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Back in April of 2016, Pope Francis released his long-awaited Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), his take on many of the social issues currently dividing Catholics.

While most of it was the sort of here’s-how-to-make-your-life-better watered-down spirituality we tend to hear from the Joel Osteens of the world, most of the substance wasn’t surprising. It’s not like the Pope endorsed same-sex marriage. In fact, he quoted the Synod Fathers in agreement, saying “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” He also said same-sex unions “may not simply be equated with marriage.”
But surprisingly, while calling divorce an “evil,” he did not cast aside believers who obtained one, saying “It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church.” It was a big deal in the Catholic world for the Pope to say divorced and remarried people could once again receive Communion, even if he went on to say priests could offer this on a case-by-case basis.
At the time, a small group of Cardinals asked the Pope for clarifications on issues like Communion for divorced people, but the Pope didn’t respond to their dubia (doubts).
Now it’s happening again.
A group of 62 academics, priests, and theologians have written a 25-page document, Correctio filialis, calling out the Pope for his endorsement of “seven heretical propositions.”
While they don’t quite say the Pope is committing heresy, it’s only because they imply it’s above their pay grade.
The document was written in July, delivered to the Vatican last month, and made public this weekend only because the Pope hasn’t responded to it yet. Maybe that’s because the highest ranking person on the list isn’t even technically part of the Church, as the Associated Press explains:

None of the signatories of the new letter is a cardinal, and the highest-ranking churchman listed is actually someone whose organization has no legal standing in the Catholic Church: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X. Several other signatories are well-known admirers of the old Latin Mass which Fellay’s followers celebrate.

Still, this sort of document is highly unusual. The last time a “filial correction” was issued was 1333. (That’s not a typo.) In response, Pope John XXII recanted his errors.
It’s somewhat entertaining to watch this happen because, while the legalese of dogma is certainly important to True Believers™, think about what this argument is over: Should the Catholic Church reach out and welcome people who have been divorced, but found love, got remarried, and want to be members in good standing? Or, to put it another way, if people broke their wedding vows, even for very legitimate reasons, do they deserve a second chance?
The Pope said the Church should love those people just as much as everyone else. And that’s what these 62 Catholics are angry about to the point of calling the Pope’s statement heretical.
The Pope did something nice… and they’re furious. If that doesn’t tell you the problem with the Catholic Church, I don’t know what does.
One additional note: Maybe you’re wondering, as I did, if this defies the idea of papal infallibility. When the Pope is speaking about doctrine and issuing pronouncements, isn’t he always right, by definition?
The 62 writers say very clearly in their document that they’re not suggesting the Pope is wrong… but only because he was so vague in his writing. That’s why they want clarification on these issues.

… Our correction is indeed required by fidelity to infallible papal teachings which are incompatible with certain of Your Holiness’s statements.

We issue this correction, rather, to protect our fellow Catholics — and those outside the Church, from whom the key of knowledge must not be taken away… — hoping to prevent the further spread of doctrines which tend of themselves to the profaning of all the sacraments and the subversion of the Law of God.

So if the Pope ever came out and said, “Second marriages are fine by me. Let’s give them Communion,” then, yes, these people would be saying the Pope is fallible. All the more reason for the Pope to just ignore them instead of giving them more ammo.
Remember: None of this would be an issue if it were just about treating people with kindness and respect. It’s only a problem because Catholics have a specific set of irrational, dogmatic beliefs that they cling to at all costs.
And before you start thinking the Pope comes off looking great here, keep in mind that he doesn’t think gay and lesbian couples are equal to straight couples in the eyes of God. The Pope also said last year that a transgender identity is “terrible.” He also called the acceptance of trans people an “annihilation of man as image of God.”
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Philip for the link)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.

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