Perhaps this is the hour for ‘true prophets’? More on Amoris!

My heart rate increased a bit when I read the following…

I am aware that “Amoris Laetitia”, as an apostolic exhortation, does not come under any rubric of infallibility. Still it is a document of the papal ordinary magisterium, and thus it makes the idea of critiquing it, especially doctrinally, mighty difficult. It seems to me unprecedented situation. I wish there were a great saint, like St Paul, or St Athanasius or St Bernard or St Catherine of Siena who could have the courage and the spiritual credentials, i.e. prophecy of the truest kind, to speak the truth to the successor of Peter and recall him to a better frame of mind. At this hour, hierarchical authority in the Church seems to have entered a strange paralysis. Perhaps this is the hour for prophets – but true prophets. Where are the saints, of “nooi” (intellects) long purified by contact with the living God in prayer and ascesis, gifted with the anointed word, capable of such a task? Where are these people?

This is the second paragraph after the opening statement of intent of a talk given by Australian scholar Anna M. Silvas, a Romanian Greek Catholic who teaches at the University of New England and at the Australian Catholic University and who is an expert on the Cappadocia Fathers as well as monasticism, and female asceticism in early Christianity and in the Middle Ages. She also teaches at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

So, she’s got chops.

In her talk on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, apparently “delivered before a packed crowd with bishops and priests and then published on the website of the Parish of Blessed John Henry Newman in Caulfield North, near Melbourne” she proposed to:

[O]utline some of the more pressing concerns I have with “Amoris Laetitia”. These reflections are organised into three sections. Part one will outline general concerns; part two will focus on the now infamous chapter eight; and part three will suggest some of the implications of “Amoris Laetitia” for priests and catholicism.

Let’s skip down a bit…

Reading chapter eight

And all that was before I came to reading chapter eight. I have wondered if the extraordinary prolixity of the first seven chapters was meant to wear us down before we came to this crucial chapter, and catch us off-guard. [I had that same exchange with one of my friends.  Ehem… IT DIDN’T WORK!] To me, the entire tenor of chapter eight is problematic, not just n. 304 and footnote 351. As soon as I finished it, I thought to myself: Clear as a bell: Pope Francis wanted some form of the Kasper proposal from the beginning. Here it is. Kasper has won. It all explains Pope Francis’ terse comments at the end of the 2015 Synod, when he censured narrow-minded “pharisees” – evidently those who had frustrated a better outcome according to his agenda. “Pharisees”? The sloppiness of his language! They were the modernists, in a way, of Judaism, the masters of ten thousand nuances – and most pertinently, those who tenaciously upheld the practice of divorce and remarriage. The real analogues of the pharisees in this whole affair are Kasper and his allies.

[…]

If that doesn’t get you reading, I don’t know what will.

Maybe this will…

Graven upon tablets of stone by the finger of the living God (Ex 31:18, 32:1 5), the ten “words” proclaimed to mankind for all ages: “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14), and: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife” (Ex 20:17).

Our Lord himself declared: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her (Mk 10:11).

And the apostle Paul repeated the language: “She will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive” ( Rom 7:3 ).

Like a deafening absence, the term “adultery” is entirely absent from the lexicon of “Amoris Laetitia”. Instead we have something called “‘irregular’ unions”, or “irregular situations”, with the “irregular” in double quotation marks as if to distance the author even from this usage.

“If you love me”, says our Lord, keep my commandments (Jn 14:15), and the Gospel and Letters of John repeats this admonition of our Lord in various ways. It means, not that our conduct is justified by our subjective feelings, but rather, our subjective disposition is verified in our conduct, i.e., in the obediential act. Alas, as we look into AL, we find that “commandments” too are entirely absent from its lexicon, as is also obedience. Instead we have something called “ideals”, appearing repeatedly throughout the document.

Ah yes… read the whole thing HERE.

“Where are these people?”, she asked at the top.

They are out there, friends, and they are rousing themselves and finding their paths to each other.

I think that the famous Five Cardinals Book™ – Remaining in the Truth of Christ – will eventually be seen as an important marker in this fork in the road for the Church.  US HERE – UK HERE ITALY HERE

If I am reading the stars and tea leaves and windy skies and entrails properly, I think we will see some great figures rising up.

“True” prophets.

They won’t come from the Fishwrap, or the Bitter Pill, or Amerika types.  They won’t come from the “Olympian Middle” either (and you know whom I intend).

NB: Don’t miss her peroration.

PS: The moderation queue is ON. Don’t post comments that haven’t been thought through and filtered. Remember that YOUR comments – in the eyes of some – reflect also on me. Some venting I can allow, but spewing and thoughtless lashing out I will not. This isn’t the Fishwrap.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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39 Responses to Perhaps this is the hour for ‘true prophets’? More on Amoris!

  1. louiseyvette says:

    ” Perhaps this is the hour for prophets – but true prophets. Where are the saints, of “nooi” (intellects) long purified by contact with the living God in prayer and ascesis, gifted with the anointed word, capable of such a task? Where are these people?”

    I dunno. Does an ordinary, reasonably intelligent housewife count?

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent comment, Father…sadly, I have found there are too many irrational Catholics who simply do not want to hear or read or parse out the arguments…so sad. Anti-intellectual Catholicism has undermined many Catholics ability to actually study and know what you know and what many on this blog know.

  3. louiseyvette says:

    “To me, the entire tenor of chapter eight is problematic, not just n. 304 and footnote 351. As soon as I finished it, I thought to myself: Clear as a bell: Pope Francis wanted some form of the Kasper proposal from the beginning. ”

    Indeed.

    Anyway, as I said before, some Catholics are going to Rome on the 25th June, to condemn AL and ask the Pope to renounce the errors in it. All are invited!

    https://vericatholici.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/alconf-location-schedule-for-the-international-conference-to-condemn-amoris-laetitia-june-25-rome/

    I must start writing my submission today. No great saints, I fear, just ordinary Joes who want to do something about this mess.

  4. Rescued Sinner says:

    It will be hard, but not impossible with GOD’s help, for someone to BE one of those future “true prophets” written about in this article. An office, commanded by GOD , to take up your CROSS and to bear IT, for JESUS and HIS CHURCH.

    Even PAUL was NOT believed at his first meeting with the other APOSTLES; that he was CALLED to be an APOSTLE.

    Even the LAITY are sometimes CALLED.

    The Pope Emeritus should WEAR, for non-Christians and others, a green ZUCCHETTO
    and a green FASCIA . Less confusion between VIEWS of “POPES” would help.

  5. Matthew Gaul says:

    If I remember right, louiseyvette, “nous” is closer to “intuition, perception” than to active reasoning. So anyone open to liturgy and askesis can sharpen their nous, one need not be an intellectual.

    I daresay being an intellectual provides unique obstacles to it, in fact.

  6. chantgirl says:

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider is calling on faithful laity and clergy to make a rallying statement of faith together in the wake of AL.

    http://www.remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/2558-bishop-athanasius-schneider-replies-to-the-remnant-s-open-letter-on-amoris-laetitia

  7. Tony McGough says:

    When I was a lad, “nous” was used as meaning close to “gumption” – a feel for the rightness of a course of action or even a set of friends. A form of knowledge sourced as much from right prudence as from the intellect.

    But that was just us …

    There could be a lot more prudence and intellectual clarity in the Pope’s Exhortation. Also, a good editor would have chopped the length of it savagely. Less trees make a clearer wood.

  8. rdb says:

    Thus is the best critique to date of the ambivalent theology and muddled thought offered in A.L..

  9. Elly says:

    Is this really an unprecedented situation? Nothing like this has happened before in the whole history of the Church? That is scary if it is true.

  10. RobW says:

    And maybe Our Lady won’t be using Catholic/blogger intellectuals as prophets at all. I mean she appeared to and worked through the ignorant and simple. St. Louis gives us a hint of how these servants of Mary will be like…’But Mary’s power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is, for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him. In the eyes of the world they will be little and poor and, like the heel, lowly in the eyes of all, down-trodden and crushed as is the heel by the other parts of the body. But in compensation for this they will be rich in God’s graces, which will be abundantly bestowed on them by Mary. They will be great and exalted before God in holiness. They will be superior to all creatures by their great zeal and so strongly will they be supported by divine assistance that, in union with Mary, they will crush the head of Satan with their heel, that is, their humility, and bring victory to Jesus Christ.’

  11. Sandy says:

    This is a brilliant analysis, and a courageous one! Perhaps this lady has begun to answer her own question of where the “prophets” are. Is she not one in writing/speaking this statement? I say bravo! At the other end of the spectrum, in my many years I don’t recall a time of confusion such as this. I mean from the Holy Father himself. Obviously after Vatican II it was a strange time.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    “I don’t recall a time of confusion such as this. I mean from the Holy Father himself. Obviously after Vatican II it was a strange time.”

    Yes, that was a different time than now. In particular, as confusing were the years following Vatican II, it seemed to me then that Paul VI was sincerely trying (as in Humanae Vitae) to defend the Faith against the ambiguity that so many others were spreading.

  13. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “This isn’t the Fishwrap.” I love your sense of understatement.

  14. LarryW2LJ says:

    From the “Department of Out of the Mouths of the Most Unlikely” comes one of the best quotes on obedience that I have ever read, from an agnostic who converted to Catholicism. Her words can be found on whyimcatholic.com.

    “Trust and obey. Always. Because He is God and I am not.”

    I think that sums up the situation quite nicely.

  15. robtbrown says:

    Matthew Gaul says:

    If I remember right, louiseyvette, “nous” is closer to “intuition, perception” than to active reasoning. So anyone open to liturgy and askesis can sharpen their nous, one need not be an intellectual.

    I daresay being an intellectual provides unique obstacles to it, in fact.

    Does the work of St Thomas, the greatest intellectual in the Church, place obstacles to the perception you mention?

    One reasons in order to see (nb: intuition is based on the Latin tueor–to see) the Truth. When the intellect is in the habit of sound reasoning, certain virtues are formed–Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, and Prudence. With these virtues the Truth can be seen intuitively.

  16. Benedict Joseph says:

    Anna Silva is authentically discerning, humble courageous and, to my eye, brilliant. God reward her.

  17. Philomena Mary says:

    Very cool to see my parish get a mention on your blog!

  18. It is certainly possible that I am being naive, but I cannot bring myself to believe that Pope Francis wanted the Kasper proposal, which is a sort of iconoclasm. Imagine the Pope taking a small statue of the Holy Family, removing Joseph and having him marry somebody else. That is what Kasper has asked us to do, essentially, since the natural family is a reflection of the Holy Family, which is a reflection of the Trinity. AL links the family to the Trinity a number of times. Thank goodness for that. It’s what I hang my hope on.

  19. Nat says:

    robtbrown, I think Matthew Gaul means that sometimes the intellect can get in the way if you think of it as a sword that you alone wield without the help of God. Think Jesuits. Our hearts and minds both need God’s direction, He can use one or both to speak to or through someone. If we block either one by claiming them as our own “personal territory”, not God’s, we become blind and deaf to God’s inspirations on all fronts.

  20. stephen c says:

    No matter who triumphs in this world- maybe, as seems very possible, those who think it is fine for a Pope, even a good-hearted one, to within a short span of time proclaim both his devotion to Mary the Mother of God and also fulsomely praise and/or honor unrepentant abortionists; or maybe, as seems unlikely, those, like many who comment here, who charitably and mercifully refuse to think that the unborn and helpless poor of the world could ever ever deserve that level of cold disrespect – the Church a hundred years from now, if this world is still around, will be full of sinners. I have been shopping for graveyards lately: I recently visited Quantico National Cemetery – where I can be buried for free – but I think I will reject it, because I was so disappointed with the frivolous nature of many of the gravestones – apparently many of the military dependents and even some of the military members themselves are fine with images of things like fishing rods and golf clubs and mostly meaningless eagles and even atheist emblems on their monuments. That being said, a side benefit of this exhausting graveyard shopping (relevant to the current discussion) was physically realizing how many deceased Christians must be fervently praying, every single moment of every single one of our short days, for all of us (including for our own brave but not completely admirable Pope). So while I feel badly that I will never be the prophet and the saint God wanted, from the beginning, all of us, including me, to be, at least I know that I am loved and prayed for anyway.

  21. iamlucky13 says:

    ” Clear as a bell: Pope Francis wanted some form of the Kasper proposal from the beginning. Here it is.

    I’ve made several comments here arguing that Amoris Laetitia can not be read as implementing the Kasper proposal through a backdoor. Moreover those who argue it does in order to undermine the sanctity of marriage can be challenged with the text of Amoris Laetitia itself, without falling back on questioning its magisterial nature.

    Despite that, I tend to think she’s right about this point. I get the impression Pope Francis did think Cardinal Kasper had a morally feasible way to reach out to this particular margin – divorced and civilly remarried persons put off by the teachings that proscribe them from receiving Communion.

    Yet, even despite stacking the decks to some degree at the Synod, the proponents of the idea failed to establish a logical argument how Kasper’s proposal could be reconciled with even the basic principals from the Bible, much less the further development in the Church’s teaching that has occurred since. What arguments they did make were likewise rationally discredited by five cardinals, among others, who better appreciated the problems with the proposal.

    Therefore, Pope Francis had to accept, drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas, that only in cases where culpability is somehow diminished could Communion possibly be received, and even for that he could not articulate a generalized rule or specific set of circumstances where a person in such a subjection situation could confidently conclude they were free of mortal sin.

    So now I come back to my ongoing point: regardless of what the Pope may have wanted Amoris Laetitia to say, what it ultimately said still aligns with the rest of Catholic teaching, even though it is dangerously easy to misread it, and equally as easy to deliberately misportray it.

    He may very well still believe, even after the input from bishops with a detailed understanding of moral theology, that these subjective situations are very common, but he seems to shy away from even offering a non-magisterial public opinion to that effect. Nor did he touch Canon 915.

  22. Grumpy Beggar says:

    It might leave considerably less to the imagination and to presumption, were we able to know with a degree of certainty whether any (ahem) “others” assisted in the actual writing of AL , and if so, who those “others” were.

    Yes, I am a sinner, but woe to those who obscure the Truth.

  23. Thomistica says:

    A google email alert–easy to set up–helps to monitor the spread of AL’s influence. For example, it revealed this story from the Times of Malta (Malta?!):

    http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160605/local/bishop-tells-priests-dont-be-rigid-with-divorcees.614295

    “Bishop Mario Grech has urged Gozitan priests to forego pastoral rigidity and adopt an attitude based on mercy when dealing with divorced Catholics.” Note the usual, now tired refrain: “pastoral rigidity”. Note also this statement: “…priests should not to be judgemental on the conscience of others when called to offer guidance. ‘Many times, when we have been asked to shed light… we even replaced the individual’s conscience with our own and this is serious abuse.’”

    Uh, what if the individual is guilty of murder? Just asking.

    Anyhow, and here I thought Malta was one of the few places to go if things really got bad on the religious liberty front in the U.S. Soon there won’t be anywhere to go.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Nat says:

    robtbrown, I think Matthew Gaul means that sometimes the intellect can get in the way if you think of it as a sword that you alone wield without the help of God. Think Jesuits. Our hearts and minds both need God’s direction, He can use one or both to speak to or through someone. If we block either one by claiming them as our own “personal territory”, not God’s, we become blind and deaf to God’s inspirations on all fronts.

    You’ve set up false alternatives: If it’s God’s it’s good, but if it’s man’s, it’s evil. That is garden variety Protestantism.

    It is part of the Patrimony of the Church that the human intellect by reason alone can rise to certain Truths, e.g., the Existence of God, the existence and immortality of the human soul, and the principles of morality. Sometimes these are known as dogmata mixta: Truths of the Faith than can also be known by reason alone.

  25. Nat says:

    I am saying that intellect without the light of grace CAN go in funny directions…. sometimes very bad directions. St. Thomas obviously looked upon his intellect as a tool in the hand of God.

  26. JARay says:

    I was very pleased to receive this article of Anna M. Silvas from Sandro Magister. I have done my best to spread it around. I think that the article is brilliant.

  27. Amateur Scholastic says:

    The holy Bishop Schneider’s comments are also well worth reading. Search on Google for ‘Bishop Schneider raises the stakes on Amoris Laetitia’ (without quotes).

    He says:

    “In using our reason and in respecting the proper sense of the words, one can hardly interpret some expressions in AL according to the holy immutable Tradition of the Church.

    “In AL, there are of course expressions which are obviously in conformity with the Tradition. But that is not what is at issue here. What is at stake are the natural and logical consequences of the ambiguous expressions of AL. Indeed, they contain a real spiritual danger, which will cause doctrinal confusion, a fast and easy spreading of heterodox doctrines concerning marriage and moral law, and also the adoption and consolidation of the praxis of admitting divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, a praxis which will trivialize and profane, as to say, at one blow three sacraments: the sacrament of Marriage, of Penance, and of the Most Holy Eucharist.

    “[T]here should be made to my opinion, by competent scholars of dogmatic and moral theology also a solid analysis of all ambiguous and objectively erroneous expressions in AL. Such a scientific analysis should be made without anger and partiality (“sine ira et studio”) and out of filial deference to the Vicar of Christ.”

    God bless our Pope.

  28. DonL says:

    Tired or the numerous details, I sought to dig deeper to find the answer to the “ambiguity that is.”
    I’ve concluded that for my soul I must metaphorically view this Church today thusly :
    God is the sole composer (I’ve come to bring the truth) and the pope (all popes) are but special conductors, who must stay faithful to original notations, while bringing their individual flair to the performance.
    No, Mozart cannot become Debussy, because of the poor, and Fats Waller cannot become Rachmaninoff because of unrepentant adulterers.. We all have heard the music for centuries to be fooled.

  29. Tricia says:

    Interesting article. I believe the Lord will put the right people in the right places to stop the madness, and that we all have to just listen and pray about whatever role we have in this.

  30. robtbrown says:

    IAMLUCKY says,

    Therefore, Pope Francis had to accept, drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas, that only in cases where culpability is somehow diminished could Communion possibly be received, and even for that he could not articulate a generalized rule or specific set of circumstances where a person in such a subjection situation could confidently conclude they were free of mortal sin.

    1. Of course, there are principles that apply to mitigation of culpability. The question is how much–if at all–they apply to those in stable situations. Should a mafia hit man of many years who has to support a family receive Communion?

    2. It seems to me that the possible permission for those in bad marriages to receive Communion that is found in AI rests on an interpretation of 1 Cor 11:27 (AI, 185-7) that seems to limit unworthiness to social justice (cf rich and poor).

  31. robtbrown says:

    Nat says:

    I am saying that intellect without the light of grace CAN go in funny directions…. sometimes very bad directions.

    Grace doesn’t make someone infallible. The intellect with the light of grace can also go in funny directions. I’ve heard some very good people (incl priests) say some really dumb things.

    St. Thomas obviously looked upon his intellect as a tool in the hand of God.

    If by “tool'” you mean to explain Revelation to others, then I would say it is true only secondarily. Theology, acc to St Thomas, is primarily speculative, i.e., it exists to know the Truth, and knowing the Truth is a good in itself. Secondarily, theology is practical, existing for the salvation of one’s own self and others.

  32. Mike says:

    I read this piece a few days ago. Excellent it certainly is!

    I do think, however, that this is largely a task for bishops and Cardinals. Of course the laity and clergy must do their daily part—know the Faith, live it, teach it—but confrontation with the Holy Father I think belongs to our shepherds who are successors of the Apostles.

  33. Mike says:

    Of course the laity and clergy must do their daily part—know the Faith, live it, teach it—but confrontation with the Holy Father I think belongs to our shepherds who are successors of the Apostles.

    That accords with how at least one thoughtful writer (and surely many of his readers) interprets Bellarmine and Suarez on the subject of problematic Pontiffs. Not to respect the distinction between the roles of laity and hierarchy in a matter of such import is, I think, to cross the line from rad-trad to sedevacantism and gravely to imperil one’s soul.

  34. Mike says:

    Thanks for the link!

  35. Thomistica says:

    Hi Mike,
    You claim that “confrontation with the Holy Father I think belongs to our shepherds who are successors of the Apostle”.
    Recall Canon 212.
    Also, our shepherds are almost entirely silent, with a few notable exceptions. In a time like this, my view is that the laity have a tremendous responsibility to respectfully register their disagreement with Amoris Laetitia and any other confusing comments by the pontiff. All the while maintaining respect for the office of papacy–indeed, precisely to support the integrity of that office.
    Re. your claim that “Not to respect the distinction between the roles of laity and hierarchy in a matter of such import is, I think, to cross the line from rad-trad to sedevacantism and gravely to imperil one’s soul” is entirely unclear to me. For example, many persons (like me) who are not rad-trad also sense a strong responsibility to do something.
    St. Catherine of Sienna was a third order Dominican and is cited in the context of justifying people who was obliged to speak truth to power.

  36. Thomistica says:

    Typo, should be “St. Catherine of Sienna was a third order Dominican and is cited in the context of justifying the need to speak truth to the hierarchy, when needed.”

    This argument that laity should not do anything would, if observed, immobilize all the brilliant laity who have written responsible, respectful and well-researched critiques of the current situation.

    In fact, the upshot of the view you advocate suggests a kind of clericalism.

  37. Mike says:

    many persons (like me) who are not rad-trad also sense a strong responsibility to do something

    By all means let us go to it joyfully, in the full spirit and letter (meaning all three sections) of Canon 212. But not all of us can be, or should be, St. Catherines. Perhaps one or more of us should be. My concern is about those of us who habitually speak more caustically than is needed for persuasion, as well as those of us (sedes and others) who question or dismiss the pontifical credentials of a Bishop of Rome.

    the upshot of the view you advocate suggests a kind of clericalism

    One upshot, perhaps. Another might be that we urge, with all vigor, our prelates to get off their asinis and challenge directly — face-to-face, if necessary — papal statements that appear to contradict the perennial Magisterium. That kind of clericalism we could use a lot more of.

  38. Lucas Whittaker says:

    Maybe this is a time when the faithful write to their local bishop to express–in as few a number of words as possible–their desire for him to both speak to the Pope about AL, and to also teach his own faithful about the reasons for its…well…shortcomings. This teaching might best be done by using AL as a guideline, a list, of which positive aspects of family life to teach about. It could be an opportunity for some brave bishop to explain the teaching of St. Paul that time should be taken AWAY from the marrital act for the sake of prayer. And why fostering that relationship with God as a couple, and eventually as a family, becomes the true source–wellspring–of joy in family life. In this way bishops would have a wider influence than any of the cardinals who would attempt to sway Pope Francis from the position that he has taken by publishing AL. It is understandable on one hand that the Holy Father is confused about certain matters on which he has expressed personal opinions. But if more of us faithful begin to live what the Church has always taught (and St. Paul so beautifully explains!), then a transformation of souls begins to take place where there is now a general confusion.

  39. Justin_Kolodziej says:

    Once upon a time there was a Pope named Honorius. He was well-liked by the Church while he was Pope, but when it came time to decide whether Christ had one will or two, he said “One will? Two wills? Don’t talk about it so much, OK? It will only cause division.” Later on this was what the Church said about Honorious:
    “We anathemize Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.”
    “We anathemize Honorius, who allowed the unspotted rule of Apostolic tradition, which he received from his predecessors, to be tarnished.”
    “We anathemize Honorius, who did not, as became the Apostolic authority, extinguish the flame of heretical teaching in its first beginning, but fostered it by his negligence.”
    “We anathemize Honorius, who added fuel to their wicked assertions.”
    What would Pope Agatho, Pope Leo II, and the Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical say about things like this?