Father John Hunwicke, continuing a series on his blog, has an interesting post about the magisterium and the rights of the faithful, clergy and laity alike. Indeed he discusses the recent, private letter of forty-five eminent Catholic thinkers to the College of Cardinals, asking them to encourage the Holy Father to condemn some erroneous interpretations of Amoris laetitia.
Not long ago, as is well known, a group of 45 scholars, teachers, and pastors, wrote a Letter. (I emphasise that these people came from a wide variety of countries throughout the world: I emphasise this because I do not want what I am about to say to be narrowly construed as a criticism of any members of the English Church.) The Letter was addressed to each member of the Sacred College of Cardinals respectfully asking them to beg the Holy Father graciously to consider the clarification of certain parts of Amoris laetitia which have proved to be dangerously ambiguous. Cardinals, I think, count as Sacred Shepherds. This was a private letter (although its contents have unfortunately become public). Even if it had been a public letter, I do not see how it could have failed to enjoy the protection of Canon 212.
Dr Javier Hervada, sometime Professor of Canon Law at Navarra, comments on Canon 212: “The right of free speech and public opinion within the Church is acknowledged. Science, skill, and prestige are required to exercise the right justly or to give the corresponding moral obligation greater or less force. The basis of this right does not reside in these prerequisites but in the condition of being one of the faithful“.
(Emphasis in original.) As you may recall, the signatories of this letter were identified in one or the other of the progressive house organs. Then the letter itself was leaked. This is, we suspect very much, not what the drafters and signatories wanted. The letter was written in very frank terms, but always respectful, always keenly aware of its place. It was a private letter from concerned Catholics to the close collaborators of the Supreme Pontiff. But if there is one thing that the progressives in the Church have learned, it’s that leaks are good for business. Digressing slightly, it’s interesting that the leaks only go one way. One almost never hears that some damaging leak has occurred of a progressive’s papers. And when one does hear it, the leaker is blasted into oblivion and punished brutally, because there’s nothing worse than leaks.
Except when they’re judiciously used against someone unpopular.
And it seems that this leak has been used against unpopular squeaky wheels. Father Hunwicke again:
In the fourth year of this current pontificate, it is appropriate also to mention the insistently repeated calls of the Holy Father Pope Francis himself for Parrhesia [bold and free speaking] in the Church.
With regard to the paragraph which now follows below, I would like to make it very clear that I am not talking about myself or in any way describing or alluding to my own situation or any experience I have had.
Intimidation and cruel pressures have, it appears, been applied to persuade some of the signatories to the Letter to rescind their signatures.
Perhaps this may remind English readers of the occasion when, a couple of years ago, some 450 English clerics wrote an open letter with regard to the agenda of the Synod of Bishops, and it was reported in the public papers that intimidation had been applied to dissuade priests from signing. How those guilty of such worldly intimidation can think that their behaviour helps any cause in which they sincerely and Christianly believe, I simply do not even begin to understand. It all seems to me so much more like the actions of playground bullies than any conduct which could be appropriate between those whom the Lord called His Friends (philous; John 15:15).
(Emphasis in original.) We are sorry to say that we’ve heard very similar reports—and from sources we trust implicitly. Upshot: the leaks worked. The Catholics who had the temerity to ask the cardinals to ask the Pope to clear up some of the confusion surrounding Amoris laetitia have been identified and will be dealt with in due course. Never mind that they’ve got the right—and, indeed, the duty in some cases—of expressing their concerns to their pastors and their pastors’ close collaborators. Only a doctor of the law would care about canon 212. They better get in line, but quick.
This is, of course, just what traditionally minded Catholics have always known. Progressives in the Church operate this way. It is what we saw at the Council and after. We must talk about things—openly, freely, frankly. The schemata are bad. They’re shot through with neo-scholasticism, unecumenical language, and stuffy dogmas. We’ve got to talk about this. And when they get the answer they want, that’s it. No more discussion. Next question! We are witnessing the early stages of the same phenomenon with the business about deaconesses. We’ve got to talk about this. But just wait until they get the answer they clearly want.