Is Pope Francis a Heretic?
Source: First Things
By Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap.
Nineteen theologians and academics recently released a letter to all Catholic bishops throughout the world, accusing Pope Francis of being a heretic and urging the bishops to take action, even canonical, in order to rectify this dire state of affairs.
There is no need to repeat the concerns expressed within that letter. They are well known, and have already been critiqued by many theologians, academics, priests, bishops, and even cardinals. What makes this open letter unique is its formal charge of heresy. This is an extreme position to take, as the authors themselves admit, but they believe that, given the critical situation that has developed in the Church, such a position is merited.
Undoubtedly, many of the statements Pope Francis has made are ambiguous, and therefore troubling—for they can be interpreted in both an orthodox and a heterodox manner. What is most disconcerting is that erroneous interpretations, those contrary to the Church’s doctrinal and moral tradition, are often propounded by bishops and cardinals—those who want to implement misguided teaching within their dioceses and urge that they become the norm within their national jurisdictions.
In view of this, many of the concerns addressed in the open letter are valid, some more than others. However, the fact that Pope Francis articulates these positions in an ambiguous manner makes it almost impossible to accuse him rightly of heresy. (This is, in a sense, a saving grace.) Those who interpret his ambiguous teaching in a manner not in keeping with the Catholic faith may be heretical, but the pope is not, even if the pope appears to give silent approval to their erroneous interpretations. Thus, I think that the letter’s authors have gone beyond what is objectively warranted. Yes, there are grave concerns and important doctrinal and moral issues at stake—ultimately the truth of the gospel itself. But the manner in which they were presented, the conclusions drawn, and the actions proposed will not help rectify the present crisis within the Church. Actually, the open letter makes it more difficult for others to appropriately critique the ongoing doctrinal and moral chaos within the Church, a disorder that will continue to intensify as this pontificate progresses.
Why do I say that? First, let me speak of the bishops to whom the letter is addressed. Yes, it is disheartening, especially for the laity, that the bishops do not speak out more forthrightly in defense of the Church’s authentic doctrinal and moral tradition. Yet, if bishops do maintain the integrity of the gospel within their own dioceses, this in itself is a major achievement, given today’s oppressive and fearful ecclesial atmosphere. Their silence, then, may be a guarded expression of their displeasure with the present pontificate.
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