Leading theologian: “change canon law to correct papal errors”

 CP&S comment – This is an unprecedented moment in the history of the Catholic Church: a pope who consistently divulges doctrinal errors to the Church Militant. Popes are human and thus not infallible in their informal pronouncements, but when they purposely pronounce, either in spoken or written word, overt magisterial teaching errors, they must be called upon to correct them. Pope Francus has, to date, stubbornly refused to do so. Nothing in Canon Law has prepared the Church for this unorthodox behaviour on the part of the Supreme Pontiff. The only solution to this threat to the Church and her Magisterium would be to include an additional clause in Canon Law to right these papal wrongs to safeguard the sacred Deposit of Faith.

Fr Aidan Nichols

by Dan Hitchens

Fr Aidan Nichols said that Pope Francis’s teaching had led to an ‘extremely grave’ situation

A prominent theologian has proposed reforming canon law to allow a pope’s doctrinal errors to be established.

Fr Aidan Nichols, a prolific author who has lectured at Oxford and Cambridge as well as the Angelicum in Rome, said that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia had led to an “extremely grave” situation.

Fr Nichols proposed that, given the Pope’s statements on issues including marriage and the moral law, the Church may need “a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error”.

The Dominican theologian said that this procedure might be less “conflictual” if it took place during a future pontificate, rather as Pope Honorius was only condemned for error after he had ceased to occupy the chair of Peter.

Fr Nichols was speaking at the annual conference in Cuddesdon of an ecumenical society, the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, to a largely non-Catholic audience.

He said the judicial process would “dissuade popes from any tendency to doctrinal waywardness or simple negligence”, and would answer some “ecumenical anxieties” of Anglicans, Orthodox and others who fear that the pope has carte blanche to impose any teaching. “Indeed, it may be that the present crisis of the Roman magisterium is providentially intended to call attention to the limits of primacy in this regard.”

Fr Nichols has written over 40 books of philosophy, theology, apologetics and criticism. In 2006 he was appointed to Oxford University’s first lectureship since the Reformation in Catholic theology.

He has not publicly commented on Amoris Laetitia until now, but was a signatory to a leaked letter from 45 priests and theologians to the College of Cardinals. The letter asked the cardinals to request a clarification from the Pope to rule out heretical and erroneous interpretations of the exhortation.

In his paper Fr Nichols mentioned some of the same concerns as the letter: he noted, for instance, that Amoris Laetitia could seem to imply that the monastic life was not a higher state than marriage – a view condemned as heretical by the Council of Trent.

The exhortation has also been interpreted as arguing that the divorced and remarried can receive Communion without endeavouring to live “as brother and sister”. This contradicts the perennial teaching of the Church, reaffirmed by Popes St John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Fr Nichols said that this interpretation, which Pope Francis has reportedly approved, would introduce into the Church “a previously unheard-of state of life. Put bluntly, this state of life is one of tolerated concubinage.”

But Fr Nichols said the way in which Amoris Laetitia argued for “tolerated concubinage” (without using the phrase) was potentially even more harmful. He quoted the exhortation’s description of a conscience which “recognizes that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the demands of the Gospel” but sees “with a certain moral security…what for now is the most generous response.” Fr Nichols said this seemed to say “that actions condemned by the law of Christ can sometimes be morally right or even, indeed, requested by God.”

This would contradict the Church’s teaching that some acts are always morally wrong, Fr Nichols said.


[Please read the final paragraphs of this Catholic Herald article, HERE]

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6 Responses to Leading theologian: “change canon law to correct papal errors”

  1. Thank God there is increasing opposition to this catastrophe of a pontificate.

    The final sentence in the complete article in The Catholic Herald is absolutely glowing with hope:

    “(T)he law of the Church will live on, because of those who ‘give the law life by faithfulness in love’.”


  2. Mary Salmond says:

    If some Bishops and priests have already used their own interpretations for AL, then some damage is already done. It reminds me of the skewed interpretations of Humanae Vitae, the pill, and letting your conscience decide. It was hogwash, but many went with it and that decision has gotten us where we are today with sexual freedom. Somebody needs to stick with the program and correct these errors with concrete information that can justify what Jesus said about marriage. Or how about what Peter, Paul, and early Church fathers said? Then make it ex cathedra before any more problems erupt..


  3. Here is a related article by USA Canon Lawyer, Peters;
    “On Fr. Nichols Recent Remarks” :



  4. Mary Salmond says:

    Maureen, I’ll reread that article, but the logic and arguments seem sound. Thanks.


  5. kathleen says:

    @ Mrs. Maureen Avila

    A very clear and informative article by the always-helpful and knowledgeable Dr. Ed Peters – many thanks for this link. Looks like the pope’s obligation as Guardian of the Faith to adhere to Tradition in all its fullness supersedes even the rules set out in Canon Law. It is good to learn that. Either way, the Catholic Faith will never be in danger from papal dogmatic heresies (nor even erroneous practical teachings on non-dogmatic matters) if these in any way contradict Catholic Tradition.
    Nonetheless, much confusion and error can still be spread, causing subsequent conflict among the Faithful (as, tragically, we are witnessing today) by this current pope who appears to adamantly refuse to affirm his adherence to the eternal teachings of the Church!

    1Peter5 also had a good article the other day on this same topic entitled, “Cardinal Brandmüller on the Tradition of Making Papal Professions of Faith“. Some quotes (with my emphasis):

    “Under the title “The Pope: Believer; Teacher of the Faithful,” the German prelate reminds the readers that Jesus Christ gave St. Peter the mission of becoming the rock upon which He wanted to build His Church only after St. Peter had made a profession of Faith: “Thou are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” “Following the profession of Faith of the Apostle, Jesus responds with His unique call to Peter,” as Brandmüller explains. He then continues, saying:

    ‘In this light, the foundational significance of Peter’s Faith for the inchoate Church becomes clear. Analogously, this of course also applies for the successor of Peter, the pope. Also the pope is foremost a “listener of the word” (K. Rahner [sic]), a believer, and only as such can he thus be a guarantee and teacher of the Faith for the Church.’

    The cardinal then explains that the pope himself, though the head of the Church, still is “in organic connection a member of that one body.” In light of these words, Cardinal Brandmüller makes it clear how important it is for the Catholic Church that the pope is himself to be seen actually preserving the authentic Catholic Faith


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