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To Sign or Not to Sign the “Filial Correction”?

October 19, 2017

The Filial Correction addressed on September 24, 2017, to Pope Francis on the heterodox passages of Amoris Laetitia has now been signed by 235 clerics and lay scholars. The first 62 signatories explained from the very beginning that they represented “others lacking the necessary freedom of speech.”

Fr. Blake Speaks Out

This is what Fr. Ray Blake of Brighton (United Kingdom) humbly admitted on his blog on September 28; he signed the Letter of the 45 theologians to Cardinal Angelo Sodano in 2016 and renounced signing the Filial Correction in 2017:

“I have been asked to sign the Filial Correction, I signed the letter of the 45 academics and pastors last year, and almost immediately found Cardinal Nichols' tanks (Archbishop of Westminster, Ed. Note) parked on my lawn to inform me of his displeasure, which was quite mild unlike other lay signatories, who were sacked from their jobs in Catholic institutions for their pains, Dr. Josef Seifert’s being the most high profile. I admit it, I am afraid to sign and I know other priests who share my fear. Many of those who might have signed have in the last four years have a certain fear about their place in the Church.

….

The climate is bad throughout the Church, in Rome it is positively toxic. Under Francis the Vatican has become a place of fear and arbitrary oppression, there was a public glimpse of that in the sacking of Cdl Mueller by the Pope, and earlier in the dismissal of a couple of priests from the CDF and amongst laymen of Libero Milone, former Auditor General and many others. It is not just in theology that 2+2=5, or whatever number the Pope chooses that day, it extends to morality and ordinary human decency, ultimately it is a serious attack on the rationality of the Catholic faith and intellectual rigour.…The Church of Jesus Christ is not a mob, the great flaw of Pope Francis is that rather than gathering the flock he is scattering it, sending many to wander in the desert or runaway in confusion and fear.”

Additional Support for the Correction

Along with those who do not have the necessary freedom to sign the Filial Correction, there are also those who without signing offer their intellectual and moral support, like Don Nicola Bux, an Italian priest and very close friend of Benedict XVI, who granted an interview on October 5, 2017, to the Italian website La Fede Quotidiana, a summary of which was published the next day by Maike Hickson on the American website OnePeterFive:

“Don Bux stresses that ‘canon law recognizes that the faithful have the right – and sometimes even the duty – to express their thoughts to the shepherds, for the good of the Church.’ The ‘shepherds themselves are not infallible,’ he adds. The faithful are obliged to obey the pope when he teaches ‘in a ‘final’ manner a doctrine of Faith or morals,’ says Don Bux. The same obligation applies to non-fallible documents, i.e., ‘to acts of the pope that are aimed at rendering with more clarity certain aspects of Faith and morals as revealed by God.’ However, Bux adds, ‘one may not obey when the shepherds, and especially the pope, instead of strengthening [the Faith], weaken the Faith of the Christians with their thoughts, words, or deeds.’ Here Don Bux seems to make an indirect reference to the filial correction which explicitly not only quotes Amoris Laetitia itself, but also cites other words and actions of the pope outside of that official document.

Don Bux then makes the very clear statement that, in such a case of the weakening of the Faith, the Christians do ‘have to express (to the pope) their opposition with due respect. The authority of the pope in the Church is not to be mistakenly confused with an absolute power over it.’ The Italian priest hopes that both Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s and Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s separate proposals for a further discussion about these matters will be heeded.

While Don Bux himself is ‘not a moral theologian,’ he also makes it clear that the numerous appeals, statements and dubia concerning Amoris Laetitia indicate that ‘a clarification is needed.’ ‘There have been found not only theological errors and ambiguities, but also those of a philosophical and logical nature,’ he explains. (Some of these philosophical and logical errors and ambiguities of Amoris Laetitia have been repeatedly, and very well, explained by Professor Josef Seifert.)

Don Bux characterizes the adverse reaction to the criticism of Amoris Laetitia as ‘an impertinent debate, because one does not want to respond directly to the [presented and substantive] arguments.’ Amoris Laetitia ‘is causing much confusion, with regard to its application, especially in the case of the remarried and divorced persons and their access to Holy Communion.’

For all to hear and read, Don Bux insists that the pope has ‘the duty to preserve the Faith as it has been entrusted to the Church’ and that he has to ‘proclaim it, so that, also in our times, people can convert to Christ and thus not remain in disbelief. Thus, the pope may not revolutionize the Church.’ Later in the interview, the Italian clergyman reminds us of the ultimate mission of the Catholic hierarchy, which lies not in solving ‘political problems,’ but, rather, ‘in the proclaiming of the Gospel and in the administration of the Sacraments.’ The Catholic prelate’s mission is ‘to honor God and to save people’s souls.’ As Don Bux puts it, ‘Jesus Christ came into the world to rescue souls from sin and to lead them to God the Father.’ Thus the Italian priest rejects the idea of a Church ‘in which everyone, without necessarily converting to Jesus Christ and independent from the Ten Commandments, continues to live just as he likes.’

Therefore, Don Bux admits that ‘the Church now finds itself in the state of a great confusion’ and – in the words of Professor Ernesto Galli Della Loggia (historian, editorialist for Corriere della Sera. Ed. Note) – that it ‘enters into competition with the UN, the FAO [Food and Agricultural Organization]’ which are not Catholic at all. Thus Don Bux concludes this excellent interview with the words: ‘Jesus said that it does not help a man to gain the whole world while at the same time losing his soul’ (see Mk. 8:36).”