Friday, May 6, 2016


This article is long but well word the read:

Instructions for reading the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Lætitia”

by Angelo Bellon, O.P.

In the exhortatiton “Amoris Lætitia,” the most controversial question is the one concerning communion for the divorced and remarried, which however is never expressly mentioned.

It must be noted that above all in the eighth chapter the language is at times very indefinite and can lend itself to conclusions that are not only different but even conflicting.

So then, precisely with regard to this chapter I would like to present a few general reflections and then take into consideration the most controversial expressions.


1. The first criterion of interpretation is that of the context in which the exhortation must be read in order to avoid distorting it.

This context was provided by John Paul II in the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor,” in particular at footnote 100:

"The development of the Church's moral doctrine is similar to that of the doctrine of the faith. The words spoken by John XXIII at the opening of the Second Vatican Council can also be applied to moral doctrine: 'This certain and unchanging teaching (i.e., Christian doctrine in its completeness), to which the faithful owe obedience, needs to be more deeply understood and set forth in a way adapted to the needs of our time. Indeed, this deposit of the faith, the truths contained in our time-honored teaching, is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else'."

So the hermeneutical principle of interpretation is found here: the documents of the magisterium, including those on moral issues, must be interpreted according to the hermeneutic of continuity and development. And certainly not according to the hermeneutic of discontinuity, rupture, or transformation with respect to the perennial magisterium.

The progress of the moral doctrine of the Church takes place under the action of the Holy Spirit that gradually leads to the knowledge of the whole truth, without ever contradicting or denying the previous magisterium.

So this is a homogeneous and not a dialectical progress.

2. Having presented this fundamental premise, “Amoris Lætitia” must be read in the light of the previous magisterium, because it continues and explores this, as the exhortation itself says repeatedly, as for example when it says at no. 79:

“Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.”

Since it is above all the eighth chapter of the exhortation that has been interpreted in the most disparate and contradictory ways, it is necessary to say that the exact interpretation, the one indicated by the magisterium, is the one given “in meliorem partem,” if it can be put this way, meaning in the line of continuity.

Moreover, it is only this interpretation that can make the text understood without ambiguities and without contradictions.

3. So while the interpretation “in meliorem partem” does not run up against objections that would block its way, the one given “in peiorem partem,” meaning according to the hermeneutic of rupture, instead leads nowhere, instead running up against a myriad of statements by the magisterium and showing itself to be inconclusive and mistaken.


1. No. 302 of the exhortation recalls a great variety of reasons to be taken into account in the evaluation of individual cases:

“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’ (no. 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.’ (no. 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 (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried (24 June 2000).”

So then, those listed are all reasons why an ecclesiastical tribunal can give and in fact already gives a sentence of nullity of the marriage contracted.

In order to prevent it being said in a Christian community that one divorced and remarried person has been given absolution and another has not, the best thing is to proceed methodically, which means asking for a sentence of nullity of the marriage and possibly healing at its root the union contracted civilly.

This is the first way suggested by Pope Francis with the reform of the procedure in marriage cases. Even more, he himself has asked that the sentence be given within a year, without bureaucratic delays. This is the most orderly and sure way.

On the contrary, leaving everything to the not always enlightened evaluation of the parish priest or confessor can lead to uncertainty and can cause confusion and discontent in the communities. It could easily be argued: why one yes and another no?

2. At no. 299 it says:

“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.”

This too must always be taken into account. In the event that the priest should give absolution to a divorced and remarried person or to a cohabiting person, it is necessary to recall that one can receive holy communion only where one is not known as remarried or cohabiting. Otherwise it would generate scandal among the faithful.

The declaration of the pontifical council for legislative texts of July 7, 2000 on the admissibility of the divorced and remarried to holy communion in fact says:

“Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives - such as, for example, the upbringing of the children - ‘to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses’ (Familiaris Consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living ‘more uxorio’ is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only ‘remoto scandalo’.”

“Remoto scandalo” means that communion can be received privately or where one is not known as divorced and remarried or cohabiting, to keep from causing judgment, confusion, distress, and scandal among the faithful.

3. This is also the perspective for understanding what is written at no. 305:

“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. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits.”

Here the exhortation implicitly reiterates that in order to receive holy communion it is necessary to be in the grace of God.

This is not a human but a divine norm, as Sacred Scripture recalls: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let each one therefore examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why there are many sick among you, and a good number have died” (1 Cor 11:27-30).

4. Then there is what is written in footnote 351, regarding the “help of the Church” for those living in grace in spite of being “in an objective situation of sin”:

“In certain cases, this 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’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 44). I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’ (EG 47).”

Here the pope does not say “tout court” that holy communion should be given to the divorced and remarried.

He provides that those who have repented and are living in grace, meaning without adulterous relations or fornication, may receive absolution and may participate in the Eucharist, even receiving holy communion, always ‘remoto scandalo.’

5. Also when the pope says that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,” he is affirming something profoundly true. Precisely because we are all weak, even if we are living in the grace of God we need to strengthen ourselves with this Bread in order to sustain ourselves in the journey toward Heaven.

But it is still true that one who is spiritually dead, because he is in mortal sin, before nourishing himself in a salutary manner with this food needs to be resuscitated and regain the supernatural life through confession, which the holy Fathers of the Church define as a second baptism.

Therefore the proper sacrament for one who is spiritually dead is confession. Otherwise what Sacred Scripture has said comes true: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

This is why John Paul II said in the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia,” at no. 36:

“The Apostle Paul appeals to this duty when he warns: ‘Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup’ (1 Cor 11:28). Saint John Chrysostom, with his stirring eloquence, exhorted the faithful: ‘I too raise my voice, I beseech, beg and implore that no one draw near to this sacred table with a sullied and corrupt conscience. Such an act, in fact, can never be called communion, not even were we to touch the Lord's body a thousand times over, but condemnation, torment and increase of punishment.’ Along these same lines, the Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly stipulates that 'anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.’ I therefore desire to reaffirm that in the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul's stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, 'one must first confess one's sins, when one is aware of mortal sin’.”

6. At no. 298 the pope recognizes that there are “divorced who have entered a new 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,” and that “for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.”

And in footnote 329 he adds: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Gaudium et Spes, 51).”

With regard to this footnote that has drawn the attention of many, it must be said:

- first: the pope recalls the teaching of “Familiaris Consortio” that requires not living “more uxorio” but living in chastity, as friends and brothers and sisters;

- second: the pope, in spite of making reference to Vatican Council II that speaks of conjugal intimacy, speaks here only of intimacy. It is in fact clear that in any case this would not be conjugal, because the two are not husband and wife.

- third: the pope means that in spite of “accepting to live as brother and sister,” if it sometimes happens that they go farther, one must use patience and exhort them to do what Paul VI says in ‘Humanae Vitae,’ no. 25: “If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.”

This means understanding “in meliorem partem.” Giving another interpretation means that the sixth commandment that forbids sexual relations between persons not married to each other may be subject to exceptions.

“Veritatis Splendor” in fact says at no. 52: “The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts. They oblige everyone, regardless of the cost, never to offend in anyone, beginning with oneself, the personal dignity common to all.”

7. At no. 301 of “Amoris Lætitia” it reads:

“The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is 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.”

To tell the truth, this “can no longer simply be said” has never been said by either the magisterium or the theology manuals.

It should suffice to recall the declaration of April 26, 1971 from the congregation for the clergy in reference to what is called the “Washington case”: “Particular circumstances surrounding an objectively evil human act, while they cannot make it objectively virtuous, can make it inculpable, diminished in guilt or subjectively

The pope is therefore referring to something that can be said by Fr. Tom, Dick, or Harry. Here we find the exhortative character of the document and the colloquial mode of expression of Pope Francis. Taking the sentence in itself, it does not correspond to reality, because that thing has never been said.

8. Analogously, at no. 304 it states:

“It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being.”

Read superficially, this statement seems like a criticism of moral theology as it has been taught until now.

But neither does this correspond to the truth, because it has always been taught that the criteria for discerning the morality of an act are three: object (finis operis), intention (finis operantis), and circumstances.

Here as well the pope is therefore referring to the way of acting of someone who without looking at the subject and at the circumstances may have judged only on the basis of the moral law. So this is indeed reductive, and moreover is wrong.

9. Also at no. 301 the pope writes:

“Saint Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well (Summa Theologiae  I-II, 65, 3, ad 2); in other words, although someone may possess all the infused moral virtues, he does not clearly manifest the existence of one of them, because the outward practice of that virtue is rendered difficult: ‘Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues’ (ibid., ad 3).”

In reality Saint Thomas, after saying that together with grace the moral virtues are also infused, writes: “It happens sometimes that a man who has a habit finds it difficult to act in accordance with the habit, and consequently feels no pleasure and complacency in the act, on account of some impediment supervening from without: thus a man who has a habit of study finds it difficult to understand, through being sleepy or unwell. In like manner sometimes the habits of moral virtue experience difficulty in their works, by reason of certain ordinary dispositions remaining from previous acts. This difficulty does not occur in respect of acquired moral virtue, because the repeated acts by which they are acquired remove also the contrary dispositions” (ibid., ad 2).

And at ad 3: “Certain saints are said not to have certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, for the reason stated; although they have the habits of all the virtues.”

So then, here Saint Thomas means that some practice a certain virtue badly or do not practice it at all (for example: devotion or recollection in prayer) on account of the dispositions left by the previous actions (for example: being afflicted or irritated by bad news or a big argument. Then, as emerges from experience, one prays poorly, with little recollection and with many distractions).

But it is one thing to practice a virtue badly or not practice it at all, because of which one has little or no merit.

It is another thing to commit a grave sin against that virtue. With sin there is always detriment and offense against the Lord.

Among other things, for Saint Thomas if an individual act contrary to an acquired virtue does not cause the loss of this virtue because the act contrasts the virtue but not the habit (so that if one becomes drunk one time this does not mean that one has lost the virtue of sobriety), there is however an exception for lustfulness: “Sed actu luxuriae castitas per se privatur”: But with an act of lust chastity is intrinsically destroyed (Summa Theologiae in II sent., d. 42, q. 1, a. 2, ad 4).

Because of this, by interpreting “in meliorem partem” this no. 301 of the exhortation it can be said that the divorced and remarried, even if they are living as brother and sister, having to be together on account of the presence of the children, are not practicing chastity in the best way.

But if this text were intended to say that they are living in grace even if they have sexual relations, this would be completely wrong, because it is contrary not only to the teaching of Saint Thomas but to that of God and the Church.


Interpreted in this way, the most burning points of the exhortation present no difficulty. While many difficulties arise from a different interpretation.

It must finally be considered that this exhortation is entirely permeated by a climate of acceptance and mercy. This is the style that was intended to be given to it. And this must be taken into account.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


Vox Cantoris said...

Why should we need to "interpret" it, or put it in "context." Ten different people, ten different interpretations. The fact is, we should not need to "interpret" it at all. It should be clear, concise, and within the ability of any reasonable intelligent Catholic to receive in peace and understanding. The fact that it is not and does not says much about those behind it.

Anonymous said...

Question: Have we ever had to have instructions on the correct way to interpret a papal exhortation before?

Marc said...

Our expectations of our Catholic pope are rather low if we are okay with needing to subject what he says to such a lengthy explanation in order to eek out some small amount of orthodoxy. Or is it not possible that he actually meant what he wrote, which he confirmed by saying that he created a new practice?

Anonymous said...

"Interpreted in this way, the most burning points of the exhortation present no difficulty. While many difficulties arise from a different interpretation. It must finally be considered that this exhortation is entirely permeated by a climate of acceptance and mercy. This is the style that was intended to be given to it. And this must be taken into account."

To those who desperately want to find a "hermeneutic of discontinuity," a Modernist way of thinking, a "typical Jesuit," etc, these words will mean nothing. They, not the pope, not Fra Bellon, not nobody, not nohow, is going to tell them they are wrong. They have too much to lose from admitting eoor, they think.

Actually, they have much to gain...

Marc said...

I don't understand how it is respectful to the pope to take his plain words and twist them around to mean something that he did not intend. The premise is that the pope is either not intelligent enough to write clearly or that he cannot possibly mean what he wrote. In either case, it is the height of disrespect to simply disregard what he wrote and force upon it another interpretation based on our own personal hermeneutic.

I understand why people are trying to do this since it makes them more comfortable with the present situation. But can we not give the pope enough respect to read his ideas, engage with them, and then disagree with them, if necessary.

TJM said...

Marc, a sad commentary on the Pope, but accurate. Today, he said Europe needs to tear down its walls (no mention of the Vatican's walls) and accepts the invaders. He should stay out of politics and economics, because he lacks the competence (and common sense). If Europe followed this silly advice, what is left of Christian Europe would cease to exist, because the Muslims have no conception of what the terms tolerance or religious freedom mean. I think a papal coup may be in order.

Anonymous said...

Marc, what you said at 10:25 am makes sense to me. Surely we owe our Holy Father enough respect to take his words at face value, assuming that he means what he appears to say. And assuming as well that he himself has too much respect for his papal office to intend to mislead the faithful with ambiguities or obscure meanings that can only be ferreted out via expert interpretation.

Anonymous said...

TJM you are correct I cannot take this anymore Pope Francis addressed the European leaders and tells them to TEAR DOWN THEIR WALLS? As I have stated on many occasions Europe will cease to exist as a Cristian continent within 20 years or less, the facts cannot lie. White Europeans birth rate is 1.2 children per household on the other hand the Muslim invaders stand at 7.6 children per household, these are the cold hard facts please look them up. Why in Gods name do liberals and for that matter Pope Francis want ISLAM to take over all of Europe? I have always asked the question don't liberals, feminists, gays, atheists, liberal Jews, animal rights activists, music stars, film stars, environmentalists understand they would be the first to be executed under ISLAMIC SHARIA LAW??? Gay men are tossed off the roofs of buildings in Raqqa Syria where ISIS has their capital and if they don't die when they hit the ground they are then stoned to death. Where are the LGBT activists, feminists, Clooney, Reiner, Lear, Fonda, Katzenberg, Speilberg, nowhere to be found. Please someone on this blog answer the above questions, I for one would love feedback.

TJM said...

Anonymous, Clooney and company are rank cowards and value their little peabrain heads too much to man up and face the Muslims. Whatever happened to Deus Vult! We need a warrior Pope who will take on Islam.

Mark Thomas said...

Vox Cantoris said..."Why should we need to "interpret" it, or put it in "context." Ten different people, ten different interpretations. The fact is, we should not need to "interpret" it at all. It should be clear, concise, and within the ability of any reasonable intelligent Catholic to receive in peace and understanding. The fact that it is not and does not says much about those behind it."

Vox, the same applies to the Holy Bible. Ten different people, ten different interpretations. In the New Testament, for example, Jesus Christ's very words have been subjected to..."ten different people, ten different interpretations".

People misinterpret clear, concise statements. Here is an example:

Joe Smith said..."I would like to be a farmer. Up by dawn...plowing fields, milking, cows, slopping hogs. Yeah, I would just love that life."

Person A: Joe Smith really likes the idea of being a farmer.

Person B: Joe Smith does not like the idea of being a farmer.

Person A: How can you say that? Joe Smith stated clearly and concisely that he would love to plow fields, milk cows, and slop hogs".

Person B: Don't you tell that Joe Smith was being sarcastic? What he's really saying is that he wouldn't want to be a farmer. He made that obvious.

Person A: I disagree. Joe Smith's words were very clear and concise.

Vox, misunderstandings occur even in the face of what seem to be obvious statements.


Mark Thomas

Servimus Unum Deum said...

Father AJM, thank you for posting this and trying to lead us sheep to understand the leadership of, and not break away from our ultimate Shepherd, Jesus Christ, through the leadership of His Vicar bearing his authority, Pope Francis.

Guess you can say this young buck is middle of the road. On the one hand, I get that people are saying he must be clear with his statements, and he speaks too much off the cuff. I agree with that sentiment and did state in a post on this blog a few months ago, that the Pope MUST understand that the lingua Franca of media and social communications is English, and therefore he cannot play fast and loose with who is translating his speeches, or colloquisms. He must realize this and stop absent mindedly/innocently or directly(?) creating media firestorms as the average catholic does not go to Mass, is heavily influenced by the Culture and has not the catechesis nor the education or theological "intelligence" to use a phrase conceptually, to do what Fr AJM and others try to do when the gaffs are made.

Also, Francis must realize two other things: 1) he loves the poor so much, but who had the majority of the world's money? Or at least the more Faithful Catholics who are still loyal to the Church and donating? The wealthier nations whose primary language is English. That would be certain European countries, and Canada and the USA. If he wants to get their help to open their wallets to the poor, he has to understand how not to offend those people. 2) He also has to realize with social Media, and if the most recent Synods have given proof: sound bites are transmitted over the world in seconds. Also people purposely leak information. Once something is out there, it's out there and really hard to scrub when it is not at the level of a personal blog. He can't issue clarifications and hope that an anti-Church media will issue the clarifications for the average Cathlolic. Not to mention there are the extremist Bloggers out there (e.g. Rorate Caeli) who love to take every statement that doesn't smell of a certain type of orthodoxy, and that's where I lead to my support for interpretations like this one here.

The big, however, is that these translations are utterly necessary! Unfortunately, the Libs including theologians and even prelates and clerics in the Church down to the rural Church pastor, will utterly ruin and misinterpret Papal documents for their own purposes, further corrupting the Laity. Yet it's not just those on the Left. With the newest (or regurgitated) Ultra-traditionalist interpretations of Scripture and these documents showing up, on new wave media such as blogs and websites, old and new heresies are coming back, like Jansenism, and even quasi or directly schismatic views on the Church and the Papacy. With my generation and the next being web savvy, it is these ultra right interpretations that are popping up like wildfire, and in more numbers than faithful interpretations of the Church and its documents that will lead curious young people without the theological and social acumen to see heresy and the sin of corruption within. Even worse often this is tied into the Latin Mass, only perpetuating the stereotypes that laity and clerics think of us that do partake in it.

So while I wish for His Holiness to be more tactful and prudent when he releases communications in English (or should hire more orthodox translators,) I value these interpretations to counter all the riff raff out there and keep people joined in body, mind, and Spirit to Holy Mother Church, instead of falling to the sister son of Sloth (Acecia,) Despair, or heresy, and self-scismatizing their way out of the Church and possibly, at the cost of their eternal salvation.

Mark Thomas said...

Vox Cantoris said..."Why should we need to "interpret" it, or put it in "context." Ten different people, ten different interpretations. The fact is, we should not need to "interpret" it at all. It should be clear, concise, and within the ability of any reasonable intelligent Catholic to receive in peace and understanding. The fact that it is not and does not says much about those behind it."

Vox, the following is an undeniable case of misinterpretation. His Holiness Pope Francis was asked during a press conference about Monsignor Ricca. Pope Francis responded as follows:

"I see that many times in the Church, over and above this case, but including this case, people search for “sins from youth”, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right? Crimes are something different: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, sins.

"But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, “I have sinned in this”, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins.

"If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in a beautiful way..."

Vox, that was clear, concise Catholicism 101. Confession...forgiveness by our Lord...go and sin no more. Pope Francis even referenced the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regard to his answer to make it clear that he offered the Church's teaching in regard to his response.

Again, Pope Francis comments in question were clear and concise. However, from that time until recently, one Traditionalist after another insisted that Pope Francis had spouted confusion and even heresy in regard to his answer.

Now, we have the case of Michael Voris who acknowledged recently his sordid past life that was steeped in the sin of sodomy.

Suddenly, countless Traditionalists, who misinterpreted Pope Francis's statement about sodomy, have invoked the very same Catholicism 101 teaching that Pope Francis invoked.

Now, countless Traditionalists have insisted...who are we to judge Michael Voris? Michael Voris was a homosexual, he confessed his sins, was forgiven by our Lord, and has gone and sinned no more. Case closed, according to Traditionalists.

Vox, again, even the clearest statement is subject to misinterpretation.


Mark Thomas

Rood Screen said...

Henry and Marc,

But if he really means what he appears at first to mean, then the Church is in danger. Our Catholic instinct should be to search for a way to get the square peg into the round hole. Otherwise, God help us.

Marc said...

Dialogue, is the Church somehow in less danger if the pope does not mean what he appears to mean? It seems like the first step toward mitigating the danger is to admit that it is real and present.

I don't agree that our Catholic instinct requires us to square the peg into a round hole. Our Catholic instinct can just as well tell us to simply reject the error instead of trying to force it into conformity. After all, what does the forced conformity accomplish aside from saying essentially that we are sticking to what the doctrine and practice have always been? In other words, if you were able to wrangle the exhortation into conformity with the tradition, you'd still be left with the tradition. Why not just skip the part where you square the peg altogether and just say you're sticking with the tradition?

Popes can be wrong about things. The greatest danger to the Church is the failure of people to admit that fact because it leads either to a rejection of Christ's clear teaching on the one hand or a rejection of the present occupant of the Chair of St. Peter on the other. There is a middle path once one recognizes that sometimes even the pope needs to be opposed, if in opposing him one is upholding Christ.

And one cannot err in upholding Christ. Even if it turns out that the pope was not in error somehow, then we have still not erred in holding fast to what Christ taught.

Православный физик said...

I happen to agree Marc, I believe that the HF, means exactly what he says, and there's no need to"read between the lines" so to speak. If the author intends to mean anything other than what they've is they who need to provide the interpretation. It's gotten to the point that, I must tune out Pope Francis for the sake of sanity.

But I also agree that the sky is not falling either, much of this has to do with the age of mass media, and virtually everything being de facto formed intto an ex cathedra statement.

MR said...

Cardinal Muller of the CDF says no change on reception of communion for remarried, Familiaris Consortio 84 is still in full effect:

Jusadbellum said...

The bottom line is that FC 84 is upheld if you read the letter in context and the hermeneutic of continuity with Our Lord's words.

The "not all can be considered" of Pope Francis is premised on a couple in an objectively 'irregular' union becoming mature enough (thanks to the internal forum, prayer, and confession) to renounce all sexual activity outside of wedlock (which they are in objective breech) and live as brother and sister even if for the sake of children of this union they have to present themselves as a couple.

Love of the Lord and desire for union WITH HIM requires that they take on this devotion of virginity "for the sake of the Kingdom" which the letter explicitly highlights and underscores as the only alternative path for the Christian disciple besides marital intimacy.

Read in this fashion, it's technically accurate that "not all" are ipso facto in mortal sin and without sanctifying grace precisely because we believe adults can in fact renounce the exercise of eros for the sake of marital fidelity and fidelity to God's explicit will.

But for such a life, the couple would need the support of the community, their prayers, and the sacraments.

What not a single theologian or prelate has advanced is an actual ARGUMENT based on the document that explains how a couple in objective state of breech of their previous commitment to a validly married spouse(s) can licitly have sex without this act being adultery.

All the hand waving and implication about how it's a double-jeopardy, damned if you leave your wife and damned if you leave your adulterous second union is just that - assertions without a backing in doctrine. People can SAY it's OK but people cannot argue from doctrine that it's OK.

George said...

Mark Thomas

"...the same applies to the Holy Bible. Ten different people, ten different interpretations. In the New Testament, for example, Jesus Christ's very words have been subjected to..."ten different people, ten different interpretations".

This is why we defer to the Church, who through her Divine guidance, provides us with the approved texts and interpretations for the correct understanding of what is conveyed and contained in Scripture. When reading Scripture, it is possible for an individual to have a unique insight into what is being read, but any insight should be judged against the hermeneutic provided to us in Magisterial teaching.

Anonymous said...

What we have got is just the obvious split in the Church - the conservatives, led by Cardinal Muller, are facing off against the likes of Kasper and his ilk. Cardinals Muller and Burke are not silly. They know the intent of AL. They are saying there is no change in Church teaching BECAUSE "The Pope has no authority to change settled Church teaching full stop". Of course, liberals are going to carry on as before AND/OR they are going to pressure Francis to endeavor to make that change in Church teaching that they want. Then the schism warned of is likely to occur.

If AL wasn't able to be construed as opening the door for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive communion, there would be no need for the point that Cardinal Muller makes: "the “Church has no power to change the Divine Law” and that “not even a pope or council can change that".

Unfortunately, if conservatives can put on the spin that AL doesn't change the discipline that those in mortal sin may receive communion then EQUALLY the liberals can say that AL says that they can. Therefore, it is for conservatives, Cardinal Muller and Burke, to pressure Francis to clarify what he meant and request him to close that door that he appears to open by removing the footnote and other passages that point to that only then will we have the orthodox document that Mark Thomas tries to say that it is. Mark Thomas just cannot see that "The Emperor has no clothes" ...

Alter Anonymous said...

Marc's 2:54 analysis is excellent. To put it another way: if he's upheld doctrine in 351, he didn't need to say it, and in fact he shouldn't have said it as he did, since it can be interpreted to suggest that he _isn't_ upholding doctrine. If he's contradicted doctrine, it not only ought to be, but must be, disregarded. (Disregarded, not ignored; if a pope is purporting to teach error, we should certainly not ignore the fact of this attempt, although we certainly shouldn't follow the teaching.)

For me, the fact that Francis _still_ hasn't effectively tried to straighten out this mess--his clarifications and explanations have just muddied things further--suggests, and very strongly, that he _wants_ things muddy. If he didn't, well, he's shown many times that he can speak strongly and unambiguously when he wants to straighten people out. (He did so again this week when he raked European leaders over the coals for being opposed to immigration). Thus in the case of 351 he apparently doesn't want to.

Mark Thomas said...

Jan said..."Therefore, it is for conservatives, Cardinal Muller and Burke, to pressure Francis to clarify what he meant and request him to close that door that he appears to open by removing the footnote and other passages that point to that only then will we have the orthodox document that Mark Thomas tries to say that it is."

Jan, I am a nobody in this argument about the Exhortation. This doesn't have anything to do with me. This is about the true teachers of the Faith.

My bishop, the Teaching Authority in my diocese, has declared that the document is orthodox. God has raised him, not I, to teach, govern, and sanctify the People of God within my diocese.

From there, one bishop after another has proclaimed Laetitia Amoris ortrhodox. Cardinal Schonborn has declared the document orthodox. The same applies to Cardinals Burke and Muller.

Bishop Schneider said that there's only one way to understand AL. He acknowledged that AL "ought to be read in the light of the perennial magisterium of the Church and that AL does not permit access to communion for divorced and remarried couples, not even in exceptional cases. This statement is fundamentally correct and desirable."

That is the proper way to interpret AL. To return to Cardinal Schonborn, he said that AL neither breaks with nor changes Church teaching. He said that footnote 351 pertains to the Holy Sacrament of Penance.

Anybody who has said other than the above is at odds with the one Cardinal to whom His Holiness Pope Francis directed us in regard to understanding the correct interpretation of AL. Now, should Pope Francis not address those who have said otherwise, then that is the Holy Father's decision.

Pope Francis pointed us to Cardinal Schonborn who, in turn, pronounced AL in concert with Familiaris Consortio and the orthodox teachings of the Church in regard to marriage and family.


Mark Thomas

Marc said...

When God raised Nestorius to teach, govern, and sanctify his diocese, were the people of Constantinople unable to oppose his error?

Mark Thomas said...

Should His Holiness Pope Francis offer unorthodox teachings, then we have the right and duty to make our concerns known to the Pope.


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

"Surely we owe our Holy Father enough respect to take his words at face value, assuming that he means what he appears to say."

Well, yes and no.

We do not take a pontiff's words "at face value" without understanding and employing the analogy of faith. "The Catholic doctrine that every individual statement of belief must be understood in the light of the Church's whole objective body of faith."

No pontiff's words stand on their own without the analogy of faith being brought into play. When we speak of a hermeneutic of continuity, this is, I think, precisely what we are attempting to understand. If we ignore the analogy of faith when interpreting Sacred Scripture, we fall into proof-texting, taking one passage out of context, reading it "at face value."

If we ignore the analogy of faith when interpreting papal teaching, we also fall into proof-texting, taking one passage out of the much larger context, reading it "at face value."

The latter happens when someone quotes "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" in an attempt to deny that those who are not baptized members of the Catholic Church can enter heaven. Yet, we know that this is not true, knowledge that comes not from reading these words "at face value," but from the Church itself as this four word passage has been explained and more accurately defined and more fully understood through the centuries.

"Catholic instinct" is a completely useless category. There are as many instincts as there are Catholics, unless, of course, you believe YOUR instinct is somehow superior to that of every other Catholic that ever walked or will walk the face of the earth. YOUR "Catholic instinct" may tell you this pope is heretical, but there are many others who will tell you that your take is incorrect and who will, patiently, explain why it is incorrect.

No one upholds Christ or upholds Christ's teaching apart from the Church and according to individual "Catholic instinct."

Anonymous said...

Mark Thomas, every bishop who has said that AL doesn't change Church teaching has added that it must be interpreted in the light of Church teaching. There would be no need to do that if it wasn't open to other interpretation. Cardinals Muller and Burke have also said the Pope has no power to change Church teaching. Cardinal Burke went so far to say the exhortation is only the Pope's views and not part of the magisterial teaching. Cardinal Muller spoke to priests and told them that there is no change in doctrine. The liberals are interpreting it as allowing access to Communion for the divorced and remarried.

The Cardinal in my country has publicly supported communion for the remarried and divorced. Voice on the Family expressed concerned at his elevation by Francis and noted:

"During the October 2005 Synod on “The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission on the Church” Archbishop Dew argued for the admission of the divorced and “remarried” to Holy Communion. He said:

“Our Church would be enriched if we were able to invite dedicated Catholics, currently excluded from the Eucharist, to return to the Lord’s table. There are those whose first marriages ended in sadness; they have never abandoned the Church, but are currently excluded from the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Dew now says about AL:

"Cardinal Dew said Pope Francis took particular care in talking about those who are divorced and now in new unions.

“He appeals to us all that they not be made to feel that they are excluded from the Church family. In particular, pastors and those involved in family ministries are reminded of their obligation to exercise careful discernment of situations and to avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of different situations as well as people’s differing degrees of responsibility. The emphasis is on showing love and tenderness and working to integrate all people into the Church community no matter what their situation.”

Surprise, surprise, Cardinal Dew has made no mention of interpreting the document in light of Church teaching. So keep wearing your blinkers, Mark, but the rest of us are not silly and it is obvious that, without a clarification from Francis, then the reality is communion is going to be given to the divorced and remarried in dioceses that do not have an orthodox bishop or Cardinal.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous 4:31. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus means exactly that "outside the Church there is no salvation" and the new interpretation of it only came at Vatican II - that doesn't meant to say the Vatican II interpretation is the correct one because Vatican II was only a pastoral council and Extra ecclesiam nulla salu had already been dogmatically defined. Both St Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have attempted to clarify that the churches mentioned in Vatican II documents apply only to the orthodox churches, SSPX etc - see Dominus Iesus

Benedict said it doesn't apply to, for instance, Protestants who do not have an ordained priesthood or apostolic succession:

"Protestant churches, "because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood", had not "preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery".

"It is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of 'Church' could possibly be attributed to [Protestant communities], given that they do not accept the theological notion of the Church in the Catholic sense and that they lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church.".