IN MY HUMBLE OBSERVATION, IN COMPARING THE LIBERAL DISSENTERS TO PREVIOUS POPES, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO DISSENTED FROM HUMANAE VITAE, AND TRADITIONALIST DISSENTER OF THE CURRENT POPE WHO SUPPORT ORTHODOXY AS IT IS NON GNOSTIC, TO BE FOUND IN THE OPEN FOR ANYONE TO DISCOVER AND KNOW, AND NOT HIDDEN EXCEPT FOR AN ELITE FEW BE THAT THE POPE OR ANY OTHER GNOSTIC SEERER, IS LIKE MIXING APPLES 🍎 AND ORANGES 🍊.
FROM THE VATICAN INSIDER, LONG BUT READ IT ALL, SOUNDS LIKE WHAT PROGRESSIVES DID TO CATHOLICS RIGHT AFTER VATICAN II:
The Amoris Laetitia Dissenters
The Murky World of Distorting Facts, Creating
False Arguments and Sowing Confusion
The exhortation Amoris laetitia
Pubblicato il 04/01/2018
Ultima modifica il 04/01/2018 alle ore 10:44
If loyal Catholics around the world had hoped that the news of Pope Francis’ decision to raise the Buenos Aires Bishops’ Amoris Laetitia guidelines to the level of “authentic magisterium” would bring to an end the dissent, then they were sadly mistaken. If anything, the dissenters have dug their heels in even more. Whereas at one time it was traditionalists and certain conservatives who looked accusingly at liberals for allowing the “smoke of Satan” to enter the Church, the finger is firmly pointing in the opposite direction now.
The most poisonous aspect of this dissent– causing us to question where exactly it originates from– is that it chooses to ignore what the Pope has clearly taught and seeks to create confusion by making claims that are without any foundation. It also appears to be moving the goalposts on what constitutes the ordinary magisterium, Tradition and the dogma of the indefectible nature of the Church. What is more, there is an arrogance and condescending clericalism from certain priests, theologians and canon lawyers toward ordinary Catholics who dare to defend the Holy Father.
If we look at various examples of this dissent, a clear picture emerges that does not seem interested in the entire Truth of what the Church teaches.
Take for instance the correctio filialis. The signatories claimed the Pope (through words deeds or omissions) denied Trent’s teaching that God always offers sufficient grace to keep the Commandments. Of course the Pope never said any such thing; in fact Francis actually teaches “For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace” (Al 295).
They also claim that the Holy Father directly or indirectly denies the doctrine of mortal sin; again a completely false accusation. Pope Francis has never once stated this in any teaching; in fact in Amoris Laetitia he refers to mortal sin, and on several occasions has warned of the reality of hell. (Most notably to the Mafia in 2014, and during his homily in Fatima on May 13, 2017).
Anyone familiar with EWTN over the years will know of its faithfulness to the magisterium of the Pope. Mother Angelica its founder was a great servant of the Lord and taught obedience to the Pope as an essential aspect of Catholic life. However anyone who has followed Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over” in the past several years will by now be all too familiar with its disgraceful attitude toward Pope Francis and the deliberate attempt to frame his papacy as a rupture from the past. Take for instance Fr Gerald Murray, a canon lawyer from the Archdiocese of New York who stated on the 28th September 2017 edition that adultery is always a mortal sin “we cannot go by moral theology which minimises the gravity of that offence.” Fr Murray either doesn’t know what is taught in the Catechism, Veritatis Splendor, and various documents of the CDF or he is choosing to ignore them creating a false magisterium that rejects the authentic magisterium in relation to moral theology, mortal sin and subjective guilt. The question is: if he does know these teachings (it has been pointed out to him), why give the false impression to every soul in these situations that they are definitely in mortal sin? Is that the Christian way of charity and mercy?
In that same episode, Dr Joseph Shaw, secretary of the correctio filialis was interviewed. He stated “ultimately what we want is an exercise of the papal magisterium.” Since the revelation in early December that the Buenos Aires guidelines are now fully magisterial, Dr Shaw has moved the goalposts to decide for himself what is and isn’t magisterial; the Oxford University lecturer basing this decision in part on the idea that the “guidelines are not entirely clear.” This reeks of a protestant mentality unfortunately. For EWTN, questions should be asked as to why defenders of Pope Francis and his magisterium are not invited on to explain carefully what Pope Francis has done and why. There is a very real danger that far from feeding Catholics spiritual nourishment, they are potentially creating a new conservative Catholicism that veers towards a schismatic stance through its false and harmful narrative.
Another of the false accusations or insinuations and one used by the dubia cardinals, the correctio signatories and most recently the three bishops of Kazakstan is that Pope Francis’ magisterium is now “approving or legitimizing” divorce and promoting adultery as a good option in some cases. Of course these dissenters cannot find one quote from the Holy Father to prove their contemptible claim, but has that made them pause to consider the morality of their actions? After nearly two years, it appears not.
Perhaps the most concerning manipulation of the truth however centres on marriage itself. The dissenters claim that the very indissolubility of marriage is being attacked. And yet where can the truth of this claim be found? In Amoris Laetitia, or perhaps in Pope Francis’ other magisterial writings? In truth nowhere; and I have yet to see any supporter of the Pope-even from a liberal base, who believes a valid sacramental marriage can be broken before death.
I agree totally with these dissenters on one thing. There is confusion. But this confusion has been caused not by the Pope, but by them, through the twisting and creation of false arguments that have been designed to unsettle the ordinary faithful and place Pope Francis in direct opposition to previous pontiffs. The Pope and those who have defended his magisterium have always been clear that the matter of Holy Communion for some divorced and remarried persons remains within a sinful situation (although that is questionable in cases where the conscience is convinced the first marriage was never valid and the second one is the true one– a thesis supported recently by Cardinal Muller) which does not ever approach the status of a sacramental marriage. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with diluting the doctrine on sacramental marriage; it has to do with the spiritual welfare of certain souls who find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances who respect the doctrines of the Church, and who desire to love Jesus and serve him as best they can.
If we look at canon law, there are several prominent lawyers who claim reception of Holy Communion is impossible because it contravenes canon 915, and that since the Holy Father has not altered this canon, he is either a) being misunderstood and never promoted what the bishops of Buenos Aires, Malta, Germany et al believed, or b) he has done so in an act of complete rupture with 2000 years of Catholic teaching-thus presumably flirting with formal heresy.
Yet there is the truth that canon law is not in conflict with this new disciplinary measure of the Pope, since canon 915 refers to “obstinate” and “persevering” manifest grave sinners. St Thomas Aquinas states that “an obstinate will can never be inclined except to evil.” When Canon 18 is taken into consideration (“Laws which prescribe a penalty, or restrict the free exercise of rights, or contain an exception to the law, are to be interpreted strictly”), we understand that the person excluded from sacramental Communion must be “obstinate” and “persevering” in their objective state. That is the “strict” interpretation of canon 915.
Pope Francis is clear in Amoris Laetitia that there can be great differences in the attitudes to some divorced and remarried. Those who flaunt their state (obstinate) must not be admitted, but those whose intention is to leave their state as soon as the situation allows, without adding more evil to the family environment, cannot be considered as obstinate sinners who are “always inclined to evil”, and thus through discernment in the internal forum, a path maybe opened to reception of Holy Communion. A further canon needs to be taken into consideration as well: no 17, in which the “mind of the legislator” (Pope Francis) interprets a law. I would suggest that the Pontiff’s interpretation of canon 915 is far more nuanced than those whose rigidity betrays a pharisaical intransigence to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Churches at this time. Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts seems to share this opinion also.
Since the issue of whether the Pope’s decision to allow certain divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist being magisterial or not has been cleared up, the question needs to be asked of the dissenters: where is your obedience to the authentic and living magisterium of the Church? Where does your opposition leave Pope Benedict XVI’s teaching that the “Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to the truth, to the authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from errors concerning faith and morals”? What of Pius XII who in Mystici Corporis Christi taught “They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth” and “for both the juridical mission of the Church, and the power to teach, govern and administer the Sacraments, derive their supernatural efficacy and force for the building up of the Body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine”?
In essence these questions point to one conclusion: that some Catholics including bishops and theologians are struggling to accept the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church won through the prayer of Jesus (Lk 22:32) expressed beautifully in the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution Pastor aeternus “this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”
Not only is this a very serious problem in itself, but it also suggests that there is genuine mistrust of the Holy Spirit’s ability and desire to ensure the magisterium does not go astray. As a consequence of this attitude, instead of opening one’s heart to God, asking for light to be shed on what Pope Francis is trying to do for the good of the Church and souls, some are retreating into an autonomous “magisterium” that feels secure in its own understanding of Catholicism.
In light of this disturbing reality, I believe it is worthwhile (and timely with the hoped for canonization of a great Pope later this year) to share passages from an address Blessed Paul VI gave on October 1 1966, to an International Congress on the Theology of Vatican II. I believe it is relevant not only for theologians who believe Pope Francis is erring on matters of faith and morals, but also bishops, priests and laity who share the same opinion.
In the address, Paul VI was keen to stress how theology and the magisterium share a common mission: They “seek to further the same purpose: to preserve the sacred deposit of Revelation; to look more deeply into it; to explain it, teach it and defend it.” However, he is clear on where the authority lay: “When the Church received its Founder’s mandate to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, it was set up as the absolutely trustworthy teacher of truth and endowed with the charism of indefectible truth, so that thus it might fulfil its mission properly. The Church is ever mindful of this fact, and it never ceases to proclaim that in the world it is the pillar and ground of truth.
In accordance with Christ’s divine will, however, the proximate universal norm of this indefectible truth is to be found only in the authentic magisterium of the Church.”
Further in words that certainly apply to Amoris Laetitia and the challenges of the future, Paul VI went on: “Its official task [the magisterium] is, first and foremost, to bear witness to the teaching received from the Apostles and hand it on, so that it might become the possession of the universal Church and of the whole human family; to maintain this doctrine completely free from errors and distortions; in the light of Divine Revelation to pass authoritative judgment on new teachings, and on the considerations proposed by theology as solutions to new questions; and finally, to authoritatively propose new and deeper investigations into Divine Revelation, and new adaptations of this Revelation to our times–which it, with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, judges to be in full accord with Christ’s teaching.”
Bl. Paul VI saw theology as a way to help God’s people evaluate their faith as actually lived and to bring it into harmony with the word of God and the doctrinal heritage handed down by the Church. He suggested that theology could “propose resolutions to questions which arise when this faith is compared with actual life, with history and with human inquiry.” In no way did he envisage sections of a theological community that we have today that seeks to undermine the authentic magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff; in fact he stated “to be sure, the magisterium could preserve and teach the faith without the help of theology.” Understood in this way, theologians and priests of today should be setting aside the temptations to “know better” and instead ask the Holy Spirit to free their minds and hearts so they can embrace the charism of Pope Francis and seek ways to help him respond to the challenges wrought by a secular and wounded society.
Pope Paul VI warned theologians that “if you depart from the magisterium in your search for truth and try to blaze your own personal trail, you will be in danger of becoming teachers without disciples, cut off from everyone else; of expending effort in vain, without bringing any benefits to the faithful; or even of moving off the right road, deciding to make your own judgment the norm of truth instead of respecting the sensus Ecclesia.” In even starker language he warned “such a decision would be ill-advised indeed, possibly giving rise to a sort of heresy or paving the way for heresy.” 
In conclusion, it seems to me a deep reflection on the understanding of the authentic magisterium is needed by the entire Church; a renewed appreciation of its role as the authoritative voice of Jesus Christ in the Church today. When Pope Francis clearly teaches as part of his magisterium that forgiveness in confession, and reception of Holy Communion can be given to certain souls after careful discernment, then those who had previously denied this possibility based on the mistaken idea that this was only a private opinion of Jorge Mario Bergoglio need in humility to revise their earlier judgment and look again. Certain Bishops conferences for instance have stated this in guidelines which are now clearly contrary to the will of the Pope and in open breech of his teaching “there are no other interpretations.” Cardinal Ratzinger in 1991 stated that if ever the magisterium was to change its practice regarding this matter, he would submit in obedience. I invite all other bishops to do the same.
Loyalty to the Holy Father and obedience to his magisterium has always been central to a spiritual life pleasing to God. To place oneself outside that requirement is not only defying the Successor of St Peter, but God himself. To also claim one need not submit “intellect and will” to this non-infallible teaching because one is still unsure as to what the Pope has taught or changed, is simply an untenable position to hold now. Pope Francis was asked directly in April 2016 the question: has sacramental discipline changed for the divorced and remarried? And his answer was yes. Since then, he has given the Church a document (the Buenos Aries guidelines) which obviously represents for him the way a discernment process should work for those not only who feel their first marriage was invalid but cannot prove it, but also those who for other reasons cannot live as brother and sister but who hope to reach that point through the grace of God, and an application of the law of gradualness.
Let us not let Satan tempt us any longer into deciding for ourselves what is authentic Catholic teaching, but let us open our hearts to the truth that Tradition is alive, and with the constant help of the Holy Spirit, the Church can bring forth things both new and old (cf. Matt.13: 52). In this way, souls can be encouraged to draw close to Jesus, and the Lord’s spiritual field hospital can work more effectively. In order for unity to prevail in the Church, the time for false arguments and a manufactured “confusion” must pass; and this can only be achieved by clinging to the barque of Peter. Let us pray earnestly that God instils in our hearts the desire for this grace.
* Stephen Walford is a theologian and lives in Southampton, England with his wife Paula and five children. Educated at Bristol University, he is the author of two books: Heralds of the Second Coming: Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Bl Pius IX to Benedict XVI (Angelico Press), and Communion of Saints: The Unity of Divine Love in the Mystical Body of Christ (Angelico Press). He has written articles for various publications on eschatological and mariological themes. He is also a pianist and teacher.