On Sept 24th this year, an event took place which is unprecedented in Church history. A sitting pope has been accused of teaching heresy as part of his authentic magisterium in a "Filial Correction" signed by some 60 Catholic theologians, priests and bishops - which has subsequently risen to 146 as of the time of writing. This accusation has been railed against an Apostolic Exhortation no less - a document which is part of the papal magisterium. This accusation of heresy leaked out on the exact day that the much vaunted Rev 12 sign appeared in the skies on the centenary year of Our Lady of Fatima, 33 days after the occurrence of the Great American Solar Eclipse, which marked the start of a forty day countdown to Yom Kippur, coinciding with St. Michael's Lent.
While the importance of this event has been overlooked or downplayed by many, if this course of action is allowed to be played out till the end of its intended path, it will no doubt be looked back upon as one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the modern Catholic Church. This is only the first stage in a multi-step process involving an audacious attempt to depose Pope Francis from the Holy See either through the convocation of an "imperfect council" (a general Church council without the pope as its head), or through some other alternative ad-hoc process which will ultimately result in a major schism in the Catholic Church. Given the incessant grumblings against Pope Francis since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, there has been much speculation of late across in some extreme elements of the Traditionalist movement about how a pope who teaches formal heresy as part of his papal magisterium would automatically excommunicate himself, leaving the Holy See sede vacante. Indeed, there have even been several conferences conducted on the theme of "how to remove an heretical pope" such as that at Paris in 2017 titled "Deposing the Pope: Theological Premises, Canonical Models, Constitutional Challenges," inspired by the recently published book by Laurent Fonbaustier. and several discussions have taken place online as to what this process would involve (see Robert J. Siscoe in The Remnant here).
During the Counter Reformation, there was some hypothetical scenarios discussed between several influential theologians, such as St. Robert Bellarmine, Francisco Suárez, and Cajetan, about what would happen if a reigning pope were ever to teach formal heresy, and what the process would be in removing said pope from the Holy See. However, there was never any consensus reached on this topic, and there was never any canonical procedure developed for such a process. In light of the development of later Catholic theology on the nature of the papal charism concerning the protection of the pope from error in his ordinary non-infallible magisterium and the dogma of papal infallibility in the extraordinary and universal magisterium, it was considered non-essential, since the modern Catholic Church teaches that no pope can ever teach formal heresy as part of his magisterium.
In light of the upset that has been caused since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, which allows some divorced and remarried couples who are not able to obtain an annulment access to the Sacraments through the internal forum solution, some extreme Traditionalists are now convinced that Pope Francis is teaching outright heresy, and are now taking concrete steps to remove the Holy Father from the Peterine Office, by harking back to these hypothetical paradigms discussed by St. Bellarmine, Suárez, Cajetan et al. In light of Pope Francis' refusal to answer a series of dubia forwarded by Cardinals Burke, Caffarra, Brandmüller, and Meisner, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke promised that there would be a forthcoming "fraternal correction" of Amoris Laetitia. A promise which appears to be intimately related to this recent Filial Correction.
It seems however that Cardinal Burke is merely biding his time for the next step in this process, and will use the full weight of his authority when he issues his own "Fraternal Correction". The end-game in this audacious initiative behind the Filial Correction appears to be in openly proclaiming that Pope Francis is a manifest and obdurate heretic and declare that he has incurred automatic excommunication, leaving the Holy See sede vacante. It seems likely that this group will then petition for as many dissenting cardinals and bishops as possible to join them, lobbying for a new conclave to be established to install an antipope in opposition to Pope Francis, inaugurating a full-scale schism within the Catholic Church, the likes of which has not been seen since the end of the Western Schism in 1417.
What we have witnessed here is the pawns being moved into place, reserving the key pieces for the next step in the process, which is to issue a "fraternal correction", leading to a declaration that Pope Francis a formal heretic, which could be form anywhere to six months to a year from now. While the Filial Correction appears to accuse Pope Francis of only espousing or promoting material heresy, such a position simply does not hold, when we consider the fact that Amoris Laetitia is part of the papal magisterium. Those who have promoted this Filial Correction have harked back to the correction of Pope John XXII. No such comparison can be made here though, in the fact that Pope John XXII only held to his heretical belief on the resurrection in a private capacity, and never attempted to formally teach this in his magisterium. This charge of heresy in Amoris Laetitia, however thinly veiled, is nothing short than an accusation of formal heresy, and the subsequent "removal" of Pope Francis from the Holy See is no doubt the next course of action for these audacious clerics.
As Robert J. Siscoe states:
We have seen that a canonical warning is required for a cleric to lose his office due to the crime of heresy. This aspect of canon law is derived from divine law, which teaches that a heretic should only be avoided, “after one or two warnings” (Titus 3:10). Since this precept of divine law does not permit of an exception, it applies equally to a heretical Pope. If a Pope were to remain hardened in heresy after being duly warning by the proper authorities, he would thereby manifest his pertinacity, and reveal that, of his own will, he had rejected the Faith.
It is simply remarkable that this Filial Correction was timed to exactly coincide with the feast day of St. Padre Pio during the course of St. Michael's Lent, when St. Francis of Assisi was physically impressed with the visible wounds of the stigmata, marking him out as the "angel of the sixth seal". Is this act of stigmatization the final confirmation that Pope Francis is indeed the Worthy Shepherd who has taken great lengths to feed his flock during this period of trial for the Church?
One from beyond the mountains shall become the Vicar Of God. Religious and clerics shall take part in this change. Outside the true path, there will be only disreputable men; I shrug my shoulders when the Bark of Peter is in danger and there is no one to lend it help... The schismatic shall fall into the scorn of the Italian faithful... By about twelve years shall the millennium have passed when the resplendent mantle of legitimate power shall emerge from the shadows where it was being kept by the schism. And beyond harm from the one who is blocking the door of salvation, for his deceitful schism shall have come to an end. And the mass of the faithful shall attach itself to the worthy Shepherd, who shall extricate each one from error and restore to the Church its beauty. He shall renew it."
(Miscellanea Francescana 1 p173)
Just as St. Padre Pio offered himself up as a victim for the end of the First World War, we can only hope and pray that Pope Francis will offer up this act of stigmatization as a means to save the world from its current threat of chastisement, just as the North Korean nuclear crisis now reaches its crescendo. This act of stigmatization is surely the Dragon standing under the Woman's feet intent on consuming the "male-child" just as he is born, by issuing a flood from its mouth to sweep the Woman away.
It is time to remain positive though, and hope that perhaps something good will come from all this mess we see in the Church today. Perhaps Cardinal Burke's true motivation is to pressurize the Holy Father into convoking an ecumenical council, in order to ensure that this matter is resolved through the infallible magisterium, sum Petro et Sub Petro. Perhaps such a council would be able to undo the great source of division that has entered the Church since the "Spirit of Vatican II" ensured the stripping of the altars and liturgical changes under Bugnini's reforms, by ensuring the full implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium - the conciliar document on the Sacred Liturgy. Perhaps then we will finally see the filthy garments of the Church finally being removed, and replaced by those worthy of the Bride of the Lamb, as is indicated in the below prophecy of Zechariah, which takes place at the end of the period of Satan's greater power:
Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the apparel; and the angel of the Lord was standing by. (Zech 3:1-5)