The Donum Veritatis is a church document meant to guide the Ecclesial Vocation of Theologians and it also contains the evangelical guidelines in case a Theologian encounters difficulty in assenting to Church Teaching. The Donum Veritatis does not address the lay faithful who also were expressing dissent.
The Donum Veritatis was approved by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and signed by the Cardinal Ratzinger on May 24, 1990 (he was then the Prefect).
To answer the question
The significance of the Donum Veritatis is best seen in the outline of the document in addressing a Theological Dissent below;
Finally, in order to serve the People of God as well as possible, in particular, by warning them of dangerous opinions which could lead to error, the Magisterium can intervene in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements. It often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent.
The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule. It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. Here the theologian will need, first of all, to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the interventions which becomes clear from the nature of the documents, the insistence with which a teaching is repeated, and the very way in which it is expressed.(24)
When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free from all deficiencies. Bishops and their advisors have not always taken into immediate consideration every aspect or the entire complexity of a question. But it would be contrary to the truth, if, proceeding from some particular cases, one were to conclude that the Church's Magisterium can be habitually mistaken in its prudential judgments, or that it does not enjoy divine assistance in the integral exercise of its mission. In fact, the theologian, who cannot pursue his discipline well without a certain competence in history, is aware of the filtering which occurs with the passage of time. This is not to be understood in the sense of a relativization of the tenets of the faith. The theologian knows that some judgments of the Magisterium could be justified at the time in which they were made, because while the pronouncements contained true assertions and others which were not sure, both types were inextricably connected. Only time has permitted discernment and, after deeper study, the attainment of true doctrinal progress.
Even when collaboration takes place under the best conditions, the possibility cannot be excluded that tensions may arise between the theologian and the Magisterium. The meaning attributed to such tensions and the spirit with which they are faced are not matters of indifference. If tensions do not spring from hostile and contrary feelings, they can become a dynamic factor, a stimulus to both the Magisterium and theologians to fulfill their respective roles while practicing dialogue.
In the dialogue, a two-fold rule should prevail. When there is a question of the communion of faith, the principle of the "unity of truth" (unitas veritatis) applies. When it is a question of differences which do not jeopardize this communion, the "unity of charity" (unitas caritatis) should be safeguarded.
Even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions. Respect for the truth as well as for the People of God requires this discretion (cf. Rom 14:1-15; 1 Cor 8; 10: 23-33 ) . For the same reasons, the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression to them.
The preceding considerations have a particular application to the case of the theologian who might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him wellfounded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching.
Such a disagreement could not be justified if it were based solely upon the fact that the validity of the given teaching is not evident or upon the opinion that the opposite position would be the more probable. Nor, furthermore, would the judgment of the subjective conscience of the theologian justify it because conscience does not constitute an autonomous and exclusive authority for deciding the truth of a doctrine.
In any case there should never be a diminishment of that fundamental openness loyally to accept the teaching of the Magisterium as is fitting for every believer by reason of the obedience of faith. The theologian will strive then to understand this teaching in its contents, arguments, and purposes. This will mean an intense and patient reflection on his part and a readiness, if need be, to revise his own opinions and examine the objections which his colleagues might offer him.
If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian's part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.
In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the "mass media", but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.
The full text of Donum Veritatis is available on the Vatican website.
Taking the words "the theologian should avoid turning to the "mass media", this had been the error if we cite the petitioner "Correctio Filialis" and also the "Dubia Cardinals" who use the media to express a contradictory view. Beyond that, some of the Dissenters even accused Pope Francis of teaching heresy which clearly violated the evangelical guidelines of Donum Veritatis.
It is worth mentioning Cardinal Caffara's words whom before his death met Pope Francis and reconciled. Cardinal Caffara's words is an important reminders to all Bishops who are openly opposing the Pope approved Magisterial Teaching.
«I was born Papist, I lived as a Papist, and I mean to die a Papist! If a Bishop has a thought contrary to that of the Pope» – he concluded: «he must go away, but really he must go away from the diocese. Because he would lead the faithful into a path that is not the one of Jesus Christ anymore. Therefore, he would lose himself eternally and would risk the eternal loss of the faithful».
Card. Caffarra: «Let who is against the Pope go away; he will lose himself»
In this article written by Dawn Eden Goldstein and Robert L. Fastiggi describes the failure of petitioner of Correctio Filialis and the Dubia Cardinals to adhere to evangelical guidelines written in Donum Veritatis.
The supporters of the Correctio and other critics of Amoris laetitia often try to contrast what Pope Francis says in this exhortation to teachings of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It is interesting, therefore, to note that many of these same critics fail to follow the guidelines for theologians published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1990 when John Paul II was pope and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, was prefect of the CDF. These guidelines are contained in the instruction, Donum veritatis (Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian) (3) — a document that traditionalist opponents of Amoris laetitia, such as Dr. Peter Kwasniewski (4), ironically claim to hold in high esteem.
Donum veritatis was issued to explain the need for Catholic theologians to maintain communion with the Magisterium of the Church. Building upon Vatican II’s Lumen gentium §37 and Canon 212§3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Donum veritatis does recognize that theologians might have problems with certain magisterial teachings (5). If these problems persist, “the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented (6).” The theologian, however, “should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties (7).”
Critics of Amoris laetitia might argue that, in making their petitions to the Pope and signing the Correctio filialis, they are doing exactly what Donum veritatis charges them to do. In what follows, we hope to show that the critics of Amoris laetitia have not properly followed the guidelines set forth in that document.
Donum veritatis §24 instructs theologians “to assess accurately the authoritativeness of the [magisterial] interventions (8). The Correctio filialis fails to do this. Instead, it catalogues comments made by Pope Francis in press conferences, private letters, etc., without taking into account the authoritativeness of these statements and their context (9). It also cites statements by papal associates and appointees.
In loading down their petition with cherry-picked statements bearing little or no magisterial authority, the Correctio authors seem intent upon discrediting the Holy Father and his intentions. Can such an approach truly reflect “an evangelical spirit” and “a profound desire to resolve the difficulties” with Amoris laetitia (10)?
Pope’s critics ignore Ratzinger’s rules for theological discourse
In closing, the theological dissenters of Amoris Laetetia is also applicable to those theologians who also expressed opposition to changes in the CCC 2267 Death Penalty Doctrinal changes approved by Pope Francis which the Congregation of Doctrine of Faith upheld does not contradicts any previous teachings.
It is also worth mentioning Pope Francis calling all the Dissenters to conversion as the key to enlighten their confusions. Why conversion? It is biblical citing the Great Dubia of all the Apostles in the Bread of Life discourse on which all of them are tempted to leave Jesus Christ too.
Did Jesus clarified the Great Dubia that the apostles experienced? NO!
Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit role is to pour out Her Sevenfold Gifts and this is the key to clear out the confusions. But, the Apostles can only receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon conversion. And so, we can see in the Book of Acts that the Theotokos led all the Apostles in the spirit of prayer and conversion to prepare their hearts for the gifts. The Pentecost experience is the key and all the Apostles were enlighten as they become docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, Pope Francis imploring conversion to all Dissenters pointed clearly to biblical experienced of the Apostles and must be heed. As the Church Tradition in Luke 10:16 teaches:
"The voice of Peter is the Voice of Christ and whoever reject the voice of Pope Francis rejected the Voice of Christ Himself." (Luke 10:16)