The following comes from an October 31 Catholic News Agency article by Bishop Robert Barron:
Bishop Robert Barron has weighed in amid a media controversy after the Synod on the Family, saying some academic critics of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat are avoiding a good argument in countering his commentary on the synod, some bishops, and Pope Francis.
Douthat, a Catholic layman and author of the book Bad Religion: How we became a nation of heretics, engaged with the University of St. Thomas theology professor and news commentator Massimo Faggioli in an October 23 Twitter exchange about heresy.
Faggioli had said that when he hears bishops and theologians at the synod called heretics, “I reach for my Denzinger,” referring to Henry Denzinger’s famous compilation of Catholic teaching “The Sources of Catholic Dogma.”
Douthat responded to Faggioli that is not fundamentalism to say that a proposal from Cardinal Walter Kasper regarding admission of some persons in states of life that are objectively gravely sinful “takes a view of marriage that the Church has consistently rejected.”
Cardinal Kasper’s proposal would admit to sacramental Communion some Catholics who have divorced and remarried civilly. Many hold that it would break with Catholic teaching about the absolute indissolubility of sacramental marriage and the need to receive sacramental Communion while in a state of grace.
Douthat wrote, “if you take a view the church has consistently rejected, you don’t get to whine when the ‘h’ word comes up.” He added: “Own your heresy.”
Faggioli said he did not know whether Cardinal Kasper’s proposal was “perfect,” but he put it in a context of development of doctrine similar to Church teaching on slavery, Jews, and papal infallibility.
He then denigrated Douthat’s lack of a doctorate in theology.
Faggioli claimed he won his first disputed theological question on Twitter, saying “what just happened to me as theologian on Twitter is very close to a debate between scientist and somebody saying the earth is flat.” He objected to heresy accusations against theologians who have devoted their life to the Church.
Faggioli then joined with other Catholic academics in writing to the New York Times editors. Their 100-word letter, made public October 26, said Douthat has “no professional qualifications” for writing on Catholicism. Its writers said the columnist analyzed Catholicism through “a politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.”
“This is not what we expect of The New York Times,” the letter concluded.
The letter’s signers included Faggioli, Georgetown theology professor Father John O’Malley, S.J., Duquesne University School of Law professor Nicholas P. Cafardi, and Loyola University Chicago history professor Father Stephen Schloesser, S.J.
The letter was published in the Jesuit weekly magazine America and on the blog Daily Theology. One of America’s editors, Catholic commentator Father James Martin, S.J., publicized the letter through his extensive social media. He agreed with the letter and said heresy is “a grave charge.” The letter has attracted other signers.