Canon Law on schism and excommunication:
Canon 751: “schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him”.
Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”
The “latae sententiae” excommunication is usually called “automatic”, but the literal translation is “wide judgment”, since automatic excommunications have a wide scope.
Are the signatories of the Filial Correction, and anyone else who whole-heartedly agrees with its contents, automatically excommunicated for the sin of formal schism? If the Filial Correction expresses refusal of submission, directly, or if it necessarily implies the same, indirectly, then the signatories and subsequent supporters of the Correction would be guilty of schism. What does the document say?
The title and its contents accuse Pope Francis of “propagating heresies”. Specifically, the Correction claims that “several passages of Amoris Laetitia, in conjunction with acts, words, and omissions of Your Holiness, serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.”
If some Catholics believe and publicly proclaim that the Roman Pontiff is guilty of propagating heresies by means of a papal document and by many other acts, words, and omissions, does this implies a refusal of submission to his authority? Yes. For the submission required in Canon 751 is not merely adherence to infallible teachings of the Pope (as the Correction seems to imply). Rather, the faithful are required to give the “religious submission of mind and will” to the “to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra” [Lumen Gentium 25]. The signatories are openly refusing submission to the ordinary Magisterium of the Pope.
Some licit theological dissent from teachings of the non-infallible magisterium is possible, without sin. But this licit dissent never permits the dissenters to issue a “formal correction”, as if they were certainly right, and the Supreme Pontiff were certainly wrong. And it never permits the dissenters to accuse the Supreme Pontiff of the grave sin of propagating heresy — which is really no different than accusing him of teaching heresy. For anyone who propagates a doctrine is a teacher of that doctrine. Therefore, though the Filial Correction attempts to distinguish its accusation of “propagating heresies” from the sin of teaching heresy, there is no real difference. If anyone were truly guilty of propagating heresy by so many words, deeds, and omissions as is claimed, they would in fact be guilty of teaching material heresy.
The signatories claim that this propagation of heresies by the Pope is responsible for “the great and imminent danger of souls.” And this accusation of gravely harming souls implies that they will not submit to papal guidance, whether on faith or morals or discipline, since they think his judgment to be so corrupted that he would both propagate heresy and cause grave harm to souls. No reasonable faithful Catholic could make such a set of accusations and then sincerely claim that they submit to the authority of the accused over matters of faith, morals, and salvation, and to his judgments in matters of discipline.
The signatories of the Filial Correction have decided that their understanding of the Faith is better than that of the Pope and that he has gone far astray from the teaching and will of Jesus Christ, in doctrine and discipline. They have placed themselves above the Vicar of Christ, to correct him, to judge him, and to condemn him, as if they had authority over him. They cannot claim to be submissive to the Roman Pontiff, while accusing him publicly — and falsely — of propagating grave heresies. They cannot claim to be submissive to the Roman Pontiff, while demanding that he submit to their correction, teach what they wish him to teach, and act as they wish him to act.
So, yes, the signatories and any subsequent supporters of the Filial Correction are guilty of formal schism, and therefore are automatically excommunicated.
That 1333 Claim
By the way, this claim is false: “This was the first formal correction since 1333.” The dispute in 1333 was over a personal theological opinion of Pope John XXII. He clearly stated that his position was opinion, and that theologians were free to disagree. The subject at issue had not yet been decided definitively by the Magisterium, although the majority opinion was contrary to that of the Pope. No “formal correction” was issued at that time. The Magisterium later decided the issue, in 1336, during the reign of a subsequent Pope, Benedict XII. Pope John XXII was not guilty of heresy, since he gave his erroneous opinion prior to the definitive teaching of the Magisterium on the subject.
There is no such thing in the Church as a licit formal correction of the Roman Pontiff. According to Unam Sanctam, the highest spiritual authority on earth is not able to be judged by any man, but by God alone.
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