Thursday, April 21, 2016


When legitimate news organizations and scholars start asking this question, which would have been unthinkable only three years ago, yes, I would say, Houston, we have a problem!

The Church has survived many controversies and heresies over the years. But unfortunately most of these damaged the Church almost in perpetuity, such as the Great Schism, the Protestant Reformation and what we have been undergoing since Vatican II. The sex abuse scandal is another crucifixion too not only for Holy Mother Church in general but for those victimzed by the very priests who should have been an agent of Christ's salvation.

If the Holy Father takes pleasure in creating a mess, I hope the proper authorities, the college of bishop and the cardinals are seriously counseling him. I think they are.

This is from CRUX today:

“Is the Pope Catholic?” suddenly a serious question

Pope Francis waves to journalists as he boards an airplane at Rome's Fiumicino airport, Saturday, April 16, 2016, on his way to the Greek island of Lesbos, The Pontiff will visit the island Saturday joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Athens Archbishop Ieronymos II, a mission human rights groups hope will highlight the plight of refugees who fled their war-ravaged homes only to be denied entry to Europe. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis waves to journalists as he boards an airplane at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Saturday, April 16, 2016, on his way to the Greek island of Lesbos. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

It’s always been the jokey answer to a dumb question, but it’s now a serious issue for Catholic intellectuals who have been criticizing, and defending, the Catholic bona fides of Pope Francis, especially since the pontiff released a landmark document on family life earlier this month that some say calls into question the church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage.

“A catastrophe,” one traditionalist blogger called the apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” or “The Joy of Love,” which was released by the Vatican on April 8. Francis “departs from Church teaching” in the exhortation, wrote another.

“Suddenly the rhetorical question, ‘Is the pope Catholic?’ doesn’t seem so rhetorical anymore,” Claire Chretien wrote in a pointed critique at the conservative Web outlet The Federalist.
The unusual debate — after all, it’s not often that a pope is accused of heterodoxy — has grown so serious, in fact, that on Tuesday evening (April 19), the Jesuit-run Fordham University hosted a panel of Catholic experts titled: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Among the four participants was New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who has been one of Francis’ leading critics on the Catholic right, openly wondering about the pontiff’s doctrinal purity and whether he is leading the Catholic Church into schism.

Also on the panel was former New York Times religion writer and Commonweal magazine editor Peter Steinfels; Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a theologian at Manhattan College; and Alice Kearney Alwin, director of mission and ministry at Marymount School, a Catholic girls school in Manhattan. John Sexton, the polymath president emeritus of New York University and a Fordham theology alum, moderated.
While none of the panelists directly challenged Francis’ faith, Douthat was most outspoken in criticizing Francis’ approach in general, and in “Amoris Laetitia” specifically, a document that Douthat said was “designed to introduce a level of ambiguity into church teaching that had been absent.”

“It’s clearly a deliberately destabilizing document. And whether that destabilization is good or bad is something that liberals and conservatives can argue about,” he said.

Steinfels took up that argument, saying that “what Ross might call ambiguity I might call ‘complexity.’”

But he added that did not change what Steinfels said was his basic pessimism about the future of the church, at least in North America.

Alwin, on the other hand, said she was much more positive about the kind of effect Francis has had, especially on the children she deals with.

She described herself as “joy-filled” about this papacy and the more merciful aspect of the faith that, whatever the doctrinal disputes, she says is having an impact on the next generation.

Imperatori-Lee was also relatively upbeat — at one point she noted to laughter that it was odd the two women were more hopeful about the future of Catholicism than the three men — and she said it was important to see the exhortation as “a global document” and not just about U.S. concerns.
She also noted that Francis also spoke in very supportive terms about feminism, in contrast with other church leaders.

“I enjoyed that line,” she said.

But Douthat was steadfast that the contemporary Catholic Church is not at all rules-obsessed and harsh and in need of a transfusion of mercy, as Francis and his supporters suggest. On the contrary, he said, he sees no signs of such conservatism – and he acknowledged that conservative Catholicism is “divided and confused” and “has no clear answers” to the crisis.

“But the idea that there is this glorious future church waiting to be born as long as we get rid of the dead hand of 1950s Catholicism that the pope seems to perceive everywhere he looks is nuts! It’s just nuts. That’s not where Catholicism in the West is right now,” he said.

“Catholicism in the West is divided, disorderly, badly catechized and extremely liberal in terms of the perspective of the average self-identified Catholic.”

What Douthat and the panelists seemed to agree on was that change, or “development,” as theologians like to put it, does happen in church — a fact that traditionalists do not often like to recognize — but that the real debate is about how change happens, and what can change and what is essential.

“I think that where we agree is that the Church, rather than having a desire to be liked, expresses in the world God’s desire to save, however that happens,” said Imperatori-Lee. “If the Church is not doing the work of salvation, then it is a failure.

“Insofar as the Church does the work of salvation, then it succeeds. What we keep should be at the service of salvation for the most number of people at any given point in history. And what we discard should be anything that is an impediment to that will to save.”

In the end, then, it seemed that the question was not so much whether the pope is Catholic, but what Catholicism is.


MR said...

Fr., thanks for your comments on this. I know that for my personal faith, the past three years have been far and away the most difficult I've ever faced.

Mark Thomas said...

I will take His Holiness Pope Francis at his word.

-- Pope Francis said on February 17, 2016 A.D., that divorced and "remarried" may not receive Holy Communion.

-- On August 5, 2015 A.D. during his General Audience, Pope Francis said that divorced and "remarried" Catholics have acted "contrary to the Christian Sacrament".

-- In his Encyclical Lumen Fidei, paragraph 46, Pope Francis that the Catechism of the Catholic Church "is a fundamental aid for that unitary act with which the Church communicates the entire content of her faith: "all that she herself is, and all that she believes".

-- #1650 of the CCC upholds the Church's traditional teaching on Communion for divorced and "remarried" Catholics.

-- Finally, Cardinal Schonborn dedlared that there is "no break" and "no change" to Catholic doctrine in regard to Holy Communion for divorced and "remarried" Catholics. He also declared that Amoris Laetitia is in line with Familiaris Consortio.

Should Pope Francis overthrown any of the above points, which would mean that he contradicted himself, then not only does "Houston have a problem", but the Church would then have a grave and massive problem.


Mark Thomas

rcg said...

Oh, please. This is simply another thinly veiled attempt to paint every traditionalist as a sedevaconist. Now, are a few spots in this Pope's brain unoccupied? It seems so. But he is clearly trying to do the right, and Catholic, and Christian thing.

Catholic Mission said...

What Douthat and the panelists seemed to agree on was that change, or “development,” as theologians like to put it, does happen in church — a fact that traditionalists do not often like to recognize — but that the real debate is about how change happens, and what can change and what is essential.

If we eliminate the 'known exceptions' theory, Cardinal Marx and Cardinal Kasper would have to admit that there is no change in doctrine : Vatican Council II supports the 16th century Jesuit missionaries

Anonymous said...

The destruction of the faith was given a hefty impetus at and after Vatican 2 through subtle changes in emphasis of doctrinal matters. AL has given this deconstructive technique a heavy push emphasizing that the Church has a fundamental responsibility to meet all manner of human desires: for example, eucharistic communion even for those who live in objectively sinful lives. AL justifies this departure from long settled Church teaching in the name of mercy and medicine. It is false mercy That St. Paul clearly calls condemnation of the soul. Ross Douthat seems to be the only panelist willing to call the spade by its real color.

It seems, the hidden objective of this panel panel was to tell everyone that in AL there is nothing to see. I am afraid, the saying where there is smoke there is fire more aptly describes what is going on. Douthat was not convinced and neither are others.

Anonymous said...

It is nice how nobody reads the other 7 chapters...they just read the stuff that suits their agenda for either being liberal or conservative. It is one thing to expect the secular media to quote out of context and use a line for an agenda...but the Catholic media has been just as shameful in misrepresenting the truth. The first four chapters do nothing but reiterate Familias Consortio....and the best that anyone brings up to fulfill their agendas is a footnote...not a lot of critical thinking or login on in the world anymore.

CharlesG said...

Could Mark Thomas or someone please point to a complete transcript of Cardinal Schoenborn's press conference? The excerpts I read sounded like he was saying that there is no change, but there is development. It didn't sound to me that he was denying the clear implication of the footnote that divorced and remarried would in some cases receive absolution and communion. Maybe there was a clearer statement that I am missing upholding the traditional teaching of the Church and the Catechism and St. John Paul II?

Rood Screen said...


If the first four chapters "do nothing but reiterate Familiaris Consortio", then why should we read them? It's the footnote that is new, so that's why it alone is newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

"This too shall pass"

Though the moral and spiritual damage left behind by the current papacy may long outlive it.

Marc said...

I read the whole thing, and I read some analyses of the document. Then I wrote and posted a brief analysis of the document in a comment on this site. I disagree with the idea that the first few chapters restate Catholic doctrine on marriage -- like all writing from modernists, it uses some Catholic language but new effect and emphasis so as to undo Catholic teaching while appearing to uphold it. As for chapter 8, there is no question that the pope has change the practice, which has the effect of changing the doctrine. Legitimate development of doctrine does not mean the same thing that Cardinal Schoenborn is saying it means in this case. Practices cannot develop in such a way as to render the doctrine hollow, and they cannot develop in such a way as to negate the doctrine completely, which is what the pope's document does with regard to mortal sin.

It is difficult to overstate the problems with the document since it errs in so many ways, philosophically, doctrinally, and practically. The most fundamental problem, in my opinion, is the continued rejection of Thomistic, objective reality in favor of relativistic subjectivism. That is compounded by the pope's clear use of dialectical argumentation, as we can see just from examining the dichotomous relationship he creates between doctrine and practice. Here we see the synthesis of his ideas -- the culmination of what he was trying to accomplish by calling the synods in the first place. These are revolutionary tactics that would be disturbing even if the document merely restated the Catholic teaching and practice, which is clearly does not.

Mark Thomas said...

To: CharlesG,

I will post a link to the transcript of Cardinal Schonborn's presentation of Amoris Laetitia. First, please, I would like to post the following link:

From the Vatican's web site: Presentation of the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia: the logic of pastoral mercy, 08.04.2016

"How this personal and pastoral discernment can and should be is the theme of the section of Amoris Laetitia made up of paragraphs 300-312. "In the 2015 Synod, in the Appendix to the statements by the 'Circulus germanicus' an 'Itinerarium' of discernment, was proposed, of the examination of conscience that Pope Francis has made his own. 'What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which “guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God'. But Pope Francis also recalls that 'this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church'".

From Cardinal Schonborn's presentation at the press conference: "Naturally this poses the question: what does the Pope say in relation to access to the sacraments for people who live in 'irregular' situations? Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation in keeping with St. John Paul II's Familiaris consortio."

There are two very important points that Cardinal Schonborn stressed in his above statements.

1. His Holiness Pope Francis has made it clear that discernment in regard to people in "irregular situations" must always be informed by "the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church."

2. Amoris Laetitia as well as any talk about access to the Sacraments for people in "irregular" situations must remain "in keeping with St. John Paul II's Familiaris Consortio."


Mark Thomas

Charles G said...

@Mark Thomas:

Thanks, but I was able to find the Cardinal's Presentation through Googling. I was not able to find a full transcript of the Q and A press conference, but just snippets here and there, and that is what I am looking for. As for your two points: (a) with regard to first, it is not to the point that the pastor has to present the teachings of the faith on marriage, since the Pope seems to say in his footnote that notwithstanding such presentation, the pastor can in certain circumstances find mitigating factors such that it is not a state of "mortal sin" and thus allowing for absolution and communion, which mitigating circumstances could be quite broad, including not understanding (and thus disagreeing with) the Church's teaching; and (b) with regard to your second point, AL like the synod final relatio cites Familiaris Consortio quite a bit, but omits the teaching about those in the adulterous situation having to refrain from communion. Thus "in keeping" with FC doesn't necessarily mean all of FC -- the infamous footnote suggests the Pope is only calling for following the parts of FC he likes.

Mark Thomas said...

Here is the link to the Vatican web site and interventions of Cardinals Schönborn, Baldisseri, and Professor Francesco Miano during the press conference to announce Amoris Laetitia.

The page produces the interventions in English, Spanish, French, and Italian. Scroll to the language(s) of your choice.


Mark Thomas

MR said...

@Mark Thomas,
I appreciate your intentions, and what you say about Schonborn's presentation isn't incorrect, but it is incomplete (you're picking Schonborn's orthodox sounding comments, and ignoring his, um, questionable statements). For instance, he said we have "development" of doctrine. If nothing changed from familiaris consortio, then what "developed"? He also he said there are "innovations", so again, if nothing changed from FC, then what are these "innovations"?

Add to this the Pope's statement in his interview (when he refers to Schonborn's presentation) when the Pope says, yes, there have been concrete changes for divorced/remarried on communion.

Mark Thomas said...

Here is the link to the Vatican press conference for Amoris Laetitia. The video includes the interventions and questions and answers from and to reporters.

The question and answer session begins at the 1:25:32 mark.

The reporters' questions and the answers by the Vatican officials, such as Cardinal Schnoborn, are in Italian. I will continue to search for a translation (or transcript) in English.

Father McDonald, I believe that you speak Italian. Perhaps sometime Father or an additional person who listen to Cardinal Schonborn's responses, then comment upon them for our benefit...or for those of us who don't speak Italian.

The Q&A session takes up about the final 30 minutes of the presentation/press conference.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

To Charles G and MR...thank you for your responses and the opportunity to discuss the Exhortation with each of you. Deo volente, I bit later today I would like to respond more fully to you. But for now, I offer please the following:

I can only go by Pope Francis' words about communion for divorced and "remarried" Catholics. On the Vatican web site, here is Pope Francis' response to Anne Thompson of NBC News who, on February 17, 2016 A.D., asked Pope Francis whether, via Amoris Laetitia, divorced and "remarried" Catholics may receive Holy Communion:

Pope Francis: "Being integrated into the Church does not mean “taking communion”. I know remarried Catholics who go to Church once or twice a year: “I want to receive communion!”, as if communion were a commendation. It is a matter of integration... the doors are all open.

"But one cannot just say: from now on “they can take communion”.

"This would also wound the spouses, the couple, because it won’t help them on the path to integration. These two were happy! They used a really lovely expression: “We do not take eucharistic communion, but we do find communion by visiting people in the hospital, in this or that service...”. Their integration is there. If there is something more, the Lord will tell them, but ... it is a journey, it is a path...."


Mark Thomas

gob said...

Is it possible that it really doesn't matter whether the Pope is Catholic...or whether anybody long as we do our best and follow the Golden Rule...??

Rood Screen said...


Good question. If Christ established the Catholic Church and the Petrine leadership, then yes, it does matter, because fidelity to Christ's Church is a way we love God and our neighbor. However, if the Catholic Church is a mere widow of some sort of perverse union between the Gospel and the Roman Empire, then no, it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

Mark Thomas is a great defender of the SSPX but they find grave problems with the Pope's exhortation and I don't think many could disagree with the following statement from them:

"Indeed, (¶301) states, “hence it is can [sic] 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.”

In truth it must be recognized: this last sentence contains the whole moral revolution of the exhortation. In the end, everything is a matter of individual conscience; this is pure subjectivism. This exhortation is the ruin of Catholic moral teaching on sin.

Let us not be lulled into being calmed by those who will rush to emphasize that the document specifically states it is not magisterial on this issue, but merely intends to provide pastoral guidelines on points that can legitimately be discussed (see ¶3) concerning Church discipline. That is merely window dressing, because it is through practice that doctrine takes root. For example, one can recall that Paul VI contented himself with granting a very limited indult for Communion in the hand for pastoral reasons, all the while asking that the traditional manner of receiving be retained. Everyone knows what happened: the practice of Communion in the hand is now practically universal. This is what will happen with the opening made by this document, an opening that is much more serious than Communion in the hand! Allowing some divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion and leaving the discernment to their consciences is a public declaration that Christian marriage is not intrinsically indissoluble, and it opens the road to sacramental remarriage and therefore to heresy.

One does not expect that the successor of Peter will, in pontifical documents, express a purely personal and extremely subversive concept of pastoral mercy.

This is the second time in less than a year that Pope Francis has caused a breach that weakens the sacrament of marriage. From the one whose duty it is to be the guardian of the Deposit of Faith, this is a terrible disaster for the salvation of souls and the future of the Church. But Christ promised us the gates of hell will not prevail against her.@

Gene said...

This Pope is the culmination and fulfillment of everything Vatican II hoped for...a de-emphasis upon doctrine and the silly notion that belief is primary for salvation, a focus on the "pastoral" (read humanistic) aspects of theology, a renewal of works righteousness and works oriented theology and preaching, the incorporation of Enlightenment rationalism and egalitarianism into Catholic theology (already there in germ...see Aquinas), and a moving away from belief in the literal bodily resurrection of Christ, His return in judgement, and the resurrection of the dead to eternal life with Him. Resurrection becomes the existential self-renewal of "Christians" so they can become good little humanist/globalists and political Leftists. Christ's resurrection was not really "real," rather the new awareness of his disciples that Jesus was a really hip guy and we need to get everybody to be like him. The Church has been in lock step with this progressivist agenda since Vatican II was hatched ("...what rough Beast, its hour come 'round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born"). Believing Catholics, whom some want to call trads or other slurs, are fish flopping on the sand and abandoned, hoping in vain that the tide will return to save them.

Charles G said...

Some needed clarity on the disastrous Amoris Laetitia from Father Gerald Murray:

John Nolan said...

Gene, tu dicis. My entire adult life has been spent watching the Catholic Church hell-bent on destroying itself from the top downwards. Paul VI made the famous comment about the 'smoke of Satan' but it was he (the worst pope of modern times) who prised opened the fissures.

I hadn't anticipated a pope quite like Bergoglio, however; a silly man who can't open his mouth without putting his foot in it; a poor administrator (on his own admission) and whose episcopal record was patchy to say the least; who is intent on playing to a gallery which isn't Catholic (in fact it is anti-Catholic); and whose latest animadversions would seem to indicate that orthodox seminarians are mentally ill, as are those who join the police or army.

He can speak for the Argentine army if he wants. When it came up against a proper army in 1982 it hardly distinguished itself.

This pontificate is going to end in confusion and tears. We can even anticipate a succession of bad popes (it has happened before) but the Church has a knack of surviving them. As long as we keep the faith heroic men (and women) will arise and bear true witness, and all will be well.