The Correctio Filialis: A Tangential Observation

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?):

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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’:

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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.

Join the Conversation

  1. So you’re not signing, despite agreeing with the content of the correctio, because you’re afraid of being marginalized? By the likes of M. Faggioli? Really? And so this article is … what?

    1. So, did you read all the article? You know, the bit about why I think it is not quite the appropriate method? Why I do not agree with all the content (such as implying the pope is a heretic)? So the article is an affirmation of the fact that just because only a few have signed it does not mean that only a few agree that the problems it addresses need to be addressed. Why should Fr Blake stand alone in explaining this?

  2. “[Pope Francis] has not as yet, as far I know, articulated any positive heresy with regard to Amoris Laetitia and the inviolable sanctity of marriage. ”

    Father, you have my sympathy, but I cannot agree. PF has expressly, on the record, claimed to be ‘correct’ and ‘accurate’ those heretical interpretations of his document AL that were issued by conferences of bishops (Argentina, Malta, Germany), interpreting AL as supporting a relativistic view of sin: that is unadulterated heresy. That they claim it to be Catholic doctrine compounds the heresy.

    The Pope has not only tacitly but also openly supported them, in word and action. He gives them platforms, he persecutes those who disagree with them.
    (As Dame Edna Everage would say: ‘I’m sorry – but he does!’ 🙂

    And as for those ‘bishops’ conferences themselves – does their openly promulgated heresy not count? Does that not affect the millions of faithful in their countries, and harm the soulds of those who believe their blithe, conscience-deadening assurances?

    We all know this is going on. So of course does the Pope. There are moments when papal equivocation (not that PF has even left it as ambiguous as that!) is tantamount to extreme spriritual negligence, which is arguably much more perilous than heresy to the souls of the faithful.

    The Devil is clearly rampant in the Church. The one good reason I can see against signing any letters of correction is that they are useless in dealing with the Devil. Perhaps we should all rather gather and pray, en masse.

  3. Father, I don’t think that position on the dubia as a cardinalatial mission holds regarding its comparison to the recent correctio. It would if the dubia was not published. Both were sent and unanswered. Both were then published. I support both.

    1. I would agree with you about the dubia if the Pope had not received any word of concern from the cardinals in private. It is hard to believe they did not try to get their concerns across to him privately in the first instance. If they didn’t then there would have been a good reason. By making public their questions, and remember they were merely asking clarification on five dubious conclusions drawn from AL, they engaged with the Pope in a forum the Pope likes to use. Moreover the Pope seems rather keen on Luther so he should recognise in the dubia’s publication something akin to Luther’s lifting his theses on the church for at Wittenberg, not itself a scandalous thing in its day. Ultimately, if the salvation of should if the ultimate priority, then one may have to push the envelope at some stage.

      Anyway, I’m certainly not pretending any of this is easy!

  4. What about “Paglia’s Homoerotic Mural” – @onepeterfive &, & his sex-ed programme for young children – The Vatican’s Depraved Sex-Ed Program
    for Youth @traditioninaction that has been condemned by Catholic parents & the countless sodomite priests/prelates in prominent positions allowing them exposure for promulgating their ideologies with impunity e.g. Frs. Mauro Inzoli (Don Mercedes), James Martin, Timothy Radcliffe, Archbishop Paglia, Cardinal Coccopalmerio, Bishop Juan Barros, Msgr, Battista Ricca, Msgr. Luigi Capozzi & countless others? Such men are desecrating the CC & annulling two thousand years of continuity with Christ & the First Apostles, yet none of them have been publicly admonished or resignations requested. Every pope is required to uphold the Dogmas of the CC upon taking office. This one is publicly opposing them by supporting the interpretations of the Argentina & Maltese Bishops on Amoris Laetitia. His silence & contemptuous behaviour towards the Dubia Cardinals in not either answering the Dubia or granting them an Audience is not acceptable to faithful Catholics. Enough reasons for good people to sign the Correctio Filialis.

    1. While I am far from unsympathetic to your concerns, a little perspective may help. This is hardly the first time the Church has been beset by immoral and heterodox clergy. I can think of no time when it has not been, to a greater or lesser extent. Probably most of them have worked their way through in this life, but judgment awaits us all. Indeed when identified such people, especially clergy, should be challenged and brought to repentance. In every age this has not always happened.

      And let us not forget that some pretty unsavoury men have sat in Peter’s chair. This Pope seems to conceive of his role as purely pastoral, which seems to blind him to his magisterial role, to the detriment of his ministry.

      That he had not intervened on some issues you lost may be in some cases at least due to his ignorance of them. After all, it is the local bishop’s duty to correct local error in the first place, even more so in this collegial age.

      But failure to condemn error, while a serious dereliction, is not necessarily tantamount to material heresy. Thus a note of prudent, filial caution is not out of place.

      It is sad indeed, it must be said, that we have to discuss such matters.

      Let us pray for the Pope, that through the fun he hears what needs to hear.

  5. As I intentionally avoid Twitter and similar ‘social media’, the narcissistic posturing of the Faggiolis of the world do not trouble me. I view the Correctio as well intentioned but mostly futile. Pope Francis has a tin ear when it comes to anyone disagreeing with him.

    Thus it amounts to preaching to the converted for those of a like mind and a red rag to a bull for those who are not. The first don’t need to be told, the second will not profit from the telling. I have little hope that this pontificate will lead to “confirming the brethren”. But then our Hope reaches much higher than the occupant pro tem of Peter’s chair.

    1. Well said. I couldn’t agree more. For me the correctio and dubia are markers for posterity sake, more so the dubia obviously.

    2. Thankfully I’m not on Twitter myself but Faggioli’s feed is public and Fr Blake’s post alerted me to it.

      As to futility, you may be right in the short term but faith bids us see that, in the longer term, God will bring good out of even this unhappy episode.

      And to paraphrase Sir Humphrey Appleby, popes come and popes go.

      1. Markers: exactly what you said! I was thinking something akin to after the recovery of orthodoxy from the Arian crisis: who looks back with sympathy to the sycophants? Well no one recently until Modernism. We look to and admire St. Athanasius. That is what will happen hopefully with the dubia. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but much later.

  6. As a career manager/director of 36 years, I know rule number 1 is crystal clear communications. Of course, every manager speaks in code occasionally in order to achieve certain objectives (e.g. avoiding conflict or emotional injury) but to make ambiguous policy statements is either naive or deliberately provocative. The Church deserves better than this.

    1. Alas, I would be anything but honest if I did not admit to thinking that crystal clarity is low down on the priority list at the moment.

      1. In my own personal experience (45 years of professional life in many countries and with many organisations) I have yet to come across a single company, public entity, or political body that aims at completely honest and frank communications with its staff or customers. In most cases, the aim seems rather the opposite: a deliberate profit- and marketing-based obfuscation couched in bland ambiguity that makes actual intentions deniable, and that has become very much the Zeitgeist. In fact the degree of guileful corporate and government mendacity has definitely increased over the past 20 years or so.

        PF has just used the tools of prevarication that are everywhere else available: something no previous Pope dared to do, or got away with.

  7. Those who signed the filial correction have pointed out at great length that they are not making a direct attack on the pope. Their comments have been forced into the public forum by the pope’s refusal to answer this and other private submissions. I guess it was a step taken reluctantly in order to obtain some sort of response from Pope Francis.
    The following comments by the then Cardinal Ratzinger are currently doing the rounds on various websites. I think we could be at least moving towards a situation in which they apply:


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