Well-prepared Catholics raise questions. Responses? “Shut up!”, they explain.

17_06_27_AAS_AmorisPeople are swift these days to talk about their “rights”.  I sometimes get a little nervous when “rights” are invoked in the Church, because often “rights” means “I didn’t get what I wanted”.  Clarity is needed regarding “rights”.

At his excellent, daily-check blog, canonist Ed Peters looks at arguments over the Filial Correction.  He lays it out well.  My emphases  and comments.

On arguments that may be, and sometimes must be, made

I have taken no position on the Correctio Filialis. I know and respect some of its signatories as I do some of its critics but, as the document itself seems to fall within the boundaries of Canon 212, [§1 “Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.”] I say, ‘Have at it folks and may the better arguments prevail’. That said, some recent arguments against the Correctio are, in my view, subtly deficient and, time permitting, I will reply to them.

But even before that, I wish to reply to an attitude I perceive emerging against the Correctio,[Leveled by some also at the Five Dubia™.] one that attempts to dissuade Correctio supporters from their position by alleging a disastrous— but supposedly logical —consequence of their being right, [ironic, no?] something along these lines: If Amoris laetita and/or Pope Francis and/or his Vatican allies are really as bad as the authors of the Correctio seem to believe, then all petitions, Dubia, and corrections will do no good. Prayer and fasting would be more advisable.


Setting aside that several of these scenarios are not asserted in the Correctio and that the evidence concerning some others is not yet in, underlying this doomsday-like retort of the Correctio is, I think, a certain despair about the importance of argument itself in this matter. At the very least, such a bleak conclusion disregards the duty of certain Catholics[NB: He did not say, “Catholics”, but rather “certain Catholics”.] precisely to engage in such debates.

Canon 212 § 3 has been invoked by those supporting the Correctio to point out that the Church herself recognizes [here we go] the right of certain persons “to manifest to sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful”, namely, those persons who possess “knowledge, competence, and prestige” in regard to the matter under discussion. Indeed. But Canon 212 § 3 says something more.

Canon 212 § 3 states in regard to persons with special knowledge, competence, and prestige in regard to ecclesiastical matters, that they “have the right and even at times the duty” to express their views on matters impacting the well-being of the Church (my emphasis). The duty. Not just the right. [Get that?]

Thus to the extent that some qualified signatories and/or supporters of the Correctio have realized a duty (expressed in law) to address these matters, they are not simply acting under the protection of law (as are those exercising a right), they are acting in accord with its directives (as do those under an obligation). Now, to be sure, Canon 212 is not self-interpreting and several prudential considerations must be considered when applying it. But in its very terms is the expression of a duty incumbent upon certain Catholics who are qualified by their education, experience, and Church positions to make serious arguments on matters impacting the Church. And I see no exception in the law for those whose positions might imply the existence of other problems for the Church or for those who arguments seem unlikely to be acted upon.

Cdl. Caffara said “only a blind man could deny there’s great confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity in the Church.” Much of that confusion turns, obviously, on the meaning of technical terms and on the content of intellectual assertions. Those blessed with advanced training in such technical terms and intellectual assertions may be, and at times should be, at the forefront of these debates.

And, yes, all participants in these debates should be engaged in extra prayer and fasting.


So, some well-prepared Catholics sense their duty to raise questions.  The responses from authorities and critics?

“Shut up!”, they explain.

The moderation queue is ON.

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  1. vandalia says:

    Dr. Peters, just for clarification:

    You seem to imply that the response/backlash to “Humanae Vitae” by theologians (although that is anachronistic given this Code was passed well over a decade later), Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, etc., are what in the US would be called “protected speech”? At least when presented in this specific format.

    In other words, there is no requirement that the opinion itself be “correct”, otherwise that would result in a reductio ad absurdum? I will narrow this down a bit further, since you seem to be saying that those who possess “knowledge, competence and prestige” (a category that almost necessarily includes theologians possessing terminal degrees in Theology with canonical effects – if I remember my terminology correctly) have a duty to make their opinions known to “their sacred pastors” and to “the rest of the Christian faithful?”

    Especially with regard to my hypothetical, it is worth pointing out the difference between making an opinion known, teaching that opinion, and certainly acts of disobedience, e.g., attempting the ordination of a woman.

    This raises another question: since, teaching, especially in a seminary or a pontifical faculty, enjoys a unique position within the Church, while one so qualified may make ones doubt’s known, may such an individual “teach” those doubts in such institutions?

    (For the record, I agree with at the very least the majority of the questions in this document; however, I am also an armchair canon lawyer.)

  2. “namely, those persons who possess “knowledge, competence, and prestige'”
    —which is why at least some of the criticism of the competence of some of the signatories IS in point. I think the organizers of the Correctio were very unwise to include as signatories a good number of those who “signed.”

    [That’s rather bold of you.]

  3. wolfeken says:

    Most, if not all, of the tiny group of center-right critics to Correctio Filialis have curiously refrained from criticizing James Martin, LGBTSJ and others on the left. That should raise an eyebrow when it comes to credibility.

    It is one thing to be silent about Correctio Filialis. It’s another to attack (as Opus Dei’s #2 did last week) those who signed the Correctio Filialis while never attacking the left.

  4. KateD says:

    I signed the LifeSite News petition to support the Correctio, not because I am important nor am I learned, but because the “authorities” said it was an insignificant number of unimportant Catholics who feel that way….

    If its the quantity of ticked off Catholics that will move bad men at the Vatican to do good things…and all I have to do is sign a petition, well here’s my John Hancock, big and bold.

    And as to the “Shuttin’ ap”…sometimes (but only sometimes) I wish I could…

  5. Pingback: Amoris Lætitia Discourse & Dialogue | Big Pulpit

  6. Rich says:

    Could we not issue Correctios AND fast and pray?

  7. James in Perth says:

    I recall a speech delivered by Dr. Andrew Thomas Kania is Director of Spirituality at Aquinas College in Perth. Dr. Kania is Ukrainian Catholic and an esteemed scholar. In his speech he distinguished the manner of the laity in the East and the West.

    In the West, he said, the laity almost always looked to the clergy to lead them on theological and doctrinal questions. The East, in contrast, had a history of the laity rising up to criticize certain clergy-led movements that were contrary to their understanding of Christ and the Church. Think of Arianism and iconoclasm.

    I frankly prefer this model of the East if it is indeed in accord with Tradition. That said, I have found that many Eastern Catholics and Orthodox are much better catechized than Roman Catholics receiving their wisdom from Father Feelgoodaboutyourself.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on this Father Z.

  8. Maltese says:

    If memory serves it was a certain Saint who withstood our first Pope to his face. This Saint of course was Paul, whose letters make up the bulk of the New Testament. As a lawyer and published writer (and former FBI Agent), I thought I had the credentials to sign the Correction. But more than anything I recently almost died, and being greatly humbled by being on the brink of eternity I felt that the Correction was a shot of epinephrine to a Church gasping for air, and potentially leading souls away from the very sacraments meant to save them. Watering down sacraments such as marriage is not an act of mercy, but ultimately a reckless endangerment of the soul. So, Dr. Peters, and you Father, are correct in your assessments.

  9. Mike says:

    Aside from whether the remarks from the number 2 guy in Opus Dei are correct or not, what standing do they have in reining in Jesuit or any other rogue priest or scholar?

  10. The Masked Chicken says:

    Canon 212 no. 3 says …”namely, those persons who possess “knowledge, competence, and prestige” in regard to the matter under discussion.”

    Here’s a big problem: how to know who has the knowledge or competence. In the area where I have some expertise, Charismatic theology, not a single theologian that I know of got it right back in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s (except, I might say, Fr. John Hardon, S.J., who was argued out of the correct position by a Catholic apologist, whom I won’t name, who hadn’t done their homework). Indeed, it only looked like the theologians had knowledge or competence, since they so badly jumped to conclusions by accepting the untested Protestant position without being critical. Yes, there were some theologians who were critical of the movement at the time, but not for the correct reasons. A proper understanding of the necessary background could not even begin until Robert Tuttle’s work on Wesleyan mystical theology in 1985, nearly 20 years after the movement hit the Church. So, sometimes, theologians have a positive duty to shut up until there are enough facts available to really do the work. I am NOT talking about the theologians who criticized AL, since they HAVE done their homework.

    Likewise, one manifestation of these charismatic phenomena in the 1980’s was the so-called, Holy Laughter movement. Now, exactly what could a theologian offer by way of analysis of that? Yes, it involves theology, but wouldn’t a specialist in laughter be a better fit? We do know of cases where laughter has moved among a population, for instance, the famous Tanganyika laughter outbreak:


    Is the Holy Laughter movement similar? It would take an interdisciplinary group of theologians, gelotologists, neuroscientists, etc., to make that determination, so, sometimes, a single discipline is not enough.

    Finally, the problems with AL are not, in my opinion, primarily, theological, but logical. I was going to write a long comment about the differences between universal and general rules, but I realized it would go to the length of an academic paper, so I decided to spare everyone. I think a better expert than a theologian to criticism AL would be an expert in incongruity theory, since it seems incongruous to offer Communion to someone in mortal sin. Yes, it is incongruous, but since there is no general theory of incongruity in the literature, it would be hard for a theologian to explain why a particular case of a general rule may not, sometimes, lead to the opposite act than the rule sanctions, such as Pope Francis seemed to imply in a recent comment.

    As someone who is developing the machinery for analyzing incongruity, do I have the necessary knowledge or competence to criticize AL? I am not a theologian, but I can explain exactly what is wrong with the argument in AL, and make no mistake, it is a logical flaw to think that the addition of circumstantial properties can change a necessary condition to a merely possible condition. In fact, the passage from St. Thomas that is often quoted from AL about general rules and particular situations does not apply in this case, as it deals with Natural Law, which involves merely possible states and not universal laws, which deal with necessary states. The prohibition against receiving a Communion in a state of mortal sin is not a general rule, but a universal rule. The two types of rules behave differently. No, I think I know exactly what is wrong and it is a ball and cup sidewalk switchero of a general rule for a universal rule. Indeed, there are an infinite number of counter examples that show why the logic of AL, as presented, leads not only to confusion, but outright nonsense.

    Still, as long as the matter is framed as primarily a theological one instead of a logical one, the debate will remain less focused on proof and more on authority or opinion. That is a dangerous situation, but, unfortunately, where we are, right now. People in power can silence other opinions, but it is very hard to silence a deductive proof, because it takes personalities out the equation, no pun intended.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  11. chantgirl says:

    And if all the signatories had doctorates? The media machine would declare that only the elites, the doctors of the law, had a problem with AL, but that the common Catholics had the real sensus fidelium and were behind the Pope no matter what he said.

    One of the reasons I signed Skojec’s petition was to show that there are commoners who see plenty to be concerned with in AL. I will repeat this to anyone who will listen: Honorius was condemned for far less.

    How quickly the sensus fidelium is cast aside when it doesn’t tow the company line.

  12. Mike says:

    Post-Amoris equivocation and scoldings by its defenders, accompanied by the silence of most of the world’s prelates, compel us to challenge the notion that the current Church hierarchy is shepherding the laity in good faith—or, in plain words, doing their job.

    Those who bark about uncredentialed laymen and the SSPX asking that Tradition be upheld are dogs in the manger, without a paw to stand on.

  13. samwise says:

    @ MaskedChicken: Yves Congar’s work “I Believe in the Holy Spirit” in the Nicene Creed is worth perusing in regard to Charismatic Theology. Far from the Montanism of Tertullian, it locates charism within hierarchy and not in opposition to. Thus, reflective of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear samwise,

    I have spent twenty years studying Charismatic theology in detail, from history to practice, at what I hope is a specialist level. I know how the current Charismatic theology evolved and, of course, I am quite aware of Congar’s work. His dismissal of, “Baroque Theology,” in the 1930’s, unfortunately, caused him to miss the true nature of modern Protestant Pentecostalism and, more importantly, improperly incorporate it in an ecumenical setting.

    Congar, to my mind, derives too much of his theology from La Nouvelle Theologie (for which he was suspended from teaching in the 1950’s) and, although he attempted to derive a pneumatological anthropology of how the Holy Spirit works in man, as well as a pneumatological ecclesiology, which attempts to explain how the Holy Spirit works within the Church, nevertheless, there is a sense in which his writings on the Holy Spirit ignores the phenomenological aspects of continuity in how the Holy Spirit has, actually, worked within the Church throughout history in favor of a, “return to the source,” idea of how the Holy Spirit worked in the early Church and, supposedly, today.

    In fact, he does not account for how the Holy Spirit has actually worked within the Church throughout history. For instance, he sees the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as being the common inheritance of all believers and understood as how the Church has consistently used this term, that is fine, but assuming that different gifts of the type described in 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4 are the norm does not square with the lived history of the Church. For instance, St. John Chrysostom, writing in the early 400’s A. D. said that the gifts (by which he meant the extraordinary gifts, such as healing) were, as he put it, “long gone.” Yet, Congar uses the diffusion of these sorts of gifts or related ones, to argue that the laity has an important role in building up the Church by use of these gifts. You can see how that would have fed right into the new Charismatic movement within the Church.

    In a sense, it seems to me that Congar sees 20th-century Catholics as being different than Catholics of earlier generations. This fed into the ecumenical frenzy that characterized many in the Church in the early 1960’s. For some reason, never clearly stated, suddenly, Ecumenism is a positive for the Church, whereas, prior to the French and German Modernists in the late 1880’s to pre-WWI, it was shunned (that may be going a bit overboard, but it is somewhat true).

    As far as situating the actions of the Holy Spirit within hierarchy, that is partially true, but there are many kinds of hierarchies and the classical ministerial hierarchy was not what Congar had in mind. This becomes clearer after 1970 or so. He believed, I think, in a diffuse hierarchy, which did have a ministerial class that performed an unique function, but, in a sense, they were no different than the laity, which ignores the ontological change that occurs during ordination.

    As I haven’t studied Congar in depth, since it was clear that he was clueless regarding the origins of the Pentecostal phenomena of the nineteenth and twentieth-century and I wasn’t looking specifically at ecclesiology when I was doing my research, I will leave it at that, since I would have to do extended research to discuss the specifics of his pneumatology and some Congar expert will box my ears for making hand-waving generalities in this comment.

    The Chicken

  15. Mick Mombasa says:

    Don’t all baptised Catholics have an obligation to speak out when they perceive a serious wrong. Seems to me Scripture says you are damned if you don’t but according to some of our so called theologians you are damned if you do!
    Ezekiel 33:7-9
    The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name. If I say to a wicked man: Wicked wretch, you are to die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked man to renounce his ways, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man to renounce his ways and repent, and he does not repent, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life.’

  16. Imrahil says:

    Dear Mick Mombasa,

    your quote from Ezechiel is Scripture; this were the words of the Lord towards one specific person having the specific call of prophet, Ezechiel. The interpretation that what the Lord tells to the prophet here, he tells to any man, is just that, an interpretation. I don’t say a false one; but one subject to qualifications and precisizations.

  17. Mommy6 says:

    And so, when met with logical questioning of incongruity within AL, the Holy Father plans a meeting of the young of the church to hear their opinions and criticisms of the Church at upcoming Synod of Bishops, focused on the youth.

    I wonder what Church teaching he will “change”, when he hears THEIR very well formed and persuasive arguments.

  18. samwise says:

    @ Masked Chicken: I have to disagree with you about Congar. It seems to me you’re accusing him of Montanism, when he locates the gifts and manifestation thereof the Holy Spirit precisely in key hierarchical figures such as “Bishop” St. Patrick 387-AD and other clergy like St. Simeon the Theologian, 1000-AD. His sense of history is refreshing in contrast with Cardinal Suenens his contemporary, whose horizon seemed to only be set on the Renewal of the 60s.

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