As a priest, I am confused about the fact that Pope Francis has made a letter to Buenos Aires an act of his magisterium as it concerns the correct interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.
It is the #6 in this letter that is mystifying:
5) When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, it is possible to propose that they make the effort of living in continence. Amoris Laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and leaves open the possibility of receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation when one fails in this intention (cf. note 364, according to the teaching of Saint John Paul II to Cardinal W. Baum, of 22/03/1996).
6) In other, more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible (living as brother and sister). Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace.
What befuddles and confuses me as a priest is that it seems to me, then, that the priest in arriving at a decision with a couple that in their particular case (situational ethics to be sure) there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability in living out an adulterous relationship, then the priest is actually giving permission to the couple to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. Or am I misinterpreting this?
If the priest has discerned through situational ethics that this adulterous couple may return to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion, then, why in the name of God and all that is holy, can't the priest also validate their relationship with a public blessing of some kind or even a convalidation of the marriage? Isn't that the next logical step in Pope Francis logic here?
And let's get into fornication by heterosexual and homosexual couples. If a priest accompanies these couples and discerns with them through situational ethics that it is proper for them to remain in their sexual relationships for a variety of situational ethics reasons, why not offer a blessing to these couples and publicly at Mass to validate their receiving the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.
I firmly believe this is where we are being led, Catholicism Lite, a la the Episcopal Church. And didn't Cardinal Pell say this in 2014 at the first synod on the Family? And it seems to me too, that Cardinal Pell's remarks in the video below indicate a seething betrayal by this Magisterium of the Cardinals who don't want the Church, the Catholic Church, to become a part of liberal Protestantism and thus in schism with the truth.
Yes His Eminence did! Here's proof:
He’s not being very stealthy.
"the priest is actually giving permission to the couple to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. Or am I misinterpreting this?"
You would be, if you thought a pope had the power to give you as a priest the authority to "give permission" for an a couple living in adultery to receive Holy Communion.
Whenever I hear about "discernment" in these circumstances, I'm reminded of a quote by the great physicist Richard Feynman. Though he was talking about the need for care and rigor in pursuing science, I think this speaks as well to the potential problem with discernment: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool."
I need some help from our priests in understanding and evaluating the apparent general premise of this article, which is written by a priest. The author characterizes the case as one where the priest “arriv[es] at a decision with a couple that in their particular case (situational ethics to be sure) there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability.” The premise appears to be, then, that considering the particular facts of the case to see if there are “limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability” is “situational ethics.” I question whether this is a correct application of the term “situational ethics,” especially given the three conditions required for mortal sin—grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. Thus the CCC states:
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."131
1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother."132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
Doesn’t determining whether the second and third conditions have been fulfilled always require a consideration of the particular facts or situation? This would seem to be especially the case with the third condition.
My understanding of situational ethics is that, by contrast, it is a form of consequentialism that would override the first condition in a particular case based on “good” or more “loving” consequences. Have I understood correctly?
P.S. Is another way to express the matter that in situational ethics the good or more “loving” consequences are considered to_justify_the action in question whereas under the CCC particular circumstances may_excuse_the action?
I am not trained as a moral philosopher, and in asking all these questions I am seeking guidance from our priests or others, such as Gene, who may be well trained in the areas of moral philosophy and theology.
Victor Fernandez, who wrote the offending passage in AL, favours a form of situational ethics and caused controversy twelve years ago when he publicly took issue with JP II's 'Veritatis Splendor'. Bergoglio sided with him then, and after his election moved him to Rome, made him an archbishop, and uses him as a ghostwriter and theological guru.
Fernandez has written 'I rely firmly on the truth that all are saved' and has described extramarital sex, including same-sex acts, as 'an expression of the ecstatic love of charity' and 'an expression of the ecstatic dynamism of the love which imparts sanctifying grace.'
Should we be worried, or scandalized, or both?
Internal Forum. Clear, concise article.
Stealth? He's being blatantly obvious about this....
'Clear, concise article.' However, it was written in April 2016 and the waters have been considerably muddied since then.
"If the priest has discerned through situational ethics that this adulterous couple may return to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion, then, why in the name of God and all that is holy, can't the priest also validate their relationship with a public blessing of some kind or even a convalidation of the marriage? Isn't that the next logical step in Pope Francis logic here?"
According to the Argentinian norms magisterially approved by Pope Francis, the new discipline of admitting unrepentant adulterers to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion is predicated on discerning mitigating circumstances that limit the subjective culpability of the adulterous couple (mitigating circumstances regarding mortal sins, including adultery, is part of Catholic doctrine), not situational ethics, which relativizes the objective nature of the sinful action in accordance with the varied conditions of the individual (a condemned teaching which is not being taught by Pope Francis and the Argentinian bishops).
Regarding the convalidation of the second union of those without an annulment, one fools themselves if they interpret the first act of confessing or communing the unrepentant public adulterers in a second union as anything but a blessing of the union. No essential difference remains, for the purpose of any ecclesial blessing of the second union after divorce is to preserve the remarried couple's sacramental participation in the Church (e.g. the ancient canonical practice of the Eastern Church). Avoidance of the blessing ceremony for the divorced and remarried couple is a technicality that somewhat hides the reality being performed in the confessional and at the altar rail.
Dear God, Anon 2, do not get me started on situation ethics...I will quote you what our mutual acquaintance, Dr. Ted Nordenhaug,
said about Joseph Fletcher when I studied Philosophy under him at Mercer, (in a high pitched voice, skipping in front of the class) "All you need is love, all you need is love." LOL! Situational ethics is the laughing stock among ethical philosophies because there is no real ethical imperative behind it, other than to make every decision based upon "love." Christian ethicists lampoon it by quoting two Scriptures, 1John 4:8 "God is love." This is the verse Fletcher pushes. But, right next door in 1 John 5:8, it says that to love God is to keep His Commandments. Well, if people have not noticed, His commandments are rather imposing.
Yes, you understand situation ethics very correctly. The only "situation ethic" I could ever get behind would be something like JS Mill's pragmatic, "act in such a way as to produce the most good for the most people." This is somewhat democratic in concept, gives the individual a quick yard stick by which to measure actions and situations, and works politically, as well. I think there is a certain cynicism behind it and, obviously, many will be left out or injured, even with these best intentions.
For a philosophical ethic, I always come back to Immanuel Kant. The same Dr. Nordenhaug said that Kant is the closest thing we have to a Christian ethic in the secular world...a "duty ethic." Of course, in our world, people have no desire more claimant than to hear as little about "duty" as possible.
No, the OSV article is still quite clear and concise. It describes accurately the Church's understanding of the Internal Forum and its use.
If you don't LIKE the notion of internal Forum, say so. But don't fault the article and its author because of your predilections.
Anonymous, do you have a problem with written comprehension? If an article was clear and concise in April 2016 then it is no less clear and concise in December 2017, and it is no fault of the author that he could not predict the future.
In the case of annulment, the Internal Forum was always available, but not, so far as I am aware, as a first resort. In any case, I have never commented on the Internal Forum so my predilections (if any) are beside the point.
Adam Michael said on December 10, 2017 at 1:24 PM"
I'm having a hard time understanding what you have said, but my sense is that you are saying:
1) "...the new discipline of admitting unrepentant adulterers to the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion is predicated on discerning mitigating circumstances that limit the subjective culpability of the adulterous couple..."
So it's not situational ethics, but the priest determining if there were mitigating circumstances that lessened the gravity of re-marrying without an annulment. And if the priest finds there were mitigating circumstances, such as one of the three factors is missing (It is a Grave Matter but penitent did not have Full Knowledge and so did not give Deliberate Consent to the moral sin.) then the person may be forgiven.
Is it not then the duty of the priest to inform the pertinent right then that since they had a valid first marriage, to have remarried without an annulment is a very grave sin against the teaching of Jesus and the Church, and to continue in that marriage and have sexual relations is to continue to commit mortal sins, and if the person should choose to stay in that marriage and have sexual relations then they can no longer be admitted to the sacraments of Penance or Holy Communion since NOW the conditions ARE met (A Grave Matter where the person now has Full Knowledge, and does it anyway; Deliberate Consent)? And since there is no rejection of that sin, or intention to not commit that sin in the future, the falling into that sin is not accidental due to weakness, but deliberate due to intention to continue in the sin, and cannot truly be absolved in the future because there is no intention to amend.
2) "Regarding the convalidation of the second union of those without an annulment, one fools themselves if they interpret the first act of confessing or communing the unrepentant public adulterers in a second union as anything but a blessing of the union."
It seems you are saying here is that when the penitent receives absolution for the matter of remarrying without an annulment, that absolution confers automatic annulment and bestows the sacramental blessing of the Church on the second marriage. How could that possibly be? The only thing that confers an annulment is an examination of the factors surrounding the first marriage to discover whether it was valid. If it was, the penitent, no matter how much he/she confesses, cannot undo the vows of that first marriage.
Have I understood what you wrote correctly? Is that what the Pope is claiming in the document?
With regard to the Episcopal Church (which has lost half its total membership in jus t50 years), even the southern dioceses are not immune from the secular humanism engulfing the Church elsewhere...as an example, last month the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta passed a resolution on HIV/AIDS "education" which states that efforts must be "age appropriate"(?) and MUST (in CAPS, as resolution stated) include efforts beyond "abstinence only" curricula. In other words, if you can't be good, be safe. The resolution even states the issue is complicated by "transphobia" (I did not know that was a word?). SO I guess that means condoms in the classrooms...nowhere in the resolution is "responsible behavior" encourage, no reference to Biblical instruction on appropriate conduct..instead it is back to the 60s, "if it feels good, do it!"
The problem remains, even if the priest assists a person to discern that his or her original marriage should have been annulled. Namely, even if an annulment should have been given, that person is in an invalid marriage with his or her current spouse. So, until the priest is prepared to take the internal forum to its logical conclusion by conducting the proper rite to validate the purported second marriage, the person cannot approach the sacrament of Holy Communion.
And all of this talk of the internal forum forgets the concept of scandal. One might well have appropriate recourse to the internal forum, but all of the people of the parish, including the children of the illicit union, are not aware of that activity without some public acceptance of the second union. So there will be scandal at the reception of Holy Communion in such a case, unless the person and the priests take care to avoid it (by giving communion privately, for example).
If I read your post correctly, you seem to assume that my full knowledge that an act is gravely sinful automatically implies my deliberate or complete consent to commit that act if I then do commit it. It is my understanding, however, that the three conditions of grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate or complete consent are analytically separate. Thus, the CCC seems to envisage that I can have full knowledge that an act is gravely sinful and yet still commit it without my action being entirely “voluntary and free,” owing to the “promptings of feelings and passions” or “external pressures” or “pathological disorders.”
This makes theoretical sense for moral culpability, as it does for criminal culpability. An extreme, and extremely vivid, example of “external pressure” would be where someone holds a gun to my head or the head of a loved one and threatens to pull the trigger unless I commit an act which I know to be gravely sinful. If I then commit the act, it is still gravely sinful and therefore not “justified,” even though the circumstances may “excuse” it because I acted under duress. The “promptings of feelings and passions” and “pathological disorders” mentioned by the CCC seem to have more to do with “internal pressures.” This said, I am not sure the distinction between “external” and “internal” is quite as clear as it might seem, both because holding a gun to my head, for example, is very likely to induce powerful “feelings and passions” and, similarly, many of the “feelings and passions” I experience, or even any “pathological disorder” from which I may be suffering, may well be linked to some kind of external pressure.
Of course, Father McDonald and the other priests who contribute to the Blog can explain all of this more clearly than I can, and they can also correct any errors in the above account.
Thank you for responding to my post about situational ethics. I agree that Mill’s utilitarianism or consequentialism has its attractions and, goodness knows, some variant of it (typically economic) is very influential in our politics. So, it surely has a legitimate place in our moral reasoning. But, as you suggest, we have to be careful that we do not end up in a place where the “good” end always justifies the means.
Anon 2, The end justifying the means is a very dangerous philosophy as has been demonstrated repeatedly in our history...war, slavery, the treatment of the American Indian, nuclear weapons and energy, environmental abuse...all related to that philosophy in some way. Now, I am politically conservative and something of a historical positivist (whatever that is), so I do not see any use in wringing our hands over what were actually historical inevitabilities given the culture and thinking of the time...we cannot go back and read modern values and morality into past events...but, we should damn well learn from them.
As to learning from history – quite so; good old Santayana! Which, of course, brings us back to the importance, and condition, of education.
The adulterer could still claim that he or she has mitigating circumstances (such as duress, fear, or habit as outlined in the Catechism) that hinder their deliberate consent to the mortal sin of adultery. If the priest judges that these mitigating factors are sufficient to change the subjective species of the individual’s sin of adultery, he may admit them to Absolution and Communion under Pope Francis’ authoritative teaching. Even though the penitent has no intention to amend his or her life by avoiding the objectively mortally sinful adultery, if the penitent’s mitigating circumstances are authentic, their guilt is venial and their sin of adultery would thus be free matter in the confessional and could be omitted without violation of the validity of the Sacrament of Penance.
Obviously, all of this holds true only if the Church is free to determine that the subjective reality of a person’s sins (instead of the objective nature of sins) may be the criteria of the Church’s sacramental discipline. If, alternately, the Church is doctrinally and irrevocably bound to predicate her sacramental discipline on the objective nature of the sinful act (as has hitherto been the practice and apparently remains the practice for all sins besides the adultery of the solely civilly divorced and remarried couple), all mortal sins must be confessed and avoided on the basis of their objective nature with Holy Communion being divinely forbidden to those who refuse to do so and Pope Francis is materially heretical to magisterially say otherwise. However, I am not aware of the Church having ever authoritatively taught that the objective nature of sins is the sole criteria upon which her sacramental discipline may be based. Barring evidence to the contrary, it is technically possible for Pope Francis to change the Church’s sacramental discipline to focus on the subjective reality of an individual’s sins rather than their objective nature for either certain sins or for all sins, in general, in the name of a pastoral clemency that seeks to minister to the sheep of God’s pasture as the Lord truly sees them (who, if possessing true mitigating circumstances, do not suffer damnation solely on the basis of the objective nature of their mortal sins).
My statement regarding the essential “blessing” of the condemned second union of the solely civilly divorced and remarried should be understood as analogous of the subsequent unions (beyond the first) that are tolerated in the Orthodox Church (and by Eastern Catholics until the promulgation of the Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law of 1917). Under the principle of oikonomia, by which the Orthodox canonical authorities recognize that due to one’s spiritual weakness the full penalty of the canonical norm (typically excommunication from the Chalice/sacraments in general) that would follow a forbidden or sinful action may be suspended in individual cases, those actively living in one or two subsequent unions after the first marriage may be admitted to the sacraments. This is the core Orthodox understanding of her discipline on divorce and remarriage, despite misunderstandings that seek to make divorce and remarriage a norm or fully acceptable in the Orthodox Church. This intra-Orthodox explanation is necessary because Pope Francis has, essentially, done the same in the Catholic Church by his new discipline on the admittance of the divorced and remarried to the sacraments. As should be clear, this has nothing to do with either annulments or approving the second union as moral. As with the Orthodox, the “blessing” of the second union, in its essence, is a “blessing” to remain in union with the Church even when sinning and violating her teachings against divorce and remarriage. One might say that “mitigating circumstances” has become the door by which the essentials of Orthodox “oikonomia” has been accepted by the Pope of Rome.
Adam Michael said... "The adulterer could still claim that he or she has mitigating circumstances (such as duress, fear, or habit as outlined in the Catechism) that hinder their deliberate consent to the mortal sin of adultery. If the priest judges that these mitigating factors are sufficient to change the subjective species of the individual’s sin of adultery, he may admit them to Absolution and Communion under Pope Francis’ authoritative teaching. Even though the penitent has no intention to amend his or her life by avoiding the objectively mortally sinful adultery, if the penitent’s mitigating circumstances are authentic, their guilt is venial and their sin of adultery would thus be free matter in the confessional and could be omitted without violation of the validity of the Sacrament of Penance."
The problem with the above is that none of it is the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Again, the analysis is backwards.
The first question should be: Are the two people involved married? If the answer is no, that ends the inquiry.
The Church does not allow unmarried persons, of any type whatsoever, to engage in sexual acts and still receive Holy Communion, as said acts are always mortal sins.
It is not possible for Pope Francis to change the Church's "discipline" in this regard.
Additionally, it is absurd to posit the idea that a sexual act is a venial sin. It is either a mortal sin, or it's not a sin at all.
Please provide evidence that the person who commits sexual mortal sins is always fully culpable of the guilt of these mortal sins. I have never known of limits to which mortal sins mitigating circumstances apply. Additionally, I did not posit that adultery is anything less than a mortal sin. I spoke only of the subjective guilt of the sinner. Without evidence for your position, it may be possible for Pope Francis to adapt the Church's sacramental discipline to focus on the subjective guilt of the individual instead of their objective status in relation to their mortal sins. If you have evidence that the Pope is bound to predicate the Church's sacramental discipline on the objective nature of his or her sins, please provide this evidence since it is very pertinent to the discussion.
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