A group of conservative Roman Catholics has accused Pope Francis of spreading “heresy” by signaling his openness to letting some divorced and remarried Catholics receive Holy Communion.
In a 25-page letter published online Saturday, nearly 70 Catholic theologians and clergy assert that the pontiff has propagated “heretical propositions” on “marriage, the moral law, and the reception of the sacraments.”
The letter focused primarily on Francis’s 260-page treatise “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), published last year. In the document, the pontiff called the church to be less strict and more compassionate toward “imperfect” Catholics, including those who have divorced and remarried, saying that “no one can be condemned forever.”
“The pope has advocated the beliefs that obedience to God’s moral law can be impossible or undesirable, and that Catholics should sometimes accept adultery as compatible with being a follower of Christ,” the group said in a release, equating remarriage after divorce to having an affair.
The letter was delivered to the pope at his Santa Marta residence on Aug. 11, according to the release. Francis has not issued a response.
“Pope Francis may be determined not to answer this, but it’s not to say that bishops and cardinals aren’t able to absorb it,” Joseph Shaw, a professor of philosophy at Oxford University and one of the letter’s organizers, told CNN. “We have to press this problem on to people who can ultimately address them.”
Francis has faced pushback before over his teachings on divorce. In February, German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, who stepped down from heading the Vatican’s doctrine office in July, said he opposed any potential changes to the church’s ban on divorced and remarried Catholics taking Communion.
“No power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it,” he told Il Timone, an Italian Catholic publication, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But it’s unlikely the letter ― signed by some members of a traditionalist group that already broke from the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II ― will register a significant shift.
“First of all, out of the 200 cardinals and over 5,000 bishops in the church, not one has signed on,” Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and consultor of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, said in an email to HuffPost.
“What weight should be give this letter? Not much, I would say.”
The priest noted that the letter also flies in the face of the “traditional authority of the pope.”
“There are many people in the church who have set themselves against Pope Francis, but the crashing irony here is that the ‘traditionalists’ that signed this letter are going against the traditional authority of the pope,” Martin said. “They’re also some of the same people who, under John Paul II and Benedict XVI, said that any disagreement with the pope was tantamount to dissent. So that letter is pretty rich in irony.”