The speed of the web and social networks that echo the message help to magnify what is happening – such as in the case of the so-called “filial correction” to Pope Francis – like as if nothing similar had ever happened before. A close look at the recent history of the Church shows that this is not the case, and helps place into the right slot the document signed by 79 scholars, researchers, journalists and bloggers in which it is claimed that Pope Francis has propagated 7 “heretical propositions”. The authors of the text, also signed by the ex-president of the IOR Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, quote 7 “heresies” that the Pontiff has actually never written or pronounced, but which have been “deduced” from his magisterium and his speeches. It is probably the first step towards that “formal correction” of which the American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, one of the four signatories of the “dubia” on Amoris laetitia, spoke frequently about.  

A look backwards helps to understand the real scope of this document. John Paul II was repeatedly attacked while he was alive, for his statements in line with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (the real issue for many critics) regarding ecumenism, religious freedom and dialogue with other religions. After his death some from the ultra-traditional side, like the Sedevacantism (those who believe the see has been vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII), who have come to blame him for 101 “heresies” challenging his magisterium with quotes taken from the Papal documents of the past.  

In 1989, theologians from Tübingen, Norbert Greinacher and Dietmar Mieth and a group of dissidents promoted an “open letter” that was signed by 162 teachers of German-speaking Catholic theology. In the Netherlands, 17,000 lay people and ecclesiastics quickly signed it and were followed by 16,000 parish priests and lay people, along with a hundred or so Catholic groups in the then Federal Republic of Germany. Similar statements appeared in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Brazil and the United States. The reason for the declaration was John Paul’s appointment of the successor of the Cologne bishop “without respecting the suggestions of the local churches and neglecting their established rights”.  

Returning to the criticism coming from the more “traditionalist” or conservative side, one must not forget the attacks, sometimes fierce, against Benedict XVI for some of his interventions on the subject of ecumenism or for the decision to participate in the inter-religious meeting in Assisi. Nor should it be forgotten that even Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, not-yet-cardinal at the time, was also criticized in the weeks prior to his appointment as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012. An operation was conducted at a high level from inside the Roman Curia to single out some of his statements judged “heterodox” in an attempt to try and block his appointment.  

Translations into different languages of the “doubtful” passages of his works were anonymously emailed to several journalists in the hope that they would turn their pen against Müller. Today, the texts are scattered in websites and blogs close to the so-called traditionalist and lefebbrian world. At the time, the future Prefect had written that “The doctrine of the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not so much concerned with specific physiological proprieties in the natural process of birth “, that ““In reality, the body and blood of Christ do not mean the material components of the human person of Jesus during his lifetime or in his transfigured corporality” and that thanks to baptism “we as Catholics and evangelical Christians are already united even in what we call the visible Church”.

At that moment, in defense of Müller, Don Nicola Bux, who was a consultant to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took part in an interview with Vatican Insider and said, “doctrinal development benefits from debate: who has more arguments, convinces. In the charges against Bishop Müller, there is extrapolation from the context: it is easy to condemn anyone like this. A true Catholic must trust the authority of the Pope, always.”. 

Full story at La Stampa.