Whilst my readers are, generally speaking, a pretty intelligent bunch, there are always people lurking here who seem to lack the ability to connect the dots and think long-term. For their benefit, and for the instruction of the (sadly) non-Catholic, it is fitting to reiterate why the correction is so important.
Truth cannot be changed. Doctrine, properly intended, cannot be changed either. Catholics will always be held to Truth, no matter what Francis says, because Francis cannot dispose of what is not his. There has never been, and there will never be, the possibility for the faithful to follow a doctrine they must know is wrong merely because the priest, the bishop, the cardinal or the pope say so.
However, the job of the clergy is to help the faithful to properly instruct themselves and their conscience, and to be good shepherds of the sheep entrusted to them. They have, therefore, the grave responsibility of denouncing heresy wherever it may come from. Not, mind, in order to avoid that the faithful are justified in being heretical (they never are) but in order to help them to stay out of trouble.
Now, doctrine will not change whether the correction comes or not, and no one will be justified in thinking that truth has suddenly changed. However, if no correction comes all future generations will be witness of the greatest betrayal of the sheep ever perpetrated by their own shepherds, and the latter's silence will shame them for all centuries to come. If, on the other hand, the correction does come, this will make it far more difficult for those seeking excuses to hide behind the finger of Francis' satanical “mercy”, and the posterity will record with at least a modicum of satisfaction that when the crisis was at its top, at least some Cardinals (and those who will follow them if they take the lead) had some Catholicism left in them.
The Church's existence is not at stake because the Church is indefectible. Truth is also not at stake because Truth is unchangeable. Souls are – ultimately – also not at stake because – ultimately – God does not allow Francis and his troops of atheists, heretics, perverts and cowards to decide who goes to hell.
What is at stake is the reputation of this disgraceful generation of our clergy, and the way it will be seen by God above and by all the generations after us: as an absolutely total disgrace without any hint of redemption and any extenuating circumstances, or as an almost total disgrace with a minority of voices ready and willing to fight for Christ. In our lifetime, the correction would deal a mortal blow to Francis' reputation, absolutely blowing his papacy in the air and shaming its the incinerated rests for all millennia to come.
If I were any one of the four Cardinals I would have very, very uneasy nights, knowing that whilst the Catholic world and all Catholic posterity are waiting for me to do my job I have been pathetically meowing for more than a year. Which, in the age of instant information, is a very long time indeed. And I am not sure that, if these four refuse to do their job, their punishment in hell will not be worse than the one meted to the silent cowards; then in my book, a silent coward is still not as bad as a grandstanding one.
I read around other blogs comments which ask what would be the use of the correction, seen that Francis will not change his mind or his policy afterwards.
This is tantamount to asking what good it was to condemn Luther's heresies, seen that Luther did not change his mind or policy afterwards.
Truth must be defended irrespective of immediate consequences. It must be defended to encourage the faithful of this generation, and to serve as a witness to faithful of all generations to come.
In the present times, countless good Catholic will feel a great consolation in knowing that they have not been left entirely alone by their clergy. In future centuries, it will be known that, when the rot within the Church was so deep that even Popes were not ashamed to support – if not openly proclaim – heresy, at least some of the Princes of the Church had the guts to stand up for Truth.
There is in the history of the Church a period that is given little attention, but in my opinion was absolutely devastating at the time: the period between Pope Honorius' heretical statement and his death first, and the condemnation of his heresies second. Honorius had given support to the heresy of Monothelitism in 635, with a letter clearly intended to be circulated and to end a controversy. Heresy was, at this point, openly defended. A materially heretical Pope was, at that time, sitting on the throne of Peter.
To my knowledge there was, at the time, not only no convocation of a council to depose the Pope, but also no open confrontation with him and refusal to accept his authority in everything pertaining to his heresy. There was, in short, not only no ecumenical council, but even no Athanasius willing to go against the flow of acquiescence to papal heresy. This went on for three years.
This situation (of a heretical Pope not officially censured) did not end in 638, when the Pope died unchallenged und en-deposed. In fact, the official condemnation of the man as heretic only came more than four decades later, in 680. However, between 638 and 680 we know of continued confrontations between the promoters of the heresy and Rome, with all Popes after Honorius firmly on the side of truth.
Still, the fact remains: a Pope intervenes in a controversy openly supporting a heretical position, and he neither deposed nor (for what I know) denounced as heretic. What a stunning challenge to the faith, what shockingly turbulent times, and without an Athanasius to challenge his Pope Liberius!
We need our Athanasius. We need witnesses for Truth among our Bishops and Cardinals. It does not matter much (though I would love it) if Francis is or is not deposed by an ecumenical council in the end. But it matters that all faithful of this and all future generations know that when the going got tough, tough bishops and cardinals got going.
Today, we cannot mention Liberius without remembering Athanasius. Athanasius stands tall as the man who exposed error not forty years later, but whilst it was happening. As the heresy reared its ugly head, the hero arose to challenge it. But we have no Athanasius for the time of Honorius. Honorius lived three years after his letter, and I have no knowledge of any Athanasius. What a shame.
We are now repeating the situation in the times of Honorius: a Pope (at least materially) promotes heretical positions and we have no more than rumblings, rumblings which must certainly have existed also in the time of Honorius because they aren't dangerous. But those willing to stand up and openly proclaim the faith against papal sponsored heresy, we do not have them.
Cardinal Burke & Co. are in front of a choice: to be the Athanasius of our time or to remain silent in a time of heresy openly proclaimed and shamelessly spread. They have failed all of us up to now. They actually give the impression that they would have liked to be like Athanasius if it could have been done without risk, but have decided to revert to the behaviour of Honorius' bishops when it became clear they do not have the support they thought they had. Paper tigers, the four of them.
Athanasius did not wonder how many would follow him. His famous contra mundum statement is the most glorious example of faith defended no matter what the consequences. Athanasius was a giant.
Do we live in times of Giants or Dwarves?
I fear I know the answer, but I would love to be proved wrong.