Pope Francis critics continue to seek answers on ‘Amoris Laetitia’ in ‘filial correction’

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 20.Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A group of lay theologians and clergy opposed to Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” have released a letter “correcting” him, part of an ongoing effort directed against the pope’s attempts to focus on pastoral outreach in ministry to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics and others in irregular marital situations. The signatories, a small collection of theologians, priests and academics, have no obvious link beyond their opposition to “Amoris Laetitia,” the apostolic exhortation issued by Pope Francis following the two synods on the family.

In a 25-page letter delivered to Francis last month and provided Saturday to The Associated Press, the 62 signatories issued a public “filial correction” to the pope—a measure they said had not been employed since the 14th century.

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The 62 signatories issued a public “filial correction” to the pope—a measure they said had not been employed since the 14th century.

A blog that promotes traditionalist Catholicism began tweeting about the existence of the letter about a month ago, leading to speculation that some high-level church officials, perhaps even cardinals who have already publicly questioned the pope about his efforts, including American Cardinal Raymond Burke, may be involved. In the end, the document was signed mostly by lower level theologians, another salvo in a campaign by those opposed to the pope’s efforts to broaden the church’s pastoral outreach to Catholics in irregular family situations.

The letter accused Francis of propagating seven heretical positions concerning marriage, moral life and the sacraments with “Amoris Laetitia” and subsequent “acts, words and omissions.”

The initiative follows another formal act by four cardinals who wrote to Francis last year asking him to clarify a series of questions, or dubia, they had about his 2016 text.

Francis has not responded to either initiative. The Vatican spokesman did not immediately respond to an email from the Associated Press seeking comment late Saturday.

None of the signatories of the new letter is a cardinal, and the only bishop to sign the letter is actually someone whose organization does not accept many of the teachings of Vatican II: Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior of the Society of St. Pius X, which has ordained bishops, including Fellay himself, without papal approval.

As previously reported, Pope Francis has not publicly replied to the dissenters, despite the pressure. As Louis J. Cameli noted in January in America, the questions and objections to “Amoris Laetitia” may not be answerable because they reject what they see as changes in teaching, while “the pope has affirmed that there is no new teaching and no change in the teaching.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

Do you belong to SSPX or similar schismatic Catholic group?

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Is the SSPX schismatic, Joseph? I thought you said you were informed in Church matters? Please present the evidence from any official Magisterial document or declaration that condemns the SSPX as "schismatic".

And by the way, is Pope Francis aware of this schism you speak of? His Holiness personally intervened with the Argentine government recently on behalf of the SSPX, saying that it is a Catholic institution that should be given charitable status in that country. Imagine Pope Francis intervening favourably with a government on behalf of a schismatic group!

Here's a final thought for you to mull over. If the SSPX has changed nothing of the Faith handed down, cleaving entirely to Sacred Tradition, how can that make them schismatic? It's interesting that they who change everything accuse those who change nothing of being the schismatics. Clever, eh?

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

The term 'schism' is specifically defined in CCC-2089 and c. 751, to wit: "[S]chism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." This definition would seem to suggest that 'schism' is a *situation* manifested by observable behavior.

It is clear that SSPXers do not regard local Roman Catholic bishops in communion with Rome as their religious leaders. SSPX has its own bishops, its own clergy, its own formation programs, its own local congregations --- just like any other Catholic schismatic group! Legalities aside, schism is, without doubt, a de facto reality for SSPX. By the way, just because a very traditional cardinal in Rome might assert that SSPX is not schismatic doesn't make his pronouncement a realistic assessment of the *situation*. SSPXers, in fact, are not in communion with members of the Church subject to the pope. Individual members of SSPX might "bounce back and forth" on weekends between SSPX congregations and Roman Catholic parishes, but such behavior would strongly suggest such folks "want to have their cake and eat it, too." To quote an old saying: "Cr@p or get off the pot." Ratzinger, of course, was salivating at the thought of reaching a deal with SSPX leaders. My rule: "Deal with reality." Schism is real, if not officially pronounced as such. Just because a pope or cardinal says 1 + 1 = 3 doesn't mean Catholics must go along with such nonsense

Asking the Argentine government to give charitable status to SSPX is not a canonical matter. It is charity, pure and simple. It's no different than a pope asking a U.S. state not to execute a prisoner on death row. Given the current pope's Gospel preference, I'm not surprised by his action. Indeed, it reminds me of Mark 9:38-41.

You ask, "If the SSPX has changed nothing of the Faith handed down, cleaving entirely to Sacred Tradition, how can that make them schismatic?" You are "mixing apples and oranges". Sacred Tradition is one thing; schism --- lack of communion with Rome --- is another.

Is an "official Magisterial document or declaration" necessary to pronounce SSPX as "schismatic"? I don't know, but here's some backgrounder from EWTN:

+ https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/sspx_fssp.htm

+ https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/sspx_fssp.htm (linked from above)

In addition, you may wish to google "Edward Peters, JCD SSPX" to get his assessments. Dr. Peters is no "flaming liberal", but he seems to this layman to be very careful in assessing church matters from a canonical perspective.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Rather closed-minded an self-righteous than liberal and self-destructive. I see mercy is being inappropriately applied again!

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

I hope you're not a presbyter or seminarian.

Patrick Murtha
2 years 2 months ago

It is surprising that the Jesuit editors, who, I am certain, have some study in logic and rhetoric, rather then debate and disprove the points of the letter attack the signers as mere "low level theologians." That would put them in the camp of other low level theologians--people whose study of theology was often simply from conversations with God and of God: St. Theresa of Avila, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and even St. Ignatius of Loyola, and a host of other saints whose theological works and studies, though profound in themselves, are hardly academic theological treatises.

They further decry the group as "a small collection of theologians, priests and academics," which would, if size is an argument, put them in the ranks of the 12 apostles, a small number that conquered the world, and the first sons of St. Ignatius, whose small numbers rekindled the fire of the faith in Europe and the world.

And then, the editors have the gall to cast doubt on them because they have no cardinal signatures. This is shameful hypocrisy, for when four actual cardinals first presented their Dubia, the Jesuit editors scolded them too and rather then critique the Dubia, they cast doubt on their intentions and their qualifications. I think it would have mattered little had cardinals played a part.

The editors ask respondents to the posts to be "charitable." But where is their example of charity? Is is not more charitable, more Ignatius-like, more Christ-like, to disprove the points of the letter rather than shrug off the signatories as merely insignificant? If the Jesuit editors really cared for the outcasts, for the minorities, of the exiles, would they not defend the right of the minorities and of the outcasts and of the exiles in the current-day Church? These signatories are those minorities, those outcasts, those exiles. They are those cast to the side and treated like lepers because they see the signs of heresy in the modern Church and have the fortitude to call it out.

Please prove the points wrong by logical argumentation, not by mudslinging or my belittling.

Justin Ramza
2 years 2 months ago

I also thought the post's reference of "low level" seemed an odd reference, if not obtuse. That said, when I read the list of signatories, I did not recognize any of their names, save that of Bishop Fellay. Perhaps another descriptive might have been more appropriate; though I'm also not sure your accusation of uncharitable is warranted either.
As to responding to their points, this whole debate over AL has become much like the debate between the prolife and pro choice camps - each side sees things very clearly and definitively, and neither side can talk to the other as a result. For myself, I did not read any change in the church's teaching on marriage in AL at all. In fact, Pope Francis makes reference in the document that such change is not even possible. He IS changing the formal process of annulment, and through discernment, I believe is asking pastors if a divorced person had grasped the enduring sacramental significance of their actions when they married. On this, most definitely, many people will disagree. Some will maintain nearly all Catholics have what is required for a valid sacramental marriage; others, as in Pope Francis' own side remark, wonder if even half possess what it takes. But to say AL changes the sacrament of marriage or even its permanence when all required conditions have been met- AL explicitly states that is not possible.

Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 2 months ago

Mr. Murtha — replying on behalf of the America editors, the "lower level" descriptor (not "low level") was a comparative used in the same paragraph that described widespread speculation that Cardinal Burke may have been involved in the correction. The theologians who did sign are "lower level" than Cardinal Burke.

Sharon Boland
2 years 2 months ago

Wide spread speculation by and among whom?

Mr. Murtha makes the cogent point that the editors of America, and its columnists, would better serve Catholics and its general readership by discussing and critically analyzing the substantive points raised by the filial correction offered to Pope Francis. If errors have been made, please identify the issues and offer correctives.

Referencing vague, unsubstantiated claims of "widespread speculation" and marginalizing the status of the document's signatories are nothing short of printing gossip and directing ad hominems against fellow Catholics who, unless proven to the contrary, appear to be acting in good faith.

This article violates caritas; abandons any call for discussion and dialog, and is generally unworthy of the tradition of the Church and the Society of Jesus.

Mercy, gentlemen, Mercy.

Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 2 months ago

This is a news piece reporting the occurrence of the "filial correction;" it doesn't attempt a theological analysis of either the substantive allegations of the correction or the signers. The speculation was widespread on social media discussing the various teased announcements of the "some unbelievable Vatican news." The only judgment made in the use of the description "lower level" is that those who did sign were at a lower level than Cardinal Burke; it was not an ad hominem attack against them.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Fr. Sawyer,
A basic knowledge of the Faith is all that's required to recognise that Chapter 8 of AL is both controversial and dangerous, if only by its ambiguity. We already have evidence in the Church from various countries, Malta in particular, indicating a break on the part of the hierarchy with the Church's moral teaching on the divorced and remarried. Argentina is likewise indicating a similar break. AL is responsible for this and Pope Francis knows it. His Holiness has already confirmed the Argentine Bishops' innovative interpretation as the only valid one to be taken from his document. One does not have to be a theologian to work out that a revolution in cope and mitre is brewing!

Eileen Malloy
2 years 2 months ago

As a grad of a Jesuit school, I'm dismayed at the direction of things Jesuit in our modern era.

The Pope has created division in the Church by promulgating new teachings that are illogical, and against the Word of God (Gospel).

I'm convinced by the Dubia and this fraternal correction. These docs contain logic and are truthful to the revelation of our Savior, Jesus. AL contradicts Jesus' own revelation.

People opposed to heresy are good, they are not "haters" or "traditionalists". People who use pejorative descriptions are the haters.

Justin Ramza
2 years 2 months ago

Ms Malloy, your whole post was a series of inferred pejorative descriptions. Please give actual citations from AL Or Pope Francis (actual quotes, not summaries) which are illogical new teachings against the word of God. Please, quote something. Anything.

Eileen Malloy
2 years 2 months ago

Jesus condemns divorce. Luke 16:14-31.

Marriage Indissoluble. Matt 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12

Beware of False Leaders. Matt 7:15-29, Luke 6:45-49.

God's Judgement. Luke 17:20-37. "one will be taken, the other left".

(The everyone-is-saved modernist heresy is false teaching, abusing the term "mercy", and used primarily to overlook sin, primarily for promoting societal acceptance of same-sex genital acts)

Be Ready for your final hour. Luke 12:32-48. "Depart from me, accursed ones, into everlasting fire" Matt 25:41

Woe to those who Scandalize. Mk 9:41, Matt 18:7

The Impentitent Towns. Matt 11:20-24. "Thou shalt be thrust down to hell.....it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on Judgement Day than for thee."

Regarding the illogic of AL, that's what the text of the fraternal correction and Dubia address explicitly. Read them and see. AL contradicts Jesus' own words.

Justin Ramza
2 years 2 months ago

I have a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in theology. I've read AL. I found nothing contradictory with Jesus' own words.
I did not ask you for quotes from the Bible. I asked you for even just one single solitary quote from AL which contradicts Jesus' own words, and you referred me to the letter. I am not talking to the letter; I am talking with you.

Eileen Malloy
2 years 2 months ago

You are a sympathizer and collaborator with anti-Gospel wordsmiths. Woe to those clever types who would mislead and scandalize others and esp. the youth. Millstones. Jesus said that, and it's in the Gospel.

Justin Ramza
2 years 2 months ago

A single Quote from AL is what I asked for, and for that you call me evil? Jeesh...

Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 years 2 months ago

Ms. Malloy, this comment (accusing Mr. Ramza of being a "sympathizer and collaborator") is is uncharitable and crosses the line of our comments policy. The only reason it remains up is to allow Mr. Ramza's reply to stand as well.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Justin Ramza

Here's one single quote of many from AL that is contrardictory with Jesus' own words. In Chapter 8 of AL, paragraph 297, the Pope declares: " No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!" Well I think you'll agree that Our Lord says the opposite in many pasages of the Gospel. Jesus speaks clearly of Hell and of those who will be condemned and go there for all eternity. Jesus also gave us the analogy of the hard and narrow way tha leads to eternal life as opposed to the broad and easy way that leads to perdition. So it seems you are wrong.

Jack Feehily
2 years 2 months ago

Hey, Eileen, could you answer a simple question? Are all couples who form a union of some kind "joined by God"? I've been a priest for 44 years and I can tell you my answer is a resounding "no!" And not all of them are qualified for an annulment.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Eileen Malloy
I share your concern about the Jesuits, and with very good reason. Once the great orthodox champions of the Catholic Faith during the Protestant Reformation, they are today considered to be the standard bearers of condemned Modernism.

I'm sure not all Jesuits are Modernists but it is a sad observation that no small number of them have embraced what Pope St. Pius X called "the synthesis of all heresies" in his anti-Modernist Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis of 1907.

The forerunners of Modernism from the late 19th through mid 20th century were George Tyrrell S.J. and Teilhard de Chardin S.J. These men were heavily influenced by the poisonous works of Alfred Loisy and Maurice Blondel which eventually led to Tyrrell being refused a Catholic burial and de Chardin being forbidden by the Holy See to teach or publish.

Concerning de Chardin's writings, A decree of the Holy Office dated 30 June, 1962, under the authority of Pope John XXIII warned that "... it is obvious that in philosophical and theological matters, the said works [Teilhard's] are replete with ambiguities or rather with serious errors which offend Catholic doctrine. That is why the Rev. Fathers of the Holy Office urge all Ordinaries, Superiors, and Rectors to effectively protect, especially the minds of the young, against the dangers of the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and his followers".

How very suspicious, then, given the present public correction presently under discussion, that Pope Francis, a Jesuit, makes favourable reference to de Chardin's eschatological work in his encyclical Laudato si'.

Pope Francis is also a great admirer of Henri de Lubac, yet another heterodox Jesuit. During the last ten years of Pope Pius XII's reign de Lubac was forbidden to teach in any Catholic university and his books were banned. Indeed such were his doctrinal deviances that Pius wrote his Encyclical Humani Generis in part to refute de Lubac's errors.

Following the death of this Pontiff, however, de Lubac was not only freed from censure but elevated to very senior positions of influence in Rome during and after Vatican II. It is generally accepted that he was the brains behind the two most doctrinally controversial documents of Vatican II, namely, Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes.

That Popes such as Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis have individually and collectively held de Chardin and de Lubac up as champions of the reform, whereas their pre-Vatican II predecessors heavily censured the same men as heterodox and dangerous teachers, speaks volumes about how Modernism has invaded and infected the Church since the death of Pius XII.

As regards Pope Francis, I understand that as a Jesuit he was not strictly permitted to accept the office of the Papacy. The venerable founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola, wrote a rule for his Jesuit sons forbidding them to seek or accept high ecclesiastical office, hence the reason why no Jesuit was ever elected to the Papacy. That rule is still in force today, even if Cardinal Bergoglio did break it.

There have certainly been papal dispensations granted to certain Jesuits in order that they could be elevated to high office, such as in the case of St. Robert Bellarmine who was made Cardinal. But note that these exceptions were always by papal dispensation from the Jesuit rule. Who, I wonder, dispensed Cardinal Bergoglio when he accepted the Papacy? It may be a moot point but it's worthy of note in the present context of where the Church is headed.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

"As regards Pope Francis, I understand that as a Jesuit he was not strictly permitted to accept the office of the Papacy. The venerable founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius Loyola, wrote a rule for his Jesuit sons forbidding them to seek or accept high ecclesiastical office, hence the reason why no Jesuit was ever elected to the Papacy. That rule is still in force today, even if Cardinal Bergoglio did break it."

Did he ("break it")?

See http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20130731_1.htm.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Yes, he did.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

Apparently not.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

"Apparently not"

Not quite as absolute as my "yes, he did". But then, I'm not trying to talk myself around a clear religious rule.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

Every rule must be applied to specific circumstances, including situations unforeseen. Rules, as human inventions, must allow for interpretation that, in some cases, satisfy the spirit, if not the letter, of the rule. This judgment must be made by those responsible for its enforcement. If you think Francis is not a legitimate pope, I suspect you'll find yourself in a very small minority (like the sedevacantists).

Henry George
2 years 2 months ago

I am still waiting for someone to provide a clear analysis of

Amoris Laetitia and to answer the basic questions:

Is a person to seek an annulment before they re- marry
or marry a person who has, in the eyes of the Church, a spouse ?

Can a priest readmit the above person to communion ?

Justin Ramza
2 years 2 months ago

Mr George, my understanding (for what it is worth) is that the pontiff wishes to decentralize decision making in the Church, from Rome, toward episcopal conferences. They will establish the directives to be implemented by which priests may grant annulments via a private forum grounded in confessional discernment (or perhaps some similar such approach as the episcopal conference for that region deems appropriate.)
On this analysis I am less clear:
People persisting in grave sin may not approach communion. The pontiff SEEMS (my interpretation ONLY) to want to reconsider whether one persisting in a divorce with remarriage could have mitigated freedom that might sufficiently diminish culpability and allow for confession, penitence and a return to communion, a practice not too dissimilar from our sister Eastern Orthodox Church, with whom Popes Francis and Benedict both eagerly and almost unconditionally have sought reunification.
So, were this the case, there would be no change on the church's teaching of the permanence of a valid marriage, nor that one in freely chosen serious sin should not receive communion. However, it would nuance whether people long divorced and remarried are sufficiently free to cancel everything, divide up any children from a new marriage, and return to old spouses before they might worthily receive communion (at least, sufficiently as worthy as any of us who know that we are truly sinners, and our next sin is likely only hours away). It would also remove a strong impediment with the two lungs of the mystical body of Christ returning to full communion, as St John Paul II so referred. Divorce and remarriage is allowed in the Orthodox Church, based on a principle of economia, not unlike the one postulated above. Many have been divorced and remarried. A return to full communion by our churches would be strange without this issue being dealt with; divorced and remarried Catholics who cannot receive communion would likely be admitted to communion in the Eastern Churches; divorced and remarried Orthodox who receive the Eucharist in their Church could not approach with their family were they to attend our church. Full communion would become anything but. So the issues, regardless of your thoughts on them, have powerful practical significance for a decades' long papal effort to reunite Christendom.

Eileen Malloy
2 years 2 months ago

"allow for confession, penitence and a return to communion".

This will never happen. As if priests will actually do this? Like the divorced will actually go to confession? It's a lie.

This will simply make mainstream the acceptance of divorce, with the imprimatur of the Eucharist given. It will negate Jesus' own words and direction about matrimony.

There won't be in-depth "discernment" on a case-by-case basis. Lol. Only a fool would believe that will happen.

What will happen is something similar to the illicit "group absolution" penance services that are now rampant among progressive priests. They cannot and should not be trusted. God Bless the filial correction. It is right and just!

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

The earliest "penance" services were in group-form. Auricular confession didn't come about till around the 7th century.

Don't overlook Jesus' PREFERENCE for mercy. If you don't like mercy, blame your Savior, not Francis.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Joseph,

"The earliest "penance" services were in group-form. Auricular confession didn't come about till around the 7th century."

I would like you to try to back that claim up with some historical evidence. Actually, the first confessions are recorded in the Gospels as individuals approaching Our Lord in person, asking mercy. One such penitent even said "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean", to which Our Lord responded "I will, be thou made clean." These were the first auricular confessions and that carried on with the Apostles. So, over to you for that evidence to back your claim.

"Don't overlook Jesus' PREFERENCE for mercy. If you don't like mercy, blame your Savior, not Francis".
We who challenge what the Pope is saying and doing are not overlooking mercy, we're telling His Holiness that he's overlooking justice. Justice and mercy go together, there cannot be one without the other, unless of course you would contend that Our Lord's dying on the Cross was an unnecessary act, that mercy could have been dispensed without satisfaction for sin.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

Mr. George, in response to your two questions, don't overlook the "internal forum". It can happen, for instance, that while a remarried couple may not be able to make their case for an annulment, a pastor might have good reason to advise them to return to eucharistic reception. For example, critical documents and/or witnesses may not be available in a situation that would otherwise warrant a tribunal ("external forum") finding in favor of a declaration of nullity. In such cases, a remarried couple would satisfy the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. There is also the matter of Jesus' preference for mercy, a teaching that perhaps many canon lawyers tend to overlook in the greater scheme of things. I can see, for instance, a situation that a pastor might perceive as a "50/50" one: After considering all available information, a pastor might conclude that arguments can be made for (a) eucharistic reception or (b) non-reception. What to do? Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 suggest --- literally --- that mercy be applied!

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Henry George
The moral teaching of the Church remains in tact; it is not possible for a divorced and remarried Catholic to receive Holy Communion unless and until that person has regularised their situation. Annulment must always be sought by Catholics who were properly married in the Church, there are no exceptions. Those who divorce and remarry without annulment are considered to be in an adulterous relationship by the very words of Our Lord Himself and are not therefore permitted to receive Holy Communion until they leave that union and go to confession. What Pope Francis has written in AL cannot in any way mitigate this law of the Church because no Pope has the power to re-write or otherwise undermine the moral law. Therefore, whatever may appear contradictory in AL must be considered as no more than Pope Francis' personal opinion and discarded as false.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

"The moral teaching of the Church remains in tact [sic]..." Yes, it includes law and mercy to arrive at justice, i.e., what a person is due. Jesus, of course, preferred mercy to religious obligation (Mt 9:13).

You write, "Annulment must always be sought by Catholics who were properly married in the Church, there are no exceptions. Those who divorce and remarry without annulment are considered to be in an adulterous relationship by the very words of Our Lord Himself and are not therefore permitted to receive Holy Communion until they leave that union and go to confession." Wrong on both counts. Sometimes, a divorced and remarried couple may not be able to pursue an annulment because they lack persuasive documentation and/or critical witnesses. Petitions for declarations of nullity are examined by local church courts, i.e., tribunals, that constitute the "external forum". Tribunals may only consider evidence. If there is no evidence, there is no basis for annulment in the external forum. In such cases, a couple may discuss their situation with a presbyter. If he or she concludes that, but for missing/unavailable evidence, a couple would otherwise likely satisfy the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, the minister can in good faith advise them to resume eucharistic reception. In another situation, if the presbyter concludes there are roughly equal considerations both for and against a couple's hopes, the minister may advise them to resume eucharistic reception in good faith based on Jesus' preference for mercy (Mt 9:13). Justice is based on appropriate balance, if need be, between law and mercy.

You are correct that no pope may change the moral law. Francis is not doing so. He is restoring the proper balance between God's law and God's mercy. There is no falsity in divine teaching or in this pope's adherence to same.

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

We live in a divided Church and in a crisis in truth where each side claims they are right.

However, disagreement is not a bad word. It was because of disagreement that many teachings that were taught as truth for centuries by popes and councils were eventually changed. Consequently, the disagreement we are witnessing with respect to the 60+ theologians over Amoris Laetitia and Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried is not new but healthy for the Church.

While some will claim that every teaching of the Magisterium is the absolute moral truth and every moral teaching is protected by the Holy Spirit from error, others rightly argue differently. More specifically, it is the entire 'Church', not the pope or hierarchy, that is protected from error by the Holy Spirit.

Few Catholics believe that every word in Bible and the Catechism is the answer book for every concrete human situation. Make no mistake about what I am saying: We all are guided by the teachings of the Church and we must never merely dismiss them because they do not suit our circumstances. However, when we move from the general to the specific, the right thing to do in circumstances is not always clear. In fact, sometimes what seems right is something that is in tension with a Church teaching. . While we are guided by Christ and the Holy Spirit when we pray, we also guided by our priestly counselors and theological mentors as well as our continuous education and understanding of Scripture, Tradition, Reason (science, et al) and Collective Human Experience.

Aquinas said that the eternal law is written on our hearts by God, and we have a natural God-given ability to be directed to the good which is sometimes called synderesis or connaturality. Synderesis helps us make judgments of our informed consciences as we go through the important process of education, analysis, discernment, reasoning and decision-making. We are also helped by Church teachings, virtue (e.g., prudence) and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As Amoris Laetitia makes clear in moral dilemmas such as Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried, it is the discernment process, guided by a priest and much prayer, where we can know, as much as humanly possible, if God is talking to us in the depths of our hearts to help us make the right decisions in circumstances. However, this process is also important for other complex cases. Thus, the informed conscience, discernment, virtue and accompaniment is what is now being more fully integrated in the praxis of the Church....disagreement notwithstanding.

The difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law is a most difficult concept to grasp. However, Jesus taught us by many parables that it is the spirit of the law that is sometimes more important than the letter of the law. I expect to see more frequent and clearer education about this issue by the pope's supporters over the next few years. In the meantime, I would not be surprised if the CDF issues some guidelines.

Michael Sheil
2 years 2 months ago

I'd be terrifically surprised if the CDF issues some guidelines. That after all would be answering the dubia, wouldn't it?

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

The dubia required "Yes" or "No" answers. Any CDF guidelines would be just that, i.e., suggestions or considerations for possible application to individual cases presented to pastors. Jesus, of course, preferred mercy to rigidity. Francis is asking pastors to apply the same/similar approach without denying Jesus' teaching about marriage.

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

If the CDF issues any guidance at all on AL it will be along the lines of the guidelines issued by the Bishops of Argentina that Pope Francis approved or the commentary that Cardinal Coccopalmerio wrote. This issue is not about doctrine so I don't expect the Pope or the CDF to answer the dubia. It is about the pastoral application of doctrine and the role of the internal forum, et al.

Joseph Jaglowicz
2 years 2 months ago

"This issue is not about doctrine so I don't expect the Pope or the CDF to answer the dubia. It is about the pastoral application of doctrine and the role of the internal forum, et al."

Fully agree and would merely add, as I've mentioned elsewhere, that Francis will not overlook Jesus' preference for mercy. No revised or new doctrine is involved in AL.

Eileen Malloy
2 years 2 months ago

There won't be in-depth discernment and prayer. Once the liberal media gets done misrepresenting this (if the heresy survives), the poorly catechized catholic will simply repeat one headline: divorced and remarried can get communion.

There won't be discernment and prayer, and the heretics pushing this know it. People hardly even go to Confession, most not at all anymore. But we're to expect the divorced to suddenly begin in-depth discernment and deep prayer? Not with all the distractions of Western secular life. They'll just hear one line: "Divorced can go to Communion". So that will be that. It will change Jesus' teaching on marriage, morality, and change the sacraments.

Henry George
2 years 2 months ago

Michael,

Synteresis is the more correct form for synderesis.
While synteresis is imprinted into us by the Holy Spirit - it informs us of general moral truths,
more properly that what we are attempting to decide is a moral decision and one should seek the good not the bad.

The problem with your analysis is that what do we do in the following situation:
Two female twins marry two male twins. The husbands commit adultery with the same women and tell their wives
they are leaving the marriage and the women are left on their own. Each would like to marry a new man.
One twin goes to a priest in one diocese and he allows it, one twin goes to a priest in a different diocese and
does not allow it. Or if you like, one twin moves to Malta and is given permission to remarry and receive communion.
The other does not and is turned down.
I am not an American Catholic, I am not a Maltese Catholic, I am not a San Diegoan Catholic,
I am the least among Roman Catholics, the Pope owes us a what is our right - a consistent doctrine
for all Catholics and an explanation as to why we should follow that doctrine.

As well meaning as it is, Amoris Laetitia has brought about confusion.
What is preventing the Pope from making it far more clear ?

As for the consensus among the Magisterium, the Theologians and the Laity ever occurring.
I assure you, for I have done it, that if you gave the Laity a quiz on the Trinity, after Sunday Mass, we would discover there
are a lot Modalists, Monothelites, Monarchists, Adoptionists and who knows what else among the faithful,
as for the Theologians, there are probably more who think they are the Trinity embodied than anything else.

Again, you mean well Michael, but your way leads to rupture and sectarianism if not, indeed, protestantism.

Let the Pope make absolutely clear what Amoris Laetitia means and all will be clearer if not better.

Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago

Great comment, Henry. The new phrase that some are making today is that a doctrine not only has to be promulgated, but it has to be received, to be authentic. And while there are well established methods of promulgation (not, by the way, interviews, twitter accounts, and probably not footnotes), there are no methods at determining when a teaching is received, beyond opinion polls, surveys and other loosey-goosey approaches. Well, Jesus's teaching was not well received by his own people. It did not change the truth one whit. Reception also shifts with time and place. The end-result is subjectivism and confusion. And the devil will take advantage of the situation to steal souls.

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

Henry,

I am certain you mean well and your comments are most appreciated by me. A few things I hope will answer your questions.

1. You mentioned that the Pope owes us a consistent doctrine. However, please recognize that Amoris Laetitia (AL) did not change doctrine. What has changed is its pastoral application and the role of the informed conscience (internal forum), virtue, accompaniment and discernment under the guidance of a priest. I don't want to go into a lengthly commentary on this, so I suggest you read a short book of about 50 pages by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio entitled "A Commentary on Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia". However, there are many excellent articles on this subject, some of them are available on the internet but most of them require a subscription to the Journal of Theology where they were published.

2. While the teaching about the theology of the informed conscience has been around for centuries, it has never been fully integrated in the praxis of the Church as Pope Francis is now doing. You should be aware that Pope Francis has established a new Pontifical Institute on the Family (correct name?) that will replace the existing one established by Pope JP II. He did this in order to fully educate priests and theologians on integrating mercy, the internal forum, et al, into the praxis of the Church, in particular when dealing with complex cases like the divorced and remarried.

3. I agree with you that there is a chasm between the bishops on the interpretation of AL. However, recognize that for the past 50+ years we have a significant chasm in our Church regarding other moral teachings. For example, the past two popes resisted any development or changes in the teaching Humanae Vitae. More importantly, recognize that it took a very long time before many teachings that were taught as truth for centuries were eventually changed.

Consequently, it will take time before the changes in pastoral practices per AL is fully embraced by worldwide bishops. In the meantime there will be a period of confusion before AL is fully integrated. I expect more development and education about AL will occur in the years ahead.

In summary, there is a difference between the letter of the law (doctrine) and the spirit of the law (pastoral application). Both can exist without contradiction because we often find ourselves in the moral gray areas of life where not everything is simply black or white.

Henry George
2 years 2 months ago

Michael,

What prevents the Pope from just making the whole issue clear.
I am not asking for black and white answers, but what he hopes to see the Church do about
the status of those abandoned in marriages, those who cannot find the documents/witnesses necessary
to complete the annulment processes.

Should there not be a consistent application across all Catholic Dioceses ?

Given the paucity of Theological Education many Diocesan Priests receive -
is it right and just for them to be judging whether a marriage was valid or not ?

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

Henry,

Of course there should be a consistent application of AL across all Catholic Dioceses. However, this is the first time that a Pope had ushered into the pastoral praxis of the Church the role for the internal forum, accompaniment, virtue, discernment et al. Clearly, not every bishop is on board yet and there is much education that every diocese will have to undertake. So far, the Bishops of Austria, Germany, Argentina and Malta have issued guidelines. The Bishop of San Diego is expected to do the same, as well as the Bishops of England. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done.

When a major development of a teaching ocurrs, in particular a change in the pastoral application of a doctrine, it takes time for moral theologians to further develop and integrate the theology.

As mentioned, both doctrine and its pastoral application can exist without contradiction because both are different but related. Clearly, the 4 Cardinals that signed the dubia make good points, but they are focused on the strict letter of the law and fail to see the development of pastoral theology in AL. All they see is contradiction and anathema. Others like Cardinal Christof Schonborn of Vienna and others see it much differently. This is to be expected for now. The theology about conscience and the discernment process were always in the background. There was no need to 'formally' develop the theology and its integration into the praxis of the Church. This is now changing but it takes time.

What we are witnessing is a major change in how our Church is governed, from a top down Church where all power and authority was centered in Rome and everything was dictated to the local Churches, to a Church of the People where the Bishops have more control and everyone has a role and voice.

Your points are well taken. However, I don't think anything I would say will change your viewpoint.

I take it from you remarks that you don't agree with AL and don't like the lack of clarity. However, this does not mean the pope erred. Nor does it mean that this teaching will be reversed. I, like you, want less ambiguity but I continue to believe that this Pope has the right vision for our Church. There is always tension and disagreement when things change. From my experience, many priests welcomed AL and always thought that divorced and remarried Catholics under certain conditions should be given a second chance. I know that there will always be cases that confound us, but we are all sinners and eventually we come to repent and seek forgiveness and mercy.

Henry George
2 years 2 months ago

Michael,

I would just like to know what AL is seeking.
I am neither in favour of it or against it as I really do not know what it means and will mean
when fully implemented.

I am wary that it will be misunderstood by the media and so, just as we have people who believe
that divorced Catholics cannot receive Communion - not so in the case of those spouses who sought to
remain faithful in the marriage but their spouse abandoned the marriage and received a divorce in the courts - thus
faithful Catholics will turn to priests do normalise their relationship with the Church instead of receiving
annulments, priests who frankly do not know their Canon Law and who are poor judges of why marriages seemed to
have failed.

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

Henry,

We will have to see how the annulment process is revised. However, it is my understanding that it will take into consideration a host of factors. I could go into this issue in more detail, but it would take me too much time to locate my notes and do more research.

Your concerns are realistic but a bit exaggerated from my point of view. The more divorced and remarried Catholic who want to come back to the church, seek God and forgiveness, the better. Any priest will guide divorced and remarried to first determine if an annulment is possible. If not, then it will be the internal forum, et al, that will help to determine if Holy Communion is possible and realistic for them. In my opinion, many people divorce for many reasons including selfishness, adultery, immaturity, and a lack of understanding of marriage and virtue. People make mistakes and then regret them. Many want to come back to the church. Many have successful second marriages. Many don't want to come back to the Catholic Church even when there is a pastoral pathway for them.

AL seeks to go to those that are standing outside the Church doors, who do not feel welcomed, who want to come back to Christ and Church, who want to seek forgiveness and mercy and who want to love God and neighbor. Thus, AL encourages priests and bishops to out to the fringes of society and guide those who feel disenfranchised to the good News, forgiveness and mercy. AL is about mercy and love, understanding and forgiveness. It is about helping those to love God and neighbor without throwing stones at them, condemning them, chastising them and telling them that they live in perpetual sin. It is about the spirit of the law, the spirit of Christ's love and forgiveness, not unrealistic and almost impossible burdens to carry.

As for priestly education regarding AL, that is something that will happen.

I would suggest you read the book by Cardinal Coccopalmerio on Chapter 8 of AL.

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Michael Barberi
There is much talk of the "informed conscience" here. But how is the conscience to be properly formed and informed if not by the teaching of the Church. The Church has informed consciences for 2000 years. Are you saying with Pope Francis that the method was flawed and that people are now free to decide for themselves how their conscience will be informed? If so, that's Lutheranism. You can read as many "excellent articles" you like on this change of doctrine (yes, it is a change in doctrine dressed up to look pastoral), but you cannot get away from the fact that if we accept this development then we are saying that the Church has previously failed the faithful in the matter of forming and informing their consciences. No way around that, I'm afraid!

Martin Blackshaw
2 years 2 months ago

Michael Barberi
We have only lived in a divided Church since the Second Vatican Council, prior to that all Catholics believed and upheld the same faith and the same teachings. Vatican II opened the door to liberalism in the Church, as well as to that fatal error called evolution of doctrine whereby doctrine (and morals) are relative to the times and not fixed by divine revelation. No truths were ever discarded by the Church, as you claim, by force of argument. Divine revelation (infallible teaching) was (is) confirmed and handed down the generations by the Magisterium of the Church, which is to say by that special charism of infallibility granted to the Pope as Successor of St. Peter and to the Fathers of a doctrinal Council in union with Peter. Subordinates in the Church have no power from the Holy Spirit to infallibly or otherwise define doctrine, Vatican Council I is very specific about infallibility and that teaching is binding on all if they wish to remain members of the Church. The keys of the kingdom were given to Peter not to the democratic majority!

Now it is not, as you argue and others argue, the remit of priests to discern in the matter of the divorced and remarried. Nor indeed is it up to individuals to discern in this matter by what they may imagine the Holy Sprirt to be telling them in their conscience. This is what Protestants believe, not Catholics. We accept divine revelation and the teaching of the infallible Magisterium as it has been handed down consistently, unchanged throughout 2000 years. If some now want to throw that teaching into confusion with talk of every man being his own Pope in conscience, then we are simply obliged to challenge that heresy and cling to what has always and everwhere been taught without alteration. If in doubt cleave to Tradition, which will always protect us from error. Our souls' salvation is way too important to start playing around with moral judgments that we are neither qualified nor permitted to make.

Michael Barberi
2 years 2 months ago

Martin,

My comment that we are living in a divided Church and in a crisis of truth is what Pope JP II said, and I repeated it because it is the truth. It is reflected of the period since Vatican II and not the pre-conciliar period. Very few people I know, including bishops, theologians and priests want us to go back to pre-conciliar times for a host of good reasons. It was the problems of pre-conciliar times that caused St. John XXIII to call for Vatican II.

I don't have the time to address everyone of your assertions which reflect a lack of understanding of Church history, among other things. For your information, slavery, usury and the lack of a right to freedom of religion were teachings that were taught as truth for centuries but were reformed. As for Divine revelation, usury was clearly prohibited in Scripture and proclaimed as divine law by popes and councils for centuries.

As for the guidelines for Holy Communion of divorced and remarried Catholics by the Bishops of Argentina (and other Conferences of Bishops), it is the parish priest who will accompany the divorced and remarried in the process of discernment and the internal forum, et al. Pope Francis approved of these guidelines issued by the Bishops of Argentina, so I am perplexed why you think that a priest has no authority and responsibility in such matters.

Lastly, every man or woman who properly forms and informs their consciences under the guidance of their priest are not "being his/her own Pope in conscience'". That is a misguided and erroneous understanding of the theology of conscience, as far as Aquinas, Haring and Benedict XVI taught as well as in accordance with the Vatican II documents Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Specs.

As for your claim about infallibility, not every doctrine is an infallible teaching. In fact, only two teachings of the Church have been proclaimed ex-Cathedra infallible by a Pope: the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her Assumption. The concept of infallibility is a topic I am familiar with and further discussion will take us far from this article under consideration here.

I think we will have to end our exchanges for now.

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