Monday, April 11, 2016


This is a great summary from Jimmy Akin. We need this kind of review rather than the uncharitable anti-Francis commentaries. In fact I would prefer to give Holy Communion to a loving fornicator than to the uncharitable Francis haters!

From Jiimy Akin and thank you:

Pope Francis’s much-anticipated document on the family has now been released.
Here are 12 things to know and share.
1. What are the basic facts about the document?
It is called Amoris Laetitia (Latin, “the joy of love”), and it is what is known as a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation.”
An apostolic exhortation is a pastoral document in which the pope exhorts the Church. Although it contains doctrine, its primary focus is pastoral care. (Apostolic exhortations are different from encyclicals, which do focus on doctrine.)
When a pope issues an apostolic exhortation in response to a meeting of the synod of bishops (a gathering of bishops from around the world), it is called a post-synodal (“after the synod”) apostolic exhortation.
Amoris Laetitia was written in response to two meetings of the synod of bishops—one held in 2014 and one in 2015, both of which were devoted to the subject of the family.
2. What subjects does the document cover?
It is 255 pages long, so it covers a wide array of topics connected with the family. In his summary of its contents, Pope Francis explains:
I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone.
I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality.
I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, thus paving the way for two central chapters dedicated to love.
I will then highlight some pastoral approaches that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan, with a full chapter devoted to the raising of children.
Finally, I will offer an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us, and conclude with a brief discussion of family spirituality (AL 6).
At the two synods of bishops, two subjects of discussion were the pastoral care of those who are divorced and civilly remarried and of people with a homosexual orientation.
Although these are not the focus of Amoris Laetitiae—they represent only a small part of what it has to say—they are the subjects many people will be most interested to know about, so they are what we will cover here.
3. What does the document say about homosexuality?
It says very little. It notes that same-sex unions “may not simply be equated with marriage” (AL 52). It also says:
During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children.
We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.
Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.
In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”
It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex” (AL 250-251).
And that’s it. Contrary to the hopes of some, the document did not attempt to reframe the Church’s teaching on same-sex activity or same-sex unions.
4. What does the document say regarding Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to give Holy Communion to some who are divorced and civilly remarried after a “penitential period”?
Nothing. This proposal is not brought up.
5. Does the document propose a specific, concrete solution to the problem of divorced and civilly remarried?
No. After reviewing a variety of defective marital situations in which people may find themselves, the document states:
If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases (AL 300).
Instead, the document articulates a set of principles to be applied to the pastoral care of such individuals.
6. What are these principles?
The chapter discussing them is lengthy, so we can’t cover them fully, but they include:
  • Not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage
  • Helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives
  • Recognizing that people in defective situations are not all in the same situation
  • Helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases
7. What does the document say about not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage?
In articulating the Church’s basic teaching, it states:
Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society (AL 292).
Later, it states:
In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur. . . .
A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.
To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being (AL 307).
8. What does the document say about helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives?
It says:
The Fathers [of the synods] also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage” (AL 293, emphasis added).
It also says:
Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth” (Familiaris Consortio 34).
This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.
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, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life” (ibid., 9).
9. What does the document say about people in defective situations not all being in the same situation?
It says:
The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.
One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins.
The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 84).
There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid” (ibid.).
Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family.
It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family (AL 298).
10. What does the document say about helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases?
It says:
I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. . . .
“Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.
“Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.
“This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important” (AL 299).
It also says:
Naturally, if someone flouts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Matt.18:17).
Such a person needs to listen once more to the gospel message and its call to conversion.
Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest (AL 297).
And it says:
Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow.
Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.
For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it.
These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions,” or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favors (AL 300).
11. Does the document foresee any possibility for sacramentally absolving and giving Communion to people who are civilly remarried if they are not living as brother and sister?
It does. In the main text of the document, it begins by noting certain principles to be taken into account, stating:
For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the gospel are in any way being compromised.
The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.
Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.
More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values,” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. . . .
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).
In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability” (CCC 2352).
For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved. (AL 301-302).
The document thus envisions the case of a person who may be living in an objectively sinful situation but who is not mortally culpable because of a variety of factors of a cognitive or psychological nature.
Nothing in this is new. The Church has long recognized that people living in objectively grave sin may not be in a state of mortal sin. Consequently, the document goes on to state:
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end (AL 305).
At this point the text contains a footnote that states:
In certain cases, this [i.e., the Church’s help toward him growing in grace and charity] can include the help of the sacraments.
Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038).
I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039) (AL footnote 351).
The document thus envisions administering sacramental absolution and Holy Communion to those living in objectively sinful situations who are not mortally culpable for their actions due to various cognitive or psychological conditions.
Since they are not mortally culpable, they could be validly absolved in confession and, being in the state of grace, they could in principle receive Communion.
12. Does the document say how common such situations are?
No. However, the fact it only makes this application of the principles in a footnote suggests that such situations are not common and that they are not to be presumed.
The same is indicated by the large number of cautions contained in the text regarding such things as:
  • The obligation to proclaim God’s full vision of marriage, not watering it down with “a lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal” (AL 307).
  • That people in such situations should either become sacramentally married (AL 293) or separate (AL 298) or live as brother and sister (cf. AL footnote 329).
  • People who flout Church teaching on marriage need to listen to the gospel message and convert (AL 297).
  • That misunderstandings like a “priest can quickly grant ‘exceptions’” must be avoided (AL 300).
  • That cognitive or psychological conditions must exist which keep a person’s objective grave sin from becoming mortal (AL 301-302, 307).
  • The need to avoid scandal (AL 299).

Jimmy Akin is an internationally known author and speaker. As the senior apologist at Catholic Answers, he has more than twenty years of experiencing defending and explaining the Faith.
Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers,...


Anonymous said...

I admit to being suspicious of Pope Francis from day one because his "style" is sooooo different from his predecessors. His imprudent and scandalous actions (accepting that Communist crucifix) are truly causes of scandal. But God will deal with him. My obligation as a person trying to be faithful to the Catholic Faith is to pray for him. Francis is the pope, he is entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of Heaven because Christ has allowed it, presuming his election was valid. Which I assume it is unless determined otherwise by competent persons (the college of cardinals). Although Francis continues to confuse me I will look for the good in him and pray for guidance. It's God's church not mine.

Marc said...

I am not concerned with Francis as a person except that his embrace of error has a high likelihood of leading many souls to hell, which will result in an adverse personal judgment for him. I'd like for him to embrace the truth personally and be saved. I wish he were the sort of Good Shepherd that we heard about at yesterday's Mass. But that is not the case with this document.

I am concerned with his errors, which need to be rejected and corrected by the clergy at all levels. It is not helpful to be a sycophant when souls are in the balance.

People should, to the extent they are able, read this document for themselves. It is not difficult to understand (although parts of it are a labor to read). The pope is quite clear in his proposals. One does not need the assistance of Jimmy Akin to decipher what is written in this document. Again, the clergy have a responsibility to condemn this document's errors in the clearest terms, and to the extent they fail to do so, they reap judgment upon themselves for all the souls that will be lost as a result of their negligence.

Marc said...

It is necessary to condemn this document in no uncertain terms. Having read it, though, it is amazing to see someone attempt to argue that it is somehow an orthodox document. That people are attempting to do so indicates to me (perhaps more clearly than I have heretofore seen) the mentality of papal positivism -- that there is nothing the pope can do that is out of bounds for these people, even if he undoes the Church's teaching on sin and the reality of eternal punishment.

The idea of graduality that is suggested in these recent documents is clearly not in line with the Church's teaching on mercy and its conditional nature. The document's teaching is not concerned with the possibility of eternal punishment, which is explicitly rejected in at least two ways in the document. If the document were concerned with the possibility of eternal punishment, it would recognize, as did saints like Alphonus Liguouri, the necessity of getting back into the state of grace as quickly as possible upon a fall into mortal sin because it is utmost presumption to suppose that God will provide more time to repent. The saints teach us that each person has a certain number of sins that God will allow to be forgiven before the person will be lost. That teaching is rejected by this document since he does not discuss eternity.

Anonymous said...

Simply stunning: "I am not concerned with Francis as a person except that his embrace of error has a high likelihood of leading many souls to hell, which will result in an adverse personal judgment for him. I'd like for him to embrace the truth personally and be saved. I wish he were the sort of Good Shepherd that we heard about at yesterday's Mass. But that is not the case with this document."

Simply arrogant: "I am concerned with his errors, which need to be rejected and corrected by the clergy at all levels."

Simply baseless: "It is necessary to condemn this document in no uncertain terms."

Simply who-knows-what-this-is: "...mentality of papal positivism ..."

Simply erroneous: "The document's teaching is not concerned with the possibility of eternal punishment, which is explicitly rejected in at least two ways..."

Jusadbellum said...

I would like those claiming that the document is 'ambiguous' or heterodox to quote me the sentences IN CONTEXT that they claim is heresy.

What I'm picking up from blogs and websites I normally like and agree with are an amazing array of sleight of hands, whereby they PARAPHRASE a crucial distinction in the document itself and then shoot the strawman as heresy.

If you're dealing with a densely written piece of moral theology where every word and term matters, then any paraphrase will nullify your argument.

I was disposed to pan this letter as heresy. But having read it - while I can see where modernists COULD try to shoehorn their ideology into it, I can also see where I could quote the document itself to blow their arguments out of the water.

In short, what we make of this document is our doing. The most I can pan the Pope for is trying to be 'too clever' in the creation of buzz and excitement, hinting the Kasperite position to be his own and giving aid and comfort to people who are not at all concerned with the hereafter (and whose ideological alliances have directly led to untold millions of people suffering in the here and now).

But the document itself is not heretical. If all we can point to is the 'occasion' then it could equally turn out the good if we only run with it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Akin's take is on what the document says, not on what it does not say, and that makes all the difference.

Marc asserts: "The document's teaching is not concerned with the possibility of eternal punishment,..." is an example of being concerned about what it does not say. However, concern for eternal salvation/eternal punishment is there. Akin notes the document expresses concern for "Helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives." To grow toward living out the Church's teaching is an expression of concern for eternal salvation/punishment.

This is only one example of many such examples. Reading a document with an eye toward what is not stated is like trying to find items on a menu that are not offered by the restaurant. The diner (or the reader) is, ab initio, going to be disappointed. But the disappointment comes not from the menu (the document) but from the reader's unmet expectations.

Anonymous said...

I prefer St John Paul The Great's Familarius Consortius where he reiterates the Church's constant teaching and addresses all the pastoral concerns. The following makes clear the Church's teaching:

"However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the convenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.

This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."[180]

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful forbids any pastor for whatever reason or pretext, even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new, sacramentally valid marriage and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way the church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to his truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord's command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity."

It has been patently obvious since its inception that the sole purpose of the synod was to at a minimum loosen up the Church's teaching. And Kasper has indeed won out. Jimmy Atkin and other apologists can fudge it all they like but it won't make any difference to the grim reality and the even more serious situation that the Church is in since the release of Francus's exhortation. There will be a further dropping off as happened with the Anglicans because with this anything goes mentality the Church will be seen as irrelevant.

MR said...

Fr McDonald,
While I think we can be relieved that we did not end up with the worst case scenario (ie. explicit doctrinal change), there's no honest way to argue that this document doesn't license heteropraxy. The Pope literally says himself in the text that he is being intentionally vague.

So, yes, let's be grateful that our worst fears weren't realized, but to pretend this document is anything other than massively damaging to the Church is straining credibility.

John Nolan said...

In its 255 pages does AL add anything to Familiaris Consortio? (This was JP II's Exhortation of thirty-five years ago which was seen by liberals at the time as a result of the then Pope hijacking the Synod. Communion for the divorced and remarried and contraception were brought to the 1980 Synod by Cardinal Hume and Archbishop Worlock. The US bishops, despite representing ten times as many Catholics, as usual did not punch their weight.)

I would suggest it doesn't. Does AL detract anything from Familiaris Consortio? Again, I would suggest it doesn't. It shows the way Pope Francis thinks and expresses himself, but no pope can change established Church teaching or redefine Christian marriage, despite what the media might think. It is sadly true that the very way Francis expresses himself can be illogical, muddled and even erroneous (what in God's name has happened to the Jesuits, once so intellectual?) but this does not mean he teaches error; in any case the CDF can and does add the necessary clarity.

Vagueness, muddle and prolixity are the hallmark of official Catholic pronouncements - this is one of the legacies of Vatican II. We just have to live with it for the time being, and not to take it too seriously.

GenXBen said...

Raymond Cardinal Burke has chimed in.

Anonymous said...

Hiding your head in the sand will not change the fact that the Popes latest creation is an embrace of Modernism. St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bernard. Cardinal Burke begins...

"The secular media and even some Catholic media are describing the recently-issued post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “On Love in the Family,” as a revolution in the Church, as a radical departure from the teaching and practice of the Church, up to now, regarding marriage and the family.

Such a view of the document is both a source of wonder and confusion to the faithful, and potentially a source of scandal not only for the faithful but for others of good will who look to Christ and his Church to teach and reflect in practice the truth regarding marriage and its fruit, family life, the first cell of the life of the Church and of every society."

Marc said...

John, your comment suggests to me that you have not read this document. When you do, you will find that it detracts from Familiaris Consortio in a number of ways, including those you mentioned: Christian marriage, contraception, and Communion for the "divorced." In this document, the pope teaches error. This is not a result of a lack of clarity -- it is is stated intention to issue these teachings, which he acknowledges to be new.

At any rate, we have to do much more than simply "live with it for the time being." And we must take it serious since this is the pope teaching in the area of morals and faith. Everyone in the world is taking this document seriously. All the bishops and priests are taking it seriously. Satan and his minions are taking it seriously. It is not in accordance with our role as members of the Church Militant to simply live with error and sacrilege until some future time when things are righted. Who will right them if not us?

Adam Michael said...

Mr. Akin honestly admits the clear interpretation of Footnote 351 in his interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. It is fascinating to consider that Akin’s parish priest may begin communing public adulterers, while the priests of that group he so dislikes, the SSPX, would never countenance such actions. Does Akin realize that he is manifestly drifting into what would have been seen as sacrilege only years earlier, while condemning those still holding to traditional sacramental discipline as lacking full communion with Rome? By doing so, does he not realize that he is revealing to the world not only his support of innovation but actively recruiting others to follow suit? In the most ironic of statements, it must be affirmed that the so-called “JPII conservatives” would find a better, more welcoming home in the SSPX (at least as regards sacramental discipline for public adulterers) than in the mainstream structures of the Church in 2016.

Adam Michael said...

The significance of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia is not being emphasized sufficiently by either Mr. Akin or other conservative commentators on the Apostolic Exhortation. In regards to Chapter 8, “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness” of Amoris Laetitia, there appears to be no reason to limit the pastoral discernment of mitigating circumstances leading to Holy Communion in the cases of those in civilly sanctioned adultery to them alone. The cohabitating, those committing adultery in “open marriages,” those committing fornication in general, contracepting couples, as well as homosexual couples, also have a claim to an “irregular situation,” that they know is wrong, but yet do not fully understand the inherent values of the Church’s teaching (but certainly!) and may not be psychologically or socially able to surmount at the present moment (para. 301). There is no reason that pastors of souls should hold these individuals to the traditional standards of the Church, while those committing civilly sanctioned adultery should be treated under the new standards of sacramental and pastoral care. In fact, such artificial distinctions violate both the letter and spirit of Amoris Laetitia, and would be repugnant to Pope Francis (especially since he noted that nobody is forever condemned – para. 297 and posited broad, general principles of conscience formation vis-a-vis mortal sin that would apply to anyone is an objectively sinful situation – para. 303). In fact, based on the aforementioned principles of Amoris Laetitia, I am unsure whether any person in objective mortal sin could not be discerned to be in a state of sanctifying grace and thus eligible to fruitfully receive Holy Communion.

This marks the end of both the Church’s traditional sacramental discipline as well as her classic pastoral treatment of sinners. By extension, it marks the complete separation of objective morality from its application in people’s lives. This reduces the Church’s moral theology to an “ideal” (literally since this word is used repeatedly and exclusively for Church moral teaching on marriage and family in Amoris Laetitia - para. 34, 36, 38, 119, 148, 157, 200, 230, 292, 297, 298, 303, 307, 308) that individual conscience can morally discern may not be fully applied in their lives at any given moment (para. 303). This is the triumph of individual conscience over the application of moral theology – a long sought-after goal by Church liberals since the mid-1960s. The only question remaining is – does this prioritization of “mitigating circumstances” and individual conscience that reduces all objective morality to an “ideal,” essentially compromise the moral theology of the Catholic Church or is this “only” a disastrous example of bad emphasis, which will paralyze the application of the Church’s moral teaching? If the former, we are dealing with heresy, if the latter, the practical destruction of lived Christian morality in the Catholic Church.

George said...

I have seen at least two headlines in the secular media that take what the Holy Father has written out of context:

"Pope Francis insists conscience, not rules, must guide faithful."

"Pope says personal conscience takes precedence over church moral teaching!"

The above headlines are misleading to say the least.

____________________________________________________________________________________ There are many beautifully written passages in the Exhortation, especially those on marriage. Keep on mind that this document, just like any other, must be read in light of, and respect to, Magisterial teaching. The Holy Father cannot re-write or change Church teaching

George said...

The Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, as necessary as they are to our spiritual growth, are not ours by right, but are instruments of grace which we are privileged to avail ourselves of, and have been given-gifts from God instituted by Christ for our sanctification and coming out of the merits of His Passion and Death.To be worthily admitted to the privilege of having recourse to the sacraments, there must exist an affirmation of belief, a profession of faith, signified by word and outward conduct and lifestyle, that one in fact is in communion with the Body of Christ. This is why a person outside the Church, no matter how good he or she may be, cannot have access to the sacraments. (And I have known some very good ones, including a few who made stunning acts of charity and mercy). One must believe what the Church teaches and this belief is manifested both inwardly and outwardly as a confirmation of this belief. In cases of ignorance, doubt, or persistent sinful behavior, the Spiritual works of admonishing, instructing and counseling will need to be employed. If one has a co-operative and willing attitude, God will supply the necessary grace.'

Still, it must be acknowledged that there exists exceptional and difficult circumstances. In the case of a couple where one of the spouses was divorced it must be discerned if they truly, with sincere effort, want and are trying to do what God requires. If it is found by them to be too difficult, this is where support of the Church must come in. Scandal must be avoided (this is mentioned in Amoris Laetitia). If those in an irregular marriage are truly and sincerely open to doing what is right and desire help, then whatever can reasonably be provided to them should be. They can find common ground and understanding with Catholic priests, who have the challenge of being faithful to practicing celibacy and chastity.

Adam Michael said...

"The above headlines are misleading to say the least."

Possibly lacking nuance, but not essentially misleading. Pope Francis notes in paragraph 37, "We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them." These consciences of the faithful are clearly missing the full mark of moral action as indicated by words, "respond as best as they can to the Gospel amid their limitation." However, instead of a call to compassionate, but full formation in the truth, the Church is called to respect this autonomy of conscience through a pastoral guidance that may entail formation, but not replacement of their moral discernment with that of the Church in all cases.

Any doubt of this interpretation is removed by paragraph 303 in which this inadequate conscience of the faithful is morally allowed to transcend solely a recognition of right and wrong, when Pope Francis states, "Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal." That this conscience discernment is not immoral or inadequate is indicated by the words, “sincerity and honesty” as well as the words at the beginning of paragraph 303, which states, "we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage." Far from being wrong, this conscience formation (which, as an aside, accepts that our all-holy God can ask people to settle for a lesser degree of sin) is to be integrated into Church praxis (as indeed is done in footnote 351, which integrates this less than objective ideal into the Church's sacramental discipline).

When seen in the light of paragraph 37 and 303, the non-condemned use of conscience in immoral situations as mentioned in paragraph 298, 300, 302, is more understandable and does indicate that Church moral teaching and rules remain, but that personal conscience, does indeed sometimes have more practical guidance of the faithful than does the objective ideal of Christ and the Church (this will become apparent when priests are expected, in principle, to administer the sacraments to anyone in objective mortal sin upon the basis of the communicants conscience, not Church teaching), even though the goal of reaching the ideal remains.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Marc, Adam and others who are warning about the undermining of Catholic doctrine by this exhortation. We are indeed watching the slow boiling of the frog: Jimmy Atkin fell into the water a while ago. John Nolan, I hope you manage to pull yourself out before you too succumb.

Some like Cardinal Burke and Roberto de Mattei are sidelining the document as belonging to the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium. Roberto de Mattei comments:

"The post-synod Exhortation is much worse that Cardinal Kasper’s report, against which there has rightly been directed much criticism in books, articles and interviews. Cardinal Kasper had asked some questions; the Exhortation, Amoris laetitia, offers an answer: open the door to the divorced and remarried, canonize situation ethics and begin a process of normalization of all common-law cohabitations.

Considering that the new document belongs to the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium, it is to be hoped that it is object of an in-depth analytical critique, by theologians and Pastors of the Church, under no illusion of applying “the hermeneutic of continuity” to it.

If the text is catastrophic, even more catastrophic is the fact that it was signed by the Vicar of Christ. Even so, for those who love Christ and His Church, this is a good reason to speak and not be silent. So, let’s make ours, the words of a courageous Bishop, Athanasius Schneider:

“Non possumus!” I will not accept an obfuscated speech nor a skilfully masked back door to a profanation of the Sacrament of Marriage and Eucharist. Likewise, I will not accept a mockery of the Sixth Commandment of God. I prefer to be ridiculed and persecuted rather than to accept ambiguous texts and insincere methods. I prefer the crystalline “image of Christ the Truth, rather than the image of the fox ornamented with gemstones” (Saint Irenaeus), for “I know whom I have believed”, “Scio, Cui credidi!” (2 Tim 1: 12). (Rorate Coeli, 2 Novembre 2015)."

Obviously, from all my comments, I am with Bishop Schneider and I know many, many Catholics who feel the same way and many other faithful Catholics who are expressing confusion in what they have heard in the press of this document.

The water is heating up. We saw the ditching of the papal vestments first. Then the washing of women's feet, the welcoming embrace of a gay couple, the invitation to the Lutheran to receive communion, the phone call to the divorcee telling her she could receive communion and to go to another priest and now, unsurprisingly, the opening of the door for communion to the divorced. All have been glossed over by apologists for this papacy.

I don't think we need to take bets on what is the next thing up for grabs: priestly celibacy. Perhaps then some of the bishops and priests will finally find a voice and stand up to be counted as they should have done long ago. I honestly believe the majority of the apologists don't believe what they themselves are saying but those apologists risk being boiled alive like the frog. What they have lost to date is their credibility but what they ultimately stand to lose is their Faith. These apologists - many brought up in the days of St John Paul II The Great - need to ask themselves what would he have said about such a document? They know the answer ... that great saint would have voiced his objections loud and clear and its time they did too.

Adam Michael said...

"Scandal must be avoided (this is mentioned in Amoris Laetitia). If those in an irregular marriage are truly and sincerely open to doing what is right and desire help, then whatever can reasonably be provided to them should be. They can find common ground and understanding with Catholic priests, who have the challenge of being faithful to practicing celibacy and chastity."

According to Amoris Laetitia, continuing to have adulterous sex is no longer scandalous since this not only is no longer an impediment to fruitful reception of the sacraments, including reception of Holy Communion, it is even explicitly justified in footnote 329 (albeit, Pope Francis may have been referring only to foreplay here). This has little to do with Catholic priests who are attempting to be faithful to practicing celibacy and chastity, but I do suspect that these new communicants may develop close pastoral relationships with those priests and religious who are not faithful to these ideals.

Adam Michael said...

"I would like those claiming that the document is 'ambiguous' or heterodox to quote me the sentences IN CONTEXT that they claim is heresy."

Paragraph 301, "A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent values,’ or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide without further sin” – In other words, objective sin is sometimes unavoidable in life. Such a teaching would make sin impossible and sanctity unreachable at certain moments of life – not only erroneous, but a tacit attack on the concept of sanctity, itself.

Please correct me, contextualize this, and provide the orthodox interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Socci states:

"It is now official. Today, after the publication of this revolutionary text, is the “day after” for the Church. What was considered impossible has happened. The Apostolic Exhortation is an open act challenging two thousand years of Catholic teaching. And in Catholic circles people are shocked and struck dumb in bewilderment. Even if abroad Catholic voices are beginning to make sounds of protest, which will rise even more, especially in the United States (but also in Poland, Africa, Mexico and elsewhere).

Yesterday, on a Canadian site, there was a decidedly strong headline, which nonetheless helps us understand just how much indignation is smoldering under the ashes: “Who will denounce Amoris laetitia as heretical? Who will call out Jorge Bergoglio for his crime? Will history now call this the Bergoglian Heresy?”
Naturally – in all of this – Communion to the divorced and remarried is only a pretext, it is a question that interests no-one, not even the divorced: the “revolutionaries” have simply used “irregular couples” as an impetus to demolish the foundations of two thousand years of Catholicism.

And now there is a panorama of ruins set before the eyes of priests who are still Catholic, since – like skittles toppling – after the indissolubility of marriage, everything will come toppling down: confession, the commandments, the natural law. Most of all, the constant teaching of the Church emerges destroyed.
We need to remember the many who have experienced family break-ups or difficult situations and – for the love of Christ – have stayed faithful to the commandments and precepts of the Church.

One of these people said to me: “Amoris laetitia is terrible for me as it tells us: you have been fools to trust Jesus Christ and the Church by putting up with these trials. You have stupidly thrown away your lives, when you could have enjoyed yourselves and now you would even have the Pope’s approval.” And of a Vatican that praises “erotic joys” as Melloni says."

The only good thing I think this document may have done is awaken priests to just how serious a situation we are in. I heard for the first time in nearly 40 years a sermon on the 10 Commandments - long believed by many to have been extinct.

If more priests used their sermon to explain and strengthen Catholic teaching then we could rebuild from the ground up but if voices aren't raised against obvious error - to some the unspoken word of heresy - the rot will continue and, as Socci points out, we will soon have nothing ...

George said...

"We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them."

We, with our individual effort in co-operating with the grace of God, with the help of our parents and with the help of His Holy Church, are indeed called to form our conscience and to help others in forming theirs, as much as we are able to. What the Holy Father's exhortation in certain parts speaks to is the all too modern prevalence and phenomena of the defective conscience. Too many today are victims of poor or non-existent catechesis, which is to say a profound lack of spiritual formation and instruction. In addition to the poor state of too many consciences, there is the counter-catechesis of secular humanism, situational ethics, an widespread moral depravity which serve to further corrupt whatever moral bearing remains.
As bad as things are, there is always hope though.

Anonymous said...

Adam, you won't get an answer because most don't have the gumption to stand up for the truth. No one can answer you because, plainly and simply, paragraph 301 is simply not Catholic teaching and to have been signed by a Pope as de Mattei says is catastrophic ...

Adam Michael said...

"What the Holy Father's exhortation in certain parts speaks to is the all too modern prevalence and phenomena of the defective conscience."

That's true - except, unlike you, he wants the Church to make provision for it, even to the point of attributing such a defective conscience to the call of God (para. 303) as well as approving an examination of such a conscience that disregards continuing adultery, while reflecting on the life situation of the abandoned spouse (para. 300).

Adam Michael said...

"Such a teaching would make sin impossible and sanctity unreachable at certain moments of life – not only erroneous, but a tacit attack on the concept of sanctity, itself."

this should read as:

"Such a teaching would make objective sin impossible to avoid and objective sanctity unreachable at certain moments of life - not only erroneous, but a tacit attack on the concept of sanctity, itself."