Jesuit author’s talks are cancelled amid backlash

What happened?

The “filial correction” sent by 62 clergy and lay Catholics to the Pope provoked much debate. Unlike previous appeals to Francis, it also drew the attention of secular outlets, perhaps thanks to the “h” word – the Associated Press headline read: “Conservative theologians accuse the Pope of spreading heresy”. Joseph Shaw, a signatory, said the correction had “attracted more support than I had dared to hope for”. A petition backing the initiative gained more than 11,000 signatures.

What Catholic commentators said

On his blog Fr Ray Blake explained why he had chosen not to sign the correction. After signing the letter of 45 academics and clergy to the Pope last year, he said he “immediately found Cardinal Nichols’ tanks parked on my lawn to inform me of his displeasure”.

He wrote: “I am afraid to sign and I know other priests who share my fear.” His reverence for the sovereign pontiff was another reason, he said. The idea of a pope promoting heresy is “so horrific for the Church I would prefer to put off admitting it,” he said. “At the moment I am like the majority of the priests I know, who remain silent and are praying that the question is not put to them.”

Jacob Wood, writing at Catholic News Agency, argued that the correction was not a good idea. In Donum Veritatis, he said, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stipulated that theologians with concerns about non-infallible magisterial teaching should address them to the “responsible authority” – that is, the CDF or Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts – rather than the “mass media”. The correction causes scandal, Wood said, and “insinuates that the Pope is a heretic, and thereby weakens people’s trust in the pastors of the Church”. But Joseph Shaw, writing at his LMS blog, said the greater scandal would be if “a pope favoured error and faithful Catholics all remained silent”.

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