Addressed to “the bishops of the Catholic Church,” the 20-page letter was written to “accuse Pope Francis of the canonical delict of heresy, and second, to request that you take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation of a heretical pope.”
Among the original 19 people to sign the letter—17 men and two women—is the Rev. Aidan Nichols, O.P., an English priest who previously lectured at the University of Oxford. Other signatories include other priests as well as lay theologians and philosophers. LifeSiteNews, a site that frequently publishes articles critical of Pope Francis, published the letter on April 30 and connected it to a “filial correction” made by a similar group in 2017.
The latest letter includes a litany of complaints against the pope, including criticism of his effort to expand relations with China, his work in interfaith dialogue and his pastoral teaching on the family, especially his perceived openness to L.G.B.T. Catholics. The letter states that “the evil of a heretical pope is so great that it should not be tolerated for the sake of some allegedly greater good.”
The signers of the letter take aim at “Amoris Laetitia,” the 2016 apostolic exhortation on family life issued by Pope Francis that some bishops have interpreted as making way for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. The letter also cites the pope’s association with a number of bishops and priests whom they accuse of deviating from church teaching, including Chicago's Cardinal Blase Cupich and James Martin, S.J., the editor at large of America and a frequent speaker and writer on L.G.B.T. issues.
Francis is also accused of not speaking out forcefully on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage and, in one instance, of using a satanic symbol.
“At the opening mass of the Synod on Youth in 2018, Pope Francis carried a staff in the form of a ‘stang,’ an object used in satanic rituals,” the letter states. It also condemns “a distorted rainbow-coloured cross” the pope wore around his neck in 2018, calling the rainbow “a popularly promoted symbol of the homosexual movement.” In reality, the cross was designed to celebrate World Youth Day, held in Panama in 2018, by incorporating colors representing the different regions of Latin America.
Addressing bishops, the signers of the letter urge them “publicly to admonish Pope Francis to abjure the heresies that he has professed” and “to take the accusation of heresy seriously and to try to remedy the situation.”
The letter was posted to the petition website Change.org, garnering about 1,750 signatures by May 1.