Papal critics threatened with excommunication as “Year of Mercy” begins

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Fisichella and FrancisArchbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, has stirred controversy by suggesting that some criticisms of Pope Francis might result in automatic excommunication.

Archbishop Fisichella made his remarks while explaining how Pope Francis’s new “Missionaries of Mercy” will operate. The 800 “missionaries” will have the power to absolve from penalties previously reserved to the Holy See.

In reference to Canon 1370, which imposes automatic excommunication for “physical violence” against the Roman Pontiff, Archbishop Fisichella said:

“I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”

Archbishop Fisichella’s comments will be interpreted by many as an attempt to silence faithful Catholics who are deeply concerned by the direction currently being taken by those who hold offices at the highest levels of the Church. Serious concerns have been raised over the last two and half years concerning:

In the face of these and other scandals Catholics have not only the right but also the duty to offer respectful, but forceful, criticism. This grave duty is outlined in Canons 211 and 212 of the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 211 All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land.

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

Voice of the Family is confident that Catholics at every level of the Church will continue to fulfil their duty of defending the Catholic faith throughout the “Year of Mercy” and during the years ahead.