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Opposition to Pope: birth and growth 

By James Kottoor

The historical roots of opposition to Pope Francis’ idea of “a God of mercy” started long before the release of his exhortation “Joy of Love” in April 2016. It all began actually on February 20, 2014, when Pope Francis invited Cardinal Walter Kasper to address the cardinals gathered for the first consistory of his new pontificate. Kasper’s book Mercy had profoundly impacted Francis and he asked the German cardinal to share his insights with the other cardinals. Among the items Kasper discussed was his conviction that the Church needed to revisit its pastoral practice in regard to those Catholics who had divorced and remarried.

The conservatives hit back quickly, publishing a book, “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” that challenged Kasper’s book and proposal. It included essays by such prominent churchmen as Cardinals Raymond Burke, Walter Brandmüller, and Carlo Caffarra. The various essays all struck a common theme: The Church’s teaching on marriage, they clamed, is “irreformable,” based on the words of Jesus in the Gospels, and unchanged for two millennia of Christian life. Burke was again prominent among those voicing his concerns, claiming the discussions and press coverage were being manipulated since discussions within the synod hall at that time were not public.


Francis was so enamored of Walter’s presentation of the “new name of our God is MERCY” and Francis’ own provocative inference and question: “If it is not the lost sheep, the most hardened sinners (divorced and remarried in the present case) for whom the Church of Jesus came to seek as the lost sheep? Didn’t the Good shepherd (son of God of Mercy) leave the 99 just and go in search of the lost one? He therefore was saying in effect, there is no sin in this world which is not pardonable, as a counter to the conservative group’s argument that traditional Church teaching on marriage was “irreformable.”

So even before the two Synods started, it was clear that a majority and minority party had emerged, with the majority open to the Kasper proposal. In voting on the final report from the synod, most propositions garnered nearly unanimous support but three paragraphs regarding LGBT outreach and the issue of how to help divorced and remarried Catholics failed to garner two-thirds of the voting prelates, although they did attain a majority.

Dubia and its publication

The final document cleared the two-thirds majority, including those pertaining to a possible opening for the divorced and remarried to return to the sacraments. On November 2016, Brandmüller, Burke and Caffarra, all of whom had contributed to the book opposing the Kasper proposal, joined by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, Germany, took the extraordinary step of publishing five dubia, or doubts, that they had regarding Amoris Laetitia. They did it after waiting for months for Francis to clarify their doubts which he didn’t. Since the publication of the dubia, two of the four cardinals — Meisner and Caffarra — have died.

Filial correction of heresy

Once the four conservative, traditional cardinals led by Burke found that their doubts made known to Francis both privately and publicly could not domesticate and force him to speak up, now they collected signatures of 62 Catholic academics, researchers, and scholars in various fields from 20 countries and sent a 25-page letter made public on Sept 24 listing seven heresies for the Pope’s consideration and correction.

The letter had been actually delivered privately at his Santa Marta residence one month ago on August 11. No similar action had ever taken place within the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, when Pope John XXII was admonished for errors which he later recanted on his deathbed.

This group called their 25 page letter ‘Filial correction’ to hide their hypocrisy and presence to be better informed and enlightened to parade themselves to be lords and masters empowered to correct and teach an erring Pope teaching ‘heresies’ in his “Amoris Laetitia’, as it happened in the middle ages. (Oh Tempora! Oh Mores!) Oh the morality of the times we live in, even in the sanctuaries of holiness!

Boston Conference of Theologians

All these historical and chronological developments have finally resulted in the two-day Boston Conference Oct. 5-6 just over attended by 2 cardinals, 12 bishops and 24 other invited participants. This meet highlighted two things: 1. “Infantilization of the laity” reducing laity and families, a legacy of the historical colonization and the encyclical, of Pius X, ‘Vehementer Nos’ of 1906, suggesting laity to be content being objects of clerical control to be led (not to lead) to pay, pray and obey. This needs must be buried for good, said the conference. 2. The Boston conference stressed that clerics are called to form consciences, not to replace them quoting Francis; “replacement of conscience is an act of domination, again colonization.”

A Final Question

A final question is: What impact all this have in India. The exemplary impact is that the Archdiocese of Calcutta. It made a yearlong study and concluded a historic synod, Sept. 26-30, attended by 88 priests, 23 religious nuns, 37 laymen and 13 lay women, representing all Catholics in the archdiocese.

Imitate Calcutta at least in conducting a study and Synod on ‘Joy of Love’, 2. Give proportionate representation to Laity in diocesan and national synods; they are the Church, not the clergy, especially today when it is the year of the laity and also better informed than the clergy who should keep their mouths shut to listen and learn. 3. Stop infantilizing them, they will just revolt; days of colonialism and over lording are long over. 4. Bow to their commanding conscience; never ever try to replace it with clerical conscience leading to doom, or blind leading the blind.

Will Indian bishops listen and think over these suggestions? If the bulk of them care too hoots for what the Pope says, they are welcome to live in their heavens or make a hell (we don’t believe in) for themselves.

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One Response to Opposition to Pope: birth and growth

  1. Fr Varghese Paul, SJ

    Dear Jeames,
    Your article “Opposition to Pope: birth and growth” is thought provoking. I have just read it. But I need to study it.
    With love & regards
    Varghese Paul,sj