June 10, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – LifeSiteNews reported today (see here) that Cardinal Burke, along with Bishop Athanasius Schneider and several other bishops (one other cardinal among their number) issued a “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time” (See full Declaration here).
The Declaration is something of a longer, more detailed version of Cardinal Mueller’s “Manifesto of Faith” of a few months ago (which I commented upon here). While Mueller’s “Manifesto” was something of a personal statement (1), the Declaration invites
“In the spirit of fraternal charity, we publish this Declaration of truths as a concrete spiritual help, so that bishops, priests, parishes, religious convents, lay faithful associations, and private persons as well might have the opportunity to confess either privately or publicly those truths that in our days are mostly denied or disfigured.” (Source: Explanatory note to the “Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time“, May 31).
The Declaration presents and affirms 40 doctrinal truths which have been under attack, especially over the last six years. Pope Francis is not explicitly mentioned, but to any and all observers following events of the last six years in the Catholic Church, it is obvious this Declaration is a document which was necessitated by and responds to a number of errors that have surfaced over the the course of this pontificate, and which predate it as well.
In Declaration #8, one finds a welcome reaffirmation of the existence and eternity of hell, against all those who would claim the souls of unrepentant sinners are annihilated–something which Francis allegedly has done, if one is to believe Eugenio Scalfari’s reconstruction of his interview with the Pope (see here). Declaration #8 affirms:
“Hell exists and those who are condemned to hell for any unrepented mortal sin are eternally punished there by Divine justice (see Mt 25:46). Not only fallen angels but also human souls are damned eternally (see 2 Thess 1:9; 2 Pet 3:7). Eternally damned human beings will not be annihilated, since their souls are immortal according to the infallible teaching of the Church (see Fifth Lateran Council, sess. 8).”
Declaration #28 reaffirms the Catholic Church did not err in teaching the lawfulness of the death penalty, a truth that Pope Francis has called into question by various oral and written interventions (see discussion here). Declaration #28 affirms:
“In accordance with Holy Scripture and the constant tradition of the ordinary and universal Magisterium, the Church did not err in teaching that the civil power may lawfully exercise capital punishment on malefactors where this is truly necessary to preserve the existence or just order of societies (see Gen 9:6; John 19:11; Rom 13:1-7; Innocent III, Professio fidei Waldensibus praescripta; Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, p. III, 5, n. 4; Pius XII, Address to Catholic jurists on December 5, 1954).”
Declaration #9 takes aim at the Abu Dhabi document, recently signed by Pope Francis, wherein Francis affirmed God wills the diversity of religion (see discussion here). While Pope Francis has recently seemed to suggest he might have only meant that God permissively willed the diversity of religions, this reading is not evident in the text. Further, despite Francis’ recent pleading, he has yet to issue an official statement which either clarifies or retracts his statement. Obviously with Francis in mind, Declaration #9 affirms:
“The religion born of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God and the only Savior of humankind, is the only religion positively willed by God. The opinion is, therefore, wrong that says that just as God positively wills the diversity of the male and female sexes and the diversity of nations, so in the same way he also wills the diversity of religions.”
So, too, there are a number of affirmations in the Declaration which address the perceived errors in Amoris Laetitia, or at least errors in various interpretations of it, which are also addressed in various other appeals made to the Pope for clarification (e.g., the Dubia, the Filial Correction, Filial Appeal, etc), as well as in the recent Open Letter to the cardinals and bishops accusing Pope Francis of heresy (see prior discussion here and here). Against such real and perceived errors, Declarations #14 and #15 affirm:
14. “All of the commandments of God are equally just and merciful. The opinion is, therefore, wrong that says that a person is able, by obeying a Divine prohibition – for example, the sixth commandment not to commit adultery – to sin against God by this act of obedience, or to morally harm himself, or to sin against another.”
15. “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God, which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium, vitae, 62). There are moral principles and moral truths contained in Divine revelation and in the natural law which include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid certain kinds of action, inasmuch as these kinds of action are always gravely unlawful on account of their object. Hence, the opinion is wrong that says that a good intention or a good consequence is or can ever be sufficient to justify the commission of such kinds of action (see Council of Trent, sess. 6 de iustificatione, c. 15; John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17; Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 80).”
The Declaration of Truths also takes on the suggestion, also advanced in some interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, and potentially by the Pope himself via placement of the Buenos Aires guidelines into the AAS (2), that the divorced and civilly married may receive Holy Eucharist without either needing to repent of their adultery or refraining from adulterous intercourse. Declaration #37 affirms the truth re-affirmed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio 84:
37. “By virtue of the will of Christ and the unchangeable Tradition of the Church, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist may not be given to those who are in a public state of objectively grave sin, and sacramental absolution may not be given to those who express their unwillingness to conform to Divine law, even if their unwillingness pertains only to a single grave matter (see Council of Trent, sess. 14, c. 4; Pope John Paul II, Message to the Major Penitentiary Cardinal William W. Baum, on March 22, 1996).”
Likewise, the Declaration rejects attempts at intercommunion for those who “deny any truth of the Catholic faith by formally professing their adherence to a heretical or to an officially schismatic Christian community.” This truth has been called into question by German bishops who wish to allow communion for the non-Catholic spouses of Catholics (see here and here) as well as by the Pope’s seeming acquiescence to the practice by his silence (see here). There is also the Pope’s recent statement regarding intercommunion with non-Catholic sects which reject truths of the Catholic faith: “Let’s not wait for the theologians to come to agreement on the Eucharist” (see here). Against such ideas or suggestions, either currently practiced or planned, Declaration 38 affirms:
38. “According to the constant Tradition of the Church, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist may not be given to those who deny any truth of the Catholic faith by formally professing their adherence to a heretical or to an officially schismatic Christian community (see Code of Canon Law 1983, can. 915; 1364).”
All Catholics, bishop, priest and lay alike should read the Declaration. In sum, the “Declaration of Truths” is a needed document. It must have been in the works for some time. Its arrival was likely hinted at by Bishop Schneider back in March (see the bishop’s guest op-ed on Rorate Caeli from March 20, 2019, here). It is probable the Declaration has been in the works for some time, and thus it should not be viewed as a direct response to the aforementioned Open Letter which accused the Pope of heresy. That said, the reality of the Declaration suggests there is no Correction planned, at all. This is “it” or as close to “it” as we will likely get. More than likely, there is no stomach among the bishops, even at this point–after so much confusion and error, to issue a “correction.” This is seems to be a prudential call. Still, the Declaration is better than nothing, and is therefore a significant, positive development.
As with the Open Letter, I do wonder why there are so few initial signatories to the document. What happened to Cardinal Brandmuller who signed the Dubia? Cardinal Eijk who has expressed concerns over the Pope’s silence on intercommunion in Germany, etc.? Did they not want to sign? What of others like Cardinal Mueller, who issued his own “Manifesto of Faith”?
Still, I don’t mean to nitpick. Regardless of the numbers signing or not signing on initially, in the immortal words of Donald Rumsfeld: ‘one goes into battle with the army one has, not the army one might want or wish to have.‘ We are in a “war” for the Church and the Faith. One goes into battle with who will fight, not with those who cower and spectate safely from afar. Perhaps others will gain heart and sign on. As the authors’ of the “Declaration of Truths” state in their Explanatory note, numbers do not matter (emphasis added):
“Before the eyes of the Divine Judge and in his own conscience, each bishop, priest, and lay faithful has the moral duty to give witness unambiguously to those truths that in our days are obfuscated, undermined, and denied. Private and public acts of a declaration of these truths could initiate a movement of a confession of the truth, of its defense, and of reparation for the widespread sins against the Faith, for the sins of hidden and open apostasy from Catholic Faith of a not small number both of the clergy and of the lay people. One has to bear in mind, however, that such a movement will not judge itself according to numbers, but according to the truth, as Saint Gregory of Nazianzus said, amidst the general doctrinal confusion of the Arian crisis, that “God does not delight in numbers” (Or. 42:7).”
Thus far, the numbers of cardinals and bishops courageous enough to publicly take on the errors of our time have been, distressingly, few. But, again, one ‘goes into battle with the army one has.’ The Declaration does not explicitly take on Pope Francis by name–though it does take on errors associated with him. Therefore, one might hold out some hope the Declaration might be viewed as relatively safe (enough) for those squeamish bishops–who have straddled the fence up till now–to publicly affirm, declare and sign the “Declaration of Truths.”
Catholics should send the Declaration and its Explanatory note to their own pastors and bishops and request that they publicly affirm it (NB update: I have already forwarded the Declaration onto my pastor asking him to facilitate a parish-wide discussion. As to my Archbishop, Atlanta is currently without an ordinary, as Wilton Gregory moved on to Washington DC). If a significant number of bishops were to sign on, I do believe it will give Pope Francis some pause–as each public agreement with the truths outlined in the Declaration which comes from a bishop is, in effect, a rather pointed, public correction–albeit an indirect one–of Francis. I don’t believe Francis can ignore that–again, assuming we get a good number of bishops to affirm the Declaration publicly. If there is a place for laymen to put a mark…sign me up!
Also, as I opined before (see here), such a document like the “Declaration of Truths” would be something the next conclave should have before it, as it would frame the debate and their deliberations over who the next pope should be. Now, there is such a document. Now, let’s try to get our pastors and bishops behind it. Much good can come from this.
In the meantime, let us pray for Pope Francis that he 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. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).
- Muellier in his Manifest of Faith stated: “In the face of growing confusion about the doctrine of the Faith, many bishops, priests, religious and lay people of the Catholic Church have requested that I make a public testimony about the truth of revelation. “
- Some ‘defenders’ of Amoris Laetitia and Pope Francis seemingly have contradictory views of what the Pope is teaching Amoris Laetitia, as well as what is meant by the Buenos Aires guidelines and the pope’s approval of them being placed in the AAS. See discussion of this here: Confusion at Vatican Insider?