Friday, May 3, 2019


Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 1, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Analysis: Serious and unserious allegations of papal heresy


According to the letter’s signers, which include a handful of prominent academics, Pope Francis has committed the canonical crime of heresy, which entails publicly and obstinately doubting or denying credenda teachings – those Catholics are required, according to canon law  “to believe with divine and Catholic faith.”

But despite the letter’s strident claims, the arguments advanced by its authors do not appear to make a legal, or consistent, argument against the Holy Father regarding the specific charge of canonical heresy.

Despite the insistence that the pope has committed the “canonical delict of heresy,” the letter’s authors appear unable to distinguish between the crime of heresy and what their letter actually appears to allege – material heresy.



Dan said...

Wherein I anticipate a certain readers comments:

See, SEE, a reporter says there really isn't anything absolutely PROVING the crime of heresy in these priests and theologians open letter - therefore this PROVES beyond any shadow of a doubt, that despite the refusal of Francis to clarify the doubts and anxiety of the sheep,he remains the holiest, humblest, poorest pope who ever poped!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The problem, though, in these precarious times for the unity of the Church which in fact is in a virtual schism, is that there is no mechanism to deal with an errant pope no matter who it is. It could be a traditionalist pope who becomes heterodox such as accepting Sweeneyism.

As well, at this point in our Church history, only bishops can officially charge a pope with actual heresy although I don't know that that has ever been done in the history of the Church. And in the history of the Church have there been attempts to remove a derelict through a canonical process rather than poison?

To be frank, I am concerned that those who are not bishops are charging the Supreme Pontiff with heresy and saying that he is no longer pope if he doesn't repent.

Should it not be instead, the college of cardinals or a significant number of the college of bishops, a percentage of them? What percentage?

Should the challenge be public as the dubia cardinals made it but only four or five of them? Or should it be behind the scenes?

In this day of transparency, should everything be transparent?

Ultimately, those charging heresy have no authority to do so be they right or wrong.

Anonymous said...

Every point you make here, Father, is true and concerning. There is no mechanism to address Papal error. Surely the signatories of the April 30 letter know this better than anyone, but see their duty to begin the process of sounding the alarm. In this media-driven age, that is only a first step, but can be an important one. Getting the bishops off their backsides is key, and therein lies the real problem. “A few good men” might apply here. Perhaps a few is all that exist, but those few need to be encouraged to speak up.

Frankly, I’m not hopeful. Wimps will forever remain wimps; that is the only way they know to live. Bravery, as the Dubia Cardinals modeled it, is key. We don’t see much of that these days, but we will see if this open letter to the College of Bishops has any effect.

John Nolan said...

Don't worry. He'll be dead soon, and the cardinals will not make the same mistake again. Benedict XVI admonished those who claim the Holy Ghost influences papal elections by pointing out the number of rotters and scoundrels who have occupied the Chair of Peter.

Anonymous said...


Would this be the heretical belief that Jesus really belonged to a Scottish Clan of the Mac Suibhne family?

Or the heretical belief that Noah's Ark really came to rest in the Sweeney Mountains of Antarctica?

Enquiring minds want to know...

Fr Martin Fox said...


I agree. The accusation does support a charge of heresy. I think what they want to say, rather, is that Pope Francis is too indulgent toward the mischief of others.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Fox, I agree and that is a charitable way of putting it. His Holiness is also an enabler of mischief.

Carol H. said...

Father, the writers acknowledge that they are unable to do anything themselves. That is why the letter is addressed to the Bishops. They are doing the only thing they can do, present their concerns to the Bishops and ask them to ask the Holy Father to make a public statement to remove the murk from the water.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Father McDonald:

If your analysis is correct, that the charge of heresy is unfounded, of course there will not be a rallying to this cause. After all, even if the charge were founded, it would be difficult in the extreme for any bishop or cardinal to publicly endorse the accusation. Thus, anything less than an extremely blatant situation will not garner support.

That said, I am interested to see what other reactions there will be. It's very possible that there will quite a bit of silence.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the Pope has been condemned already. Only a handful of his sycophant appointees made exculpatory noises on his behalf. Most Cardinals, Bishops, hundreds of millions of Catholics are silent. No petitions have been initiated on behalf of the HF. He has been replaced already. The next conclave will reveal his replacement. In the meantime read St. JP and the Benedict XVI teaching documents. We do not have to accept teachings contrary to the Faith.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, I would agree that no one of any importance has spoken up about this in defense of the Holy Father, such as Bishops' Conferences, the curia, etc. This is quite telling.

But on the other hand, ignoring these things is a strategy as well.

Anonymous said...

John says the pope "will be dead soon." Does he have any inside information? One year? Two years? Maybe 5?

TJM said...

Well we do know PF's geopolitical instincts are suspect, take a gander at this, Muslim kids in Philadelphia aka the City of Brotherly Love advocating cutting off heads for Allah:

TJM said...

And PF's views on illegal immigration are ignored by Hungary and Italy. LOL

Gene said...

Sweeneyism...something about T.S. Eliot (who was Catholic) and nightingales, I think...

Православный физик said...

Doesn't one think that it'd kind of a form of presumption to not have anything within modern Roman Catholic Law to deal with a heretical Pope/Bishop? I suppose that the answer to things these days can be found within the 15th canon of the 1st/2nd councils.

The above said, it's good someone is saying something. But I'm sure just like the dubia this will end up in the round filing cabinet.

John Nolan said...

Anonymous on May 3

Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß.

Most of us do not know the measure of our days, but it is a safe bet that someone in his ninth decade hasn't that much time left.

Sweeneyism - something to do with Scotland Yard's Flying Squad?