Critics of Pope Francis level new accusation of ‘heresy’

Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Pope Francis greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A group of Catholics unhappy with Pope Francis have drafted a letter accusing him of heresy, the latest move in a years-long effort to discredit the pope’s reform agenda.

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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William Guglielmi
6 months 2 weeks ago

I, for one, am tired of British priests (either those who were born to the faith or those who made the transition from Anglicanism) trying to speak for all Catholics. In charity to them, I believe that much of their intransigence comes from belonging to a church that spent much of its post-Reformation existence as an underground entity actually persecuted by the government. Regardless of the reason for their petulance I find it schismatic at best and heretical at worst. I do not hold my fellow American Catholics to be less responsible for the growing trend of indiscipline and potential schism and heresy. I have no explanation for those individuals in the American Church other than arrogance. Anti-Francis Americans suffer from an exaggerated form of American exceptionalism and forget that most of the Church exists in a world far different from the one in which we Americans live.

Colin Jory
6 months 2 weeks ago

So, William, you have nutted out that the reason the Englishmen who signed the letter accusing Pope Francis of heresy did so was that they have a narrow, dark priest-hole mentality which has lingered since the days Catholics were persecuted by the Crown; and the reason the Americans who signed the letter did so was "arrogance". Here's a third possibility. Perhaps the signatories signed because the Pope is manifestly a heretic, a propagator of heresy, and a promoter and favourer of other propagators of heresy, especially of heresies regarding homosexuality, contraception, and domestic sexual relationships between persons not married to each other. That's the simplest viable explanation, William; and Occam's Razor, the principle of explanatory economy, has it that when multiple seemingly-viable explanations for a phenomenon can be imagined, the correct one is likely to be the simplest.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
6 months 2 weeks ago

Well said, Mr. Jory.

lynne miller
6 months 2 weeks ago

Nah, that's no good, either. Maybe Pope Francis is just a little more connected the loving, charitable part of Catholicism than to the Inquisitional, punishing part.

Lisa M
6 months 2 weeks ago

Well said Lynne. Those who have morphed their faith into the Republican Party need to step back and read the gospels and the Catechism again. Catholicism is neither liberal nor conservative, If you think it is, start reading again.

Alice Rhonda Santoro
6 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you Lynne for remembering EXACTLY what Jesus said, " Matthew 22: 35-40.

Annette Magjuka
6 months 2 weeks ago

Yes

Douglas Fang
6 months 2 weeks ago

I completely agree with you Lynne. Actually, those “19 people” are themselves heretics and they don’t know that. It is so pathetic!

Terese Reid
6 months 2 weeks ago

We can continue to hope and pray that he remains so.

lynne miller
6 months 2 weeks ago

Nah, that's no good, either. Maybe Pope Francis is just a little more connected the loving, charitable part of Catholicism than to the Inquisitional, punishing part.

William Guglielmi
6 months 2 weeks ago

No, Mr. Jory I did not ‘nut’ it out, I arrived at it through some considered thought over the past several months. It is, as I said, a charitable assessment rather than the darker one which does, at times, permeate my thoughts. That darker view, which could be applied equally to my American counterparts who I accused of arrogance, is that these individuals are members of the far right political spectrum who are using their religion to give them cover for their nativistic, anti-immigration, and anti-religious freedom beliefs. Additionally, I did some cursory research on the signatories to this latest anti-papal document and, frankly, my reading of their individual backgrounds leads me further towards my darker assessment. Collectively, they represent a segment of the Church that challenges the Church’s conciliar tradition while relying on Trent to be the end all of Church dogma. That sir, is a fallacious argument.

Colin Jory
6 months 2 weeks ago

William, you're really floundering. Your comment to which I took exception concerns the letter of a couple of days back calling for episcopal action against Pope Francis as an in-your-face, fully-knowing propagator of a hodge-podge of heresies, so you can hardly have been mulling on the matter "for the past several months". Furthermore, I am at a loss to discern the relevance to the letter of your claim that the signatories "are members of the far right political spectrum who are using their religion to give them cover for their nativistic, anti-immigration, and anti-religious freedom beliefs" -- in short, a basket of deplorables. How does this assessment apply to the outstanding English theologian Father Aidan Nicholls, OP, or to my fellow-Australian Dr Anna Silvas, a brilliant patristics scholar? Would it matter a jot if the signatories turned out to be a collective of one-legged lumberjacks writing under misappropriated pseudonyms? Surely all that counts is what they say, how convincingly they say it, how they substantiate it, and how important it is.

And by the way, since we're sparring partners you can call me Colin, but not "Mr" -- or if you want to be formal, Dr, my actual title. (Please excuse my modesty: I've learned it from Pope Francis.)

Chris Dorf
6 months 2 weeks ago

Will these attacks Pope Francis never end?
The group of writers defend Pope Francis at: https://wherepeteris.com/
Rocco Buttiglione also does a wonderful job of explaining Amoris Laetitia.

Alice Rhonda Santoro
6 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you. I can't help but feel that all this self-righteous indignation is the work of the devil.

Thien Nguyen
6 months 2 weeks ago

Amen. We need to pray more for our Pope because when evil forces attack him that means he does good things for the Church and her children.

Lisa M
6 months 2 weeks ago

So very true Thien. I never looked at things that way before, but honestly this force of hate against the Pope is beyond comprehension.

Dan Shevock
6 months ago

Its super problematic that some conservative priests are bringing this charge of heresy into their homilies (happened at my parent's church this morning!). This should be dealt with by theologians and bishops; not by local priests spending their time on on the pulpit to weaken faith the the Catholic Church.

Paul Perez
6 months 2 weeks ago

This article is informative but unfortunately, Mr. Loughlin, you betrayed where you stand vis a vis Pope Francis's actions and positions with the phrase "reform agenda." As reform is always a good, anyone offering a critique must be at best mistaken and at worst an evil-doer. Pope Francis has appointed/retained some very troubling people. Much of the problem results from Pope Francis's pastoral background. His immediate two predecessors were brilliant academics who never wrote or uttered an imprecise word; Pope Francis is most distressing when he is off the cuff. I do not think it can be denied that he says ridiculous things. His remarks regarding God's willing a multiplicity of religions is a good example. It took a visit from the good bishop Athanasius Schneider to elicit the clarifying statement that it is God's permissive will and not His positive will that allows the multiplicity of religions. I know the Pope is a Jesuit and all, but I would hope that America might be at least a bit objective in his regard.

Will Nier
6 months 2 weeks ago

Good Lord there is nothing heretical in that.

L Hoover
6 months 2 weeks ago

Religious individuals who take themselves and their beliefs terribly seriously can be a tiresome lot. I prefer simplicity. If your attitude is accusatory you likely are not moving in concert with God and don't understand Jesus' teachings as well as you think you do. If your position is one of advocacy, of trying to lift up, you are probably on the right track. Accusing a pope of heresy? Can't see it, no matter what your differences. A Pope with whom you differ is likely not enamored with your worldview either.

lynne miller
6 months 2 weeks ago

Thank you!

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
6 months 2 weeks ago

Hmmm. 1,750 co-signatories by 05-01-2019. I think there are a number of questions that have to be answered before any of us, America Magazine readers, sign-on or don't sign-on. When was the letter written and published (not on Change.org; the original publication date) and what does the letter actually say, or to put it more bluntly, could we see the text of the actual letter? This article in America Magazine by Mr. O'Loughlin is quite scant in details and citations of those details. As usual with America Magazine, it is skewed in favor of Pope Francis. Good journalism, except in editorials, reports the news, rather than interpreting it for us.
Personally, I think the Pope should be removed or resign for alot more than heresy. Just think of all the people who were abused by the bishops and cardinals he protected until his deference to their activities was exposed. And one wonders how many more there are that have not been exposed - yet.

L Hoover
6 months 2 weeks ago

But then again, Thomas Brandlin....what if you are wrong? Pope Francis may well be God's choice at this point, as doctrine would have us believe. And God may prefer that we try to understand and not condemn ('lest we be judged'). Or not...

The bottom lines for me are twofold:

Said clerical misdeeds that are only now being brought to light were ongoing since long before I was born, many popes ago. The light is generally thought to be of God. It can take leaders time to deal effectively with newly perceived realities. Leadership during times of trouble and upheaval tends to pose significant challenges.

Second, in my lifetime I have put up with popes whose thinking was not aligned with my own, and I somehow managed not to accuse or try to bring them down. I believe the Church is enriched by differences and that God somehow and eventually brings good from the balance of competing values and worldviews, to the extent that good (truth, justice, respect for differences...) is allowed to break through.

In sum, we need to stop viewing Pope Francis as a kind of Chief Operating Officer who is not serving effectively and trust that he is of God, as doctrine would have us believe. In addition, Pope Francis and the Church might benefit from our support vs. condemnation as he struggles to right the ship.

Vince Killoran
6 months 2 weeks ago

There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the World. AMERICA is being extraordinarily conscientious in reporting on this letter penned by nineteen, mostly retired, professors. None of them are scholarly heavyweights, nor do seem to represent a significant group. As for their 1,750 signatories, a local on-line petition to save an old drive-in movie theater sign in my town garnered more support.

Sarah Dolski
6 months 2 weeks ago

The greatest regret of my life was naming my first child after this Pope. Once upon a time I was a Pope Francis supporter and enthusiast. Now I have woken up to the truth, studied Church teaching in depth, and can see that this Pope is doing way more damage than good.

Lisa M
6 months 2 weeks ago

Sarah- What exactly has Pope Francis said that so disappoints you? Are you certain it is not what you have read about what he has said, which of course can be very bias? I, for one, am thrilled with our Pope, for he not only affirms Catholic teaching in words, but most importantly in action. For those of us accustomed to a comfortable life, it can be a rude awakening, but the truth is the truth, and Christ promised that our Pope will never error in faith and morals. That should always be our starting point, and when we don't agree, we need to accept that it is us who are wrong, not the pope. I hope in time you will learn to love and appreciate our Vicar of Christ, as I have learned to, by reading exactly what he says, not some interpretation.

bill carson
6 months 2 weeks ago

I was happy to add my name to the petition. Of course, I’m no theologian. I am a common sense guy. But anyone can see that Francis has said many things that cause distress in the Church. Yet, when called out on that dubia (whatever those are), he REFUSED to answer fair questions about what he’s up to.

So the guy who has the most important communication job in the world refuses to attempt to explain himself? Who among us in any job we’ve held could have ever gotten away with saying things that irritate the customer base or work associates and then refused any attempt to explain our actions?

William Guglielmi
6 months 2 weeks ago

Mr. Carson, while I would have preferred him to offer some response to his unruly subordinates, he had no obligation to do so. Remember he, not the Cardinals, is the successor to Peter.

FRAN ABBOTT
6 months 2 weeks ago

Remember that Jesus kept silent before his accusers. That is Pope Francis's way also. I admire him for staying above this fray, especially.

John Hess
6 months 1 week ago

Mr. Carson, I think perhaps you may have some misconceptions. The papacy is not a "job" in the usual meaning of the word. The people of the church are not a "customer base". The pope is the pope, not a salesman.

Lionel Fernandes
6 months 2 weeks ago

It is unfortunate that 19 theologians should publicly accuse Pope Francis of heresy. Surely they do not presume to represent Church doctrine infallibly any more than Pope Francis. They are stuck in a doctrinal warp and do not understand that today's world needs a pastoral touch more than a dogmatic mindset.

Leo Hudzik
6 months 2 weeks ago

Honestly - it's not the sex abuse scandals that make me want to leave the Church. It's these so-called conservative spokespeople undermining the Pope's authority and credibility who believe they are "right". There's something rotten here. This does not help the Church already in crisis and the people involved are NOT of God. It makes me start to believe in the devil again - something I had abandoned as a mere metaphor decades ago!

L Hoover
6 months 2 weeks ago

Leo, I have gone through similar discernment. It doesn't matter to me anymore if a percentage of Catholics support evil or want an exclusive "club" as their---and our---place of worship. Their beliefs are for them to work through, as children of God. For my part, God showed me to look at the glass of the Catholic church as way more than half full. Every day now I feel deep appreciation for the spiritual depth offered by the church and for all the clergy and laity who serve faithfully and with love. There is so much that is wonderful in the church and I am grateful. I don't have to leave to keep my integrity, I only have to try to keep my behavior consistent with Jesus' teaching, to the extent that is possible for a mere human like me.

Dolores Gutierrez
6 months 2 weeks ago

drls5810@aol.com

Dolores Gutierrez
6 months 2 weeks ago

LisaM. Thank you. I agree with everything you said. Once upon a time Catholics in this country respected our popes . It seems those people who accuse our good pope of heresy are heretics themselves who want to inspire their own schism

Dolores Gutierrez
6 months 2 weeks ago

LisaM. Thank you. I agree with everything you said. Once upon a time Catholics in this country respected our popes . It seems those people who accuse our good pope of heresy are heretics themselves who want to inspire their own schism

Dolores Gutierrez
6 months 2 weeks ago

LisaM. Thank you. I agree with everything you said. Once upon a time Catholics in this country respected our popes . It seems those people who accuse our good pope of heresy are heretics themselves who want to inspire their own schism

Michael Lopes
6 months 2 weeks ago

It's distressing to see TWO English Dominicans, for now, supporting "this".

Adrian Johnson
6 months 2 weeks ago

The letter may be read on "LifeSite News" and is well worth reading. Even those most favourable to the Pope must surely be troubled by his appointment of clerics known to have scandalous pasts in failing to deal with homosexual activity over those whom they were superiors; and of seeming to permit those is adulterous relationships to receive the eucharist sacrilegiously. And there are not a few Catholics disturbed by the Vicar of Christ signing an accord with Muslim clerics in Abu Dabi saying "God wills a diversity of religions" (this is the heresy of indifferentism) even if they didn't mind the Pope prostrating himself to kiss the feet of 3 Muslim clerics--and by this action showing not "humility", but the head of the Catholic Church acknowledging the superiority of Islam.
This is NOT ecumenism: this is a betrayal of the Truth of Christ in His Incarnation, Redemption and Resurrection.
The false prophet Mohammed is *NOT* "the way the truth and the light", but Pope Francis by his actions signals that Christ and Mohamed are equals.
I don't know about you, but the Pope's own words and actions cause me to have serious doubts about whether this Pope is Catholic in his role to protect and clearly teach Dogmas of the Faith. Concerned for the salvation of souls, the respected clerics and eminent theologians who in their open letter ask the same question are reasonable to request the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, to give them --and me-- a definitive answer.

L Hoover
6 months 2 weeks ago

You could be wrong Adrian. Then what?

Raymond Rice
6 months 2 weeks ago

if this is heresy, bring it on and more!!!

Alan Johnstone
6 months 2 weeks ago

OK, I read the letter and then examined the available CVs of the signatories.

I recognise them as fellow baptised persons, literate adults in the same way as Pope Francis and indeed, I am myself.
There is no public evidence of them being discerned as prophet or endowed with exceptional gifts of discernment.

I do not endorse their accusation as I do not accept their arguments.

Tim Donovan
6 months 2 weeks ago

Although I'm a former long-time registered Democrat of more than 30 years (I'm 57) who's now a moderate Republican, I still frequently agree with typical Democratic policies. I agree that our faith is neither Republican nor Democratic, nor liberal or conservative. The latter two terms are politica!. In my view, the correct term about whether or not one is a faithful Catholic is orthodox. Of course, none of us are always faithful to following Jesus' teachings as authentically interpreted by the magesterium of the Church. I certainly am not. Because of my failings/sins, I have for about the last two years gone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation for consolation and forgiveness each month. I agree that Pope Francis has a different "style" than either Pope emeritus Benedict XVI or St. Pope John Paul II. For instance, he has forcefully spoken out in favor of protecting our environment from harm due to human activity in his encyclical (which I read and found compelling) Laudato Si. However, although neither Pope wrote an encyclical regarding the environment, both men addressed threats to our environment. Pope Francis has also spoken out in favor of the rights of unborn human beings. It's probably true that both Benedict and John Paul spoke out more frequently against the violence of legal abortion, but Pope Francis certainly has on more than one occasion affirmed the Church's teaching regarding abortion. For instance, in Laudato Si, he clearly stated that respect for nature was "incompatible with the justification of abortion." Perhaps his critics are concerned about
when several years ago Pope Francis said words to the effect that the Church shouldn't only address abortion and contraception. However, both Pope-emeritus Benedict and Pope St. John Paul also addressed many other matters, including capital punishment ( both in opposition) as well as,unjust wars. Pope Francis has also said that he admires St. Pope Paul for his teaching regarding family planning in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. As a Catholic who's gay, I've been celibate for most of my life (admittedly, that hasn't always been easy). In fact, years ago I had sex with several men. However, I regretted my behavior, and received forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I appreciate that Pope Francis has shown more sympathy towards people who are gay, lesbian, or not heterosexuals. But I agree with Pope Francis that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. However, I continue to have a gay friend. My sister is good friends with a woman who's a lesbian. (I was in the same grade in Catholic school with her). I find it more difficult to be friendly with her, because she is often outspoken in favor of "gay rights." However, I am polite to her when she comes to many of our family gatherings. Another issue that some Catholics who are politically conservative disagree with Pope Francis is regarding his frequent references to the rights and needs of immigrants (and refugees). I agree that protecting our borders from terrorists and criminals entering is,important. However, surely the overwhelming majority of immigrants entering from Mexico (from different Latin American nations) are good, decent people who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty in their home countries. I do believe that our nation should welcome more immigrants. Years ago, I worked at a group home with disabled men. Several of my co-workers were immigrants from Liberia (and many of the staff in our agency's residential program were immigrants from Liberia or other African nations). My co-workers had fled from a brutal civil war, and understandably sought better lives for themselves and their families. Finally, the concern about Pope Francis meeting with Muslims and expressing an ecumenical attitude is unwarranted, in my opinion. First, both Pope Benedict and as I remember especially Pope John Paul visited many foreign nations and encouraged dialogue with Muslims and members of other faiths. I know many people who are Protestants of different denominations (including my dear sister-in-law and niece who are Presbyterians) as well as several Jews and Muslims. Although I believe that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and is the surest means of salvation, the Church doesn't teach that only Catholics can be saved. Pope Francis at times in my view when he speaks off the cuff does need to later clarify his statements. Perhaps he should be more careful in his statements. All in all, however, I very much respect, even admire Pope Francis for his emphasis on reaching out to care for with Christian charity people "on the margins" of life. I hardly believe that he's a heretic.

Lisa M
6 months 2 weeks ago

I agree 100 percent Tim!

Tim Donovan
6 months 1 week ago

Thank you, Lisa! You're very kind. It's always encouraging to receive a compliment. God bless Pope Francis. All the best to you in your journey as a Catholic Christian to follow the teachings of Jesus, our merciful Savior.

Jane J
6 months 2 weeks ago

Please visit WherePeterIs.com and you will love the articles there too, just like the ones here.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

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