The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) released the names of 45 priests and theologians who have serious misgiving about Pope Francis’ recent teachings, fearing his lenient pastoral style is creating confusion that weakens the Church.
The letter was precipitated by one of the pope’s most recent announcements, called an apostolic exhortation — a document that urges the faithful to adopt certain practices, but is not considered official church teaching. The document, specifically known as Amoris Laetitia, was issued after 2015’s contentious Synod of Bishops, which discussed modern family life.
[dcquiz]The Synod entertained the possibility of allowing divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive Communion, a move the pontiff tepidly endorsed in the recent announcement. Divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church are, according to traditional teaching, committing adultery and are ineligible to receive Communion. (RELATED: Pope Francis Taps Liberal For Key Vatican Post)
Prominent signatories of the list include Father Brian Harrison, a theology professor and prolific author, Father Giovanni Scalese, who lead’s the Church’s mission in Afghanistan, and Dr. Anna Silvia, an Australian scholar who authored a widely circulated critique of the document.
Father Aidan Nichols, one of the United Kingdom’s leading theologians and Oxford philosophy professor Dr. Joseph Shaw are also signatories — this is noteworthy as the UK has seen an unexpected revival of Catholic traditionalism in recent years.
“I have the impression (but it’s not for me to judge) that [Amoris Laetitia] does not constitute, as it might wish, a legitimate doctrinal development but rather a substantive breach with preceding teaching,” Scalese told NCR.
The group took issue with the pope’s interpretation of church doctrine to justify giving Communion to those in “irregular situations,” fearing it represented a significant distortion of Catholic marital teaching. The letter urged only a “clarification” of certain passages in the exhortation, and doesn’t call the pope or the document heretical.
The letter was sent to all 218 cardinals and patriarchs in the Church.
The letter is effusive in its praise of many of the document’s teachings, saying a handful of edits would allow them to “have their true effect, by distinguishing them from the problematic elements in the document and neutralizing the threat to the faith posed by them.”
“I couldn’t see how in conscience I could refuse to sign,” Dr. Alan Fimister, an American theology professor told the Catholic Herald. “The faith isn’t a hermeneutical game whereby we find new and interesting ways to give meaning to the same words every few decades, it is the way of eternal life.”
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