A group of Catholic scholars, prelates and clergy have sent an appeal to the College of Cardinals asking that they petition Pope Francis to “repudiate” what they see as “erroneous propositions” contained in Amoris Laetitia.

In a statement released today, the 45 signatories of the appeal say Amoris Laetitia — the Pope’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation (summary document) on the recent Synod on the Family that was published in April — contains “a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals.”

The 13 page document, translated into six languages and sent to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals as well as 218 individual cardinals and patriarchs, quotes 19 passages in the exhortation which “seem to conflict with Catholic doctrines”.

The signatories — described as Catholic prelates, scholars, professors, authors, and clergy from various pontifical universities, seminaries, colleges, theological institutes, religious orders, and dioceses around the world — then go on to list “applicable theological censures specifying the nature and degree of the errors” contained in Amoris laetitia.

A theological censure is a judgment on a proposition concerning Catholic faith or morals as contrary to the faith or at least doubtful.

The statement says those who signed the appeal have asked the College of Cardinals, in their capacity as the Pope's official advisers, “to approach the Holy Father with a request that he repudiate the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true.”

“We are not accusing the Pope of heresy,” said Joseph Shaw, a signatory of the appeal who is also acting as spokesman for the authors, “but we consider that numerous propositions in Amoris laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.”

Such is the climate in much of today’s Church, one of the appeal's chief organizers told the Register that most of the signatories prefer to remain publicly anonymous, but known to the cardinals and bishops they are appealing to, because they “fear reprisals, or they are concerned about repercussions on their religious community, or if they have an academic career and a family, they fear they might lose their jobs.”

Among the problems they cite in the exhortation, the signatories believe Amoris laetitia “undermines” the Church’s teaching on admission to the sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. They also believe it contradicts the Church’s teaching that all commandments can be obeyed with God’s grace, and that certain acts are always wrong.

Shaw, an Oxford University academic, said the signatories hope that by “seeking from our Holy Father a definitive repudiation of these errors, we can help to allay the confusion already brought about by Amoris laetitia among pastors and the lay faithful."

That confusion, he added, “can be dispelled effectively only by an unambiguous affirmation of authentic Catholic teaching by the Successor of Peter.”

Various interpretations and criticisms of Amoris laetitia have followed its publication. In particular, cardinals have debated whether or not the document is magisterial.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, who presented the document in April, firmly believes it is, telling La Civilta Cattolica last week that there is “no lack of passages in the Exhortation that affirm their doctrinal value strongly and decisively.”

Cardinal Raymond Burke, however, believes the document contains passages that do not conform to the Church’s teaching and it is therefore non-magisterial, something Pope Francis “makes clear” in the text.

Last week, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia issued pastoral guidelines for implementing Amoris laetitia in which he clarified passages in the exhortation which appeared ambiguous in caring for the souls of Catholics living in difficult or objectively sinful situations.  Archbishop Chaput was part of the U.S. delegation of synod fathers at the Synod on the Family last October.