Monday, November 28, 2016



“This is not normal” — so say Donald Trump’s critics as he prepares to assume the presidency. But the American republic is only the second-oldest institution facing a distinctively unusual situation at the moment. Pride of place goes to the Roman Catholic Church, which with less fanfare (perhaps because the papacy lacks a nuclear arsenal) has also entered terra incognita.
Two weeks ago, four cardinals published a so-called dubia — a set of questions, posed to Pope Francis, requesting that he clarify his apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia.” In particular they asked him to clarify whether the church’s ban on communion for divorced Catholics in new (and, in the church’s eyes, adulterous) marriages remained in place, and whether the church’s traditional opposition to situation ethics had been “developed” into obsolescence.
The dubia began as a private letter, as is usual with such requests for doctrinal clarity. Francis offered no reply. It became public just before last week’s consistory in Rome, when the pope meets with the College of Cardinals and presents the newly-elevated members with red hats. The pope continued to ignore it, but took the unusual step of canceling a general meeting with the cardinals (not a few of whose members are quiet supporters of the questioners).
Francis canceled because the dubia had him “boiling with rage,” it was alleged. This was not true, tweeted his close collaborator, the Jesuit father Antonio Spadaro, shortly after replying to critics who compared him to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Grima Wormtongue by tweeting and then deleting a shot of Tolkien’s Gandalf growling his refusal to “bandy crooked words with a witless worm.”
Meanwhile one of those four dubia authors, the combative traditionalist, Cardinal Raymond Burke, gave an interview suggesting that papal silence might require a “formal act of correction” from the cardinals — something without obvious precedent in Catholic history. (Popes have been condemned for flirting with heresy, but only after their deaths.) That was strong language; even stronger was the response from the head of Greece’s Catholic bishops, who accused the dubia authors of “heresy” and possibly “apostasy” for questioning the pope.
Who was, himself, still silent. Or rather, who continued his practice of offering interviews and sermons lamenting rigidity and pharisaism and possible psychological issues among his critics — but who refused to take the straightforward-seeming step of answering their questions.
It is not that there is any real doubt about where the pontiff stands. Across a period of vigorous debate in 2014 and 2015 he pushed persistently to open communion to at least some remarried Catholics without the grant of annulment. But conservative resistance ran strong enough that the pope seemed to feel constrained. So he produced a document, the as-yet-unclarified Amoris, that essentially talked around the controversy, implying in various ways that communion might be given case by case, but never coming out and saying so directly.
This indirectness matters because within Catholicism the pope’s formal words, his encyclicals and exhortations, have a weight that winks and implications and personal letters lack. They’re what’s supposed to require obedience, what’s supposed to be supernaturally preserved from error.
So avoiding clarity seemed intended as a compromise, a hedge. Liberals got a permission slip to experiment, conservatives got to keep the letter of the law, and the world’s bishops were left to essentially choose their own teaching on marriage, adultery and the sacraments – which indeed many have done in the last year, tilting conservative in Philadelphia and Poland, liberal in Chicago or Germany or Argentina, with inevitable dust-ups between prelates who follow different interpretations of Amoris.
But the strange spectacle around the dubia is a reminder that this cannot be a permanent settlement. The logic of “Rome has spoken, the case is closed” is too deeply embedded in the structures of Catholicism to allow for anything but a temporary doctrinal decentralization. So long as the pope remains the pope, any major controversy will inevitably rise back up to the Vatican.
Francis must know this. For now, he seems to be choosing the lesser crisis of feuding bishops and confused teaching over the greater crisis that might come (although who can say for certain?) if he presented the church’s conservatives with his personal answers to the dubia and simply required them to submit. Either submission or schism will come eventually, he may think — but not till time and the operation of the Holy Spirit have weakened his critics’ position in the church.
But in the meantime, his silence has the effect of confirming conservatives in their resistance, because to them it looks like his refusal to give definitive answers might itself be the work of providence. That is, he thinks he’s being Machiavellian and strategic, but really it’s the Holy Spirit constraining him from teaching error.
This is a rare theological hypothesis that can be easily disproven. The pope need only exercise his authority, answer his critics, and tell the faithful explicitly what he means them to believe.
But until he


Jusadbellum said...

Various theories then.

1) Pope Benedict XVI never validly or licitly stepped down due to an error in judgment on his part, meaning Francis is actually an anti-Pope. If so, then none of his acts of teaching and governance are valid. In a sense, we'd be dealing with a situation akin to an annulment! There was a conclave and voting and the appearance of an election but there were canonical impediments/errors of judgment involved that mean that no true election took place.

2) Pope Benedict XVI did validly and licitly step down, and Francis is indeed Pope but is flirting with heresy ala Pope John XXII of the 13th century.

3) Pope Francis' vagueness and various contradictory statements are divinely inspired, we're all squares who need to lighten up and embrace the "god of surprises" who can surprise us tomorrow by a 'new' insight that allows, say, Sodomy or contraception to be a-OK because "reasons" which no, we're not allowed to see because, 'Haters'.

Mark Thomas said...

I am surprised that the Four Cardinals have not called attention to Pope Francis' very words in regard to a key issue at hand.

February 17, 2016 A.D. Press conference. Anne Thompson of NBC News asked His Holiness Pope Francis whether divorced and "remarried" Catholics may receive Holy Communion.

Pope Francis:

"This is something... this is where it hits home. 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...."

That is Pope Francis' public teaching. He said that divorced Catholics who have entered into new unions are not permitted to receive Holy Communion.

The Four Cardinals should promote Pope Francis' very words on the topic in question.

Should anybody denounce them for teaching that (unrepentant) divorced and remarried Catholics may not receive Holy Communion, then the Four Cardinals would reiterate Pope Francis' public declaration on the matter at hand.

Just cite Pope Francis' public declaration in question.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Note to the Four Cardinals:

Cite simply Pope Francis' public declaration that (unrepentant) divorced and "remarried" Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion. Pope Francis' public declaration in question was in all the papers. Examples:

-- Pope Francis: No Communion for Divorced and Remarried


-- Cardinal Müller and Pope Francis: No Communion for Adulterous Divorcees

Cardinal and Pope agree that civilly remarried have other legitimate forms of participation in ecclesial life



Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

The following post from our very own Father McDonald is of great assistance to the Four Cardinals. The Four Cardinals should turn simply to the following:


Turning to the Pope’s recently released Apostolic Exhortation on the family, one journalist asked for clarification saying there are discussions going on between those who maintain that nothing has changed when it comes to the question of access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried whilst others argue that much has changed on this front.

In his reply, Pope Francis said a lot has changed but he urged the journalists to read the presentation made by Cardinal Schonborn, describing him as a great theologian who was also Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and whom, he said, has a thorough knowledge of the faith.

“The answer to your question, he declared, is contained in that presentation”.


On one point, in particular, Cardinal Schönborn offered significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“I think it is very clear,” said Card. Schönborn, “there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”

Pope Francis' very words uttered publicly demonstrate that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is at the very heart of the issue in question.

Why haven't the Four Cardinals cite Pope Francis' public teachings on the question at hand?

Has Pope Francis declared publicly that he has overthrown his very words that (unrepentant) divorced and "remarried" Catholics are not permitted to receive Holy Communion?

I have not encountered any such declaration from His Holiness Pope Francis. Has anybody heard otherwise from Pope Francis?


Mark Thomas

DJR said...

SAN DIEGO, California, November 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy is calling on his city's priests to embrace "LGBT families," and to allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in certain cases.

Following a much-hyped diocesan synod on the family last month, Bishop McElroy encouraged priests to publish a diocesan notice in their bulletins saying the Church will "assist those who are divorced and remarried and cannot receive an annulment to utilize the internal forum of conscience in order to discern if God is calling them to return to the Eucharist."

"The Synod proposed a spirituality of family life which is deeply inclusive," and embraces "LBGT families," the statement went on to say. "During the coming months Bishop McElroy will be working with a committee of synod delegates who will focus on the implementation of these goals."

TJM said...

Sounds like "Bishop" McElroy is a Democratic operative masquerading as a bishop.

DJR said...

Father Harrison, O.S: Pope is "unfit."

From a recent (November 2016) off-the-cuff papal plane interview:

"Proselytism among Christians, therefore, in itself, is a grave sin,” said Pope Francis.

The journalist then asked, “Why?”

“Because it contradicts the very dynamic of how to become and to remain Christian,” he said. “The Church is not a soccer team that goes around seeking fans.”

It would be hard to conceive of a more superficial, more puerile, remark on relations with other Christian denominations. How much lower can the papacy sink - in terms of both cheap jibes that demean and dishonor the supreme office of Christ's Vicar on earth (lambasting an opposing position with a crude straw-man caricature that would discredit a junior high schooler) and outright heterodoxy?

The American left is currently urging the Electoral College to hand the White House to Hillary on the grounds that Trump is "manifestly unfit to be President." Dare we hope that the scarlet-clad Eminences of the Church's own Electoral College will soon declare Francis "manifestly unfit to be Pope?

TJM said...

Maybe Pope Francis is suffering from the early stages of dementia. It's the only charitable explanation I have for his often nutty and uncharitable statements. Cue for Mark Thomas: please rush in with more gushing, sycophantic statements in support of your golden calf!

Jan said...

I agree with TJM, the only hope for Francis is that he is suffering the early stages of dementia because to reduce Christ's exhortation to his apostles to go and convert the nations to a mere “The Church is not a soccer team that goes around seeking fans” is not fitting for a Catholic let alone someone who purports to be pope ...