will of God.) Therefore, the complaint of my critics to the effect that the Pope has never officially and magisterially clarified the meaning of his statement, or sought to change the actual text he signed together with a leading Muslim cleric, is essentially irrelevant, at least as regards the charge of heresy. The Open Letter’s defenders are also telling me that the Pope’s statement to Bishop Schneider was just another example of his Peronista tendency to talk out of both sides of his mouth and tell people what they want to hear. But that is sheer guesswork, and certainly doesn’t do away with the need to hear his own self-defense before charging him with formal heresy.
One of the authors of the Open Letter, Dr. John Lamont (cited by one of my Twitter critics), has argued that the jointly signed affirmation necessarily implies the indifferentist heresy the authors ascribe to Pope Francis. He begins, “The context makes it clear that Pope Francis’ words state that God does will religious pluralism itself. Religious pluralism is classed together with other differences such as color, sex, race, and language that are not evil in themselves, and that are positively willed by God.” As I noted in my Wanderer article on this passage (“Did Pope Francis ‘Apostatize’ in Abu Dhabi?,” The Wanderer, February 14, 2019, pp. 5A, 7A), this “class[ing] together” is indeed shocking and misleading.
However, I also pointed out there that this defect is mitigated somewhat by the broader context of the whole paragraph, which is not principally about the truth or falsity of different religions, but about the right of their adherents to civil liberty vis-a-vis the State. And according to Catholic doctrine as developed by Vatican II, this right, at least under modern circumstances, does not belong only to those who profess the true religion. But Dr. Lamont’s comment does not take this point into account. Here is the complete relevant paragraph from the “Human Fraternity” document:
“Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.”
Since, according to the Vatican II teaching taken for granted in this paragraph (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, n. 2), the truth or falsity of the religion we profess does not in itself affect our right to freedom from governmental or social harassment any more than does our “color, sex, race [or] language,” it becomes clearer why the Abu Dhabi statement could classify all these things together in such a context. This consideration also lends plausibility to the more benign interpretation of the words “willed by God” as meaning “willed only permissively by God” in the case of religious “pluralism and diversity.”
While it remains true that such juxtaposition of very different things “willed by God in critically different ways is confusing and indeed scandalous in the absence of any textual distinction or clarification, it also remains true that Popes, above all people, should be given the benefit of the doubt by Catholics. We should put the best, not the worst, interpretation on their doctrinally ambiguous statements, especially when, as in this case, they subsequently state — even just informally — that the orthodox meaning was the one they intended.
Dr. Lamont continues with another argument purporting to prove that the Pope could not truly have meant what he told Bishop Schneider he meant. He says, “The document is a joint document signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque. As such, it expresses a conviction that is shared by both of them. We cannot reasonably attribute to the Grand Imam the view that religions other than Christianity are merely the object of God’s permissive will.”
No, we cannot reasonably attribute that view to the Grand Imam. But it’s not necessary to attribute that view to him in order to attribute it to Pope Francis.
I am a little surprised at Dr. Lamont’s sanguine assumption that the bar for transparency, clarity, and straightforwardness in modern ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is set so high that the resulting “agreed” statements can be relied on to “express a conviction that is shared by both” parties. For during half a century of such dialogue we’ve seen that what it often really does is produce vague or ambiguous formulae that paper over very real cracks in order to claim “progress” in the quest for unity: formulae that each side can understand in its own way. Think of the 1999 “agreed” Lutheran-Catholic statement on justification. Think of the Vatican statement on relations with Jews from a few years back that cheerily asserted that Jews and Christians “share” an expectation of the Messiah’s coming! (As if it scarcely mattered that the respective expectations flatly contradict each other, with one side expecting the second coming of Jesus the Messiah, and the other side still expecting the first coming of a Messiah who is emphatically not Jesus!) Therefore, I see no great difficulty in holding that the Abu Dhabi “Human Fraternity” statement, in its push to promote “World Peace and Living Together,” could come up with a superficial “agreement” that God wills the “pluralism and diversity” of religions in a merely permissive way, but with the Pope quietly holding that the only religion God positively wills is Christianity, and the Grand Imam quietly holding that it is Islam.
Does what I have said here amount to a robust defense of Pope Francis against the authors of the Open Letter, and of the Abu Dhabi statement in particular? Obviously not. I substantially share their deep concern that the present pontificate is proving to be a disaster from the standpoint of consistently feeding Christ’s sheep with the pure and clear doctrine of sound faith and morals. And now that the Open Letter is out there I have been happy to sign the follow-up “Appeal to the Bishops to Investigate” their charges against His Holiness.
Such investigation would be in order regardless of whether his apparent deviations from orthodoxy have been pertinacious and formal, or only material. For either way, they urgently need clarification and/or correction. The main purpose of my two Wanderer articles on this topic — and this one will be the last — has simply been to argue that charging Pope Francis with pertinacity in this grave matter (“the canonical delict of heresy”) has been premature and unwarranted.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

"If men only know what awaits them in eternity they would do everything in their power to change their lives."
St Jacinta of Fatima

Has The Church Been Infiltrated?… And If So, By Whom? @TaylorRMarshall https://t.co/wvpa2x3kD0

Load More...

Tucker Carlson: big business is now at war against your family

July 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The first thing to note about Tucker Carlson is that when he’s on stage and riffing on his irritations, he is hilarious. He began his keynote speech at the National Conservatism conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday…Continue Reading

Teacher sues Catholic school for firing her over pro-abortion posts on social media

BERKELEY COUNTY, South Carolina, July 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A former teacher filed a wrongful termination suit against a South Carolina Catholic school that fired her for championing legal abortion on social media in violation of long-settled, well-known Catholic doctrine.…Continue Reading

Bombshell Claim: Scientists Find “Man-made Climate Change Doesn’t Exist In Practice”

A new scientific study could bust wide open deeply flawed fundamental assumptions underlying controversial climate legislation and initiatives such as the Green New Deal, namely, the degree to which ‘climate change’ is driven by natural phenomena vs. man-made issues measured as…Continue Reading

Cineplex explains decision to screen Abby Johnson’s ‘Unplanned’ in Canada

July 8, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The pro-life film Unplanned, which tells the true story of pro-life activist Abby Johnson’s conversion from the abortion industry, will be shown in Canada after all thanks to a decision by film distributor Cineplex. Unplanned tells the…Continue Reading

Viganò criticizes Pope Francis’ handling of abuse allegations

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2019 / 02:47 pm (CNA).- Recently published remarks from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano take aim at two situations described by the former nuncio as “allegations of offenses against minors during Pope Francis’ tenure.” In fact, in…Continue Reading

U.S. Bishops Approve the Pope’s Capital Punishment Ban

Sæva indignatio. Few writers in the history of English letters could express “savage indignation” at human folly as did Jonathan Swift who wrote those words for his own epitaph. Our times give ample opportunity to empathize with him, and that is…Continue Reading

Due to backlash, Pell to live in ‘secure compound’ if appeal succeeds

Sydney, Australia, Jun 25, 2019 / 12:03 am (CNA).- While Cardinal George Pell of Australia is appealing his sexual abuse conviction in court, he and his supporters are making arrangements for a “safe hideaway” for the cleric, should his conviction…Continue Reading

Forced abortion decision overturned on appeal, according to reports

London, England, Jun 24, 2019 / 11:03 am (CNA).- A controversial UK court decision to force a disabled woman to have an abortion has been overturned on appeal. In a decision reportedly reached June 24, the English Court of Appeal, consisting…Continue Reading

Rosary Rally in Reparation for Homosexual and Transgender Grooming of Kids in “Drag Queen Story Hour” at Public Library in Md

A small group ranging from ten to 15 LGBTQ-obedient bots danced and played loud gay anthems like “YMCA” and “We are Family”, and holding a sign which read “Toleration is Godly”, sequestered behind yellow tape on one side of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Rosary Rally Sunday to Protest Maryland Drag Queen Story Time for Kids

Personhood Maryland is asking pro-life Christians to gather at the Lexington Park Library for a peaceful prayer vigil on Sunday, June 23rd from 3:30-5:30 pm Eastern to stand against the Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) and Drag 101 event scheduled…Continue Reading

Supreme Court rules WW1 Peace Cross memorial is here to stay

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 this morning in favor of a nearly 100-year-old World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland, known as the “Peace Cross,” allowing it to remain standing.…Continue Reading

Vatican’s doctrinal office expected to release document on gender theory

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- The Vatican’s doctrinal office is preparing a document which will address Church teaching and the anthropology of the human person in the context of so-called gender theory, according to a Vatican…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Vatican’s former doctrine head criticizes Amazon synod working doc for ‘false teaching’

July 16, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The cardinal who was tasked by Pope Benedict with defending the doctrine of the Catholic Church has criticized the Pan-Amazon Synod’s working document (Instrumentum Laboris) for its “radical u-turn in the hermeneutics of Catholic theology” and for its “false teaching.” Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said the “main problem” with the working document is that “key terms are not being clarified.” His statement…Continue Reading

2 priests, 2 pro-life activists arrested trying to save babies inside New Jersey abortion center

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey, July 13, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Two Catholic priests and two lay pro-life activists were arrested this morning for entering and refusing to leave an abortion facility, offering red roses to the women inside and encouraging them to choose life. At least one woman turned away and didn’t go through with an abortion, Red Rose Rescue spokeswoman Lisa Hart told LifeSiteNews. The woman’s mother was forcing her to have the abortion.

Vincent Lambert, France’s Terri Schiavo, dies after 9 days without food and water

July 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Vincent Lambert, the disabled man a court ordered to be starved to death in a French hospital, died this morning. After nine days without food and fluids, showing a remarkable will to live despite the cruel death of thirst that doctors had prepared for him, France’s Terri Schiavo departed from this earthly life at 8:24 a.m. on Thursday, July 11. He died of heart failure induced by the malfunction of his kidneys…Continue Reading

Cdl. Zen warns Pope Francis that Vatican directives for China church may lead to ‘death of true faith’

HONG KONG, July 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong has spoken out forcefully against the Vatican’s newest “pastoral document” for the Chinese Church which gives reasons for why priests should register with the communist government. Cardinal Joseph Zen presented nine criticisms to Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro

Archbishop Fulton Sheen to be beatified

Vatican City, Jul 6, 2019 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis approved the miracle attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen Friday, making possible the American television catechist’s beatification. The Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated the decree approving Sheen’s miracle on July 6. The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born apparently stillborn in September 2010 to Bonnie and Travis Engstrom of the Peoria-area town of Goodfield. He showed no…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)

Archbishop Sheen To Be Beatified

By COURTNEY GROGAN VATICAN CITY (CNA) — Pope Francis approved the miracle attributed to Archbishop Fulton Sheen on July 5, making possible the American television catechist’s beatification. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated the decree approving Sheen’s miracle on July 6. The miracle involves the unexplained recovery of James Fulton Engstrom, a boy born…Continue Reading

California Confessional Bill Withdrawn… Thanks To All For A Smashing Victory

By BILL DONOHUE (Editor’s Note: Catholic League President Bill Donohue commented July 9 on the final outcome of the California confessional bill.) + + + The seal of Confession is safe in California. The bill to bust it has been pulled. Yesterday, [July 8] on the eve of a scheduled hearing on SB 360, California…Continue Reading

Looking For Light In A World Of Shadows

By DONALD DeMARCO Nothing is random in the light of eternity and when viewed in this way, everything makes sense. To God, there are no accidents. Even forgetfulness can be an occasion of grace, a moment when we find light in a darkened world. There were distractions that might have made my forgetfulness explainable that…Continue Reading

Trump’s Patriotism Vs. The New Anti-Americanism

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Despite all the grousing and griping about his “politicizing” of the Fourth of July and “militarizing” America’s birthday, President Donald Trump turned the tables on his antagonists, and pulled it off. As master of ceremonies and keynote speaker at his “Salute to America” Independence Day event, Trump was a manifest success.…Continue Reading

Analysis . . . New Vatican Constitution To Centralize Power In State Secretariat

By ED CONDON VATICAN CITY (CNA) — At the end of June, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, secretary of the Pope’s C6 Council of Cardinal Advisers, announced that the group hoped to present Francis with a final draft of a new Vatican constitution in September. Praedicate Evangelium, as the new governing document for the Roman Curia is…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Serve Others With Charity

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Gen. 18:1-10a Col. 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42 In the Gospel reading today, we hear about Martha welcoming Jesus and serving Him. Martha became burdened with the task of serving and asked the Lord if He did not care that Mary, her sister who was sitting at the feet of…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Sexual Immorality Begins With Teaching Failures

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. “But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Answering a question in a recent column about the meaning of “Jesuitical,” we said that it can mean “dissembling or equivocating, in the manner associated with Jesuits.” We cited as an example of an attempt to skirt around some clear moral teaching of the Church a 2017 comment by the superior general of the Society of Jesus. When…Continue Reading

Before And After the Pill . . . Its Redefinition Of Human Sexuality And Impact On Society

By FR. SHENAN J. BOQUET (Editor’s Note: Fr. Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International. He travels around the world spreading the Gospel of Life. Fr. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI in August 2011. (This commentary first appeared July…Continue Reading

Love God And Love Neighbor

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Fifteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Deut. 30:10-14 Col. 1:15-20 Luke 10:25-37 Toward the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses pleads with the people of Israel: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord your God….” It was the failure of the people to follow the Commandments of the Lord that…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . Sts. Louis And Azelie-Marie Guerin Martin

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Lord sends the Church the men and women who are needed to keep her holy in times of trouble. Among these are: St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Faustina, and the first married couple ever to be canonized together: Louis and Azelie-Marie (Zelie) Martin. Their feast day is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Nazaria March y Mesa

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church, there have been periods of great conversions followed by a waning of the faith among future generations. After the initial persecution of the Church during the few hundred years following Christ’s crucifixion and death, the Church grew rapidly. In Latin America, the Catholic Church expanded rapidly after the appearance of…Continue Reading