Dangerously close to heresy

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput publishes wide-ranging criticism of the Instrumentum Laboris for upcoming Youth Synod, says it comes close to heresies of naturalism, Lutheranism, and relativism

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia celebrates Mass Aug. 4 at the Knights of Columbus 133rd Supreme Convention in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Matthew Barrick, Knights of Columbus)

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has published a wide-ranging criticism of the Instrumentum Laboris (a kind of introduction or preamble) for the upcoming Synod on the Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.

In an introductory paragraph, Chaput explains that the analysis was “received from a respected North American theologian”. The article, which appears in First Things, warns that the Instrumentum veers dangerously close to heresy – specifically the heresies of naturalism, Lutheranism, and relativism.

It begins by criticizing its “naturalist” understanding of modern sexual dysfunction: widespread promiscuity, online pornography, and the like. “The document laments only its ‘disfiguring the beauty and depth of affective and sex life’,” he writes. “No mention is made about the disfigurement of the soul, its consequent spiritual blindness, and impact on the reception of the Gospel by one so wounded.”

He also claims the document exhibits an “inadequate grasp of the Church’s spiritual authority”, denying her role as a teaching authority. According to the Instrumentum: “The Church will opt for dialogue as her style and method… No vocation, especially within the Church, can be placed outside this ongoing dynamism of dialogue.” According to the theologian, this amounts to saying: “The Church does not possess the truth but must take its place alongside other voices”.

Were the Church to abandon her ministry of preaching, that is, were the roles of the teaching Church and the listening Church to be inverted, the hierarchy itself would be inverted, and the ministerial priesthood would collapse into the baptismal priesthood. In short, we would become Lutherans,” he continues.

Finally, he accuses the Instrumentum of taking a “relativistic conception of vocation”. He quotes the document’s references to “personal holiness” and one’s “own truth”, adding bluntly: “This is relativism”. Moreover, he warns against the “false humility” of prioritizing “accompaniment” over that of preaching. This, he says, “gives the impression that absolute truth is not found in God.”

Back in August, Chaput asked Pope Francis to postpone the Synod itself. Right now, the bishops would have absolutely no credibility in addressing this topic,” the archbishop said at an August 30 conference at Philadelphia’s St Charles Borromeo Seminary, according to a report published on the archdiocese website. In its place, Archbishop Chaput suggested that the Pope “begin making plans for a synod on the life of bishops”.


  1. The number one objective of the synod is to provide a foundation for the approval of sodomy. Think they care about heresy? We’re way past that.

    • Well said AB they care nothing about Church teaching, I hope this causes a schism an purifies the Church

      • Steve Seitz says:

        The Church will be capable of repair ONLY as long as there isn’t a schism. On the other hand, a large schism would causes permanent and lasting damage because the people who are necessary to repair the Church will have left. I, myself, will not be leaving.

      • Please give ONE example of a schism that purified the Church.

        • Knowing that the homo mafia will not be in the Church anymore will make it purified.

          • Steve Seitz says:

            That isn’t an example of a schism that purified the Church.

            That also doesn’t explain how a large cabal that spent a lifetime acquiring power will voluntarily relinquish power.

          • The Church needs purifying, but homosexuality is just one sin. There are a lot more.

          • You want the Church the purified TAKE THE POWER FROM THEM… BY ALL MEANS AVAILABLE, I mean ALL

    • Sodomy is grave sin. Don’t do it.

  2. Tony de New York says:

    GOD bless Archbishop Charles Chaput.

  3. God Bless Archbishop Chaput, a faithful Catholic, a great Church leader.

  4. I always am more than a little skeptical when the source is not named specifically.

  5. helen wheels says:

    I would re-write the article’s title
    from “Dangerously close to heresy”
    to : “DANGER ! Heresy !”

    • There is no such thing as “close to heresy”. Something is either heretical or it is not. There is no “close to heresy”, so the title is completely off base.

      • Steve Seitz says:

        If you’ve ever known a priest who reviewed books to render a “nihil obstat,” you’ll know that some books are easy to review while others are difficult to review and require clarification from the author. The reason is that the truth sometimes [or even often] is held in tension between two extremes. If a theologian verges too close to an extreme, he could easily slip into heresy.

        • But if it hasn’t “slipped into heresy”, it is not heretical. It is faithful or at least not objectionable.

          • There is error that is not heresy. Things can mislead. Like the Robert Barron “empty hell” video.

          • Steve Seitz says:

            Correct! But the title didn’t say that the Pope was guilty of heresy – only that he was approaching the limit.

          • Steve, dogma isn’t a quantitative thing. There aren’t yard lines by which we can say, “you are 4th and goal” or you have 23 yards to go. Either your foot lands within the limits of an unmeasurable field, or it is outside the limits.

            formeranon – you are right, there is error that is not heresy. That doesn’t make it “close to heresy”. If I say, there is no climate change, I would be in error, but I wouldn’t be in heresy. If I say Christ was a man 4’10” tall, I might be in error, but that’s not heresy or close to heresy, even if 4’10” was the average height of a woman in those days. The very word “close” implies something that you can measure. How do you measure orthodoxy or heresy? In feet? In souls? In galaxies?

          • It’s not about the Pope.

  6. Elizabeth T. says:

    AB Chaput is in the category of Cardinal Burke as being a ‘True Shepherd’ of the Church. He is also
    the ‘real deal’.

  7. Jim in Perth says:

    I agree with the other commentators here that the Church leadership has by and large lost its way and is dangerously close to heresy. I formerly lived in Philadelphia and likewise applaud Archbishop Chaput for his courage in speaking the truth.

  8. Who is the theologian who consulted with the good Archbishop for this article? I suspect it may be Father Weinandy. Chaput is positioning himself to be elevated to the cardinalate by the next pope who undoubtedly will be a conservative in the mold of Pope John Paul II.

    • How will the next pope be conservative? Francis has stacked the college with enough like-minded men to elect Francis II.

      • Steve Seitz says:

        After 35 years of Popes John Paul and Benedict, the College of Cardinals elected Francis. It’s difficult to predict what a conclave might do.

    • I think the point of IL is that good ole Pray Pay and Obey Catholicism is not going to work with the young. It has only worked on about 40% of the old. But we have to change how we approach the young.
      I know a young man who is a dedicated Catholic and attends a Newman list Catholic college. One teacher told his class that the kids whose parents taught them “attend Mass or you will be committing a mortal sin” are the one who stop going to Mass and the kids whose parents taught them “God loves you and attending Mass is how you show HIm you love Him” continue attending.

      • It all depends on the young person and the situation. Some can be reach with honey; others need a good “kick in the seat of the pants”. To put all young people in the same category is just as silly as to put all middle-aged and older people in the same category. It took a good “kick in the seat of the pants” when I was younger to bring me back. One of my relatives came out of the confessional in tears one time, but was a changed person. Evidently that priest had “read that relative the riot act”.

        • Have you read the IL?

          • I have no idea what the lL is.

            I just want to clarify that a “kick in the seat of the pants” and “read the riot act” are just terms for using strong language, not vulgar but strong. It does not mean that one hits a child or person. That priest, who later saved my life, certainly did not hit me. It seems that some politicians like to twist people’s words to get unfair advantage over them, so I thought I would just clarify that.

          • The article above talks about the Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming Synod of Youth.

  9. Another carpet bagger convert with buyers’ remorse. Worried that you can’t continue to make a buck off your conversion story? Calling the Pope a heretic is called Protestantism. Buh bye.

    • I hope you are not talking about Archbishop Chaput. According to Wikipedia his father was a French Canadian who was descended from St. King Louis, and his mother was from the Potawatomii Native American tribe, and so is he. Not only is he as American as one can get, he also has a strong advocate in the heavenly realm. Be wary before you call names.

  10. Linda Maria says:

    Bless Archbishop Chaput! I think the Synod on Young People should be cancelled!


    Lord Jesus,
    in journeying towards the Synod,
    your Church turns her attention to all the young people in the world.
    We pray that they might boldly
    take charge of their lives,
    aim for the most beautiful and profound things of life
    and always keep their hearts unencumbered.

    Accompanied by wise and generous guides,
    help them respond to the call
    you make to each of them,
    to realize a proper plan of life
    and achieve happiness.
    Keep their hearts open to dreaming great dreams
    and make them concerned for the good of others.

    Like the Beloved Disciple,
    may they stand at the foot of the Cross,
    to receive your Mother as a gift from You.
    May they be witnesses to your Resurrection
    and be aware that you…

  12. Joseph D'Hippolito says:

    John Paul II was no “conservative,” not by a long shot. He appeased Islam, promoted syncretism, enabled sexual predators in the clergy (Maciel and McCarrick) and arbitrarily changed Catholic teaching on capital punishment for murder, thereby contradicting centuries of teaching from both Scripture and Tradition. That theological revisionism enabled Francis to declare capital punishment immoral on its face.

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