An Ottaviani Intervention for Novus Ordos


Full Text Leaked: 45 Novus Ordo Scholars Condemn Amoris Laetitia as Heretical


The laughing stock that is the Novus Ordo Church is getting more and more absurd by the day. A few weeks ago was the first time we heard about a substantial scholarly critique of “Pope” Francis’ supposed “Apostolic Exhortation” Amoris Laetitia, the blasphemous and heretical document in which Francis undermines not only Catholic teaching on sexuality but obliterates the very foundations of Catholic moral theology. (See our memes that illustrate the absurd effects of the teaching contained in Amoris Laetitia.)

The critical study, together with its accompanying June 29 letter addressed to the Dean of the College of “Cardinals”, Angelo Sodano, was signed by 45 theologians and other scholars in the New Church and sent to all 219 “cardinals” around the globe. It contains a list of 19 specific propositions taken from Amoris Laetitia and assigns to each of them a theological censure, which is basically an unfavorable qualification according to its doctrinal content, defective form, and/or harmful effect (cf. Pietro Parente et al., Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, s.v. “censure, theological”).

The text of both the study and the cover letter have not been released officially but have now been leaked to the public by The Australian and are available in PDF format at the following links:

As we were preparing our post on this, due to the unintended disclosure of the critical study, the group’s spokesman, Dr. Joseph Shaw, issued a press release that aims to offer further clarifying comments:

We will now proceed to dissect this critique a bit and offer some commentary on the most salient passages in the document. We begin with the first paragraph under the heading, “The dangers of Amoris laetitia”, in which the authors and signatories rush to clarify that even though he published an impious and offensive document that is riddled with heresies and other theological errors, they are not questioning “the personal faith of Pope Francis”:

The following analysis does not deny or question the personal faith of Pope Francis. It is not justifiable or legitimate to deny the faith of any author on the basis of a single text, and this is especially true in the case of the Supreme Pontiff. There are further reasons why the text of Amoris laetitia cannot be used as a sufficient reason for holding that the Pope has fallen into heresy. The document is extremely long, and it is probable that much of its original text was produced by an author or authors who are not Pope Francis, as is normal with papal documents. Those statements in it that on the face of them contradict the faith could be due to simple error on Pope Francis’s part, rather than to a voluntary rejection of the faith.

Where the authors came up with the gratuitous claim that “[i]t is not justifiable or legitimate to deny the faith of any author on the basis of a single text” is anyone’s guess, but this assertion is certainly false. Since, however, the authors do not even attempt to justify this claim, by the same token we see no need to justify our denial thereof, for what is gratuitously asserted can be denied just as gratuitously. There is certainly nothing in the concept of heresy that would prevent it from being detected in just a single text, especially a text that is so lengthy and contains such numerous and clear offenses against sound doctrine and right morals that 45 scholars saw themselves obliged to send a 13-page complaint asking over 200 “cardinals” to take action against it.

But then things get even more amusing: The authors of the critique defend Francis’ “personal faith” further by pointing out that the Jesuit apostate probably didn’t write the document himself, and, besides, it is so awfully long! Yes, long it is, and his ghostwriter Victor Fernandez probably wrote most of it, but what does that have to do with anything? Are the authors suggesting that perhaps Francis didn’t even read it before he signed it? The argument does not hold water. It is a silly excuse on behalf of someone who has every obligation — more than anyone else on earth, considering what office he claims to hold — to ensure that whatever text he unleashes upon the world is compatible with Catholicism. Whether he wrote it himself or not, does not nullify or relativize this obligation in any way, nor does it make any sense to say that not having written it himself would somehow turn as many as eleven heretical propositions (and eight of lesser censures) into mere “errors”. Here it seems the authors are merely grasping at straws, no matter how unreasonably, in order to excuse Francis from the charge of heresy — or perhaps to simply exonerate themselves from what would seem obvious, namely, that they are accusing Francis of heresy.

In the press release he issued after the text was leaked, Dr. Shaw confirms the unreasonable stance of the scholars he represents and goes so far as to say that despite the theological censures they have attached to the 19 select propositions, the authors “do not question the personal faith of Pope Francis or claim that he assents to the propositions censured.” Really now? Here’s a quick reminder: The propositions censured are verbatim quotes taken from the text of Amoris Laetitia — and that document is graced by Francis’ signature at the very end. So, to claim that “we’re not saying Francis actually holds this” is downright silly, and such a disclaimer really puts a huge dent into the credibility of these individuals. Francis put his name on the document and officially promulgated it as the Pope of the Catholic Church! The conclusion is obvious — and it takes a willing suspension of disbelief to entertain the idea that the “Pope” does not assent to the “natural … meaning of the words” of the very text he publishes as his own.

The introductory text of the theological critique continues (underlining added):

When it comes to the document itself, however, there is no doubt that it constitutes a grave danger to Catholic faith and morals. It contains many statements whose vagueness or ambiguity permit interpretations that are contrary to faith or morals, or that suggest a claim that is contrary to faith and morals without actually stating it. It also contains statements whose natural meaning would seem to be contrary to faith or morals.

The problem with Amoris laetitia is not that it has imposed legally binding rules that are intrinsically unjust or authoritatively taught binding teachings that are false. The document does not have the authority to promulgate unjust laws or to require assent to false teachings, because the Pope does not have the power to do these things. The problem with the document is that it can mislead Catholics into believing what is false and doing what is forbidden by divine law… The propositions of Amoris laetitia that require censure must thus be condemned in the sense that the average reader is liable to attribute to their words. The average reader here is understood to be one who is not trying to twist the words of the document in any direction, but who will take the natural or the immediate impression of the meaning of the words to be correct.

The censures of these propositions are not censures of administrative, legislative or doctrinal acts of the Supreme Pontiff, since the propositions censured do not and cannot constitute such acts. The censures are the subject of a filial request to the Supreme Pontiff, which asks him to make a definitive and final juridical and doctrinal act condemning the propositions censured.

So, let’s get this straight: The scholars in question are saying that they are not condemning papal teachingbecause the teaching in question is false, and therefore, by definition, the Pope could not be teaching it. But that’s just another way of saying that since the Church cannot teach what is false, then, if she ever does, she’s not really teaching it. Thus, what constitutes Church teaching, according to these pseudo-theologians, is not determined by a priori (i.e. predetermined) criteria about how the Magisterium operates, but by an a posteriori (i.e. after-the-fact) check of the veracity of the content. In other words, we must first check and see whether what the Church teaches is actually true before we can know whether the Church really teaches it.

This is perfectly circular and thus fallacious reasoning, and it makes a complete mockery of the Catholic Magisterium. No longer does the Magisterium teach us, but we now teach and keep in check the Magisterium, just as in Protestantism, where each believer determines for himself whether what his pastor teaches is actually in line with the Bible. In that case, who needs a teacher, and what authority does he really have? This has the tail wagging the dog, and it is most definitely not the traditional Catholic position of the Church’s magisterial authority.

Semi-Traditionalist John Vennari once expressed the same error much more succinctly: “It’s not magisterial if it’s false.” That’s brilliant — the heretic Johann von Dollinger could not have said it better. It’s like saying that your car is guaranteed never to break down, and if it ever does, then that proves that it wasn’t a real car. Indeed, this is irrefutable in principle, but that’s precisely the problem, because now the “guarantee” guarantees absolutely nothing at all. By the same token, to say that papal teaching cannot be deserving of censure but then in the same breath to add that the way to determine whether it is papal teaching is to see whether it does deserve censure, is to say nothing of substance at all. The fact is, these Novus Ordo scholars have exonerated themselves of the guilt of temerariously censuring “papal” teaching by reducing the definition of “papal teaching” to whatever the “Pope” puts out that doesn’t actually need censuring. By doing this, they have made the notion that papal teaching doesn’t need censuring, completely meaningless. And while they may be able to get away with that in Rome, they won’t at Novus Ordo Watch.

When evaluating whether a doctrine set forth by the legitimate Catholic hierarchy in union with the Pope is to be accepted, one can hardly put as a condition of acceptance the very content of the doctrine, for this would involve us in circular reasoning, as it would require us to know the truth apart from, and before, the rightful Catholic teaching authority. But such a position reduces the Church’s Magisterium to being no more than an organ of repeating what is already known, endowed with a useless pseudo-infallibility that is enjoyed whenever something is promulgated that is, well, correct. By that logic, of course, anyone could claim to be infallible or authoritative, even Protestants, Pagans, and atheists; for, according to this faulty understanding, surely such people too ought to be listened to whenever what they say is correct, ought they not? Is, then, the Church’s teaching authority no different in essence from that of even a Pagan or a Communist whenever he says something that happens to be true? Of course not, but this is what would follow if the Semi-Traditionalist distortion of the Catholic Magisterium were true, a distortion which they engage in solely in order to uphold the idea that Jorge Bergoglio is the Pope of the Catholic Church.

At this point, some will no doubt want to bring up the so-called “Canon of St. Vincent”, the rule of thumb proposed by St. Vincent of Lerins that identifies orthodox doctrine as that “which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” (Commonitorium Against Heresies [Sainte Croix du Mont: Tradibooks, 2008], p. 146). Appealing to this rule, a great many who consider themselves traditional Catholics believe themselves justified in rejecting anything from the Novus Ordo magisterium that is not consonant with Tradition while still recognizing the “authorities” who teach it as legitimate and Catholic.

However, the Vincentian Canon was never meant to be interpreted as a layman’s filter of the Magisterium of Holy Mother Church, picking and choosing as requiring his assent only those things each believer privately discerns to be “traditional”, regardless of what the divinely-commissioned teaching authority tells him. Rather, the Canon of St. Vincent was meant as a helpful guideline to determine with safety what is certainly Catholic in a time of doctrinal confusion, on points of doctrine on which the Magisterium has not yet spoken. Last year we posted an article that explains this at length, quoting the necessary authoritative sources to show that this is indeed the understanding Holy Mother Church has of the Vincentian Canon:

But aside from considerations concerning the authority of Amoris Laetitia as purported “papal teaching”, there is something much more fundamental that needs to be considered here, something that is entirely independent from and irrespective of whether the faux “Apostolic Exhortation” is supposed to carry any magisterial weight at all: The most important point to remember is that, authoriative or not, infallible or not, the heresies of Amoris Laetitia publicly express the heretical mind of Francis.

Anyone who publicly professes a different faith from the Catholic Faith — and that’s precisely what even one heresy amounts to — is thereby not a member of the Catholic Church: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith…” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 22; emphasis added); “There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition” (qtd. by Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9).

For all those who will now seek refuge in the material/formal distinction of heresy and thus mean to argue that Francis just “doesn’t know” what every First Communicant is required to know and what is plainly stated in the Gospels and countless other biblical texts — which Francis, more than anyone, has every obligation to know — , we want to point out once more that this material/formal distinction with regard to heresy is irrelevant when it comes to the question of Church membership:

Manifest heretics and schismatics are excluded from membership in the Church. Heretics separate themselves from the unity of faith and worship; schismatics from the unity of government, and both reject the authority of the Church. So far as exclusion from the Church is concerned, it matters not whether the heresy or schism be formal or material. Those born and reared in heresy or schism may be sincere in their belief and practice yet they publicly and willingly reject the Church and attach themselves to sects opposed to her. They are not guilty of sin in the matter, but they are not members of the Church. For this reason, the Church makes no distinction between formal and material heresy when receiving converts into her fold.

(Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ [St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1927], p. 226; underlining added. The 1955 edition of the book is available here.)

Not being a member of the Church, Francis can hardly be her head. Folks, this isn’t difficult to understand. In fact, it goes to show once more that it really takes a suspension of reason and Faith to entertain the idea that Jorge Bergoglio is the Pope of the Catholic Church. But surely a refusal to be faithful and reasonable is not the way out of this terrible ecclesiastical mess, nor can it be pleasing to God, who is the “author and finisher of faith” (Heb 12:2) and gave us reason precisely so that we would use it, not ignore it (cf. Prov 27:11).

Returning to the theological critique of Amoris Laetitia: After the introduction, the study quotes each of the 19 passages from the exhortation that they have identified as objectionable, censures them according to their departure from orthodox doctrine, then offers a refutation based on prior Catholic (sometimes even Novus Ordo) teaching, and lists further references.

The final paragraph of the 13-page document closes the study as follows:

The propositions censured above have been condemned in many previous magisterial documents. It is urgently necessary that their condemnation be repeated by the Supreme Pontiff in a definitive and final manner and that it be authoritatively stated that Amoris laetitiadoes not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true.

This is nothing short of absurd. The 45 scholars are asking the very person who made the heretical, erroneous, scandalous, pernicious, offensive, and impious statements in the first place to now go ahead and condemn them as unacceptable and contrary to sound doctrine. Does this make any sense at all? This will never happen, if even for only one simple reason: Francis would lose all credibility if he said one thing in April and its opposite a few months later, both in an official “papal” document — especially if he does it after 45 people ask him to. Anyone, especially a man who claims to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, who would do such a thing would not be credible, and so for this reason alone the request by these scholars is absurd on its face and will not succeed. But even if they were to receive exactly what they ask for, they would have accomplished nothing, because their success would come at the price of having robbed the papacy of all credibility. Thus it would be, at best, a Pyrrhic victory, which is “a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat” (source).

Another thing that’s interesting to note in the final paragraph of the study is its request that the definitive “papal” condemnation should state that Amoris Laetitia “does not require any of [these propositions] to be believed or considered as possibly true” (emphasis added). This flies in the face of what they state in the document’s introduction, namely:

If the Supreme Pontiff expresses a personal opinion in a magisterial document, this expression of opinion implicitly presents the opinion in question as one that it is legitimate for Catholics to hold. As a result, many Catholics will come to believe that the opinion is indeed compatible with Catholic faith and morals. Some Catholics out of respect for a judgment expressed by the Supreme Pontiff will come to believe that the opinion is not only permissible but true. If the opinion in question is not in fact compatible with Catholic faith or morals, these Catholics will thus reject the faith and moral teaching of the Catholic Church as it applies to this opinion. If the opinion relates to questions of morals, the practical result for the actions of Catholics will be the same whether they come to hold that the opinion is legitimate or actually true. An opinion on moral questions that is in truth legitimate for the Supreme Pontiff to hold is one that it is legitimate for Catholics to follow.

(underlining added)

This text clearly argues, at least by inference, that it is not permissible to hold opinions expressed in Amoris Laetitia that are “not in fact compatible with Catholic faith or morals”, which, of course, is entirely true. But then this very point is softened considerably in the document’s conclusion, which, as we quoted above, says only that the exhortation “does not require any of [the censured propositions] to be believed or considered as possibly true” (emphasis added).

Sorry, but it is simply not enough to say that the heresies and errors in question are not required to be held. It is necessary to say that they are not allowed to be held, under pain of mortal sin and, in the case of errors that amount to heresy, under pain of heresy and thus automatic loss of Church membership. It seems the authors of the critique aren’t really sure about just what they’re asking Francis to do.

In the cover letter that accompanied the critical study, the scholars repeat their softer request and ask only that people be told that they need not hold the condemned propositions to be true — although, by logical inference, they are apparently allowed to: “We request that the Cardinals and Patriarchs petition the Holy Father to condemn the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true” (emphasis added). This is unfortunate, also because one may surmise that of those people who actually adhere to Francis’ reprehensible “there’s-a-little-bit-of-holiness-in-every-sin” morality, only very few do so because they feel required to — a great many probably do so because they understand they are allowed to, at best; and one may suspect without any qualms of conscience that the large majority of them simply doesn’t care what Francis does or doesn’t permit or require. So, a “clarification” that these heresies and errors are not “required” to be held will accomplish virtually nothing. Have these thinkers not thought this through?

But, which is it? Are Francis’ errors and heresies not required to be held or are they not allowed to be held? To say they are not required to be held is not merely a more politically-correct way of saying that they are not allowed to be held — the two are by no means logically equivalent, for what is not required may or may not be permitted, but not the other way around.

Unfortunately, in his public press statement, Dr. Shaw does nothing to resolve the contradiction, nor does he state unequivocally which of the two — condemn as not required or condemn as not permitted — the authors are actually petitioning Francis to do. Shaw writes: “The remedy for this danger is an authoritative and final statement by the Supreme Pontiff stating that these understandings cannot be held by Catholics, and that Amoris laetitia does not present them as magisterial teachings or require that they be believed” (emphasis added). Again, which is it? We are not told. Perhaps Shaw and his group of scholars want it both ways, but both ways is not an option.

All in all, what do we have in this first serious effort to get Francis to renounce his own heresies and errors?

Let’s recap. We have:

  • 45 people
  • who have correctly uncovered 19 of the many heretical, erroneous, and problematic statements in Francis’ garbage exhortation
  • writing to over 200 Modernist “cardinals”
  • to beg them to ask the arsonist (Francis) to help extinguish the fire he himself has set
    • by telling the “Catholic” world that it is not permitted to set anything ablaze
    • or at least not required
    • when most of them don’t take their marching orders from Francis in the first place
  • while unreasonably insisting that they are not questioning the “personal faith” of the man who in Amoris Laetitia has produced error after error after error, and who’s been openly denying Church dogma and doctrine in countless examples over the last 3+ years and has demonstrated again and again that he doesn’t care if something is heretical, but
  • they claim the heresies in Amoris Laetitia may not be his fault because
    • he probably didn’t write it himself, and
    • maybe he didn’t read it or
    • at least didn’t mean it or
    • wasn’t paying attention
    • and therefore may not personally hold these errors
    • even though he signed the document and
    • promulgated it for the entire church to study and follow
  • and they assure us they are not questioning papal teaching because
    • they have redefined papal teaching as only that teaching coming from the “Pope” which they do not question
    • thus making a mockery of the Magisterium by reducing it to a meaningless pseudo-authority that is only exercised when what it teaches is actually true
  • all of which means that if their petition to the “cardinals” is successful, they will have succeeded in
    • undermining the Papacy and the Magisterium of the [Novus Ordo] church
    • because it will have lost all credibility
    • since it means its official documents can be changed if a sufficient number of people can convince the “Pope” that he has taught nonsense that is contrary to Catholic teaching
    • which would be a Pyrrhic victory, because even if they win, they lose

Sorry, but… we’re not impressed.