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Theologian’s call for a papal correction process: 12 facts you need to know

Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, believes the Catholic Church needs a formal procedure to deal with a pope who teaches error.
Mon Aug 21, 2017 - 5:08 pm EST
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Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP

CUDDESDON, England, August 21, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — England’s pre-eminent Roman Catholic theologian, Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, proposed a canonical “procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error.”

Here are 12 facts about Fr. Nichols’ proposal:

  1. Nichols is the author of more than 40 books, has lectured in Catholic theology at both Oxford and Cambridge, and was one of the 45 signers of a letter to the College of Cardinals, asking that Pope Francis repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that could be drawn from Amoris Laetitia.

  1. The Dominican priest made his remarks last week in a lecture entitled “Ecumenical Lessons from the Recent Crisis in the Roman Magisterium” as part of the annual conference of an English ecumenical society called the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire.

  1. Nichols told his majority non-Catholic audience that Amoris Laetitia has led to an “extremely grave situation” in the Catholic Church.

  1. Nichols said there was a need for “a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error.”

  1. Although Cardinal Raymond Burke has spoken of a need to formally correct Pope Francis, Nichols says there is no procedure in canon law “for enquiry into the case of a pope believed to have taught doctrinal error, much less is there provision for a trial.”

  1. Nichols suggested that a corrective canonical procedure would be less “conflictual” if it happened after the erring pope’s reign, as in the condemnation of the heretical Pope Honorius.

  1. This process, Nichols said, “would dissuade popes from any tendency to doctrinal waywardness or simple negligence.”

  1. Such a process would also, in Fr. Nichols’ opinion, calm “ecumenical anxieties” of non-Catholics who think that the Roman pontiff can impose any doctrine he likes.

  1. The doctrine of papal infallibility was restricted by the First Vatican Council and, as Nichols told his audience, “it is not the position of the Roman Catholic Church that a pope is incapable of leading people astray by false teaching.”

  1. An interpretation of Amoris Laetitia permitting the divorced and remarried to receive communion without living together chastely as “brother and sister” would introduce “a previously unheard of state of life” into the Church. “Put bluntly,” Nichols said, “this state of life is one of tolerated concubinage.”

  1. Nichols said Amoris Laetitia seemed to imply that “actions condemned by the law of Christ can sometimes be morally right or even, indeed, requested by God,” which contracts church teaching that some acts are always wrong.

  1. Nichols observed that the idea that “the commandments of God are impossible to observe even for a man who is justified and established in grace” was solemnly condemned by the Council of Trent, but Amoris Laetitia seems to say that it is not always possible — or even advisable — to follow the moral law. It this were correct, “then no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed.”


  aidan nichols, amoris laetitia, catholic, papal correction, papal infallibility, pope francis, raymond burke

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