Over 60 conservative Catholic clergy and scholars have written a 25-page letter to Pope Francis, charging that he has upheld and propagated heretical opinions "directly or indirectly" on marriage, morality and the sacrament of the Holy Communion.
"With profound grief, but moved by fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, by love for the Church and for the papacy, and by filial devotion toward yourself, we are compelled to address a correction to Your Holiness on account of the propagation of heresies," says the letter, whose signatories include German academic Martin Mosebach, former president of the Vatican Bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, and the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, Bishop Bernard Fellay.
The letter, delivered to the pontiff at his Santa Marta residence, explains that believing and practicing Catholics have the right and duty to issue such a correction to the pope.
It quotes from Amoris Laetitia, the pontiff's document on marriage and family life, and accuses Francis of "insinuating or encouraging" heretical positions.
"Because some commentators have argued that these texts can be interpreted in an orthodox way, the Correction goes on to list Francis' other words, deeds, and omissions which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical," says Joseph Shaw, one of the signatories and the official spokesman for the effort. "In particular, 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 signatories say they are not making a judgment about Francis' culpability "in propagating the seven heresies that they list, since it is not their task to judge whether the sin of heresy has been committed (the sin of heresy, that is, formal heresy, is committed when a person departs from the faith by doubting or denying some revealed truth with a full choice of the will)."
Shah adds, "It should, however, be noted that others who have spoken up in defense of the Catholic faith have been subject to reprisals. Thus, the signatories speak for a large number of clergy and lay faithful who lack freedom of speech."
In the letter, the signatories urge that "Pope Francis condemn the heresies that he has directly or indirectly upheld, and that he teach the truth of the Catholic faith in its integrity."
The letter was delivered on Aug. 11, but has now been made fully public.
This is not the first time clergy and laity have expressed concerns about the Pope's teaching.
Two years ago, a petition was signed by 800,000 individuals and associations, urging the pope to clarify the Church's teaching on marriage and family.