December 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The four cardinals who have been chastised by top Catholic leaders for asking Pope Francis to clarify if his Exhortation Amoris Laetitia conforms to Catholic teaching join the singular ranks of a number of faithful bishops and cardinals who have faced excommunication, demotion, and censure from popes because of their faithfulness to the truths of the faith.
The four stand accused of being “troublesome,” in need of “conversion,” of committing “apostasy” and “scandal,” of giving the pope a “slap in the face,” of creating “difficulty and division,” and of crossing a line into “dissent” for respectfully following a standard procedure within the Church to settle questions about the pope’s interpretation of Catholic teaching regarding marriage, admittance to Holy Communion, and the role of conscience in moral decisions.
It was not only high ranking prelates who criticized the Cardinals for asking questions. Pope Francis himself offered veiled criticism of them in an Avvenireinterview following the release of the dubia.
Under Francis, Cardinal Burke – the lone dubia signer who is not retired – has been removed from numerous key positions, including his role at the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Divine Worship, but most especially from his assignment as prefect of the Vatican’s highest court.
But if history has anything to say about the chastisement Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner are currently experiencing, it is that being faithful to the truth, often purchased at a great personal cost, wins out in the end. The following are three historical examples of faithful prelates who were wrongly censured by various popes after they refused to budge from the true faith. In every case, faithfulness to the truth won out in the end and the faithful prelates were vindicated.
The ‘Father of Orthodoxy’ who was condemned by a pope for remaining faithful
St. Athanasius, hailed as the “greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known” and revered as the “Father of Orthodoxy,” was allegedly condemned by Pope Liberius in the fourth century after the pope was induced to sign an ambiguous formula that supported the Arian heresy which Athanasius vigorously opposed (it remains unknown to this day what doctrinal formula the pope signed).
The bishop Athanasius, who would become a Doctor of the Church, writes that the Arians relentlessly schemed to draw Pope Liberius into their nets, calculating that if they could but persuade the pontiff to join their side, all existing opposition would fail and they would soon have everyone supporting their notion that Jesus of Nazareth was not truly God, but was created by and is therefore subordinate to the Father.
But the Arians did not count on the faithfulness of Athanasius. He defended Jesus as true God and true man. He held firm to the faith as handed down from the Apostles, even when he was condemned by the pope and suffered exile up to five times (17 years) by various rulers because of his orthodoxy.
Writes Butler in his Lives of the Saints: “The greatest man of his age and one of the greatest religious leaders of any age, Athanasius of Alexandria rendered services to the Church the value of which can scarcely be exaggerated, for he defended the faith against almost overwhelming odds and emerged triumphant.
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