Maike Hickson

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Professor who accused Pope of heresy: Bishops’ declaration is a ‘new syllabus of errors’

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June 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Professor Claudio Pierantoni, one of the 19 original signatories of the Open Letter to Bishops accusing Pope Francis of heresy, granted LifeSiteNews an interview in which he endorses the Declaration of Truths signed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and other prelates.

Pierantoni calls the new document “excellent” and sees that it corresponds in some ways to the April 30 Open Letter to Bishops, inasmuch as “we asked the bishops to take appropriate measures to counter this dreadful attack on orthodoxy” occurring under Pope Francis. The Open Letter mostly concentrates on some statements of Pope Francis’ post-synodal document Amoris Laetitia, but also mentions papal claims such as “the diversity of religions” being “willed by God.”

Pierantoni, who is Italian but works as a professor of Medieval Philosophy in the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Chile, also points out that the signatories of the Declaration of Truths “have already made themselves widely known for directly criticizing Pope Francis for the errors we mentioned.” He thinks it was “a strategic decision” not to mention Pope Francis by name.

For Pierantoni, “the objective denunciation of errors is not sufficient, especially if we don’t dare denounce the particular persons that are responsible for defending, promoting, or tolerating the errors.” Therefore, it is “not sufficient to exempt the bishops from the equally important duty to identify and explicitly denounce all the people responsible for these errors, with an intensity proportional to their rank and influence.”  

Moreover, Pierantoni – who is a student of Professor Josef Seifert and a philosopher himself – stresses that the Declaration of Truths actually mentions more heterodox tenets than the Open Letter and that it thereby draws “a picture of the whole neo-modernist heresy that is causing the present crisis of the Church.” Pierantoni describes this “neo-modernist heresy” as “a complex and profound heretical movement, which can also explain how it was possible that Bergoglio [Pope Francis] came to be elected in the first place.”

The Declaration of Truths was published on June 10 by Cardinal Burke and four of his fellow bishops in order to address the “almost universal doctrinal confusion and disorientation” present in the Church today. It lists 40 errors in the Church and society, many of which have been publicly endorsed by Pope Francis. The Declaration rejects, for example, Communion for “remarried” divorcees and for non-Catholic Christians, abortion, same-sex “marriage,” gender theory, and the claim that the diversity of religions is willed by God.

This document “is a sort of ‘new syllabus of errors’ concerning the errors of our time,” Pierantoni explains. “In this sense, it will be possible to use it as a kind of guideline by a future Pope, for a radical action in defense of orthodoxy.” The basis of many of today's doctrinal errors, he adds, lies in the concept of the “evolution of dogma,” which means “that something that was universally accepted as true in a certain epoch, can be dismissed as false in another, without rational proof, only because its worldly success and acceptation has changed.”

Professor Pierantoni hopes that more bishops will sign the Declaration of Truths and that orthodox bishops “weave relationships” in order to “muster a greater impact both for supporting this document and for future actions in the defense of orthodoxy.”

Below is LifeSiteNews’ full interview with Professor Pierantoni:

LifeSite: As one of the original signatories of the Open Letter to the Bishops, what is your overall response to the new Declaration of Truths that has been issued by Cardinal Burke, Bishop Schneider, and some other prelates?

Claudio Pierantoni: On the whole, I would say that it is an excellent document and an exhaustive one, covering practically all the doctrinal issues that are put into question nowadays. So, it is an event to be celebrated, and I wish to...thank the prelates who have published it.

LifeSite: Do you consider this Declaration of Truths to be an indirect response to the Open Letter?

Pierantoni: Yes, I think that in a sense it is. In the Open Letter we accused the Pope of believing and spreading a number of heresies, and we asked the bishops to take appropriate measures to counter this dreadful attack on orthodoxy. Now, even if these prelates do not speak of “heresy,” nor do they directly mention the Pope, they have clearly recognized, among others, those same errors that the Pope has been promoting in recent documents and statements. So, although they dissociated themselves from the Open Letter, it is clear that they felt a strong response to defend orthodoxy which was in fact needed, and this objectively responds to the main issue that our Letter promoted. Moreover, they are mostly the same prelates who have already made themselves widely known for directly criticizing Pope Francis for the errors we mentioned. So, it is clear to everybody that they perfectly know that the Pope is part of the problem. They differ from us in the present choice of not accusing the Pope directly, but this is only a strategic decision which protects them from the easy accusation of “attacking” the Pope or “being enemies” of the Pope, as it has been levelled against us. In the substance, they agree with us that, not the Pope, but orthodoxy itself, is presently under heavy attack, and that the Pope is not collaborating in the defense of orthodoxy, but rather participating in the attack.  

LifeSite: Could one describe these two documents as complementary, contradictory, or perhaps as being on different levels of the current discourse in the Church? This question arises especially also in light of the fact that the Declaration of Truths touches upon matters – such as religious liberty and the question of the mission among Jews – which are not necessarily stemming from the current pontificate, but, rather, have been discussed in the last decades since Vatican II.

Pierantoni: I think they can be described as complementary, in the sense that they include errors that have not been directly promoted by the Pope (but most of them have been at least tolerated, or hinted at, and anyway have not been effectively countered by him).

So, while the prelates’ document avoids focusing on the Pope, it puts this pontificate into perspective, by drawing a picture of the whole neo-modernist heresy that is causing the present crisis of the Church – the most profound in all of her history. It is a complex and profound heretical movement, which can also explain how it was possible that Bergoglio came to be elected in the first place.

LifeSite: How would you characterize the Declaration of Truths?

Pierantoni: I would adhere to a definition that has already been proposed by some, i.e., it is a sort of “new syllabus of errors” concerning the errors of our time.

In this sense, it will be possible to use it as a kind of guideline by a future Pope, for a radical action in defense of orthodoxy. But the task is now much more difficult than it was in the times of both Pius IX and Pius X, because the errors that those Popes tried to repel were still (1) on the theoretical level and (2) mainly outside the Church, directly affecting only a small minority of Catholics. But now they have both passed to the practical level (i.e., to moral and pastoral theology), and are affecting a large number of Catholics, in some local churches, as in Northern Europe and in some parts of North and South America, probably even the majority of them (theologians and ordinary faithful alike). Therefore, I think that it would be a too difficult task for an individual person to tackle – even for an excellent Pope – and that a new Ecumenical Council will be needed. In this future Council (if God has not decided that we are now already at the end of times) we will probably see the final defeat of what we have known as the “empire” of “German” or “North European” theology (backed by its “theological colonies” in Italy and America) during the last 150 years: a deadly domination that has almost succeeded in strangling the glorious tradition of the Catholic Church in the West. The defense of orthodoxy will most probably come from outside Europe, above all Africa and those parts of America (mostly North America) that have managed to resist the heretical attacks of our times.            

LifeSite: What are in your eyes some of the crucial statements that can be found in it?

Pierantoni: I think the most crucial statement has to do with the modernist fundamental presupposition of the “evolution of dogma”. This is in turn based on the immanentistic presupposition, first theorized by German idealism, that God (or the Absolute Spirit) is one and the same metaphysical reality with the world. The world, in this philosophy, is not really created from nothing (ex nihilo), and therefore a different reality from God, but it is the necessary manifestation of the Absolute Spirit. Therefore, what is manifested in world history is always a direct manifestation of God, and therefore of Truth. Now, this has the consequence that something that was universally accepted as true in a certain epoch, can be dismissed as false in another, without rational proof, only because its worldly success and acceptation has changed. As is obvious, that presupposition can be easily, and dreadfully, applied to any moral truth, from divorce to abortion, from the definition of “man” and “woman” to the definition of matrimony. The principle of non-contradiction is not valid any more, and this, which at first sight seems to breed “freedom” or “tolerance”, in fact leads to the “dictatorship of relativism” notably denounced by Benedict XVI: now we see more and more clearly that this definition wasn’t just a metaphor.          

LifeSite: How effective and helpful can this document be, inasmuch as it does not mention Pope Francis by name, the cause of much of the confusion that is currently permeating and reigning in the Church, for example with regard to Communion for "remarried" divorcees?

Pierantoni: The document does not mention the Pope, because it is meant as an objective denunciation of errors which can be accepted and used independently from the accusation of a particular person. This has some objective advantages (apart from the strategic reason I mentioned before) because, as I said before, Pope Francis is not the principal cause of the present heretical movement, but only a specific acute manifestation of it: therefore, this war need not and must not be over concentrated around his person.

But, at the same time, the objective denunciation of errors is not sufficient, especially if we don’t dare denounce the particular persons that are responsible for defending, promoting, or tolerating the errors. In the present situation, the main accountable person is certainly the Pope, although of course he is not alone. Therefore, the publication of this document, while very useful and important, is not sufficient to exempt the bishops from the equally important duty to identify and explicitly denounce all the people responsible for these errors, with an intensity proportional to their rank and influence.    

LifeSite: Where do we go from here? What do you think should be done now?

Pierantoni: I think the most urgent thing to do now is to create a wider adhesion to this document by the bishops. The document is very good in itself, but its evident defect resides in that it is only signed by five bishops (out of more than five thousand). Of course, it is an excellent testimony, but to me, it speaks of bad organization among the orthodox bishops. I dare say there are many more orthodox bishops in the Catholic Church. I don’t know if they are a majority on all the issues mentioned, but they certainly are a majority on the majority of the issues. Both Synods on the Family are sufficient proof that this is the real situation, and they had to be heavily manipulated from above, in order to only partially obtain the results wished by the Pope.  So, I think the first problem that should be addressed now, on a practical level, is the communication among orthodox bishops and cardinals. They should be able to get in contact with one another and to make the number large enough to belie the easy contention of the adversaries that they are only a minority of arch-conservative extremists. Of course, we know there is the problem of cowardice and fear: many will not sign it out of a simple fear at losing their position. But even allowing for that, I am pretty sure that quite a number are not signing it simply because they have not been directly contacted and invited to do so. So, while profoundly thanking once again these brave prelates for their document, I would like to end this interview with an exhortation to dedicate more effort to weave relationships among orthodox bishops of all continents in order to muster a greater impact both for supporting this document and for future actions in the defense of orthodoxy.

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Maike Hickson

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli, Catholicism.org, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana, Katholisches.info, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.