On March 28, 2014 I penned an article entitled, From the Devil’s Advocate: Will Saint John Paul Open the Door to Non-Catholic “Saints”? In that article, I made the following simple point:
- The fact that Francis answered at all and did not let my appeal fall on deaf ears, so to speak;
- The fact that he replied himself and not via his private secretary or the secretary of state;
- That he emphasizes the fraternal manner of his Spanish reply by addressing me as Lieber Mitbruder ("Dear Brother") in German and puts this personal address in italics;
- That he clearly read the appeal, to which I had attached a Spanish translation, most attentively;
- That he is highly appreciative of the considerations that had led me to write Volume 5 of my complete works, in which I suggest theologically discussing the different issues that the infallibility dogma raises in the light of holy Scripture and tradition with the aim of deepening the constructive dialogue between the "semper reformanda" 21st-century church and the other Christian churches and postmodern society.
I could not have foreseen then quite how much new freedom Francis would open up in his post-synodal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Already in the introduction, he declares, "Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium."
He takes issue with "cold bureaucratic morality" and does not want bishops to continue behaving as if they were "arbiters of grace." He sees the Eucharist not as a reward for the perfect but as "nourishment for the weak."
He repeatedly quotes statements made at the episcopal synod or from national bishops' conferences. Francis no longer wants to be the sole spokesman of the church.
This is the new spirit that I have always expected from the magisterium. I am fully convinced that in this new spirit a free, impartial and open-ended discussion of the infallibility dogma, this fateful key question of destiny for the Catholic church, will be possible.
I am deeply grateful to Francis for this new freedom and combine my heartfelt thanks with the expectation that the bishops and theologians will unreservedly adopt this new spirit and join in this task in accordance with the Scriptures and with our great church tradition.
Thus, if what Bishop Fellay says is true (and we have no serious reason to doubt it) all of the arguments of the neo-Catholics and sedevacantists as to why canonizations are infallible do not apply to Francis’ canonizations. For every one of their arguments, like all the arguments of the theologians before them, rest on the lynchpin that the pope himself believes his decree is infallible. Once this lynchpin is removed, their entire argument falls apart.