July 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The full letter that 45 Catholic academics sent to the Dean of the College of Cardinals requesting that the cardinals and Eastern Catholic Patriarchs petition Pope Francis to repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that can be drawn from Amoris Laetitia has been published in full on the website The Australian.
The contents of the letter and its signatories were originally not released to the public, only sent to all living 218 Catholic cardinals and patriarchs. The signers announced the existence of the letter so that “Catholics who are troubled by some of the statements in Amoris Laetitia be aware that steps are being taken to address the problems it raises,” Dr. Joseph Shaw, an Oxford academic and the group’s spokesman, told LifeSiteNews in a statement earlier this month.
“The organizers did not make these documents public, since they are addressed to the Cardinals and Patriarchs, who would ideally have been allowed to consider them without the distraction of public controversy over the documents,” Shaw said.
Shaw previously explained that the organizers did not want to make the document public because “the censures are a detailed and technical theological document whose contents are not readily accessible to a non-specialist audience, and are easily misrepresented or misunderstood. Making the document public would impede the cardinals in their task by the media coverage and frequently uninformed debate and polemics it would raise.”
“We request that the Cardinals and Patriarchs petition the Holy Father to condemn the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris Laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true,” the signatories wrote.
On July 18, the Catholic Herald reported that it had received a copy of the full letter and signatories. The Herald published further details about the letter, such as the concern it expresses that Amoris Laetitia “contains statements whose natural meaning would seem to be contrary to faith or morals,” but did not publish the letter in full or the names of the signatories. On July 22, the National Catholic Reporter published the full list of signatories, which includes a number of distinguished theologians, priests, and professors.
And on July 27, Tess Livingstone published the full document and list of signatories on the website The Australian. Livingstone is the biographer of Australian Cardinal George Pell, but her story contains no indication of how she procured the leaked document.
Shaw said neither the National Catholic Reporter nor The Australian had authorization to publish the list of signatories and the document.
“The critique is the work of a number of Catholic scholars who were concerned that Catholics might understand some passages of Amoris Laetitia as contradicting the doctrine of the Catholic faith,” Shaw said in a statement after the document’s leak. “The remedy for this danger is an authoritative and final statement by the Supreme Pontiff stating that these understandings cannot be held by Catholics, and that Amoris Laetitia does not present them as magisterial teachings or require that they be believed. The College of Cardinals has the function of advising the Pope. The patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic churches also have the right and responsibility to advise the Supreme Pontiff on this matter in virtue of the importance of their office. Accordingly a document was drafted setting forth the gravest dangers of the text of Amoris Laetitia and sent to the cardinals and patriarchs, along with a letter requesting them to petition the Pope to condemn the errors at issue.”
Shaw explained that the document indicates “the dangers to the faith found in passages of Amoris Laetitia, in light of the ways they can be understood … by the application of theological censures.”
He stressed that the critique’s censures, which are essentially theological judgments denouncing errors that are incompatible with truths revealed by Jesus Christ and upheld by the Catholic Church, “are purely doctrinal and not juridical in nature.”
“Theological censures are terms that identify the precise character of a threat to faith and morals that is found in an assertion. The various censures used in the document refer either to the gravity of the error found in a statement, or to [the] harmful effects that are liable to result from it,” Shaw said. “The censures in the critique are purely doctrinal and not juridical in nature, as the signatories do not claim or possess the authority necessary to impose juridical censures. They do not question the personal faith of Pope Francis or claim that he assents to the propositions censured. This is shown by the purpose of the document, which is to obtain a condemnation of these propositions by the Pope. Censures of this kind may be assigned by any person in the Church who has the knowledge, role, and mission needed to teach concerning questions of faith and morals.”
Amoris Laetitia ‘can mislead Catholics into believing what is false and doing what is forbidden by divine law’
“The apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, issued by Pope Francis on March 19th, 2016 and addressed to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful, has caused grief and confusion to many Catholics on account of its apparent disagreement with a number of teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals. This situation poses a grave danger to souls,” the letter begins. It cited the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that “inferiors are bound to correct their superiors publicly when there is an imminent danger to the faith” and the Latin Code of Canon Law’s affirmation that “the Catholic faithful have the right and at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to make known their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”
“The problem with Amoris Laetitia is not that it has imposed legally binding rules that are intrinsically unjust or authoritatively taught binding teachings that are false,” the theologians contend. “The document does not have the authority to promulgate unjust laws or to require assent to false teachings, because the Pope does not have the power to do these things. The problem with the document is that it can mislead Catholics into believing what is false and doing what is forbidden by divine law. … What is important about the document is the damaging effect it can have on the belief and moral life of Catholics.”
From portions of Amoris Laetitia, propositions that are heretical, contrary to Sacred Scripture, and scandalous can be drawn, according to the censures.
The statement that the Church “firmly” rejects the death penalty and the implication that it is always unjust, the denial that wives should submit to their husbands, and the denial that a virginal state of life consecrated to Christ is superior in itself to the state of Christian marriage are several of the propositions drawn from Amoris Laetitia that the document censures as contrary to Sacred Scripture.
Using Sacred Scripture and a number of authoritative Church teachings, particularly from the Council of Trent, the document also condemned suggestions from Amoris Laetitia that:
- Living according to the teachings of the Gospel may be impossible for some people
- No one is condemned to hell
- “The divorced and civilly remarried who choose their situation with full knowledge and full consent of the will are not in a state of serious sin, and that they can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity,”
- “A Catholic believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action”
- “A person with full knowledge of a divine law can sin by choosing to obey that law”
- One’s conscience can “truly judge” that sexual sins explicitly condemned by the Gospel “can sometimes be morally right or requested or commanded by God”
- “Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it”
- “Absence of grave fault due to diminished responsibility can permit admission to the Eucharist in the cases of divorced and civilly remarried persons who do not separate, nor undertake to live in perfect continence, but remain in an objective state of adultery and bigamy”
“Catholic theologians have a strict duty to speak out against the apparent errors in the document,” the signatories wrote. “This statement on Amoris Laetitia is intended to fulfil that duty, and to assist the hierarchy of the Church in addressing this situation.”