There is quite the barely-contained frenzy surrounding the Correctio filialis issued above the signatures of a number of clergy and laity, many of them eminent men and women of letters and learning. Soon after there was an invitation to those clergy and laity who had not been invited previously to sign the document to add their names to it. Looking at it today I see that there are now 233 signatories.
Yet is no less remarkable a document for who has not signed it. For some, no doubt, there is that fear that has been articulated by Fr Ray Blake and, more stridently, by Fr John Hunwicke, a fear of retaliatory ecclesiastical bullying. Fr Blake also raised the impression that might be conveyed by such popular initiatives, namely that their concerns belong only to those who have signed, whereas they are shared by many more. In other words, the correctio carries with it the danger of a sort of self-marginalisation. Which is why the loopier among conciliarista and neo-papalist theologians, such as Massimo Faggioli, can come out with such absurdities as this series of tweets (among the dizzingly vast stream he puts out—is this all he does? can theology be adequately pursued by 140-character tweets?):
Dr Faggioli is trying to kill two birds with one stone, by identifying supporters of the Extraordinary Form with the correctio. As an aside, his breathtaking self-contradiction needs to be noted: accusing those who support the old Mass of being “rupturist”, he then says that what he labels an “extraordinary form of catholic theology” can have “no possible coexistence” with “an ordinary form of Catholic theology”. How can asserting that modern theological opinion cannot exist with doctrine established over the centuries be anything other than “rupturist”! He returned the next day to hammer home his ‘insight’:
This self-referential set of tweets (he is conversing with himself, allowing us the dubious privilege of listening in) is, though it is not cool to say so, pure Modernism. This either/or approach to Church teaching—either you are modern or you are wrong—as well as his subtle and pernicious cooption of the name of Joseph Ratzinger in apparent support of his cause, is such atrocious theology that, quite apart from questions of orthodoxy, one wonders how he got a job as a theologian.
What Faggioli is doing, of course, is advancing the process of the very marginalisation that Fr Blake warned against.
Another reason for some, like me, to hold back from signing the correctio is a native and, I like to think, authentically Catholic reticence about any direct attack on a pope. He has not as yet, as far I know, articulated any positive heresy with regard to Amoris Laetitia and the inviolable sanctity of marriage. Of course, as Dr Faggioli evidences, the pope is, perhaps unwittingly, fostering a new climate of dissent and doctrinal rupture. This certainly deserves to be raised with him, as the Second Vatican Council explicitly allows for.
This is why the dubia submitted by the Four Cardinals are far more compelling for me. The correctio is inevitably to be seen as a direct attack on the pope. The dubia do not constitute an attack on the pope. Rather they identify the climate of error that has arisen due to the confusion caused by some inconsistencies in Amoris Laetitia, and call on the pope to act papally to clarify Church teaching and put an end to the confusion, a confusion causing a great deal of pain to a great number of Catholics. Moreover, the dubia express a distinctly cardinalatial mission, that of advising the pope.
However, it must be granted that the pope’s unwillingness to answer the dubia has led directly to the phenomenon of the Correctio filialis.
It is a bitter irony that when Pope Paul VI issued Humanae vitae in 1968, scores of theologians dissented, and in England there was the infamous letter to The Times in which 56 clergy publicly dissented from the papal encyclical. They were considered heroes of conscience and entire bishops’ conferences instructed their clergy to absolve those married couples who used contraception “in good conscience”. Paul VI’s encyclical did nothing more than solemnly and clearly re-affirm established doctrine.
Contrast it to today when a pope has issued an apostolic exhortation (ie not of the same doctrinal weight as an encyclical) that contains such ambiguities and fudges that it gives succour to those who wish to oppose the established teaching of Christ. Moreover, we have even cardinals calling this papal document, which does so little to confirm the brethren in the truth (one of the papal missions), the voice of the Holy Spirit. But when some, in far more moderate and far less egoistical terms, dare to write to point out the obvious they become villains to those for whom, all of a sudden, it is convenient to support the pope with a sort of neo-ultramontanism.
Like Fr Blake, I am not signing the correctio, and am refraining for the same reasons he gives. Not that my signature matters much. As Dr Gaillardetz of Boston College (never heard of him) asserted in a link above, the signatories “are really marginal figures” and my name would do nothing to counteract this impression.
For all that, I am one of the many non-signatories who share the same concerns and fears about the confusion Amoris Laetitia has enabled, and the shrilly-resurgent and brazen Modernism that struts like a strumpet across social media. The best we can do is to pray and to gently and respectfully bring to the pope’s attention that his actions, or rather his inaction, is fostering not the reform of the Church but its conformity to the world and its secular, selfish and aggressively un-Christian agenda.
The papal ear has always been besieged by voices seeking to advance their own agenda, sometimes for the good of the Church, sometimes for its harm. Let us pray that the pope hears more of the voice he truly needs to hear.