On the Filial Correction
by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 26, 2017
When I agreed to be one of the signatories of the Filial Correction (Correctio Filialis) of Pope Francis — which, to my surprise, has received rather massive worldwide publicity in the secular media — I did so with no little trepidation. It is not that I am “only a layman,” as if members of the laity have no right to speak out in defense of the Faith. The Catholic Church is not some sort of gnostic sect whose tenets are determined by an inner circle of initiates led by an Oracle of Rome, who regularly announce what the rank-and-file members of the sect must believe today as opposed to yesterday. Any lowly layman who is adequately catechized, including this one, will know, when he sees it, that a given proposition or practice is just not Catholic. That is what the sensus catholicus of the lay faithful means.
Rather, my trepidation arises from the knowledge that this effort is really something that ought to have come from members of the upper hierarchy, above all the cardinals. Let us suppose that instead of 62 lay people and priests (the original signatories), 62 members of the College of Cardinals had signed the Correctio. There can be little doubt that the Pope Francis juggernaut would have been stopped in its tracks, as opposition from 62 cardinals could never have been dismissed the way the actual Correctio has been by the Pope’s progressive allies, who sniff that no one of any great weight in the Church is a signatory. (Bishop Fellay of the Society of Saint Pius X and Bishop René Henry Gracida, the Bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, have added their names as signatories. May God bless them for that!)
Consider the following “false and heretical propositions” which, as the Correctio states, “Your Holiness has upheld, directly or indirectly, and, with what degree of awareness we do not seek to judge, both by public office and by private act [and] propagated” in the Church. The Pope has done so via Amoris Laetitia (AL), particularly Chapter 8, and his related oral and written statements in support of the propositions, all of which are documented in the Correctio:
1). “A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.”
2). “Christians who have obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom they are validly married and have contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of their spouse, who live more uxorio with their civil partner, and who choose to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act, are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity.”
3). “A Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action.”
4). “A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.”
5). “Conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, although one or both of them is sacramentally married to another person, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God.”
6). “Moral principles and moral truths contained in divine revelation and in the natural law do not include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid particular kinds of action, inasmuch as these are always gravely unlawful on account of their object.”
7). “Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.”
The four cardinals (now two) who submitted their dubia respecting AL presented these propositions in the form of questions about whether the Pope intended to propagate the propositions or to have them propagated under the purported authority of AL. The Pope has, by his own words and deeds, answered in the affirmative while evading any direct answer. This amounts to “magisterium” by subterfuge, which of course is not the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
So, where are the cardinals? What is to explain the mysterious refusal of every single one of them to speak a word against a wayward Roman Pontiff whose leadership of the Church, as one lay commentator of the mainstream has so rightly observed, “has become a danger to the faith”? Surely many of them know that this is so and are filled with dread by what we are all witnessing. Yet they all remain silent.
There will be no solution within the human element of the Church to the crisis of the Francis Debacle without the assistance of the College of Cardinals. Failing that, the only solution would have to be a direct divine intervention of the most dramatic sort. Meanwhile, the lowlier members of the Church are doing what they can, and what they are obliged to do by virtue of their Confirmation oaths.