What is Fraternal Correction?
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews.” [Douay-Rheims bible translation, Galatians 2:14]
By John J. Arechiga
March 28, 2017
John J. Aréchiga is known to me to be a researcher of exceptional ability. For some time I have read the results of his research and at my urging he has agreed to allow me to publish several of his essays. This essay addresses a matter of critical importance to the Roman Catholic Church at this moment in its history. I publish this essay in the hope that it will contribute to the efforts of persons in the Church in authority who have the power to find solutions to the problems that currently afflict the Church.
+Rene Henry Gracida, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi
There is a time and place for fraternal correction – and you have to wonder whether this moment in history, this moment in time, is in need of fraternal correction.
The issue is not sedevacantism, schism, or the indefectibility of the Church. The issue is fraternal correction of scandalous Catholic Modernists. To what end fraternal correction? Preferably return of the prodigal sons – else excommunication.
What is fraternal correction? It is “Brother reproving a brother.” It usually involves a serious fault, either unknown as to gravity by the offender or hoped to be corrected by such admonition. It is an exercise of fraternal charity when commendably done. It should never be exercised merely for the sake of the offended, but mainly to help the offender or benefit a third party. In some religious communities it is a recognized form of fostering humility and a valuable aid to growing in Christian perfection. [Essentially Verbatim: Father John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 219]
You will find the basis for fraternal correction in scripture; in Summa Theologica, the principal doctrinal synthesis in Catholic theology; in an Apostolic Constitution; in the code of canon law; and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee: take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church (emphasis supplied). And if he will not hear the church: let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Douay-Rheims, New Testament, Saint Matthew 18: 15-18)
“Augustine says in his Rule: “Show mercy not only to yourselves, but also to him who, being in the higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger.” But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected (emphasis supplied).” (Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 33, Article 4)
“We have been weighed upon by the thought that a matter of this kind [i.e. error in respect of the Faith] is so grave and so dangerous that the Roman Pontiff (emphasis supplied), who is the representative upon earth of God and our God and Lord Jesus Christ, who holds the fullness of power over peoples and kingdoms, who may judge all and be judged by none in this world, may nonetheless be contradicted if he be found to have deviated from the Faith (emphasis supplied). Remembering also that, where danger is greater, it must more fully and more diligently be counteracted, We have been concerned lest false prophets or others, even if they have only secular jurisdiction, should wretchedly ensnare the souls of the simple, and drag with them into perdition, destruction and damnation countless peoples committed to their care and rule, either in spiritual or in temporal matters; and We have been concerned also lest it may befall Us to see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel, in the holy place. In view of this, Our desire has been to fulfil our Pastoral duty, insofar as, with the help of God, We are able, so as to arrest the foxes who are occupying themselves in the destruction of the vineyard of the Lord and to keep the wolves from the sheepfolds, lest We seem to be dumb watchdogs that cannot bark and lest We perish with the wicked husbandman and be compared with the hireling.” (Cum Ex Apostolic Officio, paragraph 1)
“According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they [Christian faithful] 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 (emphasis supplied), without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” [1983 CIC 212 §3]
“The fruits of charity are joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction (emphasis supplied); it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: “Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest.” [CCC 1829]
Before moving on it is very important to note that the quote from Cum Ex Apostolic Officio focuses on contradicting the pope – fraternal correction – and has nothing to do with sedevacantism, schism, or the indefectibility of the Church. Moving on…
Tell the Church? Who or what is the Church? Broadly defined, it is the faithful of the whole world. Since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has been defined as a union of human beings who are united by the profession of the same Christian faith, and by participation of and in the same sacraments under the direction of their lawful pastors, especially of the representative of Christ on earth, the Bishop of Rome. Each element in this definition is meant to exclude all others from actual and vital membership in the Catholic Church, namely apostates and heretics who do not profess the same Christian faith, non-Christians who do not receive the same Sacraments, and schismatics who are not submissive to the Church’s lawful pastors under the Bishop of Rome. [Essentially Verbatim: Father John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 105]
Arguably, any lay person, religious, priest, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal may raise the issue of fraternal correction:
Whoever raises the issue of fraternal correction must proceed carefully – and take one or two more with him, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.
The initial approach to the witnesses must be in strict confidence – to avoid scandal, especially scandal of the weak.
The scope of today’s issues requires far more than two or three witnesses. There is a time and place for fraternal correction – and you have to wonder whether this moment in history, this moment in time, is in need of fraternal correction.Fraternal correction is always the avenue of first recourse – even when considering contemporary controversial issues such as the Dubia and the papal election of Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis). To what end fraternal correction? Preferably return of the prodigal sons – else excommunication. That being said, it is written in the Old Testament prophecy of Isaias:
“And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here am I. Send me.” (Douay-Rheims, Old Testament, Isaias 6:8)
Today we must ask who will go first, who will raise the issue of fraternal correction, who will say:
“Lo, here am I. Send me.” Speak now or forever hold your peace!