The Wheels of the Formal Correction turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine

November 14, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – The latest chapter in the crisis over Amoris Laetitia is Edward Pentin’s recent interview of Cardinal Burke. The interview may be found in the online National Catholic Register (see  “Cardinal Burke Addresses the ‘Dubia’ One Year After Their Publication” published November 14, 2017).  Below the headline, briefly summarizing the interview, the article’s teaser reads (emphasis added):

In wishing to honor two recently deceased cardinals, the American Cardinal makes a final plea to the Holy Father for clarity, saying the “grave” situation is “continually worsening” and that it is “urgent” the Pope “confirm his brothers in the faith.”

While I see no direct use of the words “final plea” by Cardinal Burke in the quoted material, he responded “yes” when asked if he were making a “final plea.” That there was no question, comment or mention in the interview regarding a “formal correction” confirms to me that the correction has been in the hands of the Pope for some period of time already, possibly weeks – and thus, the Pope has already been privately “corrected” or “warned” (see The Coming Storm).

As reported by Vatican Radio, the Pope recently sent video-taped comments to a conference on Amoris Laetitia organized by the Office for Pastoral Care of the Family of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (see Pope sends video message to CEI conference on Amoris laetitia).  The conference theme was: The Gospel of Love between Conscience and Norm. While there was no mention by the Pope of the Dubia, the “correction” or communion for the divorced and remarried in these comments, there was also no hint of the Pope correcting erroneous opinions either. Now, I do not know who were the speakers or what topics this conference specifically addressed with regard to Amoris Laetitia, but on the surface its theme (i.e., “The Gospel of Love between Conscience and Norm”) suggests a tension between the two (conscience vs. the “norm”), one where none can exist. The conscience must conform to the Truth.

So, in the context of these papal comments and Cardinal Burke’s interview, I think that possibly there is a bit of a public back and forth going on, in fact if not intent. Something akin to a game of ping-pong. Back in October, Cardinal Burke visited a relic of St. Thomas More (see Cardinal Burke’s visit to relic of the head of St. Thomas More: a “Heads up” to Pope Francis?) to pray, but the visit might have also served as a symbolic and public signal to the Pope to ‘get on with it already’ and address the “formal correction” before it becomes a public warning. The Pope’s comments to the Italian bishops conference above seem to suggest the Pope’s mind is set on a ‘steady-as-you-go’ course, i.e., he has decided to ignore the correction. Cardinal Burke’s interview, in turn, seems a response, a “final plea” to Pope Francis, i.e., ‘don’t ignore us, we are serious – the formal correction will go public.’

Of course, I could be wrong with this bit of speculation, and the timing is simply a coincidence. Though there was no mention of a “formal correction” in the interview, this seems to be by design. Cardinal Burke’s answer to the interview questions indicate he has not given up on the necessity of a formal correction, as long as the Pope leaves the matter without clarification (again from the interview, emphasis added):

“It is evident that some of Amoris Laetitia’s indications regarding essential aspects of the faith and of the practice of the Christian life have received various interpretations that are divergent and at times incompatible with each other. This incontestable fact confirms that these indications are ambivalent, permitting a variety of readings, many of which are in contrast to Catholic doctrine. The questions we Cardinals have raised thus regard what exactly the Holy Father has taught and how his teaching harmonizes with the deposit of the faith, given that the magisterium “is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed” (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, n. 10).”

What has the “Pope taught and how does it harmonize with the deposit of the faith”? That is, of course, the central question because as Cardinal Burke states, it is as an “incontestable fact” that Amoris Laetitia‘s “indications are ambivalent” and permit a “variety of readings,” i.e., a nice way of saying Amoris Laetitia is open to both orthodox and heretical interpretations. Thus, what we may be looking at – as many commentators have noted for some time – is something akin to the case of Pope Honorius (see Why the Case of Pope Honorius Matters, Mr. Alt), who was posthumously anathematized for favoring heresy.  If the Pope were to clarify his view, this might prevent the crisis from growing worse – as it very much has the potential to do.

Some may be impatient that the “formal correction” is moving ahead not by leaps and bounds but, painstakingly, inch by inch. As I’ve said before, as one who has been impatient at times as well on this question, I think it unfair to be so. By acting with necessary and methodical patience over the past year or so, the Dubia Cardinals will have demonstrated – by the time the “formal correction” goes public – that any accusation that they acted rashly is a lie. Rather, their patience will stand in favorable contrast to the Pope’s own silence. In the meantime, Catholics need to continue praying and supporting the remaining Dubia Cardinals.  Have patience, and fear not: ‘the wheels of a Formal Correction turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.’

Let us also pray that Pope Francis remembers the Lord’s words to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He lives near Atlanta with his family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He can be contacted at; or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA

2 thoughts on “The Wheels of the Formal Correction turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine

  1. I wonder if any in the hierarchy have any testosterone? Guess not, they’ve all been “sissified” via VII. Archbishop Lefebvre, pray just one among our current hierarchy will grow a backbone.


    1. Thanks for the comment, John. I think we do have a few. The Dubia Cardinals, now down to two, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider. Admittedly, the ranks are thin. One would think that a young man going into the priesthood would aspire to one day to have a chance to show the faith and courage of an Athanasius under fire, or some other great Prelate, who stool up for the truth, Where are they all today?


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