On August 11th of this year, a 25 page letter was delivered to Pope Francis. Since there has been no response from Francis, the letter has been made public. What is this letter about? The individuals who signed this letter have a concern that some of the Pope’s ideas found in Amoris Laetitia, an apostolic exhortation, and things said or done beyond the exhortation have the potentiality to seriously mislead the faithful if not clarified. In other words, with the lack of clarification, this now public letter is saying that one could be led into erroneous thought and even heresy.
An apostolic exhortation is not an infallible document. It is, “A category of document similar to an apostolic letter, which the [Holy Father] uses to communicate to the Church the conclusions he has reached after consideration of the recommendations of a Synod of Bishops. These are used in other circumstances, such as to exhort religious to a deeper evangelical life.” www.ewtn.com/HolySee/Pontiff/categories.asp In the form it was written, it is already understood that this is not an infallible document; therefore the concern of the filial correction given to Francis in August addresses valid questions. However, one should not think that the Pope is being criticized for something that ought to have been infallible.
Since this letter has gone public, not only will the blogosphere begin to fill with posts about this but so too will the media begin to spin this in the way they want (as is their nature). At this moment Fox, US Today, The New York Times, and I’m sure many more to follow are already saying that Francis is being accused of heresy. This is not true. Pope Francis is being accused of opening the way to heresy in the various comments or opinions he has made publicly, not that he himself is a heretic. Unfortunately there have been too many comments or opinions that lack a certain clarity and remain ambiguous and it is this ambiguity they fear could lead people into error, or even heresy, if these remain unclear.
The letter titled ‘A filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies’ was written with the concern about what some of the Pope’s comments or opinions, whether written or spoken, have done in spreading confusion rather than teaching with clarity. These comments or opinions of concern have to do with Amoris Laetitia and to what the Pope has said or done in conjunction with the body of that text.
One of the greatest concerns regarding the exhortation is what has been said for those in irregular relationships or invalid marriages. The teaching of the Church has always been that people not married or remarried sacramentally are not permitted to receive Holy Communion. There are many different circumstances as to how a couple may find themselves in that situation. I am choosing not to go through those now for the sake of brevity. The point is that some of Amoris Laetitia’s content hints at a reversal of teaching, giving Holy Communion to irregular relationships despite what has been held before.
I have explained to people to look at this as something with a potential domino effect. We have to take into account how closely linked all the Sacraments are. To mess around with the integrity and teachings of one, you begin to do the same with the others. The people who have signed this letter to Francis, I believe, are trying to prevent a domino effect from happening in regards to the integrity of all the Sacraments.
In a nutshell this is the concern that has brought about the writing of the letter that was given to Pope Francis.
The Pope is not obligated to issue a response to these concerns but now that this is in public media I hope he does, and for the sake of the faithful as well. Whatever positive effect the author of the letter intended by making this public, in my opinion, was misplaced and careless. Now that this is out in the media it will no doubt lead many Catholics into confusion about the state of the Church. Confusion because most of the public media is known for misinforming their audience to tell the story they want. This can have a damaging effect on the faith of the people Pope Francis is charged with shepherding, regardless of his own shortcomings.
With all that said, we must pray for Francis. Certainly he will now have to carry the weight of what the media is now saying about him and with the notion that he is heretical. I wanted to try and explain what this is about and that he is not being labeled as a heretic. If anything, it is a serious correction for him to watch himself and what he teaches in order that he never has to worry about becoming one.
St. Joseph, patron of the Church, pray for us.