A letter sent to the world’s cardinals, asking then to make a formal appeal to Pope Francis over Amoris Laetitia, has been published online.
The letter, signed by 45 theologians and priests, identifies what it describes as errors which a reader could mistakenly draw from the recent apostolic exhortation.
The letter has been published in full on the website of The Australian by the journalist Tess Livingston, a biographer of Cardinal George Pell.
The text does not accuse the Pope of falling into error. Instead, the signatories say that Francis could clear up confusion by issuing a condemnation of the errors.
For instance, the signatories say the document could give the impression that “the commandments of God are impossible for the justified”.
It asks the 218 cardinals and patriarchs to make a formal appeal to the Pope for a clarification that Amoris Laetitia should not be read in this way.
Among the other readings the letter says should be condemned are: that the divorced and remarried should be able to take Communion, even if not living as brother and sister; that a virginal state of life consecrated to Christ, considered in itself, is not superior to marriage; that nobody will go to hell; that somebody with full knowledge of a divine law can sin by choosing to obey that law; and several others.
The signatories include well-known British Catholics such as Fr Aidan Nichols OP and Professor Luke Gormally. The group’s spokesman, the Oxford philosophy tutor Dr Joseph Shaw, had said that the group had not published the appeal because it was “directed to the cardinals for action in the first place, and we have taken the view that the Sacred College should be allowed to consider the substance of the document and the action to be taken in response to it before its contents are made public”.
Dr Shaw described the letter as “a detailed and technical theological document” which might be misunderstood by non-specialists.
He added: “Making the document public would impede the cardinals in their task by the media coverage and frequently uninformed debate and polemics it would raise.”
But Dr Shaw said “it is important that Catholics who are troubled by some of the statements in Amoris Laetitia be aware that steps are being taken to address the problems it raises”.