Prelates Decry ‘General Doctrinal Confusion’ in Church

TOPSHOT - Pope Francis is greeted by bishops at the end of his general audience at St Peter's Square at the Vatican on January 31, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

A small group of Catholic cardinals and bishops have published a “Declaration of Truths” in the face of what they see as “a widespread lethargy in the exercise of the Magisterium on different levels of the Church’s hierarchy.”

The group, which includes Cardinal Raymond Burke and Cardinal Janis Pujats, note they were moved to make this declaration because of the “extraordinary situation of a general doctrinal confusion and disorientation in the life of the Church” caused by a failure of Church leaders to teach clear doctrine.

“In our time the Church is experiencing one of the greatest spiritual epidemics, that is, an almost universal doctrinal confusion and disorientation, which is a seriously contagious danger for spiritual health and eternal salvation for many souls,” the prelates observe.

“The faithful who are suffering this spiritual hunger feel themselves abandoned and thus find themselves in a kind of existential periphery,” they write, employing one of Pope Francis’s favorite buzzwords.

“We make this public Declaration in the spirit of Christian charity,” the prelates assert, adding that such a “precise declaration of the truths will be without any doubt an efficient means of a fraternal and filial aid for the Supreme Pontiff.”

Although the bishops never state explicitly that Pope Francis himself has been negligent in his duty to clearly teach Catholic doctrine, that is undeniably its intent.

The eight-page text contains 40 statements of Catholic belief, grouped in four categories: the fundamentals of faith, the creed, the law of God, and the sacraments. Each of the 40 statements seems directed at points of Francis’s teachings that have been deemed ambiguous or erroneous by his critics.

To take just one example, statement number  nine reads:

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.

This text seems directed at the Abu Dhabi joint statement signed in February by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, which asserted that God wills a plurality of religions just as He wills a plurality of colors, sexes, races, and languages.

In their declaration, the bishops insist on the responsibility of every prelate, cleric, and Catholic lay person to bear witness to the truths of the faith, especially when they are neglected by those who have the duty to defend them.

“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,” they state.

Among the sources cited in the declaration, the bishops pointedly include a text from Saint Augustine — a bishop — to Pope Boniface I, in which Augustine notes that “the pastoral watch-tower is common to all of us who discharge the office of the episcopate.”

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