Monday, July 11, 2016

Catholic academics and pastors appeal to the College of Cardinals over Amoris laetitia

Update: further explanation as to why the text of the appeal itself is not being made public at this point.

The appeal and cover letter are directed to the cardinals for action in the first place, and we have taken the view that the Sacred College should be allowed to consider the substance of the document and the action to be taken in response to it before its contents are made public. The censures are a detailed and technical theological document whose contents are not readily accessible to a non-specialist audience, and are easily misrepresented or misunderstood. Making the document public would impede the cardinals in their task by the media coverage and frequently uninformed debate and polemics it would raise. At the same time it is important that Catholics who are troubled by some of the statements in Amoris Laetitia be aware that steps are being taken to address the problems it raises; hence the announcement of the document's existence.

Original post

I have been asked to act as spokesman for the group - of whom I am a rather undistinguished member - who have signed a letter to the Cardinals and also the Patriarchs, asking them to approach the Holy Father to clarify the teaching of the Church in light of Amoris laetitia. It is hardly controversial that the document is being read in widely different ways, some of them quite at odds with the perenial teaching of the Church, and all we are asking is that Pope Francis make clear that putative heretical implications of the document are just that: heretical.

Press Release

A group of Catholic academics and pastors has submitted an appeal to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome, requesting that the Cardinals and Eastern Catholic Patriarchs petition His Holiness, Pope Francis, to repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that can be drawn from a natural reading of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia. During the coming weeks this submission will be sent in various languages to every one of the Cardinals and Patriarchs, of whom there are 218 living at present.

Describing the exhortation as containing “a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals,” the signatories submitted, along with their appeal, a documented list of applicable theological censures specifying “the nature and degree of the errors that could be attributed to Amoris laetitia.”

Among the 45 signatories are Catholic prelates, scholars, professors, authors, and clergy from various pontifical universities, seminaries, colleges, theological institutes, religious orders, and dioceses around the world. They have asked the College of Cardinals, in their capacity as the Pope's official advisers, to approach the Holy Father with a request that he repudiate “the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true.”

“We are not accusing the pope of heresy,” said a spokesman for the authors, “but we consider that numerous propositions in Amoris laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.”

The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that “According to the knowledge, competence, and expertise which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful” (CIC, can. 212 §3).

The thirteen-page document quotes nineteen passages in the exhortation which seem to conflict with Catholic doctrines. These doctrines include the real possibility with the grace of God of obeying all the commandments, the fact that certain kinds of act are wrong in all circumstances, the headship of the husband, the superiority of consecrated virginity over the married life, and the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances.  The document also argues that the exhortation undermines the Church's teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who have made no commitment to continence cannot be admitted to the sacraments while they remain in that state.
The spokesman said, “It is our hope that by seeking from our Holy Father a definitive repudiation of these errors we can help to allay the confusion already brought about by Amoris laetitia among pastors and the lay faithful.  For that confusion can be dispelled effectively only by an unambiguous affirmation of authentic Catholic teaching by the Successor of Peter.”

Dr Joseph Shaw, an Oxford academic and a signatory to the appeal, is acting as spokesman for this group of Catholic scholars and pastors. The group has set up the email address to answer press enquiries about the appeal.

Dr Shaw’s personal details can at the following link.

His role as signatory and spokesman for the group is as a private person, concerned Catholic, and philosopher, and should not be construed as representative of the institutions for which he serves in an official capacity.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.


  1. The critics of Amoris Laetitiae are showing that St. John Paul II and other previous Popes can be read in various ways, and some of them are awful.

  2. God Bless Pope Francis !!!

  3. Best of luck with asking the arsonist and his friends to put out the fire!