July 20, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – New details have emerged about the letter 45 theologians sent to every Catholic patriarch and cardinal asking them to petition Pope Francis to fix a list of erroneous propositions in Amoris Laetitia.
The group’s spokesman Dr. Joseph Shaw, a University of Oxford academic and chairman of the Latin Mass Society, told LifeSiteNews that the list of signatories is not in any way limited to theologians who are viewed as liturgical traditionalists, thus showing that there is wide concern about Amoris Laetitia across the world of Catholic academia.
Upon the announcement of the existence the letter, Shaw said, “Numerous propositions in Amoris laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.”
The letter asks all 218 living cardinals and patriarchs to petition Pope Francis with a request that he reject “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 Catholic Herald reported Monday that it had obtained a copy of the letter, which the Herald said stressed that it “does not deny or question the personal faith of Pope Francis.” According to the Herald, the signatories wrote that it is necessary for Pope Francis to issue a clarification about the exhortation’s ambiguous passages, from which the signatories say heretical propositions can be drawn, in order for the portions of Amoris Laetitia that affirm Catholic doctrine to be truly effective. The Herald reported that among the signatories were “several distinguished figures, including one of Britain’s best-known theologians and the founder of a French religious community.”
The report included new details on the nineteen passages in the exhortation with which the signatories expressed concern. The letter states that the “vagueness or ambiguity” of these passages “permit interpretations that are contrary to faith or morals, or that suggest a claim that is contrary to faith and morals without actually stating it. It also contains statements whose natural meaning would seem to be contrary to faith or morals.”
The letter cites Amoris Laetitia’s claim that someone could “be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin” and asks Pope Francis to clarify that this does not mean “that a justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.”
The exhortation’s seeming implication that it may be impossible for some people to live according to Christian teaching is one of the many elements of it that has caused Catholics around the world to raise their concerns with the document. Many have done so more publicly.
The lay group Voice of the Family released a list of doctrinal errors and ambiguities contained in Amoris Laetitia and called on Pope Francis to withdraw it. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, said that the confusion the document has produced points to the need for clarification that the document is in line with official Church teaching.
Some Catholic bishops, such as Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, have said that the only appropriate way to read Amoris Laetitia is in continuity with the Church’s longstanding teachings.
This is also the view that Cardinal Raymond Burke has advanced. Following the exhortation’s release, Burke, who is the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and former Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s highest court, wrote that Amoris Laetitia is not magisterial and therefore cannot change Church teaching or practice.
Others, like Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, have celebrated the exhortation as opening the door for the practice of admitting to the Sacraments those living unrepentantly in situations the Church labels objectively sinful.
Shaw has previously explained that the signatories sent the letter straight to cardinals rather than publicly releasing it because “we have taken the view that the Sacred College should be allowed to consider the substance of the document and the action to be taken in response to it before its contents are made public.”
“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,” said Shaw.