Editor’s note: with the apparent attempt of the Roman Pontiff to suppress the traditional Roman rite, the following text may prove helpful from OnePeterFive contributing editor, Michael Sirilla of Franciscan University. Originally published in 2017 in the context of the Correctio Filialis, the fundamental principles elucidated here continue to provide moral guidance for Catholics.
There is a good bit of confusion currently among faithful Catholics about whether it was morally licit for the pastors and theologians to make public their filial correction of the Holy Father regarding portions of Amoris Laetitia and his actions that, in their estimation, propagate heresy; or the liceity of Prof. Seifert’s public expression of grave concerns about the same. It is unfortunate that their actions and those of others such as Germain Grisez and John Finnis have been impugned by other theologians, Catholic pundits, and even some bishops who have claimed publicly and in Catholic media that these persons acted immorally and are causing damage to the unity of the Church, even inciting the faithful to disobedience to the Apostolic See. It seems as though more ink has been spilled over the fact that there is a filial correction than on the content of the correction itself. My sole intention in this article is to show that the public expression of these concerns and corrections of the Holy Father is morally licit, prescinding entirely from the question of whether any particular interpretation of AL or of the Holy Father’s other words and deeds is correct.
St. Thomas Aquinas, drawing from the rich tradition of the Church’s history, specifically from St. Paul’s account of rebuking St. Peter in Galatians 2 as commented upon by St. Augustine, shows quite clearly that not only is it permissible for a subordinate to correct fraternally his prelate, but that it is also necessary for him to do so publicly in certain circumstances. And this, notwithstanding the alleged prohibition in “Donum Veritatis” (hereafter DV) a. 30 of theologians expressing their concerns in the mass media; below, it will be made clear that DV was not firmly prohibiting every instance of making concerns public. In his treatise on the theological virtue of charity, an act of which is “fraternal correction,” a spiritual work of mercy, Aquinas argues that correcting the sinner is an act of love, helping to save one’s brother from sin and for virtue. One may even be bound to correct one’s superior in the Church because he is bound to him by charity; though he must do so “not with impudence and harshness, but with gentleness and respect” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 33, a. 4, corp.). Under very specific conditions, this correction may have to be given to a prelate publicly. Aquinas argues: