Theologians, Corrections & Donum Veritatis






Further to the story about Fr Weinandy, I was asked earlier today how theologians going public with their letters and 'corrections' square their actions with Donum Veritatis (the instruction on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian) which is pretty clear about not going public:
30. If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian's part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.
In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the "mass media", but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders servite to the truth.
I've read up a bit on this & asked some scholars involved with corrections and thought it might be worth posting the answers here.

Basically to cite this passage in the context of a theologian supporting the Magisterium & questioning a proposed direction which contradicts the consistent teaching of the Church is a clear misapplication of Donum veritatis because it fails to understand the whole nature of the dispute in question. This dispute is not a dissent against the Church’s Magisterium but rather a critique of expressions that strongly appear to contradict it.

It is an erroneous understanding of clerical, and particularly papal authority, which raises it to an absolute principle that overrides even clear cases of subversion of Catholic doctrine. It is incorrect to assert that nothing, no possible situation, could justify a public correction of the pope. Obviously the primary source for Catholics is Sacred Scripture, which records a public rebuke of St. Peter by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians, one that has been cited by saints and theologians for millennia as an example to the faithful in general. As St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, 
“If the faith were endangered, a subject ought to rebuke his prelate even publicly. Hence Paul, who was Peter's subject, rebuked him in public, on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning faith.”
The idea many seem to be labouring under (for example Robert Fastiggi and Dawn Eden Goldstein here) is that every pope receives “Divine assistance which prevents him from erring in matters of faith and morals, even when teaching non-infallibly,” calling this an “essential truth” without which “the entire edifice of Catholic theology comes crashing to the ground”. In fact, it is not only not an “essential truth” but a self-contradicting absurdity. If the pope is teaching non-infallibly, then he is teaching fallibly, and he isn’t absolutely protected from error.

If you look at the canon lawyer Ed Peters comments here, you can see that Canon Law actually states that persons with special knowledge, competence, and prestige in regard to ecclesiastical matters, “have the right and even at times the duty” to express their views on matters impacting the well-being of the Church. The duty. Not just the right.

So, to summarise it is ridiculous to interpret Donum Veritatis in conflict with Canon 212; and Donum Veritatis concerns theologians who disagree with Ordinary Magisterium, not those who seek to uphold it versus ambiguous papal statements.



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