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Religious Tolerance logo

Heresy or Truth? An essay donated by
our contributing editor, Susan Humphreys:

Debate in the Roman Catholic Church
concerning the Pope's 2016 teaching
Amoris laetitia: "The Joy of Love:"

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Heresy or Truth?

The Pope is having problems with some of the more conservative members of his Church. On 2017-JUL-16, the Feast of our Lady of Mt. Carmel, a group of conservatives issued a 25 letter titled "Filial Correction of Pope Francis For the Propagation of Heresies." 1

I think many Conservatives within the Catholic Church have found themselves in a situation similar to what caused Conservative Evangelical Christians to issue their Nashville Statement one month later, which dealt with matters involving the LGBT community .

The world has progressed and left them behind. Because of their narrow vision, self-righteousness, and intransigence, they don’t understand why or when or how this happened.

As I read through this document 1 I was struck by how they undercut their own arguments!

  1. I got the impression that they were claiming the teachings of previous Popes about marriage, divorce and the sacraments were infallible because of the Church doctrine that declares the Popes are infallible. BUT they claim Pope Francis is fallible!

    Isn’t it possible that the reverse is true: that the earlier Popes were wrong and it is Francis that is right!

  2. The arguments they used to justify their action -- the writing of this filial correction -- can also be used by Pope Francis to justify his actions, calling for changes he’d like to see in pastoral care.

  3. By a series of statements, they lead to the conclusion that "No truth can contradict any other truth. How true!

So where there are contradictions that means that either one or both are wrong. Both cannot be true, even though they both claim that status!

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The sequence of statements that lead to this point are this:

  • "Jesus Christ is true God and true man. In consequence, all his teachings are the teachings of God himself.

  • "All the propositions that are contained in the Catholic faith are truths communicated by God.

  • "God is believed when he says something, and he is believed because he is God and hence is knowledgeable and truthful.

They are claiming that:

  • Their position comes from Jesus and from God. It is therefore correct.

  • Pope Francis' position doesn’t come from Jesus or God and is therefore a heresy.

At this point one should ask and how do they know the teachings claimed to come from Jesus actually did come from Jesus. Also, how to they know that the teachings that are claimed to come from God actually come from God, and that Pope Francis' teachings come from neither?

They try to answer that question with the next statement:

"Belief in divine testimony differs from belief in the testimony of human beings who are not divine, because God is all-knowing and perfectly good. In consequence he can neither lie nor be deceived. It is thus impossible for divine testimony to be mistaken."

So in the event that "divine testimony" is mistaken, that proves it does not come from God, that it isn’t actually "divine testimony."

Some good examples are:

  • The earth is the center of our solar system!

  • The world was created in seven days -- apparently 24-hour days.

  • Humans and higher apes did not have a common ancestor.

  • Or ...

If previous Popes were wrong about these points, why couldn’t they be wrong -- or their successors be wrong -- about other points? Such as: the issues of marriage, divorce, and the sacraments?

AND when a divine teaching creates harm, and does not promote "good," does that also prove that the "divine teaching" isn’t at all "divine?" Can it be understood as to not have come from God?, but rather It is a "Law" created by men?

Isn’t this what Pope Francis has discerned: that the teachings of the church in regards to marriage, divorce and the sacraments have produced harm, not good?

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Then comes the group's statement #7:

"The truth of a proposition consists in its saying of what is, that it is; scholastically expressed, it contains in adaequatio rei et intellectus. Every truth is as such true, no matter by whom or when or in what circumstances it is considered. No truth can contradict any other truth. (bold emphasis not in the original)

"Adaequatio rei et intellecutus" is translated as "adequacy of intelligence to reality" -- or as some put it the "intellect of the knower must be adequate to the thing known. 2

One example given in another article (brainpickings) is that of a symphonic piece of music. Some people can hear it once and remember all of it. Some can look at the score and hear it in their head. Some people can listen to it and find it jarring, incomprehensible, just a bunch of noise. The intellect of the listener must be adequate to the symphony that is listened to.

Another example is with abstract concepts. Some people easily grasp abstract ideas and others don’t. Some struggle with mathematics others don’t. The intellect of the knower must be adequate to the thing that is to be known.

I wonder if by including this "phrase adaequatio rei et intellectus" the writers are subtly trying to say that if you don’t agree with us it is because your intellect isn’t up to the task? BUT then I can say the same thing: If they don’t understand my arguments it is because their intellect isn’t as developed as mine!

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE) states that

"Truth is the correspondence or agreement between reality and its linguistic and conceptual representation." 3

I think he was on to something!

I have said in other essays that "truths stand or fall on their own merits." They need no claims of divine authorship or other scholarly credentials to prove their worth. St. Aquinas and I actually agree on one point!

This very statement that the group makes undercuts the previous statements. IF this statement #7 is true then all the previous six statements and the ones that come after are irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if Jesus is true God and true man. IF:

"truth is as such true, no matter by whom it doesn’t matter who Jesus was. His words or what are claimed to be his words will stand or fall on their own merits." They will conform to reality. IF they are true!

It doesn’t matter whether a statement comes from God or from man. IF "truth is as such true, no matter by whom," then it doesn’t matter who uttered the phrase, or who wrote the words. The truth will be self-evident.

The words of a Pope carry no more power than the words of an Atheist. Words, statements stand or fall on their own merits. IF "truth is as such true, no matter by whom;" it doesn’t matter who utters a phrase.

IF statement #7 is TRUE all the claims of the church about divine authority are irrelevant, the claims made by this "Filial Correction" are irrelevant because TRUTH -- wherever it comes from: from Pope Francis, or his predecessors, or anyone else -- the Buddha, Lao Tzu for example, me, or you) will stand or fall on its own merits, it will be self-evident, no matter where or when or whom utters it and will conform to reality.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "And So It Begins: "FILIAL CORRECTION OF POPE FRANCIS For the Propagation of Heresies," Rorate Caeli, 2017-JUL-16, at:
  2. "Adaequatio rei et intellectus," Wikipedia, as on 2017-FEB-18, at:
  3. "Correspondence theory of truth," Wikipedia, as on 2017-APR-03, at:

How you may have arrived here:

Home > Christianity > Christian groups > Sorting groups > Christian meta-groups > Roman Catholicism > here

Home > Christianity > Christian groups > Sorting groups > Denominations > Roman Catholicism > here

or Home > Christianity > Christian groups > Sorting groups > Families of denominations > Roman Catholicism > here

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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
Originally posted on: 2017-OCT-16
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