A ‘Filial Correction’ to Pope Francis


In September 2014 Pope Francis offered one of his several reflections on fraternal correction in a homily at the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta chapel. Citing Jesus’ criteria for addressing a concern, the Pope stressed the necessity of using charity, truth and humility. This past August, about 40 theologians, clergy and laity, offered a “filial correction” to Pope Francis himself. After waiting a month for him to respond, they decided to publish it online this past 24 September. The document, now representing 62 signatories, states that Pope Francis supports heretical positions about marriage, morality and the Eucharist.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before being elected Pope and while still serving as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published the instruction Donum Veritatis, “On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.” Ratzinger stated that the initial response when encountering a Church teaching should be religious submission of intellect and will. There still could be many reasons why a teaching might come into question, so Ratzinger offered several prudential caveats about continuing a response. He insisted that one should not present opinions “as though they were non-arguable conclusions.” Secondly, they should refrain from an untimely expression. Finally, they should avoid turning to the “mass media” and applying public pressure to advance a clarification.

While the “filial correction” offered to Pope Francis may be a relevant theological concern, it is not at all evident that the signatories thoroughly considered the criteria offered by Christ in the Gospel, or the teaching of Donum Veritatis.