Bishop trumps Cardinal: McElroy labelled a heretic


US Cardinal Robert McElroy is a heretic, hints a US Catholic bishop in an essay called ‘Imagining a Heretical Cardinal’.

In his ‘First Things’ magazine article, conservative prelate and canon lawyer Thomas Paprocki (pictured) cites an unnamed cardinal’s views on how the Church should minister to LGBTQ people and divorced and remarried Catholics.

While he doesn’t name Cardinal Robert McElroy, Paprocki quotes directly from a 24 January article the cardinal wrote for America magazine.

In it, McElroy called for a Church that favours “radical inclusion” of everyone, regardless of circumstances and conformance with Church doctrine.

To back his views, Paprocki’s essay cites several passages in the Code of Canon Law and draws on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and St Pope John Paul II’s Ad Tuendam Fidem (“To Protect the Faith”).

Pointing to these, he said anyone who denies “settled Catholic teaching” on issues like homosexuality and “embraces heresy” is automatically excommunicated from the Church.

The pope has the authority and the obligation to remove a heretical cardinal from office, or dismiss outright from the clerical state, Paprocki wrote.

Referencing McElroy’s critique of “a theology of eucharistic coherence that multiplies barriers to the grace and gift of the eucharist,” Paprocki claimed: “Unfortunately, it is not uncommon today to hear Catholic leaders affirm unorthodox views that, not too long ago, would have been espoused only by heretics.”

Although McElroy and Paprocki were both available for comment, in a 28 February interview Paprocki said he did not intend to single out a particular cardinal for criticism. Rather, he “intended the discussion to be more rhetorical.

“I think the reason I did this is because this debate has become so public at this point that it seems to have passed beyond the point of just some private conversations between bishops.”

The bishop’s explanation struck some observers as disingenuous.

Jesuit Fr Tom Reese, a journalist who has covered the US bishops for decades, says Paprocki’s essay reflects deep divisions in the US Catholic hierarchy, plus a level of public animosity, open disagreement and strident rhetoric among bishops.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI would not have tolerated it, he says.

“On the other hand, there wouldn’t have been this kind of discussion under John Paul II because the Vatican would have shut it down.

“Francis has opened the Church up for discussion again and [conservative bishops] just don’t like it. They’re trying to shut it down by using this kind of inflammatory rhetoric, even against cardinals,” Reese said.

Cathleen Kaveny, a law and theology professor, says Paprocki “should know better as a canon lawyer” than to accuse someone of heresy – which is a formal charge.

Paprocki is running together statements and teachings of different levels of authority in the Church and claiming any disagreement amounts to heresy. “And that’s just false,” Kaveny says.

“The underlying question … is whether development in church doctrine can take place.

“I would recommend people read John Henry Newman on that, and look at the history of the church’s teaching on usury while they’re at it.”


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