Tuesday, April 12, 2016


This Jesuit is very close to Pope Francis:

“Without putting limits on integration, as appeared in the past...”

by Antonio Spadaro, S.J.

The exhortation incorporates from the synodal document the path of discernment of individual cases without putting limits on integration, as appeared in the past. It declares, moreover, that it cannot be denied that in some circumstances “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified” (“Amoris Lætitia” 302; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1735) because of various influences. [. . .]

Therefore, the pontiff concludes, if one takes into account the innumerable variety of concrete situations, “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. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same” (AL 300). [. . .]

So the consequences or effects of a norm do not necessarily have to be the same, which “is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists” (AL 3000, footnote 336). “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).

And - it is specified - this help “in certain cases 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.’ I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’” (AL 305, footnote 351).


If we go back to “Familiaris Consortio,” we can verify that the conditions it set up 35 years ago were already a concretization more open and attentive, with respect to the previous time, to personal experience.

On the civilly divorced and remarried, the apostolic exhortation of Saint John Paul II (1981) affirmed: “I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life” (FC 84).

On access to the sacraments, John Paul II reiterates the previous norm, and nonetheless affirms that the civilly divorced and remarried who are living their conjugal life together, raising their children together and sharing in everyday life, can receive communion.

But he sets up a “condition” (which is at another level with respect to the norm): that of taking on “the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples” (ibid.).

So in “Familiaris Consortio” the de facto norm does not apply always and in all cases. In the situation described there is already an “epieikeia” concerning the application of the law in a concrete case, because if continence eliminates the sin of adultery, it nevertheless does not suppress the contradiction between the conjugal rupture with the formation of a new couple - who nonetheless live bonds of an affective character and of coexistence - and the Eucharist.

With regard to sexual relations, the formulation of Saint John Paul II required that the couple “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence.” In “Sacramentum Caritatis” Benedict XVI had incorporated this concept, but with a different formulation: “The Church encourages these members of the faithful to commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God's law, as friends, as brother and sister” (SC 29). The “encouragement to commit themselves” implies a journey and places the accent better and in a more adequate way on the personal dimension of conscience.

Pope Francis moves forward in this direction when he speaks of a “dynamic discernment” that “must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized” (AL 303). An irregular situation cannot be turned into a regular one, but there are also journeys of healing, of exploration, journeys in which the law is lived step by step. [. . .]


“Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors,” the pontiff writes, “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” (AL 303). This is a culminating point of the apostolic exhortation, in that it attributes to conscience - “the most secret core and sanctuary of a man, where he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths” (GS 16; AL 222) - a fundamental and irreplaceable spot in the evaluation of moral action. [. . .]

The 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” (AL 303).

This passage of the exhortation opens the door to a more positive, welcoming, and fully “Catholic” pastoral practice, which makes possible a gradual exploration of the demands of the Gospel (cf. AL 38).

In other words, it does not say here at all that one’s weakness should be taken as a criterion for establishing what is good and what is evil (this would be what is called the “gradualness of the law”). Nonetheless there is affirmed a “law of gradualness,” meaning a progressiveness in knowing, in desiring, and in doing the good: “Reaching for the fullness of Christian life does not mean doing that which abstractly is most perfect, but that which is concretely possible.” [. . .]

With the humility of its realism, the exhortation “Amoris Lætitia” situates itself within the great tradition of the Church, reconnecting with an old Roman tradition of ecclesial mercy for sinners.

The Church of Rome, which since the 2nd century had inaugurated the practice of penance for sins committed after baptism, in the 3rd century was just about to provoke a schism on the part of the Church of northern Africa, led by Saint Cyprian, because it did not accept reconciliation with the “lapsi,” those who had become apostates during the persecution, who were in fact much more numerous than the martyrs.

In the face of the rigidity of the Donatists in the 4th and 5th centuries, as later in the face of the Jansenists, the Church of Rome always rejected a “Church of the poor” in favor of the “reticulum mixtum,” the “composite net” of just and sinners of which Saint Augustine speaks in “Psalmus contra partem Donati.”

The pastoral practice of “all or nothing” seems more sure to the “rigorist” theologians, but it inevitably leads to a “Church of the pure.” Valuing formal perfection before all else and as an end in itself brings the risk of unfortunately covering up many behaviors that are in fact hypocritical and pharisaic.


Anonymous said...

I think Pope Francis can rest assured that the Church of 2016 is not a church of "the pure" especially that part of the Church which includes the bishops and priests who have covered up child abuse for decades. And I don't think we have to worry about those doctors of the law that are rigid and teach the doctrines of the Faith. Safe to say that hasn't happened for nearly 50 years. Safe to say the Church has become a filthy cesspool of heresy and immorality.

Gene said...

This is pure double talk and politically inspired garbage.

Marc said...

I take it, then, that you are in support of the idea in this article that you favorably quote that Christ did not institute the Sacrament of Confession, but that "the Church of Rome . . . inaugurated the practice" in the Second Century?

The pastoral practice of all or nothing is based on the teaching of Christ. He instructed people to repent and be baptized. And he said that he would cast those who did not do so into everlasting fire. Rigorism is thrown around as if it is a bad thing when, in fact, Christ taught a rigorist system of morality -- remember the eye of the needle parable, the few that are saved, his treatment of the lukewarm. While it is true that the Father goes out to meet the repentant son and that Christ seeks the lost sheep, it is also true, as the saints have attested, that few are saved because the Christian life demands rigor.

Christ is not a pharisee -- he is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He can save whom he will and damn whom he will. He told us clearly what we are to do in order to be saved. Instead of trying to find loopholes in that or counsel people to be lax, I would suggest that the clergy and the bishops take their vocations seriously since they will have to answer for any of the sheep in their flocks who are lost due to their failings.

Rood Screen said...


In other words, a Jesuit wrote it.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Christ was no rigorist. And "the clergy and the bishops" are not ordained to a vocation of rigorism.

Matt 20:16: "So the last shall be first, and the first last."

It follows the parable of "The Workers in the Vineyard." Is this about money, wages, financial expectations, contracts, something else? If Christ is always so clear and unambiguous, which is it?

Matt 19:21: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Does He REALLY mean "Sell your possessions"? If so, all of them? Some of them? These and not those? Are those of us who follow Him with possessions in tow violating His Divine command?

Matt 5:39: "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

This, of course, is perfectly clear and unambiguous. So, if you ever fought back - against a grade school bully, a mugger, an evil nation attacking you - you were, without doubt, disobeying the command of the Lord.

Matt 5:22: "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."

Now, I've never said, "Raca!" to anyone, so I may be safe here. But are the words of the Lord to be taken in their literal sense? May I, with Shakespeare, say to my brother or sister, "“Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!” and, since I have not said "Raca" be free of judgment?

ALso, the article does not say, "...that Christ did not institute the Sacrament of Confession, but that "the Church of Rome . . . inaugurated the practice" in the Second Century?

It says, "The Church of Rome, which since the 2nd century had inaugurated the practice of penance for sins committed after baptism..."

Marc said...

Of course Christ is a rigorist. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no other way to the Father except through Him. And whoever does not take up his cross daily and follow Christ is not his disciple. Our daily cross involves denying ourselves and repenting. When we repent, Christ is always prepared to forgive us -- so we have rigorously work at our repentance and seek His mercy. If we don't do that, then we are lukewarm, and Christ will vomit us out of His mouth, and we'll find ourselves among those cast into everlasting fire.

The saints attest to the reality that Christ told us: many are called and few are chosen. Our salvation is anything but assured since we are born as children of Satan and redeemed only by the gratuitous gift of God through baptism. When we commit sin, we must repent and be absolved or else we will be damned.

The rigor of our morality is made clear by Christ, who tells us that we commit adultery merely by looking at another will lustful intent and we commit murder merely by becoming angry and wishing revenge on another. While Christ is always prepared to forgive our sins when we sincerely repent, have a firm purpose to avoid sin in the future, and seek his absolution in the sacrament of Confession, that does not mean that Christ does not demand us to adhere to the moral life according to His grace.

We cannot live the moral life without instruction as to the requirements of that life. And we are supposed to receive instruction on that from popes, bishops and priests. The law does not belong to the popes, bishops, and priests, but they are called to instruct the people in the requirements of the moral law, assist them in following it, and absolve them of their sins when they repent.

TJM said...

Father Kavanaugh,

Jesus Christ also told the adulteress "Go and sin no more." Not "just keep sinning because we want to be merciful to you!!!"

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Marc - If Christ was a rigorist, have you sold your possessions yet? Or is there some other was to understand this clear, unambiguous command from the Lord?

Marc said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, in your example, Christ enjoined the man to whom he was speaking a duty to sell his possessions. He didn't thereby give that command to everyone. But he does give that command to some people when he calls them to a life of poverty.

That example actually demonstrates Christ's rigorism, though. The man to whom he was speaking followed all the commandments, yet he was still called to do more and sell all his belongings.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Marc - First, if what you say is correct, and I suggest it is not, then any "personal" conversation Jesus had with some individual is not applicable to anyone else. Is the Woman caught in adultery the only one who must sin no more? Is Peter the only one who will deny Jesus?

Second, there is nothing in the periscope to suggest that Jesus was speaking only to those he called to a life of poverty. You are adding that to the conversation, and that's not good exegesis.

If you are suggesting that the clear, unambiguous command of Christ - which I suggest is not meant only for "the man to whom he was speaking, but to all - then it seems you are removing Jesus from the rigorist camp. You, because your possessions are many, re-work what He said to suit your circumstances.

Anonymous said...

On the rigourist/rigourism* question: when it comes to charity, we are all called to be rigourists. May our charity be unfailing, and when it does fail, may we have the good sense to rush to God and our neighbour to seek forgiveness.

Can we now all get on with seeking the grace from God to live the Gospel in its totality and to pursue holiness and integrity?

*Canadian/English spelling

Marc said...

Cornelius a Lapide and the fathers collected by St. Thomas in the Catena Aurea provide the exegesis that I wrote -- there is a call to poverty, but it isn't for everyone. So you can address your exegetical complaints to them.

At any rate, Christ definitely said that we are to be perfect as the Father is perfect. What demands more rigor than perfection?

Mark Thomas said...

From Rome and various bishops, we have been exposed 24/7 to chatter about "accompanying" homosexuals, and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, and Vatican light shows, and visits to Protestant churches, synagogues, and mosques, and "communist" Crucifixes, and that atheists are great people, and God isn't Catholic, and Islam is a religion of peace...

But when we will be treated to exhortations from our Churchmen to offer Mass ad orientem, to obey Vatican II teachings related to Latin and Gregorian Chant, to receive Holy Communion in the hand, for women to wear chapel veils, to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, to build magnificent churches that honor God, to conduct religious processions up and down streets, to restore a real Eucharistic fast, to restore a true sense of fasting to the Church, to proclaim in clear terms to non-Catholics that God wills them to join the True Church...?

When will that chatter begin?


Mark Thomas

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Marc, no, you have made the error. If you can show me where the pericope refers only to those called to poverty, please do. Otherwise, you plainly are protecting yoir pown possessions.

I agree that nor all are called to the poverty associated with monastic life, but that idea simply is not present in the passage.

UNLESS... Christ was not a rigorist and his clear, unambiguous commands are open to interpretation and application.....

Marc said...

Cornelius a Lapide: "This is not an evangelical precept, but a counsel . . . From hence the Pelagians taught that no rich man can be saved, unless he sell his property, and give to the poor, and become poor himself. S. Augustine writes against this view (Epist. 89. ad Hilar.), teaching that this is a counsel not a precept."

Anonymous said...

Ok,I'm a 68 year old cradle Catholic, raised by two faithful (if imperfect and human) parents to worship God and to believe in the faith as it has been proclaimed for almost 2000 years. A key aspect of this was to recognize and acknowledge my sins, and to repent, confess, and do penance. Certainly I was not to receive the Body of Christ if I had unconfessed major/mortal sins.

God's love and mercy were always there, but I (with the help of His grace) must choose these via confession, repentance, and sincere commitment to sin no more. Not that I wouldn't sin again, but that I'd do my best to keep from sinning. My goal has always been salvation and eternal life with the Lord, both for myself and others, starting with my own family.

But now I reside in a diocese and parish where such issues rarely come up. I can count the number of times a homily has mentioned sin(2) or penance(0) or confession(0) in the past 10 years. And the two mentions of sins were in the context of putting them behind us; a warning against scrupulosity, I guess, but a bit disconcerting as the only reference to sin.

So excuse me if I'm concerned about the rather loose and ambiguous language in the latest Exhortation. This is especially the case for me as I had a beloved aunt who lived in an "irregular" situation for 15 years until her husband was granted an annulment. During that time they never even considered approaching the altar; I can remember her joy when she was eventually able to repent, confess, and receive Christ in Communion once again.

In summary, I need all the help I can get to remain faithful, yet all I seem to get are feel-good bromides, liberal logic-chopping, and nibbling around the doctrinal edges. I was in a faith that was meaty, that made real demands; now I fear a thin gruel of "I'm OK, you're OK" mercy without repentance.

Adam Michael said...

Fr. Kavanaugh,

Your scriptural exegesis reveals you as the type of shepherd that Amoris Laetitia envisions - making provision for personal conscience and recognizing that Christ's commands are ideals that should not be rigorously applied to those who are on their journey to full embrace of God's will in the Church and to whom God may be asking for a (temporary) response that may fall short of the Church's perfect standard (according to Church teaching, objective sin) (Btw, does this mean that God may ask people to remain in sin?) (para. 303 of Amoris Laetitia).

However, instead of focusing on how this applies in cases of evangelical poverty and judgmental words, you should publically affirm that it applies also to other apparently unambiguous commands of Christ such as those who "look at a woman with lust in their heart," (Matt. 5:28) (now one of the apparently needed intimacies of adulterous life - para. 298, footnote 329) and lived adultery (Luke 16:18). Additionally, since Christ also teaches through the Church, you should publically affirm that the Church's teachings regarding homosexual activity, all forms of fornication, and other matters of objective mortal sin, must not be rigorously applied and that you welcome all such persons to Holy Communion. You can do no less since Pope Francis affirms that "nobody is to be condemned forever" (para. 297) and calls for a suspension of judgment of those "living in sin" (para. 301), thus making possible the help of the sacraments to the objectively sinful (para. 305, footnote 351).

Also, given your perspective, will you also consider reproving St. Paul since he appears as too rigorous, making judgments that people in objectively sinful ways of life were headed for damnation (1 Corinthians 6:8-10) instead of taking into account mitigating circumstances that may less or totally remove their guilt? He apparently did not believe that "nobody is condemned forever" (para. 297) or that people should not be referred to as "living in mortal sin" (para. 301) and is out of sync with the sentiments expressed in Amoris Laetitia. In one sense, his teaching makes reception of this document difficult for many and your attempted correction of the Apostle appears warranted according to your professed views.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. --but and this is a big but that no one ever seems to understand, but with God all things are possible. The rich can be saved, not of their own merits but by the unconditional love of God. That's love, the joy of love and it is hard for us rigorists to grasp it but if only we would....

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Adam - If you can show me where, in the passage in question, the Scripture tells us that it applies only to those called to poverty - that it is not a teaching that applies to all - please do. Adding "evangelical" to poverty turns this passage, it seems to me, into something that the Sacred authors did not intend.

I'm saying just the opposite of what you say I am saying. I believe the passage applies to all equally. Those who say it applies only to certain people are the ones who are letting other off the hook.

If we can say that such personal conversations between Jesus and some individual apply only to the individual talking to Jesus, then we have a serious problem.

Is the woman caught in adultery the only one who, after being forgiven, must "go and sin no more"? I think the words of the Lord apply to all who are so forgiven.

TJM said...

Fr. Kavanaugh, Jesus Christ told the adulteress, "Go and sin no more?" I guess this admonition is either being ignored by you or totally lost on you in your zeal to paint the Lord as a mercy "weanie."

Fr. Michael J. Kavanqaugh said...

TJM - Since I have quoted the words of the Lord, it is a little disingenuous of you to suggest that I am either ignoring His words or that they are lost on me, don't you think?

Let us recall:

"The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there."

"That, in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation..."

George said...

I don't know if it is true or not, but I read somewhere that there was a small gate into the city of Jerusalem which was known as the "eye of the needle".
In order for a camel to pass through this gate, whatever the animal was carrying had to be removed first. The removal of the baggage the animal was carrying
symbolized the sins and sinful habits which must be removed and gotten rid of before we can pass through the gates of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Matthew 19:24-26

" Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”

> Christ then let it be known that it is by His grace and mercy, and what He provides to us, that one can be spiritually poor in spirit:

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

We should be careful if by our promotion of mercy, that someone not familiar with Christ might read his words in Scripture and conclude that He was not merciful. Christ's mercy did not dismiss or do away with the demands of His justice. There is no contradiction or conflict between God's mercy and His justice.

His teaching on divorce and lust, among others, did demand and expect even MORE than what had been required of His listeners under Mosaic law.

Matthew 19:25-26

I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”

[His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

> Christ then let it be known that it is only by His grace nad mercy to us and not just effort on our part, that we can hope to (and in fact) faithfully obey and keep His law:

He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted".

1 John 2:1-5

My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him."

Adam Michael said...

Fr. Kavanagh,

I have little interest in discussing the meaning of Christ's call to embrace poverty. Neither should you. You either agree with the Church's teaching and interpretation of the issue or you effectively become a Protestant. Take your pick. One either is guided by the Church or they are not. For this reason, Catholics engaging in exegetical disputes is a tacit surrender to Protestantism, especially when the issue under discussion has already been clarified by the Church.

Also, I cannot understand how you claim to be "saying just the opposite" of my interpretation of your comments since the main (even sole) reason you posit the argument about the meaning of Our Savior's call to poverty is to demonstrate that the Church has an official precedent of interpreting Christ's commands in a "non-rigorous" manner, which should result in the present "merciful" approach to those who fulfill other commandments "less than perfectly" (including those in objective mortal sin and logically extending to the most egregious evils, including child abuse and bestiality). Readers must not forget that you brought up the issue of poverty and the verbal condemnation of the foolish to buttress your point that, "Christ was no rigorist. And the 'clergy and the bishops' are not ordained to a vocation of rigorism" (based on the verses you cite, you clearly interpret "rigorism" as pastoral insistence on doing what Christ commanded. This may be in line with Amoris Letitia, but St. Paul, who warns those in mortal sin of eternal damnation, disowns this view). I ask again, why focus on poverty and the verbal condemnation of the foolish when large groups of public and unrepentant sinners clamor for the same "merciful" release from always being required to follow Christ's commands? Release these groups through publicly making provision for their lifestyles and quit "hiding behind Church teaching" (Amoris Letitia, para. 305).

Finally, it is most inappropriate to cite the situation of the repentant woman caught in adultery. She was forgiven because she forsook her sin, not because of a pastoral discernment of her conscience that "failed to meet the objective ideal" (AL, para. 303) and exemplified "proven fidelity" and "Christian commitment" in the midst of her adultery (AL, para. 298), thus leading to perfect union with God (AL, Para. 305, Footnote 351).

George said...

It has been noted by me that in the lives of the saints I have read, concomitant with their holiness was the practice of a rigorous physical and spiritual discipline. Even where there was the case that there was a lessor degree in the ascetical practice of one compared to another, there existed in those cases hardships, sufferings, and difficult circumstances which were endured with equanimity and heroic perseverence and which conformed to, befitted and nurtured their spiritual circumstance, and spurred them to greater levels of holiness. This did not benefit them alone however, because their redemptive suffering and what it merited was of great benefit to others as well, as it still is today.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Adam - Please show me where the Church has given THE official, unalterable, and final interpretation of the issue of Jesus' words to the young man about selling his possessions.

Exegetical disputes are perfectly acceptable and do not make one or move one in the direction of Protestantism.

There's nothing in the periscope to support the notion that it applies only to those called to evangelical poverty.

I brought up the passage of the woman caught in adultery to show that Marc's contention that Jesus' words apply only to the man to whom He was speaking at the time is wrong. Jesus' teaching is universally applicable.