Why is this correction being issued?
Some of the signatories issued a filial appeal to Pope Francis last year, asking him to clarify the Church’s teaching with regard to marriage, sin, and grace. When they did not receive a response, they prepared this correction. The correction was originally sent to Pope Francis privately in July.
Why is this correction being made public now?
When the signatories received no response from Pope Francis to their appeal or their correction, they were concerned about the possibility of scandal, and so they made it public.
Was it right to make the correction public?
Not necessarily, no.
In Donum Veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stipulates that theologians who wish to critique the timeliness, form, or substance of non-infallible magisterial documents should address their concerns to the “responsible authority” rather than the “mass media” (DV 30). The responsible authority for the Church’s teaching on faith and morals is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The responsible authority for the interpretation of canon law is the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.
Moreover, the principal concern of a filial or fraternal correction should be the amendment of the one who is thought to have sinned. But the publication of the document (as opposed to its private submission) was not undertaken primarily with a view towards correcting a supposed sin of Pope Francis. Rather, the cited reason for the publication of the correction is the avoidance of scandal to others, not the correction of Pope Francis himself.
Furthermore, although the correction seeks to avoid scandal, the correction itself has served as a cause of scandal. It insinuates that the pope is a heretic, it thereby weakens people’s trust in the pastors of the Church, and it provides the mass media with the opportunity to paint a false picture of the Church, in which those who believe the Church’s teaching about marriage, sin, and grace are seen as somehow opposed to the pope.
What authority does the correction have?
The correction is a private act on the part of the individual signatories, which they have undertaken in their capacity as baptized members of the Church (Can. 212, §3). The correction therefore has no magisterial authority in the Church.
Are Catholics required to follow the correction?
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No. Since the correction lacks magisterial authority, Catholics are not required to agree with it or to follow it.
What is heresy?
“Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same…” (CCC 2089).
Does this mean that the pope is a heretic?
No. Despite the document’s title, the signatories acknowledge in the document that they lack the authority to judge whether the pope has committed the sin of heresy or the canonical crime of heresy. The difference between the sin and the crime of heresy, and an answer to the question about whether the pope can be a heretic, are discussed here.
If the signatories cannot convict the pope of heresy, what sin do the signatories claim that the pope has committed?