(CNSNews.com) -- In a detailed, 20-page, "Open Letter" to all the bishops of the Catholic Church, a group of Catholic scholars, theologians, and clergy have declared that Pope Francis is "guilty of the crime of heresy," and have called on the bishops to investigate the case presented in their letter so they might "free the Church from her present distress."
The scholars note that this process began in 2016 when a group of Catholics wrote a private letter to the cardinals about Pope Francis' alleged heresies in his document Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). As scandal continued, a "filial correction" was sent to the Pope, which he did not answer. A second letter and petition was made public in 2017, and now there is the Open Letter.
"The present Open letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church goes a stage further in claiming that Pope Francis is guilty of the crime of heresy," state the scholars and clergymen. "This crime is committed when a Catholic knowingly and persistently denies something which he knows that the Church teaches to be revealed by God."
"Taken together, the words and actions of Pope Francis amount to a comprehensive rejection of Catholic teaching on marriage and sexual activity, on the moral law, and on grace and the forgiveness of sins," the letter reads, as first reported by LifeSiteNews.com.
They further state, "The Open letter also indicates the link between this rejection of Catholic teaching and the favour shown by Pope Francis to bishops and other clergy who have either been guilty of sexual sins and crimes, such as former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, or who have protected clergy guilty of sexual sins and crimes, such as the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels."
"This protection and promotion of clerics who reject Catholic teaching on marriage, sexual activity, and on the moral law in general, even when these clerics personally violate the moral and civil law in horrendous ways, is consistent enough to be considered a policy on the part of Pope Francis," reads the letter. "At the least it is evidence of disbelief in the truth of Catholic teaching on these subjects."
"It also indicates a strategy to impose rejection of these teachings on the Church, by naming to influential posts individuals whose personal lives are based on violation of these truths," state the theologians.
A heretical papcy "must be corrected," they write.
"The authors respectfully request the bishops of the Church to investigate the accusations contained in the letter, so that if they judge them to be well founded, they may free the Church from her present distress, in accordance with the hallowed adage, Salus animarum prima lex (‘the salvation of souls is the highest law’)," they state in a summary of the letter. "They can do this by admonishing Pope Francis to reject these heresies, and if he should persistently refuse, by declaring that he has freely deprived himself of the papacy."
Citing Canon Law, the law that governs the Church, the scholars write, "While this Open letter is an unusual, even historic, document, the Church’s own laws say that 'Christ's faithful have the right, and, indeed, sometimes the duty, according to their knowledge, competence, and dignity, to manifest to the sacred pastors their judgement about those things which pertain to the good of the Church' (Code of Canon Law, canon 212.3)."
Two of the letter signers are Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP and Professor John Rist. Fr. Nichols is one of the most respected theologians in the English-speaking world and the author of many books on theology. Prof. Rist is known for his work in classical philosophy and the history of theology; he has taught at the Augustinianum in Rome, the Catholic University of America, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.