Of Filial Corrections and Divisive Rhetoric


National Catholic Register, 5 October 2017

‘Momentarily winning the day’ has characterized Catholic infighting in 2017.

The “filial correction” accusing Pope Francis of “propagating heresy” published last month by a number of Catholic scholars and priests is both a great surprise and the new normal.

It’s a great surprise because most of the names on the list would have never imagined they would ever be so bold as to publicly “correct” the Pope — something that, by their own reckoning, has not been done since the 14th century. But perhaps it’s also a new normal, because 2017 has been a year in which the Catholic world has witnessed a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, a reality that, if not mitigated, will fray communion in the Church. It began early in the year and reached a crescendo this autumn. If it does not abate, enduring damage may well be done.

Consider — although it is only October — what 2017 has brought:

  • In February, posters appeared overnight in Rome accusing Pope Francis of being hypocritical in calling for mercy but showing none in light of his intervention in the Order of Malta, forcing the resignation of its head.
  • At the same time, a spoof edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, was emailed around the Roman Curia, making fun of the Holy Father for not answering the dubia of the four cardinals regarding his 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

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