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‘Official persecution’ of faithful Catholics under Pope Francis has begun: scholar

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Archbishop Martínez Fernández | Dr. Josef Seifert

CHILE, September 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- An "official persecution" of faithful Catholics has now begun under the Francis pontificate, wrote a Catholic scholar in a recently published article. 

“The official punishment of a Catholic thinker for the sole crime of defending an orthodox doctrine,” wrote Professor Claudio Pierantoni, signifies the “beginning of the official persecution of orthodoxy within the Church.”

Pierantoni is a scholar of patristics and professor of medieval philosophy at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago. 

He wrote in defense of Dr. Josef Seifert, who earlier this month was removed from a Catholic university in Spain by Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández after raising some questions about the Pope’s 2016 Exhortation Amoris Laetitia

The article was published Sept. 9 in the German magazine of philosophy and theology Aemaet.

Pierantoni said Seifert was removed from the university after highlighting a single sentence in the Pope’s Exhortation that, explained Pierantoni, Seifert saw as a “potential source of the destruction of the whole moral teaching of the Church and even of all natural Law.”

Seifert had argued in his article that if Pope Francis believes that adultery — to quote the exhortation — “is what God himself is asking” of couples in “irregular” situations, then there is nothing stopping any other intrinsically evil act, such as contraception and homosexuality, from eventually being justified.

It was because of this one statement that Seifert wondered if the Exhortation was not a ticking “theological atomic bomb” that had the capacity to destroy all Catholic moral teaching. 

READ: Amoris Laetitia is a ticking ‘atomic bomb’ set to obliterate all Catholic morality: philosopher​

In his removal of Seifert, Archbishop Martínez stated that the article “damages the communion of the Church, confuses the faith of the faithful, and sows distrust in the successor of Peter, which, in the end, does not serve the truth of faith, but, rather, the interests of the world.”

Vatican expert Sandro Magister commented that the removal of Seifert from his teaching post might go down in history as “perhaps the most dramatic legacy of Amoris Laetitia.”

Pierantoni criticized the Archbishop for his statement which he said “displays a truly surprising naiveté…of the present situation of the Church.”

“First of all, in order to affirm that someone is 'damaging the communion of the Church' in some matter, one must previously assume that some kind of communion, regarding the subject we are discussing, actually exists in the Church,” he said. 

“Now, what bishop, what priest, what educated and informed person in the Catholic Church today is unaware that there exists no subject at present more disputed and submerged in such horrifying confusion as this one?” he added.

Pierantoni said that while confusion within the Church already existed prior to the release of the Exhortation, with its publication “relativistic currents of thought and ‘situation ethics,’ which the previous three Popes had tried hard to stop, have now surreptitiously entered the pages of an official papal document.”

“Things have thus reached the point that one of the most outstanding and lucid defenders of the previous Magisterium during more than three decades, personally supported and encouraged in his philosophical enterprise by St. John Paul II as one of his most precious allies in the defence of the infallible moral doctrine of the Church, Josef Seifert, is now dismissed and treated as an enemy of the communion of the same Church,” he said. 

Pierantoni also criticized the Archbishop’s claim that Seifert’s article “sows distrust toward the successor of Peter.”

“Archbishop Martínez seems to be unaware…[that] by allowing into an official document affirmations that are contradictory to essential points of the previous Magisterium, and of the millenary doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis has directly thrown upon himself the utter distrust of an immense number of faithful Catholics. The disastrous consequence is that distrust is thereby thrown, in the minds of many, upon the Papacy itself,” he said. 

“So, what is the real cause of this distrust? Can it really be Josef Seifert’s solid and consistent effort to oppose the error of situation ethics, a commitment to which he has devoted almost his entire life and that of the institution he founded, in faithful service to the Church and to the Word of God? Or must it not be due to the fact that this very error, contrary to the whole Christian tradition (a tradition so recently reaffirmed in an Encyclical as solemn and important as [Pope St. John Paul II’s] Veritatis Splendor) has now been allowed to creep into a papal document?” he added.

Following the lead of Cardinal Raymond Burke, Pierantoni argued that Amoris Laetitia (AL) does not require assent from Catholics because it “can in no way be considered true Magisterium.”

Pope Francis, he said, states clearly in the opening of his Exhortation that there are — to quote the Exhortation — “various ways of interpreting some aspects” of the teaching and “drawing certain consequences from it” (AL 3).

“Now, this is of course very different from anything that could be considered a ‘magisterial teaching’: not only does a statement like this preclude any attempt to considering AL’s doctrine an infallible teaching, but it also precludes considering it even as authentic magisterium, at least in those parts that present novelties or even contradictions to the previous Magisterium,” he said. 

Pierantoni argued that it is because the Pope knows that his Exhortation is not magisterial teaching that he has refused to correct various bishops groups around the world who have interpreted his work in contradictory ways. For instance, the bishops in Germany allow communion for adulterers based on their interpretation of the Exhortation, while the bishops across the boarder in Poland do not – based on their interpretation.

Pierantoni said that Archbishop Martínez is “officially persecuting a most orthodox Catholic thinker” on the “false” assumption that the Exhortation is magisterial teaching when the Pope’s own words suggest otherwise. 

He said Seifert’s removal was not simply “discrimination,” but an “official persecution based on a papal document.”

“It would be hard, in modern Church history, to find another example of this. We would have rather to go back to the ancient christological controversies, when entire and vital sections of the Church – sometimes including the Papacy – were captured by heresy and thus persecuted the orthodox,” he said. 

“By officially punishing a Catholic thinker for the sole crime of being orthodox, he unwittingly confirms, and throws into clear relief, the practical schism we are suffering from in the Catholic Church, because of grave errors that have managed to creep into a papal document,” he added.

Pierantoni concluded that a “faithful defender of orthodoxy” such as Seifert could not be punished as if he were a “menace to ecclesiastical communion and an enemy of the Pope” without Pope Francis himself “actively contributing to the confusion between the Magisterium and his private opinions.”

“In the light of this, it is all the more necessary and urgent that some kind of ‘formal,’ or, maybe better, filial’ correction to the Pope, finally appear. And may God grant the Holy Father an open heart to hear it,” he concluded. 

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