A new open letter from conservative critics of Pope Francis has accused the pontiff of committing heresy and called on the world’s bishops to censure him and - if necessary - declare that he is no longer pope.
The 19 signatories of the letter are mostly associated with the traditionalist movement, and previously signed the 2017 “Filial Correction” initially signed by 62 theologians and clergy.
The most prominent name on the document is Dominican Father Aidan Nichols, the Cambridge-based theologian who is known for his work on theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. Nichols had not signed the 2017 document.
Most of the criticisms in the open letter deal with the cautious opening to offering Communion to the divorced and remarried in Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s 2016 document on marriage and family life.
To back their claims, the letter also lists people the pope has appointed to various posts the signatories accuse of holding heretical positions and various actions and statements by the pope that the authors state offer “other indications” of the pope’s heresy.
These include failing to speak against the Irish referendum on abortion in 2018, allowing the Chinese government to appoint bishops, using a staff the authors claim was “satanic” at the opening Mass at the 2018 Youth Synod, and using a rainbow-colored cross at World Youth Day in Panama.
(The staff used at the synod was an artistic representation of Christ on the Cross presented to the pope at a youth event in Rome, and although the rainbow colors are associated with the LGBT movement, a rainbow flag is also used to represent “peace” in many parts of the world, especially in Italy.)
The signatories called on the bishops of the world to “urgently address the situation of Pope Francis’s public adherence to heresy,” and “publicly admonish” the pontiff to “abjure the heresies he has professed.”
“If - which God forbid! - Pope Francis does not bear the fruit of true repentance in response to these admonitions, we request that you carry out your duty of office to declare that he has committed the canonical delict of heresy and that he must suffer the canonical consequences of this crime,” the letter reads, later clarifying that it “is agreed that a pope who is guilty of heresy and remains obstinate in his heretical views cannot continue as pope.”
The authors also say such a declaration “needs to be taken by all the bishops of the Catholic Church, or even by a majority of them,” but only “a substantial and representative part” of the “faithful bishops.”
“Given the open, comprehensive and devastating nature of the heresy of Pope Francis, willingness publicly to admonish Pope Francis for heresy appears now to be a necessary condition for being a faithful bishop of the Catholic Church,” the letter said.
The publication of Amoris Laetitia led to four cardinals - Italian Carlo Caffarra, American Raymond Burke and Germans Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner - to ask Francis for a clarification on the issue. When no response was given, the cardinals made their five questions (called dubia) public.
Burke had said that if the pope fails to clarify his position, a formal “fraternal correction” would be presented by the cardinals, although no such correction has yet been issued. (Two of them, Meisner and Caffarra, have since died.)