Signers of document critiquing 'Amoris Laetitia' revealed

This article appears in the Amoris Laetitia feature series. View the full series.

Rome — An until now unpublished list of names attached to a critique of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on family life shows the signatories to include professors at diocesan seminaries, a member of a pontifical academy, and the head of the church's ecclesiastical structure in Afghanistan.

The signatories had sent a letter to the world's Catholic cardinals asking them to "respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals" from Francis' Amoris Laetitia ("The Joy of Love")

The letter, which attracted press coverage earlier in the month as a possible sign of wider disagreement with Amoris Laetitia, was sent to Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, and to 218 individual cardinals and patriarchs.

While organizers of the effort have not made the full document or the signatories' names public, NCR obtained a copy of the list of signatures and a short note the signers attached to a 13-page document they sent the cardinals explaining their views.

Among the signers is Barnabite Fr. Giovanni Scalese, the superior of the church's mission sui iuris in Afghanistan, which does not have a full diocese.

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"I signed the letter simply because I agreed with its contents," Scalese said in an email to NCR Wednesday.

"I have the impression (but it's not for me to judge) that [Amoris Laetitia] does not constitute, as it might wish, a legitimate doctrinal development but rather a substantive breach with preceding teaching," he continued.

Among other signatories of the letter:

  • Luke Gormally, a former research professor at the Ave Maria School of Law who is also an ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life;
  • Several members of the Fraternity of St. Vincent Ferrer, a religious order which was founded in 1979 partly on the belief that Pope John XXIII had committed heresy but reconciled with the Vatican in 1988;
  • Several professors at diocesan or religious order seminaries, including: Alan Fimister of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver and Fr. Robert Nortz of the Maronite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Massachusetts;
  • Several members of a non-profit organization of academics called The Roman Forum, founded in 1968 to defend Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae.

The full list of names, as it appears on the document, is below.

In their short note to the cardinals, the letter's signatories state that Amoris Laetitia "contains a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals."

"We request that the Cardinals and Patriarchs petition the Holy Father to condemn the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris Laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true," they ask.

Amoris Laetitia was released by Francis as a response to the discussions of the two meetings of the Synod of Bishops he held at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015 on issues of family life.

The document, which asked the world's Catholic clergy to let their lives become "wonderfully complicated" by embracing God's grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families face, has been criticized by Catholics at a level virtually unseen against papal documents in decades.

Critics have been particularly harsh on the document's call for Catholic priests to use "the logic of pastoral mercy" when dealing with persons who have divorced and remarried without first obtaining annulments.

Revelation of the list of signatories to the letter to the cardinals and their short explanatory note gives insight into which groups appear to be organizing the main opposition to Francis' document and papacy.

One signatory said in a short email statement to NCR that he signed the letter because "there are mixed signals emanating from Rome and this Pontiff, and the Catholic faithful need a reassuring clarity and consistency."

"Statements that lend themselves to being interpreted at odds with the church's historical teaching may delight revisionists, but they are not helpful to the integrity of the church's mission or to the faithful," said Philip Blosser, a philosophy professor at the Detroit archdiocese's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Joseph Shaw, a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University's St. Benet's Hall who was a signer and is acting as the group's spokesman, said they mainly want the pope to clarify that some of the interpretations of his document are incorrect.

"The document is not as clear as one would like," said Shaw. "What's urgent of course is that some people are using the document to support positions which are clearly contrary to the teaching of the church, contrary to identifiable doctrines, such as those taught infallibly by the Council of Trent or other authoritative sources."

"What we're asking the cardinals to do is to request of the Holy Father that he make it clear that some interpretations are wrong," he continued. "That what was contrary to the faith remains so, what the Council of Trent taught remains the teaching of the church."

Shaw said the organizers are not expecting a response from individual cardinals, as they have asked the prelates to speak to the pope and not the writers of the letter.

Following are the signatories of the letter to the cardinals, as listed in the document:

Dr. Jose Tomas Alvarado
Associate Professor
Institute of Philosophy, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Rev. Fr. Scott Anthony Armstrong PhD
Brisbane Oratory in formation

Rev. Claude Barthe

Rev. Ray Blake
Parish priest of the diocese of Arundel and Brighton

Fr. Louis-Marie de Blignieres FSVF
Doctor of Philosophy

Dr. Philip Blosser
Professor of Philosophy
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Archdiocese of Detroit

Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, STD, JD
Chaplain and Faculty Member of the Roman Forum

Rev. Fr. Thomas Crean OP, STD
Holy Cross parish, Leicester

Fr. Albert-Marie Crignion FSVF
Doctor designatus of Theology

Robert de Mattei
Professor of History of Christianity, European University of Rome

Cyrille Dounot JCL
Professor of Law, the University of Auvergne
Ecclesiastical advocate, archdiocese of Lyon

Fr. Neil Feguson OP, MA, BD
Lecturer in sacred Scripture, Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford

Dr. Alan Fimister STL, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology, St. John Vianney Seminary, archdiocese of Denver

Luke Gormally
Director Emeritus, The Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics
Sometime Research Professor, Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ordinary Member, The Pontifical Academy for Life

Carlos A. Casanova Guerra
Doctor of Philosophy, Full Professor of Universidad Santo Tomas de Chile

Rev. Brian W. Harrison OS, MA, STD
Associate Professor of Theology (retired), Pontifical University of Puerto Rico; Scholar-in-Residence, Oblates of Wisdom Study Center, St. Louis, Missouri; Chaplain, St. Mary of Victories Chapel, St. Louis, Missouri

Rev. Simon Henry BA (Hons), MA
Parish priest of the archdiocese of Liverpool

Rev. John Hunwicke
Former Senior Research Fellow, Pusey House, Oxford; Priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Peter A. Kwasniewski PhD, Philosophy
Professor, Wyoming Catholic College

Dr. John R.T. Lamont STL, D.Phil

Fr. Serafino M. Lanzetta, PhD
Lecturer in Dogmatic Theology, Theological Faculty of Lugano, Switzerland
Priest in charge of St. Mary's, Gosport, in the diocese of Portsmouth

Dr. Anthony McCarthy
Visiting Lecturer in Moral Philosophy at the International Theological Institute, Austria

Rev. Stephen Morgan D.Phil (Oxon)
Lecturer & Tutor in Theology, Maryvale Higher Institute of Religious Sciences

Don Alfredo Morselli STL
Parish priest of the archdiocese of Bologna

Rev. Richard A. Munkelt PhD
Chaplain and Faculty Member, Roman Forum

Fr. Aidan Nichols OP, PhD
Formerly John Paul II Lecturer in Roman Catholic Theology, University of Oxford
Prior of the Convent of St. Michael, Cambridge

Fr. Robert Nortz MMA, STL
Director of Studies, Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, Massachusetts (Maronite)

Rev. John Osman MA, STL
Parish priest in the archdiocese of Birmingham, former Catholic chaplain to the University of Cambridge

Christopher D. Owens STL (Cand.)
Adjunct Instructor, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, St. John's University (NYC)
Director, St. Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies

Rev. David Palmer MA
Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
Chair of Marriage and Family Life Commission, Diocese of Nottingham

Dr. Paolo Pasqualucci
Professor of Philosophy (retired), University of Perugia

Dr. Claudio Pierantoni
Professor of Medieval Philosophy in the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Chile
Former Professor of Church History and Patrology at the Faculty of Theology of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Member of the International Association of Patristic Studies

Fr. Anthony Pillari JCL (Cand.)
Priest of the archdiocese of San Antonio, chaplain to Carmelite nuns

Prof. Enrico Maria Radaelli
International Science and Commonsense Association (ISCA)
Department of Metaphysics of Beauty and Philosophy of Arts, Research Director

Dr. John C. Rao D.Phil (Oxford)
Associate Professor of History, St. John's University (NYC)
Chairman, Roman Forum

Fr. Reginald-Marie Rivoire FSVF
Doctor designatus of canon law

Rt. Rev. Giovanni Scalese CRSP, SThL, DPhil
Ordinary of Afghanistan

Dr. Joseph Shaw
Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St. Benet's Hall, Oxford University

Dr. Anna M. Silvas FAHA
Adjunct research fellow, University of New England, NSW, Australia

Michael G. Sirilla, PhD
Professor of Systematic and Dogmatic Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Professor Dr. Thomas Stark
Phil.-Theol. Hochschule Benedikt XVI, Heiligenkreuz

Rev. Glen Tattersall
Parish priest, Parish of Bl. John Henry Newman, archdiocese of Melbourne
Rector, St. Aloysius' Church

Giovanni Turco
Professor of the Philosophy of Public Law, University of Udine

Fr. Edmund Waldstein OCist.
Vice-Rector of the Leopoldinum seminary and lecturer in moral theology at the Phil.-Theol. Hochschule Benedikt XVI, Heiligenkreuz

Nicholas Warembourg
Professeur agrege des facultes de droit
Ecole de Droit de la Sorbonne - Universite Paris 1

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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