Canon 212 (paragraph 3) informs us that Christifideles (i.e., vide Canonem 207, both clerics and laics) have the ius immo et aliquando officium conformably with their scientia, competentia, et praestantia, "ut sententiam suam de his quae ad bonum Ecclesiae pertinent sacris Pastoribus manifestent" [Anglice "the right, and, indeed, sometimes the duty, according to their knowledge, competence, and dignity, to manifest to Sacred Shepherds their judgement about those things which pertain to the good of the Church"]. The text goes on to add that they also have this right and (even) duty to make their judgement known to the rest of the Christifideles.
Not long ago, as is well known, a group of 45 scholars, teachers, and pastors, wrote a Letter. (I emphasise that these people came from a wide variety of countries throughout the world: I emphasise this because I do not want what I am about to say to be narrowly construed as a criticism of any members of the English Church.) The Letter was addressed to each member of the Sacred College of Cardinals respectfully asking them to beg the Holy Father graciously to consider the clarification of certain parts of Amoris laetitia which have proved to be dangerously ambiguous. Cardinals, I think, count as Sacred Shepherds. This was a private letter (although its contents have unfortunately become public). Even if it had been a public letter, I do not see how it could have failed to enjoy the protection of Canon 212.
Dr Javier Hervada, sometime Professor of Canon Law at Navarra, comments on Canon 212: "The right of free speech and public opinion within the Church is acknowledged. Science, skill, and prestige are required to exercise the right justly or to give the corresponding moral obligation greater or less force. The basis of this right does not reside in these prerequisites but in the condition of being one of the faithful".
In the fourth year of this current pontificate, it is appropriate also to mention the insistently repeated calls of the Holy Father Pope Francis himself for Parrhesia [bold and free speaking] in the Church.
With regard to the paragraph which now follows below, I would like to make it very clear that I am not talking about myself or in any way describing or alluding to my own situation or any experience I have had.
Intimidation and cruel pressures have, it appears, been applied to persuade some of the signatories to the Letter to rescind their signatures.
Perhaps this may remind English readers of the occasion when, a couple of years ago, some 450 English clerics wrote an open letter with regard to the agenda of the Synod of Bishops, and it was reported in the public papers that intimidation had been applied to dissuade priests from signing. How those guilty of such worldly intimidation can think that their behaviour helps any cause in which they sincerely and Christianly believe, I simply do not even begin to understand. It all seems to me so much more like the actions of playground bullies than any conduct which could be appropriate between those whom the Lord called His Friends (philous; John 15:15).
I have not always agreed with everything this Holy Father has said and done. But I very much doubt whether he is complicit in this. There is such a pettiness about it.
I shall not entertain any comments or queries on this distressing subject, now or at any later time.
Footnote: Canon 212 also talks convincingly and appropriately about the obedientia necessary when Shepherds, as fidei magistri, make doctrinal declarations, or, as rulers of the Church, legislate (statuunt). In view of the opening paragraphs of Amoris laetitia, I do not get the impression that the Sovereign Pontiff is, in this Exhortation, claiming either to define dogma or to legislate.