The Dispatch: More from CWR...

On arguments that may be, and sometimes must be, made

To the extent that some qualified signatories and/or supporters of the Correctio have realized a duty (expressed in law) to address these matters, they are not simply acting under the protection of law (as are those exercising a right), they are acting in accord with its directives (as do those under an obligation).

(us.fotolia.com/aihumnoi)

I have taken no position on the Correctio Filialis. I know and respect some of its signatories as I do some of its critics but, as the document itself seems to fall within the boundaries of Canon 212, I say, ‘Have at it folks and may the better arguments prevail’. That said, some recent arguments against the Correctio are, in my view, subtly deficient and, time permitting, I will reply to them.

But even before that, I wish to reply to an attitude I perceive emerging against the Correctio, one that attempts to dissuade Correctio supporters from their position by alleging a disastrous—but supposedly logical—consequence of their being right, something along these lines: If Amoris laetita and/or Pope Francis and/or his Vatican allies are really as bad as the authors of the Correctio seem to believe, then all petitions, Dubia, and corrections will do no good. Prayer and fasting would be more advisable.

Hmmm.

Setting aside that several of these scenarios are not asserted in the Correctio and that the evidence concerning some others is not yet in, underlying this doomsday-like retort of the Correctio is, I think, a certain despair about the importance of argument itself in this matter. At the very least, such a bleak conclusion disregards the duty of certain Catholics precisely to engage in such debates.

Canon 212 § 3 has been invoked by those supporting the Correctio to point out that the Church herself recognizes the right of certain persons “to manifest to 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”, namely, those persons who possess “knowledge, competence, and prestige” in regard to the matter under discussion. Indeed. But Canon 212 § 3 says something more.

Canon 212 § 3 states in regard to persons with special knowledge, competence, and prestige in regard to ecclesiastical matters, that they “have the right and even at times the duty” to express their views on matters impacting the well-being of the Church (my emphasis). The duty. Not just the right.

Thus to the extent that some qualified signatories and/or supporters of the Correctio have realized a duty (expressed in law) to address these matters, they are not simply acting under the protection of law (as are those exercising a right), they are acting in accord with its directives (as do those under an obligation). Now, to be sure, Canon 212 is not self-interpreting and several prudential considerations must be considered when applying it. But in its very terms is the expression of a duty incumbent upon certain Catholics who are qualified by their education, experience, and Church positions to make serious arguments on matters impacting the Church. And I see no exception in the law for those whose positions might imply the existence of other problems for the Church or for those who arguments seem unlikely to be acted upon.

Cdl. Caffarra said “only a blind man could deny there’s great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity in the Church.” Much of that confusion turns, obviously, on the meaning of technical terms and on the content of intellectual assertions. Those blessed with advanced training in such technical terms and intellectual assertions may be, and at times should be, at the forefront of these debates.

And, yes, all participants in these debates should be engaged in extra prayer and fasting.

(This post originally appeared on the “In the Light of the Law” site and is reposted here by kind permission of Dr. Peters.)

About Edward N. Peters 89 Articles

Edward N. Peters, JD, JCD has doctoral degrees in canon and common law. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. His personal blog on canon law issues in the news may be accessed at the “In the Light of the Law” site.

11 Comments

  1. Amen! Very ironically those claiming the signatories and others don’t follow proper “protocol” and are therefore disqualified, are actually denying people their basic ecclesial rights. It seems clear they just want this all to go away and thus find some way to induce people into silence, although not necessarily in a malicious way. And the quote from Caffarra is perfect: there is something almost bizarre and unhealthy about the denial by people there is something seriously wrong.

  2. A very good advisory comment on the right to offer criticism to Hierarchy and a clear explanation of duty to do so. Bishop Athanasius Schneider Astana Kazakhstan offered similar advice some time ago explaining that even criticism of the Pontiff offered with due respect can have merit. Apart from fatalism another bogus criticism of those who authored the Correctio, and the Dubia is that such criticism diminishes the papacy and causes dissension. That the Holy Father must always be obeyed. However in the instance of AL there are no binding pronouncements in the contested section Ch 8. What is subject to criticism are premises leading as Cardinal Caffarra said to false conclusions. The Correctio claims there is evidence of heresy that “words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical (1P5)”. Personally I believe some of these allegations are at least suggested by the Pontiff, although I don’t believe that can be proved in accord with the standards of law either canonical or civil. The reason is that it’s possible to draw different conclusions. And it’s possible that there may exist exceptions as noted in AL. Thus ambiguity. Although the tone of Ch 8 is that exceptions are highly likely, which itself is an unfounded opinion by the Pontiff. Which unfounded opinion is promoting a universal policy of discernment and likely wide spread error. Many highly respected prelates, authorities on canon law hold to different interpretative conclusions that are favorable to Apostolic Tradition. Nonetheless I agree with our memorable Cardinal Caffarra himself a notable canon lawyer that the premises contained lead to those damaging conclusions, that [in my view] interpretation of AL leans far more toward those conclusions. Is the Correctio viable? I agree with Peters that if those with credentials believe what the Correctio says they indeed have a duty. Its merit may lie more in alerting the faithful and encouraging critical thought. At this juncture I’m convinced what the Correctio purports, and which is evidenced in the mistakes of the German, Maltese, Belgian, Argentine and other Hierarchies must be repudiated as errors in faith and errors in practice.

  3. The funniest excuse they have come up with so far is that the Filial Correction is not allowed under Donum Veritatis. That document lays out the conditions under which theologians can and should disagree with the Magisterium. One of the sections says something like “don’t go to the media – don’t make this a battle fought in the media, it should be fought out amongst theologians in communication with the magisterail authority of the church. But here, they submitted the thing to the Holy Father, and again he ignored them. So after a long waiting period, they made their argument public.

    Now, it seems to me that the CDF could have responded quite easily to many of the arguments contained therein, and could have handled it quite easily. But the Pope basically told them not to respond at all.

    Anyway, it is clear that Donum Veritatis does not apply at all, for a multitude of reasons. But certainly one can imagine someone like Fernandez coming to the conclusion that it did apply, because he takes everything else out of context, why not this?

  4. All this pope has to do is an answer of yes or no on simple questions of his exhortation.

    Why must Francis act as he is above the souls he tends and knowingly putting many souls at eternal risk?

    Christ was not about mercy without truth.

  5. It seems to me that the Servant of the Servants of God has an obligation to answer simple questions of clarification. This becomes an obligation when the issue is life and death and leaders in different locations are teaching opposite interpretations.

  6. Dr. Peters or anyone, any chance to please explain what this means:

    “And I see no exception in the law for those whose positions might imply the existence of other problems for the Church or for those who arguments seem unlikely to be acted upon.”

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  1. A corrective to some of Prof. Buttiglione’s recent assertions about canon law – Catholic World Report

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