The National Catholic Review
Jan 5 2017 - 4:19pm | Louis J. Cameli
Confusion still surrounds ‘Amoris Laetitia’

In December, in a letter directed to Pope Francis and the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, four cardinals cited dubia (literally, “doubts”) or questions about the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” The cardinals then made their letter available to the general public. Their concerns about the exhortation centered on what they felt it had provoked: “uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

Although they wanted to resolve uncertainty, it seems that their letter may have exacerbated it. In these reflections, I hope to offer some clarifications that will address the dubia as well as allow for a wider and more genuine appropriation of the pope’s message.

In summary, the five dubia suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” may have altered traditional Catholic teaching on the following matters:

  • the indissolubility of the sacramental marriage bond;
  • the existence of absolute moral norms prohibiting intrinsically evil acts;
  • that one can find oneself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin by living in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law;
  • that circumstances or intentions can never transform an intrinsically evil act into a subjectively good one or into a defensible choice;
  • that there can be no “creative” role for conscience to authorize legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms.

The dubia are not really expressions of doubt or questions but rather assertions that “Amoris Laetitia” appears to have abandoned or altered key teachings of Catholic tradition, especially as they have been expressed most recently by St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter “Veritatis Splendor” (1993).

Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the cardinals and their dubia. Why? I would suggest that it is because the questions raised by the cardinals cannot be answered. What does this mean? The dubia suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” has brought change or novelty to traditional Catholic teaching. Repeatedly, whether in the context of “Amoris Laetitia” itself or other discourses, the pope has affirmed that there is no new teaching and no change in the teaching. If this is so, what would be the origin of the dubia?

I propose that the dubia stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of “Amoris Laetitia” and, indeed, of the renewal that began with the Second Vatican Council and was fostered by John Paul II—including his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor.”

Pastoral Synods

It is important to note that there were two synods devoted to family life in 2014 and 2015. Through a very wide consultation, the first synod identified the experience and challenges of marriage and family life today. The second synod explored the appropriate pastoral responses that the church might offer to families. In some quarters, the mention of a “pastoral response” provokes a negative reaction. For some, “pastoral” means an easier way or a more accommodating path without regard for the hard truth. In fact, a pastoral approach is not necessarily easier or more accommodating, but it does try to incorporate the truth of the Gospel into the lived experience of people. Ultimately, this response has its roots in the public ministry of Jesus. More recently, the Second Vatican Council underscored the pastoral task and responsibility of the church.

In his apostolic constitution, “Humanae Salutis,” convoking the council, St. John XXIII set the pastoral direction for the gathering: “Today, the Church is witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of its history. It is a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel” [emphasis added].

And in his opening speech to the council, in words that could likewise be applied to “Amoris Laetitia,” he said:

The salient point of this Council is not…a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a Council was not necessary…the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faith and perfect conformity to authentic doctrine…. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character [emphases added].

Clearly, the pastoral program of renewal envisioned by John XXIII was designed to be a formational journey that would bring people to the truth that is, ultimately, Jesus Christ. This is the same pastoral program envisioned by “Amoris Laetitia.” The irony of the cardinal’s dubia is that they suggest the apostolic exhortation is unfaithful to the tradition, when, in fact, it means to bring people to greater fidelity and greater conformity with the truth in Jesus Christ.

The Gospel Journey

The real driving question of this process is this: How do you bring people forward to greater and greater conformity with the truth of the Gospel? Do you do this by arguing for objective truth? Yes, of course, objective truth is fundamental. The reality of the kingdom of God has an objectivity about it. It is not the stuff of our own construction or imagination. God gives us his kingdom and it has its own objectivity: “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface from the feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe).

But is “objective truth” the end of the story? By no means. In a telling statement, John Paul II reinforces the need for and distinctiveness of the pastoral and formational dimension of the church’s mission in bringing the truth of the Gospel to people. He writes:

The discernment which the Church carries out with regard to these [incorrect] ethical theories is not simply limited to denouncing and refuting them. In a positive way, the Church seeks, with great love, to help all the faithful to form a moral conscience which will make judgments and lead to decisions in accordance with the truth…. This effort by the Church finds its support—the ‘secret’ of its educative power—not so much in doctrinal statements and pastoral appeals to vigilance, as in constantly looking to the Lord Jesus (“Veritatis Splendor,” No. 85) [emphasis original].

Even more impressive than his words about moral formation is John Paul II’s phenomenology of formation that begins the encyclical (Nos. 6-21): the story of Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young man in Matthew (19:16-22). Jesus does not simply announce the truth and leave the young man to accept it or reject it. Rather, Jesus engages in a process to bring the young man forward. John Paul II says, “Jesus, as a patient and sensitive teacher, answers the young man by taking him, as it were, by the hand, and leading him step by step to the full truth” (No. 8). This example is consistent with the larger pattern of Jesus forming his disciples within the context of their limitations and even their failures. Jesus “brings his disciples along,” and, although this is true in all the Gospels, it is especially evident in the Gospel of Mark, the gospel of discipleship.

At this point in our reflections, it may be good to pause and identify what has emerged from our reflections. In the Christian life—and this is already evident in the Gospels—there are two connected and related yet distinct movements: the proclamation of the truth and the formation of people to embrace and live out that truth. The dubia presented by the four cardinals suggest that “Amoris Laetitia” does not proclaim the truth in an integral way. In fact, the teaching on marriage and family is clear and assumed (see Nos. 67-70).

The path of “Amoris Laetitia” follows a formational process. This is clear from the text:

This exhortation is especially timely in this jubilee Year of Mercy. First, because it represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience. Second, because it seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy (No. 4).

This is the language of formation and pastoral accompaniment that is present throughout the document.

For some, this distinction between the proclamation of the truth and the pastoral accompaniment of people may seem forced or, perhaps, not even valid. To those who have problems with this distinction, I suggest that they turn to the Gospels and listen to Jesus in two instances in which he deals with irregular marital situations.

In the first instance (Mt 19:3-9; Mk 10:2-12), some Pharisees want to test Jesus, and they question him about divorce. He unequivocally affirms the exclusivity and indissolubility of the marriage bond. Even more, he affirms this as the original plan of God from the time of creation. He goes beyond the Mosaic accommodations that did allow for divorce in certain circumstances. His teaching is clear and definitive.

In the second instance (Jn 4:5-42), Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman. This is not a conversation about general principles or truths. Jesus encounters a woman with a complex life story that involves five husbands and a current live-in boyfriend. He does not simply announce the truth of marriage and then challenge her to live it out. From the beginning, with his request for water, he engages her and draws her to himself. Then, at a certain point, he says to her: “‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’” Perhaps embarrassed by this revelation, she seeks to divert the conversation, but Jesus stays with her and accompanies her. Eventually, she embraces faith in Jesus, and this is evident in her words to her fellow townsfolk: “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

These two very different instances and the different ways that Jesus acts suggest a template for the church mission and ministry, especially with regard to marriage. There is a place and a necessity to offer clear and sound teaching. There is also a need to accompany people whose lives are broken and burdened, so that they can embrace the life-giving truth of the Gospel. In a word, “Amoris Laetitia” assumes the teaching and takes up the challenge, task and responsibility of pastoral and spiritual formation that accompanies people along the path of discernment.

To suggest a lack of fidelity in “Amoris Laetitia” to the truth of Christian marriage is to miss the point and—even more—to neglect mission and ministry in the pattern of Jesus himself.

The Rev. Louis J. Cameli, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is the archbishop's delegate for formation and mission. 

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Douglas Fang | 1/17/2017 - 5:51pm

Per Tim comment - “The so-called tolerant and open minded who are the most intolerant of others…” – I feel a little bit funny when I read this as it seems to be mutually applicable to both sides. It is dishonest if someone thinks otherwise. However, as you constantly claims that you defend the Church, I’m questioning what Church you are defending. Based on all your comments, I have to come to the conclusion that you are trying to defend the Church that you have constructed in your own mind based on your lifelong experience and knowledge, an utterly subjective Church. You seem to have a complete lack of understanding of the experience of other human beings, i.e. those Catholics who don’t share your point of view, those non-Catholic Christians who follow Jesus in their own ways that God has shown them, the non-Christians believers who follow God in spirit and in truth, etc.

Your behavior reminds me of the movie Captain Fantastic ( In the movie, the son, Bo, realizes that although he knows almost everything there is to know about history, science, math, philosophy, law and literature, he knows almost nothing about how to use that knowledge correctly. He has no street smarts or common sense.

Maybe this is the reason why God did not come to this world as a high priest, an eloquent philosopher, etc. He came to live within us as a humble and lowly carpenter. He lived in his town for almost 30 years and no one recognized anything special about Him. People changed their lives and “sin no more” after they have encountered the love and mercy of God revealed by Him, not the other way around.

This is why I criticize the Dubia from Burke and his cohorts. They did not do this out of their love and humility. They did that out of their intellectual pride, to challenge and undermine the teaching of Pope Francis. There is no love and mercy in the Dubia. You don’t come to people living on the fringe of the Church with fancy Dubia.... This is why I look at them as modern Pharisees, no more no less.

Tim O'Leary | 1/14/2017 - 11:13pm

As I said way back in November 2015 (, I am emotionally sympathetic to the idea that ways be found for binding repentant (penitent) remarried divorcees closer to the Church, as long as it can be done without jeopardizing the intent of our Lord Jesus regarding the indissolubility of marriage. But, so many of those clamoring for change (and for silencing anyone asking questions) do not seem to have the heart of discernment as described in Amoris Laetitia. AL says (#300), “discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.” (i.e. the Catechism & Holy Scripture). I do not see much of that carefulness in many of the comments below. AL also says that for discernment to be real “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching” must be present (ibid). I wonder how many critics of the Church’s teaching can claim to love the Church's teaching - how can they begin to meet that standard? It seems more like hate for anyone seeking clarity. But, isn't is always the so-called tolerant and open minded who are the most intolerant of others?

Robert Lewis | 1/14/2017 - 4:51am

I think it is time that those who support Pope Francis's reforms of Church practice begin to appreciate the seriousness of the so-called "Traditionalists'" attempts to undermine, delegitimize and, perhaps, eventually, depose this papacy. They claim the opposite of what the pope's defenders have stated to be his receptivity toward criticism, and their claim amounts to what may reasonably be termed malfeasance of his papal office. These claims are serious, and they may amount to calumny, and, if they do, they require canonical punishment, if Pope Francis's "reforms" are to be salvaged:

Michael Barberi | 1/15/2017 - 4:51pm


I also agree with you. Some bishops and bloggers believe that the only true Catholics are the ones who obey every moral teaching of the magisterium. If they respectfully disagree with some teachings for good reasons, they are accused of violating the deposit of faith. Any respectful and legitimate disagreement, and reasoned argument, quickly leads to protracted and unending blog comments and negative unsubstantiated accusations. Sometimes we see articles in magazines like the Spectator criticizing Pope Francis.The wise walk away after a moderate amount of debating starts to become unproductive.

Pope Francis has open the door for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment under certain conditions. This is happening regardless of the division among the Bishops and Vatican officials. As Cardinal Schonborn said, in paraphrase, Amoris Laetitia changed nothing, but it also changed everything. Let's pray for Pope Francis and ask God to enlighten us all in agreement and disagreement.

Tim O'Leary | 1/16/2017 - 11:28am

Michael - you repeatedly say you disagree with "some teachings for good reasons" and that your disagreement is "legitimate." but, am I not right that you disagree with the Church's teaching (as described in the Catechism), in whole or in part, on nearly every aspect of sexual morality (fornication, specific sexual acts, sex outside marriage, co-habitation, marriage, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, ...) and with many other parts of the Church's self-understanding (magisterial authority and infallibility in general, the role of conscience, the authority of the Catechism, receptivity of the Sacraments, women's Ordination, interpretation of Scripture, abortion, capital punishment...), & Church discipline (canon law), and you disagree with the Church's self-understanding of its consistency and interpretation of its own history. You also frequently impugn the motives of Church leaders (bishops and cardinals). Surely, the word "some" is an underestimation? As to your concerns of "unending blog comments" a word count of the comments below will reveal you are by far the most frequent commentator (I count over 3,000 words from you, with Patrick at 1500, and me at 1200 before this comment - now 1400!). I like to debate you because you provide so many opportunities to defend the Church (my only mission on this site). I just wish you didn't have such a thin skin when your comments or sources are challenged.

Peace to you.

Michael Barberi | 1/16/2017 - 5:07pm


When you attempt to chastise me for my disagreements and arguments, I must respond.

Sometimes I can, and do, disagree with the comments of some Church leaders who have a rigid interpretation of Scripture or insist on a blind sense of obedience to every moral teaching of the CC. Nevertheless, I always try to be respectful, and never intentionally degrade the personal character of anyone.

Many Catholics, inclusive of priests, bishops and theologians 'respectfully' disagree with many moral teachings of the Church. Those who disagree for good reasons are not unfaithful or ignorant or are they disparaging the Church.

Tim, you don't realize it but your style of argument is always the same. Anything that the Catechism or the magisterium says is right or wrong is the absolute moral truth. This is the root of your constant arguments. In other words, in your opinion:
> there is no room for respectful and well-reasoned disagreement with a teaching of the magisterium.
> there is no room for an informed conscience if it is in tension with a moral teaching of the Church.

Sorry Tim. Those who respectful disagree with certain moral teachings of the CC love God and neighbor as best they do all faithful Catholics.

I choose to end our exchanges when they become unproductive, pure and simple. This is not being 'thin skinned".

Your fixation on the number of comments and totaling up the number of words is ridiculous. I think your objective is clear: to convert every blogger to be like believe in every moral teaching of the Church and never challenge the magisterium.

Before you attempt to take the speck out of my eye Tim, take the blank out of your own first.

Tim O'Leary | 1/17/2017 - 9:42am

Michael - You mischaracterize my position. I agree that some faithful Catholics have difficulties with 1 or 2 Church teachings,and that is ok, as long as they "love the Church and her teaching" and are trying to reconcile their disagreements with the Church. But, is that really your situation? It seems to me you blog (more than most, in terms of words written), not sometimes in favor and sometimes against, but always against Church teaching. It seems you consider the Catechism an obstacle to the truth. And the breadth and depth of your "disagreements" with the Church would at times make Luther blush! Favorably following Prof. Bill Loader is a perfect example. And, it doesn't surprise me he is not Catholic, or even orthodox Methodist.

My objective, as I have said before, is to defend Church teaching when I think it is either mischaracterized or unfairly attacked. I hope that even if I don't convince the person I am responding to, I can show other readers the weakness of some of the positions of those who make a habit of opposing the Catechism. I judge no one's soul, just their arguments, which I think it the whole point of commenting in the first place.

Robert Lewis | 1/17/2017 - 7:13am

Michael, I don't think you should respond to him at all. His ideas of what the Apostolic Church is are completely different from ours, and there seem to be no possibilities of compromise. He doesn't appear even to recognise where we are coming from in terms of "development of doctrine" (as opposed to dogma), and he really has very little understanding of the extent to which, historically, the Church HAS exercised its Christ-given power to "bind and loose." Everything you or I write about issues facing the Church is going to be responded to by quotations from "the Catechism." It's like what Christ and Paul said about the Pharisees: they have the Law, but not the Spirit.

Michael Barberi | 1/17/2017 - 4:36pm


Thanks for your kind thoughts and suggestions. I will not be responding to Tim for obvious reasons. As you discern, Tim is an extreme apologist and takes any disagreement of moral teachings of the CC as unjustly undermining the Church and the Catechism. Most of the Church's teachings on sexual ethics should be developed and some changed for a host of good reasons. He can not stand the fact that anyone could have a convincing argument aimed at moving the conversation towards a better understanding of truth. I, as others, love and serve Christ, His Gospel and are faithful to the Deposit of Faith, full stop...not every moral teaching of the magisterium if we have honest, respectful and well-reasoned disagreement that must be adequately addressed. When someone challenges a moral teaching, Tim only sees bad motives, intentions and a distortion of the truth (which is every word of the Catechism in Tim's opinion). He only sees what he wants to see.

Tim O'Leary | 1/17/2017 - 9:54am

Robert - I don't know if you have read the Catechism right through, but it is a marvelous balance of truth and spirit, and has resulted in many conversions and reverts to the faith. It is truly a beautiful document, an exposition of the true faith for the ages.

Here is what Pope Francis said about the CCC "The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?"

Bruce Snowden | 1/14/2017 - 9:02am

Mr. Lewis, I agree!

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alan macdonald | 1/10/2017 - 10:19pm

Father J. ZUhlsdorf, in his blog writes that Father Cameli is dishonest in writing this article, especially editing Pope John XXIII' s writing. Fr Zuhlsdorf is a well known traditionalist with a broad knowledge of papal documents and I tend to believe him here.

Douglas Fang | 1/8/2017 - 9:53pm

The objective truth--"outside of which (Catholic Church) none can be saved."

Is this objective truth? How about the Orthodox Church who has the same claim? How about non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christians? How about all the other non-Christian believers who deeply and sincerely believe in non-Christian Gods? How about the agnostics and atheists with a strong sense of moral and common good?

Even objective and verifiable truths are still denied by a huge number of people, i.e. Obama is not born in America, the unemployment rate in America went up under Obama, stock market went down under Obama, the universe and earth has been around for many billions years, etc.

Most "perceived" truths are subjective and influenced by cultural, social, psychological, experiences, etc. that shape each one human being. I know a lot of non-Christians, friends and relatives, that are a lot more virtuous than a lot of Catholics, especially the cultural Catholics. Are they condemned to hell? If you think so, then I feel that you don’t know anything about God. You just believe in a God in your mind that conforms to your culture, background, and upbringing. You believe in a God that condemns most people that ever exist on earth since the beginning to go to hell, let’s alone other sentient beings that may exist somewhere else in the universe or multiverse. (If this is the case, can God still be "Love"???)

To claim that you know the objective truth, especially about God, by using a set of man-made criteria is too naïve and laughable these days.

“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” Isaiah 55:9

Please don’t pigeon-hole God’s mind into your own mind. This is both arrogance and blasphemy.

Tim O'Leary | 1/8/2017 - 10:13pm

Douglas - you have a major misunderstanding of what "No Salvation Outside the Church" means, which results in your outrage. You can look to Jesus rather than His Church for an answer. Keep in mind that no one can earn their salvation (pelagianism), in or out of the Church. Grace is a gift from the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, that humans can only accept or reject. Christ can reach out to those outside the physical Church, but even they, if they are to be saved, can only be saved through Christ and His mystical body, the Church.

Listen to the very words of Jesus Christ. He repeats this exclusivity often:
One Savior (Jn 14:6) - "I am the way and the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me."
One Baptism (Jn 3:5) "No ONE can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit."
One Eucharist (Jn 6:53) "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you"

I suggest you read the Catechism paragraphs on it.846 - 848. Or this good summary article:

Douglas Fang | 1/9/2017 - 5:21pm

Tim, thanks for your response. My comment is for those Catholics who claim this “objective truth” literarily. It reminds me some of my very good evangelical co-workers who hold the opposite “objective truth” – Catholics are apostates and likely to go to hell! If everyone holds the view that they are the only ones that hold “objective truth”, then there is no basis for dialogue anymore. This is one of the reasons why agnostics/spirituals but not religious/atheists reject the premise of any religion.

Yesterday was the feast of Epiphany. The pastor from my parish shared with us some very interesting points. Based on more recent study, the shepherds at that time were looked at as scoundrels. They were considered suspicious and unworthy to the society. The Magi or wise man were considered as foreigner magicians. They deserved no respect from the Jewish religious leaders at that time. And yet, God reveals to these down trodden, unworthy, unorthodox individuals first before to the God’s chosen people. Does it teach us any lesson today or are we now blind to this?

Regarding your quotes from the NT, I have no issue with that. Whoever still considers Christian, either Catholic or not, will have to accept these words. However, I have a lot of reservation about the explanation from link your provided. Don’t take me wrong. I was born and raised Catholic. My grandparents and my parents are Catholic. I try my best to raise my children as Catholic. However, as l have lived long enough and met enough people, I don’t believe that this is the correct interpretation. For me, the Church is the mystical community of all who believe in Jesus Christ, not just the Catholics, and even more…

The dubia are just arrogant sophistry. For me, the intrinsic evil is the very evil that that God condemns in the beginning – the temptation to become God, to know what is good and what is evil…

“God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” Genesis 3:5

Perhaps, as we celebrate Christmas and Epiphany, we may want to learn to be humble enough to let God works his way in this world, to be born for the forgotten, the unworthy, the unorthodox, … not for the righteous and the orthodox? After all, this may be the toughest test we have to face today, especially the orthodox Catholics.

Tim O'Leary | 1/10/2017 - 3:50pm

Douglas - I hope your own doubts (dubia) about what the Church teaches are never characterized as arrogant sophistry. But, don't you think that it is good for the Church to help the faithful by addressing doubts? That is why I always refer to the Church's response to doubts in the Catechism - which saints and popes have called a sure guide to living an authentic Christian life.

Patrick Murtha | 1/8/2017 - 10:51am

"To suggest a lack of fidelity in "Amoris Laetitia" to the truth of Christian marriage is to miss the point..."

And yet, it seems that author has missed the point of the dubia. Anyone who has read "Amoris Laetitia" must agree that a reasonable reading of the text will cast doubts not only on the current practice of the Church but also the eternal principle of Christ. It is without a doubt true that reasonable interpretations of "Amoris Laetitia" may lead and clearly have led to a false understanding of the state of sin remarried divorced people live in. It is without a doubt that "Amoris Laetitia" casts doubt, with ambiguous turn of terms and phrases, upon the indissolubility of marriage.

Objective truth provides the principles from which an action, a practice must come. We give air-tanks to divers because of the objective truth--man needs air to live. We don't put arsenic in our coffee instead of creamer because of the objective truth--arsenic kills. And as objective truths guide the practices of our physical lives, so they direct the actions of our spiritual lives. We strive to bring all people into the folds of the Catholic Church because of the objective truth--"outside of which none can be saved." We kneel before the Blessed Sacrament because of the objective truth--the Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself. A divorcee cannot remarry because of the objective truth--marriage is indissoluble, and therefore the second marriage is invalid. A "remarried" divorcee cannot receive Communion because of the objective truth--Communion is a sacrament of the living, and those who receive Holy Communion add another mortal sin of sacrilege to their mortal sin of adultery. (These are hard things for modern man to swallow, but they are very real; and however man would like to alter them, he cannot for they are truths of God. And God does not change.)

Because "Amoris Laetitia" casts doubt on the doctrine, on the objective truths, by suggesting possibilities that opposed to the nature of the truth, it is good and it is right for the preservation of the faith and the sanctity of the faithful to remove these doubts. It is therefore good to pray, for the sake of souls, that Pope Francis responds to the Dubia.

Michael Barberi | 1/8/2017 - 5:43pm


Are you implying that Pope Francis's Amoris Laetitia (AL) is not based on truth and is misinformation for bishops and priests? If you are saying that Pope Francis (in his AL) did not want Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried without an annulment, see the link below: Pope Francis applauded the guidelines of the Bishops of Argentina on Holy Communion of divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment under certain conditions.

Pope praises Argentine bishops' guidelines on helping ...
Pope Francis thanked Argentine bishops for providing concrete guidelines for implementing the section of Amoris Laetitia about circumstances in which divorced and ...

Patrick Murtha | 1/8/2017 - 10:19pm


I have seen that. If his intentions are so clear in this matter, then there are two ways to view the principles that have allowed the change in practice: one, a person who has divorced and remarried is not living in the state of mortal sin, and then Scripture would be wrong, for Christ says, "Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her; and if the wife shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery" (Mark 10:11-12); or two, a person in the state of mortal sin can receive communion, and then Scripture would be wrong, for St. Paul says, "Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord...For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." (1 Cor. 11: 27-29).

For this reason, there is confusion and the dubia needs to be answered. Is the pope preaching error or is there a mistaken understanding? To the first, we must pray God forbid. To the second, we must hope and in Charity call for a clarification. But there is confusion and it seems, if we take the text at his word and the letter at its word, he is suggesting error. And heaven help us if this is true, for as St. Paul wrote, "But though we, or an angel from heave, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: if any one preach a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema." (Gal. 1: 8-9) Our Lady of Fatima warned that there will be much confusion in the Church.

And so, the Dubia is necessary for the salvation of souls!

Michael Barberi | 1/9/2017 - 6:06pm


In AL, Pope Francis is shifting the emphasis on this moral issue from the letter of the law to virtue (e.g., prudence, mercy, love, charity, forgiveness etc). Pope Francis is also emphasizing and using the pastoral principles of graduation, the role of conscience, and the discernment process for 'repentant' divorced and remarried people who are caught in a moral dilemma. As one of my parish priests once told me (as we discussed divorce and remarriage), " I always believed that people should be given a second chance; most people who married don't truly understand this responsibility or the teachings of the Church; many make mistakes but find themselves in good second marriages; they grow up and want forgiveness."

Consider the fact that most Catholics practice contraception. Yet, Holy Communion is widely permitted by priests under the pastoral principle of graduation and the informed conscience. No bishop I know is demanding its priests to tell parishioners at weekly Mass that those who practice contraception should not be standing in line to receive the Eucharist. Witness the fact that no priest is telling their parishioner that anyone who practices contraception and receives the Eucharist is committing a sacrilege. While the Church continues to proclaim that NFP is God's Procreative Plan with moral certainty, this issue is highly disputed by many priests and bishops, most theologians and worldwide Catholics.

I do agree with you that more clarity is needed on a host of theological issues raised in AL and by the 4 Cardinals. At present there are many Cardinals and Bishops who are interpreting AL like the Bishops of Argentina. As Pope Francis said in his letter to the Argentine Bishops, in paraphrase, their guidelines are the the only legitimate interpretation. Of course, we know that other Bishops will not permit Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment.

At some point, the Bishops will have to accept this new development as I don't believe that Pope Francis will be issuing any type of 'correction' to his Apostolic Exhortation (e.g., AL) because he believes he is being true to God's Love and Mercy.

Patrick Murtha | 1/9/2017 - 7:28pm

"But fraternal correction is a work of mercy. Therefore even prelates ought to be corrected..." (Summa II.II.33.a4)

"We must remember that when a man reproves his prelate charitably, it does follow that he thinks himself any better, but merely that he offers help to one who, "being in a higher position among you, is therefore in greater danger," as Augustine observes in his Rule quoted above." (Summa II.II.33.a4.ad3)

The odd part of so much talk of love and mercy in this day and age, is a false interpretation of both love and mercy. God loves man, and therefore gives man His law for man's eternal happiness. Man must conform his life to God's law, not God's law to man's life if he wishes to be eternally happy. God, knowing the weakness of man, restrains, so to speak, the exacting of strict justice. That knowledge and that restraint is mercy. But for living man, mercy, as with love, focuses on the conversion of the sinner's life to God, not the harmonizing God's law with the sinner's life.

In this case, an act of mercy would be to forbid Communion, for by allowing Communion to a soul in the state of mortal sin is only to increase the offense against God by adding sacrilege to adultery. In this case, an act of love would be to draw the sinner to repentance and confession, but it cannot be done by adding more sins to the sinner's previous sins. (You don't save a man from drowning by shoving his head further under water.) For love is desiring the greatest good for the loved one--and in this case, it is getting the soul out of adultery and back to his true marriage, and to the sacraments.

You use the example of contraceptives. I must protest that a priest who, knowing or thinking that his parishioners use contraceptives, does not warn against that sin nor acknowledges the gravity of the contraceptives to the soul, when asked, does a great injustice to his parishioners, acts against both love and mercy, for he allows those parishioners not only to live in sin but to add greater sins upon it. And those sins that he covers up will end up on his head, come the day of judgment. For the judgment seat of God shall be heavy towards those with responsibilities for the salvation of others.

You see, there is a common and cruel error today, which states that a good and loving and forgiving person is one who accepts a person and his practices, not only loving the person's virtues but also approving, or seeming to approve, his faults. This error is against the law of both love and mercy. Remember that Christ, always when forgiving a sinner, said, "Go and sin no more!" His concern was not for the physical state but for the spiritual state. He worked miracles to prove that He did have power to save souls--He prove by the allegory of healing the body: He forgave the sins of the man with palsy and then added, "But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins...(He said to the man with palsy:) Arise, take up thy bed and go into thy house." And always remember Christ was ever harsh, even to those closest to Him, when they needed a harsh rebuke. St. Peter, out of, what he thought to be, love for Christ, advised his Master to escape from Jerusalem and the death He was to suffer. But Christ answered with a very sharp rebuke: "Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men." (The Church Fathers say that this signified that St. Peter was being told to follow Christ even to his own death on his cross. Indeed Christ calls His followers to do very hard things--even to "lose his life for my sake.")

Do you think a doctor would be a loving doctor or be merciful if he did not warn his patient of an life-threatening ailment? Let us say, for the sake of argument, a doctor looks at an x-ray or c-scan and notes signs of cancer. Is it loving or merciful for the doctor to advise his patient to continue of his current trend of life? Is it loving or merciful of the doctor to tell his patient that nothing is wrong with him, but that man should not held within the letter of law of medicine? We would all, I think, call this doctor a scoundrel, a villain. He would sued, I would argue, for mal-practice. It is true that such a doctor, if acting out of love or mercy, has actually a false sense of love or mercy. He has human respect, and actually cares little for the real health of his patient. Such is what we are asking of our priests and bishops. We want them to tell us what feels good, what satisfies our emotions, no matter how unreasonable and unhealthy it is.

Give us, o Lord, priests and bishops who are fearless in saying what will hurt our feelings, discomfort and perhaps even dishearten us, but what will save our souls!

Once again, I have become long-winded!

Michael Barberi | 1/9/2017 - 8:30pm


You argue well and are respectful, unlike some bloggers.

You presuppose that the moral law as proclaimed by the CC is the eternal law. However, in the parables of Jesus, he taught us that it was not the letter of the law that was most important, but spirit of the law. You are right to say that if a teaching is truth and in accordance with God's Will, for example if contraception is intrinsically evil regardless of ends, intentions, circumstances, then a priest must proclaim and make is perfectly clear to his parishioners. Unfortunately, this is not the case because many priests believe that Humanae Vitae should be changed for good reasons. While I liked your argument, it does not allow any room for legitimate and respectful disagreement, as in the case of contraception. I don't want to debate this teaching with you but I will gladly send you a published article I wrote for a prestigious Catholic Theological Journal. Just let me know your email address, if you are interested.

When a person's opinion is based on the belief that there can be no development of the pastoral application of a teaching, then your argument about God's love and mercy does not make sense for those that have make a mistake, have grow mature and realize it, want to repent and come back to the Church, but are in a moral dilemman. Such a dilemma is this: sexual abstinence in a good second marriage will endanger it and the children born in that marriage, especially when the husband or wife does not want to practice permanent continence.

In my opinion, a rigid interpretation of the "moral law" as well as its pastoral application closes the love and mercy of God in the Eucharist to such a person. Pope Francis believes in the principles of graduation, discernment, and the decision of an informed conscience (which is a teaching of the Church). In this context, he believes in the love and mercy of God, and the Eucharist as medicine for the wounded in the metaphoric Filed Hospital of Life.

Patrick, we will have to agree to disagree about the interpretation of AL. Nevertheless, I do expect and look forward to more scholarly theological articles supporting Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation, and perhaps a few article challenging it.

We live in a divided Church and in a crisis of truth. Let us pray that God will give us the grace of faith and reason to recognize, understand and live the truth for His glory and for our salvation. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us in agreement and disagreement.

Tim O'Leary | 1/7/2017 - 11:21pm

This is an excellent article by Fr. Cameli, and helps delineate the doctrinal (truth) and pastoral (application) components of AL. Fr. Spadaro said, after his interview with the Holy Father, that Pope Francis is "in his own words, a 'son of the Church.' He cannot change her teaching and he does not seek to do so. He fully embraces this teaching precisely because he knows it is true." And, having Christoph Schönborn (the editor of the Catechism) present AL does not concern me one bit.

My impression of the 4 cardinals' dubia is that they were unnecessary, but that is me. I do not have those doubts. Still, if others have those doubts, it is the merciful and pastoral response to address them, to put them at ease. Recall that Pope John Paul II had the CDF (future Pope BXVI) respond to a similarly "unnecessary" dubium on whether the the pope meant his definitive statement on the impossibility of women priests as an infallible statement.

So, I think this will happen eventually, since many who care little for doctrinal integrity are making hay with the idea of a departure from Church teaching that is not there. It might be a simple "Of course, the answer is yes" to each of the dubia, followed by Pope Francis reiterating his outreach to all of goodwill who want to live in full communion with Mother Church.

Michael Barberi | 1/7/2017 - 7:58pm

There are significant disagreements regarding Scripture and Matthew's exception clause and how and why adultery severed a marriage relationship. The following was taken from; The New Testament on Sexuality, William Loader, one of the world's experts on sex in the OT and NT. NOTE: I don't want to argue these points, but only want to highlight that new scholarship calls into question our historic understanding of Scripture and the culture in which Jesus lived. In this case it is about the norms for divorce.

"Loader argues in much detail that adultery required divorce because while sexual intercourse creates a new permanent union, it also severs any previous joining. Hence, sexual intercourse outside of the marriage union, such as sexual intercourse with a prostitute as Paul writes by employing Gen 2:24, a permanent relationship is formed. He argues that the new permanent union severs any previous joining which he uses to depict the Christian's relation to Christ. Joining with a prostitute separates you from Christ. Thus, Loader argues: Gen 2:24 cuts both ways: sex joins and simultaneously severs previous unions. That is how, he argues Matthew (e.g., in his exception clause) would have understood it. Loader argues "The argument about permanence based on Gen 2:24 is implicitly an argument for severance. Matthew then simply spells out what was already implied: adultery severs and so divorce is not just an option; it is mandated.

The other theological disagreement is about the word "pornea" in Matthew's exception clause. Loader said that 'pronea' had 3 different interpretations: (1) the majority interpretation is 'sexual immorality', where adultery is the most egregious form of sexual wrongdoings, (2) a betrothed woman who had sexual intercourse before marriage (e.g., she lied to her future husband and was not a virgin), and (3) a marriage between two people too close in relationship such as a marriage between first cousins. Loader argues that it is clear that Matthew has Jesus challenge the liberal ruling about the grounds for divorce in Deut 24:1 by making it more stricter. In other words, not the Pharisaic liberal definition associated with Hillel, but the more conservative one associated with Shammai. However, it is assumed that both schools of thought would have agreed that adultery was automatic grounds for mandated divorce. According to Loader, it is fairly obvious that Matthew (per the 'exception clause') has Jesus saying that adultery, the most egregious form of sexual immorality or unchastity, is merely spelling out what everyone knew was the rule. Adultery required divorce because it destroyed the original relationship and created a new one."

Tim O'Leary | 1/7/2017 - 10:57pm

Michael - I recognize many of your positions in William Loader's writings. He is a New Zealand Methodist minister, extensively published and definitely outside the orthodox understanding of sex and marriage (he advocates approval of gay sex and marriage). That said, if you are describing his position on automatic divorce and automatic "re-marriage" correctly, that would lead to very strange consequences and a massive problem for determining who is married. For example, a prostitute with many clients could be getting "married" and divorced several times in the one night, while never intending such and taking no vows. If anyone committed adultery while married, and then slept with their spouse, they would be committing adultery again. Since Jesus says a man can commit adultery by just willing it in his mind, so he could be divorcing without realizing it. His wife would be divorced without knowing it. This whole position would seem to make a mockery of Jesus remarks about the indissolubility of marriage ("Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate" Mt 19:6), since the "no one" obviously included the married parties.

Michael Barberi | 1/8/2017 - 8:37pm


As you know these issues are complex and short comments due to limits on blog comments can be misunderstood.

You are misreading what Loader said. Adultery was automatic divorce in the ancient time of Jesus, not automatic re-marriage as we know it today. Divorce in ancient times did release both parties from their marriage, but re-marriage is another subject. Loader was quoting St. Paul when he said that a married man having sexual intercourse with a prostitute severed the marital relationship and created a new permanent relationship which was immoral (not a marriage). He was not saying that the married man was then 'automatically re-married' to the prostitute nor by analogy would a married man that has sexual intercourse with another woman was 'automatically re-married' to the woman.

Jesus did say that a man or woman would commit adultery in their hearts by thinking of it while having sex with their spouse. Let's get real. Adultery in modern or ancient times was based on evidence as in witnesses and was grounds for divorce for a number of reasons besides Genesis and its reference to two in one flesh. There was purity laws that also impacted sexual norms. It is an exaggeration to think that Loader was suggesting that thinking about sex with another woman automatically created another marriage or automatic divorce.

My point in raising such issues Tim was to highlight the fact that recent scholarship offers alternative interpretations of Scripture about divorce and adultery. This is demonstrated in the theological dispute about the interpretation of Matthew's exception clause permitting divorce based on the interpretation of the Greek word 'pronea' (e.g., sexual immorality such as adultery) and the Church's interpretation of it (marriage between two people too close in relationship). The Church's interpretation is not the accepted position of most moral and biblical theologians.

Keep in mind that there were many sexual norms in ancient times that have been completely abandoned today. This is because of teaching 'development'. No one disputes this today. However, when Pope Francis develops a teaching in terms of its pastoral application of the doctrine of marriage and Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, suddenly we witness disagreement among the this article mentions. Pope Francis has issued in a new magisterial teaching development (not doctrine but pastoral application): Holy Communion can be permitted for some divorced and remarried Catholics under specific conditions.

I don't want to debate you Tim because this will only lead to side issues and protracted and unproductive exchanges.
If you want more information Tim about 'The New Testament on Sexuality', you might want to read Loader's excellent book.

Tim O'Leary | 1/9/2017 - 1:50pm

Michael - you always say you don't want to debate at the end of your comments, whereas it can only mean you don't want your comments questioned. I will not let you use such a transparent tactic. If you don't want to debate, just don't respond to my comments. Some quick responses.

To quote your understanding of Loader above "sexual intercourse creates a new permanent union, it also severs any previous joining" and "sex joins and simultaneously severs previous unions." So, if we use "a new permanent union" instead of marriage, then a prostitute with several clients in one night is creating new permanent unions and severing these "permanent" unions multiple times in the night. This is preposterous. Same for my other examples above. How could you swallow such a crazy interpretation. It makes a mockery of the word "permanent."

Loader is completely misinterpreting St. Paul, or the Church is. I think the Church has a much better argument AND it is protected from the errors the rest of us are subject to, including eminent theologians and everyday bloggers.

When Jesus said "what God has joined together, let no one separate," what could He have meant if all one had to do was sleep with another person to make his command null and void. The "no one" includes the married couple!

"recent scholarship offers alternative interpretation" - yes, the trendy always seduces some. But, if its not true, it is not good. And, if it is not compatible with the Deposit of Faith, then it is not true. Loader is clearly contradicting the Deposit of Faith. You are giving "development" a bad name by using it to cover such massive departures from the Deposit of Faith.

"there were many sexual norms in ancient times that have been completely abandoned today" - what do you mean by this? Within the Church or within pagan cultures? If the latter, who cares - they didn't know God's law. If the former, you are massively exaggerating. Feel free to list some sexual norms the Church has changed. Or not, if you are honest about not debating.

Michael Barberi | 1/9/2017 - 11:34pm


I am not being dishonest when I say I don't want to debate you after I provide some comments. I enjoy debate. However, your rigid assertions often take any of my arguments into lengthly and unproductive side issues. Thus, after a few exchanges with you, where I say I don't want to debate you further, I do respond especially if you misrepresent what I say or make unsubstantiated assertions in an effort to disprove my point.

This article was about AL and I have made my comments clear and convincing. Personally, you can't stand the fact that Pope Francis in AL permits Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried without an annulment under certain conditions. You only want to repeat, over and over again, that doctrine has not changed, full stop. Any change in the pastoral and practical application of a teaching seems to be given by you a back-seat to doctrine. What you are doing is minimizing what is really happening.

The door for Holy Communion was "closed" for divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment. Now the door for Holy Communion is "open" for many divorced and remarried Catholics without an annulment who want forgivingness and find themselves in situations of moral dilemma. As Cardinal Schonborn said, in paraphrase, AL changed nothing, but it also changed everything.

My other comments about divorce and adultery, and Matthew's exception clause, was only mentioned to highlight that these teachings are controversial and unsettled for many theologians. Adultery severed the marriage bond, violated purity laws, brought great shame and dishonor to the husband's and wife's family and the other woman's family. Loader makes this clear by extensive research and insightful analysis. .

Tim, the problem with debating with you is that you presuppose that every teaching of the magisterium is the complete truth because you believe the Holy Spirit protects Popes from error. Well Tim, Popes have erred and many moral teachings have changed.

Your response to my comment about 'recent scholarship' are another attempt to call into question anything that challenges a teaching of the magisterium. I have not been "seduced" by error and falsehoods or exaggerated interpretations of Scripture. New scholarship is a simply a subject for reflection, nothing more. As I have said many times to you Tim, moral teachings or every Scripture text is not to be confused with the Deposit of Faith. Yet, you keep pounding this ridiculous drum over and over again.

You questioned what I meant when I said 'many sexual norms in ancient times were abandoned'. Well Tim, people who committed adultery were stoned to death, polygamy was practiced for centuries in the ancient Jewish culture right up to the time of Christ; at one time sex during pregnancy was considered immoral, sex during menstruation was forbidden and sex had only one licid position. All of these sexual norms were eventually abandoned.

This is my last comment unless you misrepresent my remarks or degrade my character.

John Regan | 1/7/2017 - 5:48pm

In marriage a new indissoluble flesh is begun in the two becoming one. A good question to ask, which would not try to put the Pope in a corner, is to simply ask, “How can the new flesh of marriage ever be separated?” The clear teaching of the Church is that it cannot be. The Pope and all the Cardinals and all Catholics should be able to agree with that. Then, the question is how can Catholics receive communion who are seemingly in an objective moral evil? The way that can happen is only if the “new indissoluble flesh of marriage” never began in the first place with prior bonds. How does the Church declare that? Up until now this was done almost exclusively through annulments and declarations of nullity. Amoris Laetitia, I think, is proposing another way to assist couples where there is moral certainty that prior bonds are not to be considered the real flesh of marriage, but where annulments are not morally possible. This mostly applies to Catholics who are negatively affected by the prior marriages of non-Catholic spouses.

Perhaps the Pope could respond, “Let us agree that the one flesh made in Matrimony is indissoluble and can never be separated. So let us find a way, canonical OR OTHERWISE, to assist Catholics who are affected by prior bonds of non-Catholic spouses, which with clarity we could declare null, and yet for their own moral reasons the non-Catholic will not apply for a canonical process in the Catholic Church.” In this way the Pope puts the burden on the Cardinals to help in finding a way through these hard situations.

Mike Daniels | 1/7/2017 - 2:05pm

Take a look at the story of the woman from Sychar and Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter 4. Dear doubting Cardinals there is one and only one response to people whose lives are less than perfect (divorced Catholics et al.) – do as Jesus did. Tell them the good news and embrace them in the love of the Church. Once they feel the love and forgiveness of the Church (the love of Christ), they will then evangelize their communities, just as the Samaritan woman did. We wonder why our Church is shrinking. Can there be any doubt that many of our Cardinals have chosen to replace the Pharisees rather than the Apostles? “‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings.’" When will we (re)learn that there is only one acceptable response to humanity in all its brokenness ... LOVE?

Bruce Snowden | 1/7/2017 - 12:15pm

Disciples of Dubia, O you of little Faith, why do you doubt the Holy Spirit clearly visible in the life, works and words of Holy Father Francis? So many in "the world" doubt the authority of the Pope, even publicly challenging Papal teaching and now you join that group and you are Cardinals!

Cardinals are supposed to be and are expected to be supportive "hinges" on the door of the Church buttressing Papal authority. Instead you are like "squeaky hinges" in need of "oiling" by the Holy Spirit You are in fact already copiously "oiled" in Sacramental Chrism through Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, now unfortunately diluted in the turbulent waters of Dubia. Your Eminences, this is disturbing to the Church, certainly disturbing to me..

Vincent Gaglione | 1/7/2017 - 6:11am

In a conversation last night with a Trump supporter friend, a regular Mass goer, the product of 16 years of Catholic education, his position on "illegal" aliens in the USA is that they are not entitled to health care, housing, and education. When I said that was neither a humanitarian nor moral position to take, he used an expletive to describe that he was tired paying for others who don't belong.
Pope Francis speaks to addressing the spiritual needs of those on the "peripheries." (As an aside, I personally believe that we are all on the peripheries) My point being, many of the comments here, as from the cardinals who requested the reply to their dubia, speak only to those Catholics who belong to the church in an orthodox sense. They are entitled to the services and benefits of the church because that is their right under church law. As for everyone else, those on the "peripheries" of the church, whether nominally Catholic or not, the church has nothing to offer of Christ except the prescriptions of the faith that they either accept or go to hell.
Is that what Christ intended? Pope Francis and Father Cameli suggest otherwise for those on the "peripheries." And as Father Cameli writes, Christ insists the same.

Michael Giedraitis | 1/7/2017 - 2:56pm

Is this article correct in its assertions? Let's see by comparing and contrasting its conclusions with the inspired, inerrant words of Sacred Scripture below.

First, lets starts by evaluating the spiritual situation of those living in "irregular" situations - specifically couples with valid, sacramental first marriages who are living in adulterous second "marriages" and fornicating (having sex with their second spouse) - against the truth of the passage below.

1 Corinthians 6:9 NABRE

9 Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Okay, so now that we have established a baseline that they cannot inherit the kingdom of God, that they are spiritually dead, and that if they physically die in this state, they will go to hell, the next question is whether or not it is "pastoral" for a priest to accompany them and tell them they can use an internal forum, accompanied by a priest to decide on their own whether or not they can receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Communion. For this, we turn to the words of God through Saint Paul below.

1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NABRE

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. 31 If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; 32 but since we are judged by [the] Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

Okay, so now we know that a person who is in an objective state of grave sin, if not a state of mortal sin, who receives Holy Communion unworthily will "will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" and "eats and drinks judgment on himself", I would say the proper pastoral approach here is for the priest to accompany the person who is in an objective state of grave sin by informing them that this is in fact the case. At this point, if the person was not already in a state of mortal sin (due to lack of knowledge), they definitely will be if they continue to do so after they are so informed.

Next, for those who believe their first marriage may have been invalid, Jesus Christ Himself defined a process in the external forum of the Church in the passage from the Gospel of Matthew below, not the process of an internal forum Eve used in the Garden of Eden (in consultation with Satan) where she ignored the clear command of God and took it upon herself to decide what was good and evil in the passage from Genesis below.

Matthew 18:15-20 NABRE

15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. 16 If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. 18 Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Genesis 3:1-6 NABRE

1 Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” 2 The woman answered the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” 4 But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! 5 God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Finally, to those clergy who buy into these ideas of internal forum, accompaniment and personal discernment, which specifically and clearly defies the word of God, and advise the poor souls they are leading to follow this process and receive Holy Communion in an objective state of grave sin, thereby condemning both themselves and the poor souls they are misleading to hell, I will close with the following words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Matthew 18:6-9 NABRE

6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna.

Michael Barberi | 1/6/2017 - 9:39pm

I have recently read several excellent articles on Amoris Laetititia (AL) by prominent moral theologians. Unfortunately, this particular article by Fr. Louis Cameli is not one of them.

Below is a link to an excellent article on AL by moral theologians Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler. When you open it, scroll left with the left arrow to get to the first page.

The disagreement of the bishops on the interpretation and implementation of AL is not surprising given how Pope Francis has written AL, especially as it relates to the teaching on marriage and Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried under certain conditions. Of note is the fact that Pope Francis designated Cardinal Schonborn as the Church's official interpreter of AL. This was a significant shift as past popes usually allowed the CDF to handle such interpretations. However, Pope Francis wants to change how the Curia operates and wants to give more authority and responsibility to the local Churches and Bishops. This shift is not surprising as there is far too much concentration of power in the Curia et al.

It is clear that Cardinal Schonborn agrees that a development has occurred, not with doctrine but with the pastoral application of the teaching on marriage and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. It is also important to note that, for most Catholics, it is the practical application and existential effect of any teaching that they experience and witness, and it is also how they understand doctrine. In my opinion, the difference between doctrine and pastoral application of any teaching is the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. As Salzman and Lawler pointed out in their article, they wisely saw it as a shift from the law to virtue which they explained.

Of importance, however, is the fact that we have already heard from Pope Francis when he in agreed and applauded the Bishops of Argentina for their guidelines for Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried. He said that it was the only credible interpretation. Also, Bishop McElroy of San Diego, who held the first and, so far, the only diocesan synod of the family and AL in the U.S, will be issuing similar guidelines. Of course, other bishops disagree with Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried unless they get an annulment or agree to live in permanent continence as brothers and sisters.

As for the 4 Cardinals and their dubia, most moral theologians don't expect anything significant will emerge from their obvious disagreement with Pope Francis's vision for our Church. I do expect that we will see more light on the issues they raise in the coming years by moral theologians. This will include a better understanding of the teachings on conscience, graduation, accompaniment, discernment, and the love and mercy of God especially for those who have made a mistake, are repentant, and are in situations of moral dilemma.

Richard Booth | 1/6/2017 - 9:07pm

My comment here may seem like I have a vested interest in Burke and his cohorts, but I do not. Well, except insofar as they are raising "dubia" for Francis to answer. If one looks at Burke's behaviors (his biography) both in the United States and in Italy, it is easy to see that he has been out of step with the intentions of Vatican II for years. Fine, he is a conservative; however, he also seems to me to be an unyielding, traditionalist ideologue who rankles and has rankled others for a very long time. It is no surprise to me that a careerist like him questions the man, Francis, who removed him from some quite influential positions. Yet, earlier, he was raised by John Paul II and Benedict, both quite conservative in my view, to the highest levels of the Curia. His career has followed the motions of a yo-yo, first up but now significantly down, not likely to ascend again during this papacy. It must say somewhere in Ecclesiastes that the wise man (Francis) pays no attention to the fool or the menacing obstructionist, doesn't it?! Burke and his ilk should review the trend begun by John XXIII and consider joining the world in which the Church must function.

THOMAS Heyman | 1/6/2017 - 6:40pm

There is no good reason why Pope Francis should respond to four Cardinals who have not in good faith questioned his teaching in AL. Please read about these prelates. led by Raymond Burke they are among the most reactionary prelates that we have. Burke as chief ringleader has not a pastoral bone in his body and is the living embodiment of all that was bad about the pharisees. His every action from priest to Cardinal is lacking in any element of Mercy.
I try not to comment on pieces but could not believe what I was reading. Burke just disobeyed a direct order from the Vatican not to remove the head of the Knights of Malta. These are men whose whole life has been dedicated to rolling back Vatican II. They all should be assigned to tending the homeless so they would understand what it is to be a Catholic christian.

Dale Athlon | 1/7/2017 - 3:42am

If you read the Gospel account, it is Pope Francis who is taking the Pharisaical position (Matthew 19:3-9) on divorce/remarriage and Burke who is taking Jesus Christ's (lol, "reactionary" and "rigid") position. Read the Gospel text. The focus on baby-boomers with mistakes should not be the pastoral focus. The focus should be on the new generation, the children, who should be taught Christ/God's doctrine, St. Paul's teaching....not baby-boomer relativism. Baby boomers should not want to pass on their mistakes and faulty lives to the youth. AL supports the Pharisaical position on divorce. It's wrong! Baby boomers just want to feel good, but their examples of failure should not be passed on. We need proper catechesis for kids today, so they don't end up in the whiny faulty positions of baby boomers (trying to find a way around Christ's clear words)! AL will regularize and normalize divorce and teach kids the Pharisaical position not Christ/God's Word. Thank God for the 4 Cardinals.

Baby-boomer priests reading this: please stop perpetuating your "pastoral" errors, we've had enough damaged lives. AL is a pathetic attempt at treating symptoms while allowing the underlying disease to be normalized for new generations.

Douglas Fang | 1/6/2017 - 6:59pm

Thomas, thanks for this response. I couldn’t agree with you more. If Burke is the representative of the Catholic Church, I don’t see any reason for me to remain Catholic. I grew up in a country where Catholic is a very small minority. I’ve seen many non-Catholics that are much better as humans that this guy is. I just watched the movie “Clare and Francis” on, I am so surprised that these hypocrites like Burke and his cohorts are still around in this modern time.

Thank God that he sent us Pope Francis today. “Laudato Si”!!

Patrick Murtha | 1/8/2017 - 10:34am

"If Burke is the representative of the Catholic Church, I don’t see any reason for me to remain Catholic."

What a silly thing to say! Shouldn't the reason for remaining Catholic be that it is the Church instituted by Christ "outside of which none can be saved"? Isn't it rather ridiculous and unreasonable to step away from the means of grace because he doesn't agree with a certain prelate?

Viva Christo Rey!

Henry George | 1/6/2017 - 5:56pm

I, and others, would like clarity on these issues.

I am sure one of the Pope's Theologians can provide notes toward a response and
the Pope can then write his response.

The problem is that the Press and others take what the Pope says/writes and run with it,
often to one extreme or another.

This is the world we now live in and the Vatican needs to "get up to speed" on how
teachings from the Vatican are now received.

Gregory Popcak | 1/5/2017 - 9:09pm

These are excellent thoughts, but I wonder if the article actually undermines Fr. Cameli's main point because it speaks to how easy it would be for Pope Francis to respond to the dubia. Even if Pope Francis said something along the lines of what Fr. Cameli wrote—whether or not it resolved the issue once and for all (and I suspect it wouldn’t)— it would advance the much-needed dialog about what Pope Francis' vision of discernment and accompaniment actually looks like when wedded to the broader tradition. Seen in their most charitable light, the dubia are asking “What is the proper role of doctrine in pastoral practice. Is it just an ideal to be ignored? Or is there real wisdom there? If so, what is it and how do we apply it in mercy?"

It may very well be--as some suggest--that the Cardinals who are expressing concerns about AL are either intentionally missing the point, playing politics, or are just terminally tin-eared when it comes to pastoral practice, but to my mind, none of this justifies the Holy Father's silence. In fact, I am concerned that his failure to respond undermines his otherwise powerful and admirable call to all Christians to roll up our sleeves and engage with those who view things differently than we do. Sadly, this looks—to this family therapist--like the ecclesial corollary to the fact that it’s always easier to treat strangers with respect than it is to be charitable toward our idiot brother-in-law sitting across from us at the holiday table. Even if I think my brother-in-law is a troglodyte, I hardly cover myself in glory by refusing to speak to him or look at him throughout the meal.

Pope Francis' broader witness of engaging the stranger is truly inspiring. But I pray that he can somehow find the courage to extend the graces of the Year of Mercy to his episcopal brothers by being willing to bear their wrongs patiently, forgive their perceived impertinence willingly, and then counsel them through their doubts, and, if necessary, instruct them in their ignorance. Because while all these things are listed among the Spiritual Works of Mercy, I am having a hard time locating "Ignore the Annoying" on the list.

Recently by Louis J. Cameli

Watching for God (July 20, 2016)
Bumps on the Road of Synod 2015 (October 23, 2015)