Did Pope Francis really write that letter?

UPDATE:

I have found a “news story” (but not really) at the site of Vatican Radio by Philippa Hitchen saying something about the letter. HERE

Also, in today’s L’Osservatore Romano of 12-13 September there is an unsigned piece on p. 7 which makes reference to the letter. HERE

Does this entirely put the question to bed?

Probably.  Unsigned articles in L’Osservatore are usually quasi-demi-semi-hemi official.  This is not quite as good as a response directly from the Holy See Press Office, but I think we have to go with it.  Yes, the Pope really wrote that letter.

And, yes, the Pope really endorsed the Argentinian document which opens the door to the divorced and remarried who do not use the brother and sister option to both the Sacrament of Penance and, hence, to reception of Communion.

Pope Francis, in his letter to the Argentinian bishop, the seeming chairman of the bishops who composed the document, confirms that the document “nella sua pienezza… in its entirety” shows “il senso del capitolo VIII dell’esortazione apostolica … the intent of chapter VIII of the Apostolic Exhortation”.

Here is the deal.   Again, we do NOT  have here the doors thrown open to official approval of Communion for anyone in any circumstance whatsoever.  This is not carte blanche.

As a matter of fact, if we want to be fair to what has been written (rather clumsily and unclearly), were someone, some couple, to read and take seriously – with the help of a good, faithful priest – what Amoris said, and what the Argentinian thing said, not many people would be able to discern that they can honestly receive Communion.

I’ll also repeat that, those who are rightly disposed toward the Church’s teaching and laws will work with all of this in continuity with the Church’s entire body of teaching, in obedience and fidelity.  Those who are not inclined to obedience and fidelity will continue to do whatever the heck they want, no matter what any Pope writes.

However, it seems to me that the way that this has all been handled, and the way this all will surely be reported, will open the door to abuses, abuses which I – for one – cannot fathom that any Pope would intend!

More on this later.

____ ORIGINAL Published on: Sep 12, 2016 @ 11:03

A complicated game is being played between those who defend the Church’s doctrine about matrimony and Communion, and the Kasperites who want to overturn the Church’s concerning doctrine matrimony and Communion for the divorced and remarried.

This game is being played in the Gray Zone.

First, it is important that we do NOT have a spittle-flecked nutty about what’s happening, or appears to be happening.  Spittle-flecked nutties don’t do us any good and, frankly, they are the right of the Left.  There is surely a lot that we simply do not know.

We have an alleged papal letter which appears to communicate Pope Francis’ approval of the content of a document of a region of bishops in Argentina. That document has some dodgy things in it, including a really bad section – 6.   The Pope is alleged to have written to a bishop in Argentina saying that that Argentinian regional document is in keeping with the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, that the regional document accurately interprets Amoris laetitia.  Section 6 of the regional document from Argentina effectively says that the divorced and remarried who are still together for whatever reason and who are not abstaining from sexual relations CAN be admitted to Communion.

Yes, I wrote “alleged”. The “Vatican” hasn’t acknowledged that it is real. The Press Office was asked about the letter, but no response was given. So, we can’t affirm that the letter is from the Pope or whether someone in the shadows made it up as part of a campaign of disinformation.

The Francis Forgery?

Why is the Holy See Press Office unavailable for comment?

Why should we believe that the Pope wrote this?  Because it appeared on InfoCatolica (which speaks for whom)?  Ditto LifeSite.

Isn’t there a Holy See Press Office and Social Communications dicastery?

We do not have all the facts in this matter.

The problem is section 6 of the Argentinian document. One could throw mud at other sections of the Argentinian document, but 6 is the bad one.  To wit (trans. at LifeSite):

6) In other, more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These in turn dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace.

BTW… the Argentinian document has been removed from where I saw it first at InfoCatolica… removed “for revision”. It is available at LifeSite.

Note also that in the alleged papal letter the writer does not explicitly condone anything.  Read it carefully (without the spittle-flecks).

I will repeat what I wrote before. Nothing that has come out – authentic or not, real or forgery – changes anything. The Pope has not changed anything. Church doctrine and law are not changed through letters to individual bishops in reaction to local documents that have no real authority.  Has anything been promulgated in the proper way?

If the Pope wants to change something, or try to change something, he must do it explicitly with the proper form and promulgation.  Private letters and off-the-cuff remarks on airplanes don’t change law or doctrine.

The moderation queue is really ON this time!

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84 Responses to Did Pope Francis really write that letter?

  1. Thomistica says:

    The following from “Thomistica” appears at the LSN website. These points hold (imo) regardless whether the letter proves a forgery. Is it? I have no idea. Check the LSN com box for a retort by the moderator to the claim that the letter is a forgery, btw.

    Indeed, there is a question whether the Pope’s views as expressed in back channels have any authoritative weight (they don’t). But look at the damage now being done–*on the ground*, pastorally, outside the offices of university and seminary theology professors.

    Anyhow, fwiw, here is “Thomistica’s” comment:

    I’m breaking radio silence briefly and make three points that may easily be lost with respect to this news. The Pope says [in the letter–no assumption that it is or is not a forgery, but this needs clarification pronto from the Vatican] “I consider formation in discernment, both personal and communal, in our seminaries and presbyteries, to be an urgent matter”. The question is: what are the implications of this emphasis on “discernment” in the case of priest who is giving advice to someone who is ‘discerning’ whether –just for one example among many — to have an abortion? One can’t promote this theologically and philosophically vague (with all due respect to the Holy Father) view of discernment — linked as it is to the “internal forum” concept– without also extending it both pastorally and theoretically to all areas of moral theology.

    The second point is: do not underestimate the global impact of Amoris Laetitia. It is easy to monitor just by googling. Catholics in the U.S. should look at Archbishop Cupich’s several discussions at the ironically titled “Catholic New World” website: http://www.catholicnewworld.co… Also, monitor developments at the upcoming diocesan ‘shadow’ synod to be held by Bishop McElroy in October.

    Third, in the U.S., we now have two archbishops with opposing views on how to interpret Amoris Laetitia, Chaput and Cupich. This is not merely an abstract dispute, but one with profound pastoral implications going well beyond Communion for the remarried. How is this situation sustainable? In pastoral practice, do the proponents of “discernment” (as they understand it it) want theological truth to be geographically relativized?

    Stay calm and carry on, but also engage in a lot of prayer, and if you have theological training and/or pastoral experience, by all means voice your views charitably and temperately to your bishop and in appropriate fora. I really have nothing to add, other than that there is now a slowly burgeoning pastoral and doctrinal crisis in the Church.

  2. NBW says:

    I urge everyone (myself included) to pray extra hard for Pope Francis if he did write the letter, may the Holy Spirit fill him with wisdom to make the adequate corrections , if he did not write it, may he be protected from all the wolves that surround him.

  3. seeker says:

    Section 6 worries about damaging the children of the new union. What about the children of the old union? What about the old spouse? What about divorced people living without someone ‘new’?
    Not even a mention of those people in ecclesiastical deliberations.

    How can anyone keep a straight face at a wedding ceremony when the priest say, “what God has joined let no one tear asunder”?

  4. Benedict Joseph says:

    Your well-reasoned observation is appreciated, Father. It has remedied what you would consider a somewhat premature “toxic response.”
    That said, do we not need to consider not only who is playing us, but who is allowing us to be played? If indeed that is what is happening.
    We are far into more than fifty years of this perverse sport. It appeared to be held in check – more than less, anyway – from 1978 until 2013 – though, in retrospect, I must wonder why it continued to be given any leeway at all in those blessed years.
    That aside, why wouldn’t one arrive at conclusions that are cause for grave concern? Why wouldn’t those who could not suppress boldly such gamesmanship – if that is simply what it is.
    Putting the best light on this latest alarm – false or not – does not answer a multitude of concerns and well-grounded objections.
    The Holy Father’s homily at his morning mass today at the Domus Sanctae Marthae orbits somewhat the issue of the “erroneous grenade,” but does nothing to neutralize the current one in hand – nor really any of the others. We are simply admonished to be still and trust. That appears insufficient. When “erroneous grenades” could be vaporized by his strong, direct, unambiguous intervention, and that intervention is not applied, what is one to think?

  5. HeatherPA says:

    There have been horrible Popes before that have confused the faithful. We are living in extraordinary times with lightning speed access to information. That is good and bad.

    I have commented many times that I pay little attention to anything this particular Holy Father says because confusion and uncertainty are not of God. I don’t like the way I feel every time I read about his antics or even just something he did or said that wasn’t screwed up.

    We pray for him daily as are called to do and also remember that God is in charge and His Church cannot fall. That is a great comfort in these times. Cling to Christ on the Cross and consider all the penance we are being given the opportunity by the Lord to do in these days.

  6. Speravi says:

    What I also think is interesting is that from a secular or liberal point of view, even the most problematic parts of these statements would seem quite negative. It would not be saying that out of compassion for a person in a difficult position, admission to the sacraments can be permitted, leaving the final judgement to God. Instead, it would be saying that if someone is too dull to comprehend what they are doing and to see that it is wrong or if they are too helpless to change their behavior, then they may be too dull and helpless to commit a mortal sin. Hence, they could go to communion. This implies that if the person becomes less dull and less helpless, then they must live as brother and sister. This compassionate “journey of discernment” would really be discernment about whether the person is so dull and helpless that they are not fully the author of their own actions.

  7. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Hi HeatherPA. To your “There have been horrible Popes [yes indeed] before that have confused the faithful.” How, pray? By their example of bad lives, sure. By their teaching? Whom, please, do you have mind? Your language suggest you know of several horrible popes who confused the faithful by (I guess?) their teaching. I’d like to consider your evidence. Best, edp.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. Ben Yanke says:

    I’m not sure it’s official change that people are worrying about, since that rather unlikely to happen in any real way.

    The bigger worry that concerns me, and many others, is the change of practice, especially on more local levels. Assuming this is legitimate (1Peter5 has another article which seems to add more weight to the side which says it’s legitimate), it could lead a great many people to the sin of sacrilege. No technical change in doctrine, but a change in practice that has the same effect: a great many more people profaning the Eucharist and risking their souls, and priests and bishops being complicit in it. That’s the risk here that I’m worried about.

    [Read my update, above.]

  9. dochm13 says:

    Well, we do know factually that when Francis wants to denounce something, like when someone suggests a return to ad orientem worship, the press office is capable of issuing the rebuke at warp speed. This story is already at least five days old, and not a peep.

  10. Thomistica says:

    Am I correct, and I might be *entirely* wrong, that one of the founders of Christendom College was of the opinion that there were no heretical Popes in history?

  11. Thomistica says:

    I have personally seen no reason to dispute the interpretation that the Pope affirms a view discontinuous with the received tradition, in re Communion for the remarried. After all, isn’t it a logical entailment (implicit if not explicit) of certain statements in Amoris Laetitia?

    In any case, here is an article just out from LSN:
    “Vatican Radio confirms Pope’s leaked letter on Amoris Laetitia as authentic”
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/vatican-radio-confirms-popes-leaked-letter-on-amoris-laetitia-as-authentic

    Oh, and re. my question above, would that be Warren H. Carroll, and would this be his article?: https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=902

  12. greenlight says:

    So, if all this is true, Pope Francis is, at the very least, facilitating a massive mess which will take years (maybe generations) to undo. At worst, he may be a material heretic and potentially a formal heretic and down the line…who knows? And so the conventional wisdom seems to be that this is not for us to know, we should all just keep on keeping on, fast & pray, etc.

    So far, so good, but just off the top of my head I can think of more than a dozen real life people (including a couple priests) that will seize on this as all the cover they need. [Yes, alas, that is the case.] I simply have no idea how to defend the faith in those situations. [I know, and I can sympathize.] When my divorced and remarried relatives march up to receive communion, who am I to tell them that the presumptive pope and all those bishops are wrong and the bishops that I cite are correct? When a much higher authority than me is telling them something different why should they listen to me? Or you? Or any of us? [That doesn’t mean that we can give up.]

  13. arga says:

    “If the Pope wants to change something, or try to change something, he must do it explicitly with the proper form and promulgation.” Ahem… That “form” and “promulgation” has a name. It is called Amoris Laetitia. [No.] Father Z, I do not comprehend the reason for all these intricate pirouettes of yours. Why are you in denial?

    [It’s not a matter of affirming or denying. It is more a matter of being, perhaps, better informed about how things are done and reading more carefully than many who simply go directly to thinking ill, first, before thinking.]

  14. Thomistica says:

    The situation is now out of hand and has blown wide open, [There are those who want to blow this wide open. Others want to make sure that the reactor cooling tower is doing its job.] even if it has been obvious since the spring, if not much, much earlier in this pontificate, that this was the trajectory events were going to take, all along.
    Though the Pope’s views are non-authoritative in this matter, this is one very ugly situation. E.g., Archbishop Chaput’s public statement of his archdiocesan policy with respect to Amoris Laetitia now contradicts the Pope’s interpretation. [Perhaps. But there is nothing in the recent developments that requires Archbp. Chaput to change his position! The Church’s body of doctrine and law did not begin in 1963, nor in 2013. The Church’s law and doctrine on Communion for those who are in the state of mortal sin did not begin in September 2016.]
    No one is talking about Cardinal Burke’s recent rather veiled reference to some sort of proceeding or query or something that is now underway–in relation to this papacy, or certain of its public statements. What might that mean, in relation to provisions within canon law? However, I suspect little can be done canonically in this situation, given the back-channel and (again) non-authoritative nature of the contested statements of this papacy.I’m not a canon lawyer, so wouldn’t know the answer to this question.
    Anyhow, the level of confusion now being done at the pastoral level–and this now goes beyond the issue of Communion for the remarried– is such that no bishop doing his job can fail to take a public stance on these matters, as Chaput has courageously done. No bishop can hide on this matter. [This has been going on for a long time, long before Pope Francis became Pope. So, let’s not exaggerate. Furthermore, it is possible that many of the squishy will even more quickly drift away from the Church, to the peril of their souls and the souls of their pastors who aided and abetted that drift.]
    Church history is being made. [That statement applies to every year since the Ascension of the Lord and Descent of the Holy Spirit.]

  15. greenlight says:

    “[That doesn’t mean that we can give up.]”

    Understood. It’s just that in this situation I don’t know how to fight. I don’t know what to say to defend the faith.

    [First, examine your own conscience thoroughly. Next, GO TO CONFESSION. Then, pray, fast and give alms. After that, pray and fast more. Be faithful in your own vocation and offer up trials and mortifications and prayers in reparation for sacrileges. In short, redouble your desire to be holy.]

  16. greenlight says:

    “[First, examine your own conscience thoroughly. Next, GO TO CONFESSION. Then, pray, fast and give alms. After that, pray and fast more. Be faithful in your own vocation and offer up trials and mortifications and prayers in reparation for sacrileges. In short, redouble your desire to be holy.]”

    So…don’t say anything then? I’m not trying to be difficult or snarky. I know your advice is not just the best thing to do but the most important as well. It’s just that the thought of remaining silent through some of the conversations to come is as difficult as the thought of what to say.

    [It depends on your state in life and the principles of fraternal correction. It depends on your level of preparedness to say something and the circumstances. Sometimes we are required to say something. But we have to discern carefully when it is an obligation, when it is not, and when it would be imprudent.]

  17. Nat says:

    What I am not liking is the mixed messages we keep getting from actual faithful clergy on these sorts of matters. One day, we hear, “Put on your spiritual armour! Know your Faith. Argue when you can. Stand up for your Faith!”
    Then it is… “Well, hold on a minute there… Maybe he really means something else? Are you sure you know enough to actually say something? You could be wrong, I mean, look at the grand scheme of things. The Church has survived worse than this.” [There’s is no disconnect between “Put on your armor” and “Hold on a minute.” What I see on the part of some is rather like what the 13th Light Dragoons did at Sevastopol. The brave “600” buckled it up and then charged into a double envelopment and cannon fire. I’ll bet that charge was grand, but they failed in their objective (which was, in fact, the wrong objective anyway). The English at Agincourt didn’t charge the French line. They buckled up and then stood and waited for them to charge.]
    Seriously, Fr. Z. I read this here often and I am often discouraged. Be Ready… now Be Quiet? [Yes. We are the Church Militant, not the Church Panicky, or the Church Reckless.] I do see at times why the Society stays where they are. They actually know what they believe and what they will stand for…. the rest of us are stuck in a tailspin. I hope things are better for my grandchildren…

    [“stuck in a tailspin?” Calm down. We have a vast body of good, clear teaching. We have the sacraments. We have the perspective of history. What good does it do you – or anyone reading or listening – to have a nutty. Popes come and go, even in our lifetimes. We need cool heads… especially if we are in a tail spin! I can help people sort through this, but only if they aren’t running in circles waving their hands in the air and shouting “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIEEEEEE! The more difficult we perceive the situation to be, the smarter we have to be, and the more determined to make sure that our own houses are in order.]

  18. Thomistica says:

    I agree with your statement that Church history is always being made. It’s just that it’s lately become, shall we say, rather very interesting. Will the situation resolve itself? We have faith that it will, if we take our faith seriously. So it’s keep calm, and carry on as usual.

    Agreed that Archbishop Chaput does not have to change his position. My point was just that it is a quite uncomfortable position for many in the hierarchy to be in. Also agreed that the situation will be exploited in bad ways.

    Re. exaggeration: well, yes, certainly this (if we are talking about Communion for the remarried) has been going on for quite some time, as very many other things as well have been going on. Begin with the way very few bishops talk about contraception. I think we all agree on this.

    However, I think it is not an exaggeration to say that something has changed under this pontificate, in a major way. Issues simmering under the surface (wink wink) have now come out into the open, with the Pope’s endorsement. [Of course this things are different in this pontificate than they were in the last pontificates! This is obvious. But some people want to make it into something that it is not… yet.]

    Reasonable people can disagree about the obligation of bishops in this situation. My own view is that bishops have an obligation now to quell the confusion now occurring at the pastoral level. [Will they? HA! Some, not many, might. They will answer to God, who cannot be deceived.] And bishops and public intellectuals have an obligation to find temperate, rational, sober ways to thwart the “internal forum” concept of discernment of conscience that is now abroad, with its many ramifications for issues going well beyond the immediate one of Communion for the remarried. A cynical view, one which I happen to agree with, is that that very particular issue was carefully selected as a Trojan horse.

    Gotta hand it to Spadaro and his circle.

  19. DJAR says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says: Hi HeatherPA. To your “There have been horrible Popes [yes indeed] before that have confused the faithful.” How, pray? By their example of bad lives, sure. By their teaching? Whom, please, do you have mind? Your language suggest you know of several horrible popes who confused the faithful by (I guess?) their teaching. I’d like to consider your evidence. Best, edp.

    Pope Stephen VI had the body of Pope Formosus dug up, put on trial, and thrown in the river. He then declared that Pope Formosus was an antipope and annulled all his acts, including his ordinations and episcopal consecrations.

    Obviously, that doesn’t qualify as “teachings” in the formal sense, but his acts certainly threw the sacramental system of the Church into chaos and created great confusion, as bishops and priests were now said to be invalidly ordained, with all the ramifications that flow from that.

    After Stephen was deposed, imprisoned, and murdered, Theodore II contradicted Stephen and annulled his acts in that regard.

    Then Sergius was elected pope, but Pope Formosus’ partisans deposed him and elected John IX, who also contradicted Stephen VI regarding Pope Formosus’ validity. John IX held a synod which undid the “cadaver synod.”

    Seven years after being deposed, Sergius was elected pope again (even though there was a reigning pope, Leo V), and he reversed Theodore II and John IX with regard to Pope Formosus and declared him an antipope and all his acts invalid.

    The following quote is taken from the entry under Sergius III in The Oxford Dictionary of Popes:

    “Sergius dated his reign from his original abortive election in December 897, treating all his predecessors from John IX as intruders. In order to undo their work, he immediately press ganged the clergy by threats and violence to attend a synod which overturned John IX’s Roman and Ravennate synods of 898, reaffirmed the ‘ cadaver synod’s’ condemnation of Formosus, and once again declared null and void the orders he (Formosus) had conferred during his ‘usurpation.’ As Formosus had created many bishops, who in turn had ordained numerous clergy, the resulting confusion was indescribable. Sergius insisted that those whose orders were annulled should be ordained afresh; his policies were carried out with such threats and violence that few had the courage to resist. One who did resist was the Frankish priest Auxilius, whose acute and hard hitting pamphlets defending the ordinations of Formosus (also of Stephen of Naples, another bishop who had moved sees) provide invaluable information about the controversy.”

    [I’m not sure that this is on topic or that it helps much, except to point out that there have always been big problems in the Church. How can be otherwise? The Devil is a really clever enemy.]

  20. Geoffrey says:

    The whole thing makes no sense to me. I am a simple man, but as I understand it, certain sacraments leave an indelible mark on the soul. Three of these last for all eternity: baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, whereas matrimony lasts for life. Getting a civil divorce and remarrying does not remove this indelible mark on the soul, [Matrimony does not impart that “indelible mark”. But divorce does not nullify matrimony.] hence people in such a condition commit the mortal sin of adultery. I do not understand why this is so hard to understand.

    The good thing is that the Holy Father is not officially changing any doctrine; he is not proposing editing the Catechism of the Catholic Church or saying that St John Paul II or Benedict XVI were wrong, etc. However, it seems that what is being said instead is: “doctrine is not changing, but pastoral practice is”.

    Talk about a nightmare of confusion. This makes no sense. What good is our faith if we do not put it into practice?

    I am reminded of this verse from St James: “Quid proderit, fratres mei, si fidem quis dicat se habere, opera autem non habeat? Numquid poterit fides salvare eum? [What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?]” (James 2:14).

  21. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    The pirouettes and contortions are entertaining, but unconvincing.

    Cardinal Bergoglio instructed his priests to give Communion to absolutely everyone, no questions asked. This was reported widely, years ago.

    At both synods, the Pope stacked every committee, sub-committee, and sub-sub-committee with Kasperites, including putrid disgraces like Danneels.

    Anti-Kasperites like Burke fall through trapdoors, while Kasperites advance to the heights of power.

    That anyone has doubts about what the Pope wants is preposterous. The only question is how duplicitous he will feel he needs to be in pursuing it.

  22. stuartal79 says:

    The fact that the Argentinian letter invokes internal forum proves that nothing has changed. If cannon law had been changed with respect to the civilly divorced and remarried, internal forum would not be necessary. This is not a victory for the Kaperites.

  23. Thomas Osborne says:

    In response to Edward Peters, whatever your take on whether or not they were formal heretics, Liberius and Honorius certainly confused the faithful about central doctrines of the Catholic faith. I personally find the evidence for their supposed orthodoxy to be unconvincing, but I don’t know of any solid theologians who defended their orthodoxy before the sixteenth century. Pighius, Bellarmine, et al. took an extreme view in defense of these (and similar) Popes that was not previously known. Admittedly we know much more now about their historical circumstances, if not about the relevant theological issues. I don’t know who HeatherPA is, but at least on this point she seems to me to be correct.

  24. Supertradmum says:

    Two points–I pray for seminary staffs and seminarians under these types of circumstances.

    And, is this letter not the result of the Modernist tendency to make a distinction between “doctrinal” and “pastoral” theology, even now taught in seminaries under the second title as a separate course, as if the two can be separated?

  25. Benedict Joseph says:

    Give them the benefit of the doubt and they will take full advantage of it. This is the flowering of the worst of the last fifty-five years. It simply is, what it is.
    Relativism, mental reservation, dispensations, wordsmithing, fraudulent mercy – the evisceration of the Church is on the cusp of coming to full flower.
    There is a grievous reality before us which none of us want to recognize for what it is. There is a grievous reality before us that none of us are qualified to address and bring to account. Those who are in such a position are silent. Hopefully that means they are about the business that need be done. God preserve them, lavishing them with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

  26. Oh God, please clean up the mess!

    [Oorah!]

  27. Athelstan says:

    I will confine myself to expressing my fears for priests who stand firm on the existing and perennial doctrine on the reception of communion where their ordinary decides to embrace this apparent opening with gusto (and you know there will be such prelates, alas), and offended would-be communicants hit the chancery with a complaint.

    But a sound priest must be willing to run that risk. He has a final judgment he will have to answer to. They will need our prayers, and spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

  28. un-ionized says:

    Can it be partly that our instantaneous means of communication now not only encourages more rapid mistakes that can’t then be taken back but also to respond too quickly, without mulling it over for a few days? Days, not seconds.

  29. allan500 says:

    Why the consternation? This is Francis being Francis. The years-old game of trying to find the alternate (orthodox) meaning in a Francis document should have played itself out by now. Listen to what the pope says and then check it against 2,000 years of Catholic teachings. If they can’t be reconciled, take a stand. What else can one do?

  30. Charles E Flynn says:

    Relevant poem (Go to Confession!)

    “The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop.
     Now is the only time you own.
    Live, love, toil with a will.
    Place no faith in time, for the clock may soon be still.” 

    Cautionary note (fact checking):

    Empire of the Son

    I had not heard of Easy Eddie, Butch O’Hare, or the poem until last Sunday’s sermon. Of the prodigal son and his brother, Easy Eddie, and Butch O’Hare, our pastor thought the brother was the worst off, because he held on to his resentment. It was a thought-provoking sermon.

    When I heard “Now is the only time you own”, I was reminded that we get as many do-overs of this life as were granted to King Herod, Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate, combined.

  31. Athelstan says:

    Dr. Peters,

    By their teaching? Whom, please, do you have mind? Your language suggest you know of several horrible popes who confused the faithful by (I guess?) their teaching.

    I do not know who HeatherPA has in mind; but the most obvious cases are those of Honorius and John XXII. Both cases have been flogged to death in the blogosphere and in print, however, and I won’t dive down that rabbit hole. [Rabbit Hole closed.]

    Save to say that I think I would actually find it easier to bear, were such cases actually characterizable in this way, if in fact we end up being confronted with such a thing in this (or a future) pontificate – because we would know we had been in this situation before. The surer road to sedevacantism is not only an excessively expansive conception of papal authority and infallibility, but also an excessive zeal in defense of papal history.

    This present letter, horrible as a rupture with the perennial teaching as it appears to be, doesn’t implicate either the extraordinary or ordinary Magisterium. Not so far, at any rate.

  32. nine man morris says:

    Two-thirds of Catholics approve of communion after divorce and remarriage http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/26/most-u-s-catholics-hope-for-change-in-church-rule-on-divorce-communion/ without any fancy discernment even. Since the contributions come from the masses at masses, there is no reason to do anything. The leak-oriented approach was to soften the landing for the other third and preserve the majority of them and their contributions anyway.

    If they act against Pope Francis, the Church will be gone. Nothing is going to happen from the hierarchy. People have been going up to Communion after remarriage with a nod and a wink for centuries. People force children, teenagers, and their visiting Protestant relatives up for unworthy communion all the time – I’ve seen it throughout the country since my birth. And, of course, no one ever stops giving communion to public supporters of institutionalized child murder like Tim Kaine and Nancy Pelosi. The information age is just exposing an already present reality.

    I don’t really see how schism would be approved by faithful Catholics, and the few in the Church who might be troubled by this are not trads, but maybe big family, NFP, Pope John Paul II Catholics who would never schism or go to an SSPX schismatic group. Most of them have shown great resilience in the face of extreme novelty. I imagine it’ll just be business as usual. I mean, if they could accept that the Church is not the only means to salvation, then why can’t they just roll with this too. We all know this is hardly the first thing since Vatican II that has contradicted Church teaching.

    I am a little surprised that so many are acting like this was news when a simple reading of AL told you the same thing quite a while ago now.

    It is obvious that we have a qualitatively different Church with a different liturgy, and all this concern is decades late to forestall the obvious conclusion that the Church is not indefectible in Her teaching. Even more so, when this minor squall about marriage not being indissoluble blows over and the months roll by. The Church has clearly changed Her teachings in black and white from previous centuries in the last five decades. There seems to be some problem with this indefectibility notion unless indefectibility means you can’t be wrong because the Law of Noncontradiction doesn’t actually hold …

  33. mpsguard says:

    #6 taken with #5 suggests that there are circumstances that are even more complex than the simple one where two Christians trying to do the right thing commit themselves to continence. I’m thinking where one is Christian and understands the law, and the one is not, and doesn’t understand. I don’t know how traditional moral theology would attempt to provide the Christian seeking to live correctly in this circumstance with guidance. I’ve read that some merely hope to live long enough for nature to remedy the problem.

    Honestly, what does a confessor advise such a Christian earnestly wanting to do the right thing, but feeling a pressure to violate his or her conscience. Is there a way to say that such is a very proximate occasion of sin that can’t be eliminated (because of children where even domestic peace must be sustained) and one is safe so long as that one never initiates sinful action, but responds when the other initiates it (who doesn’t see it as sinful). I would not put this in the category of a second effect. It’s clearly a direct action, but is there less culpability there? Even if its still mortally sinful, is his/her good will and attendent contrition sufficient for absolution? Is the obligation to avoid recidivism and circumstances that cause it reduced or offset by an equally grave need for justice for the children’s sake? (All this assumes a firm purpose of amendment, but with exceedingly strong temptations and a belief that one is not completely in control.)

    I’m glad I don’t have to advise anyone on this matter, and I’m even more glad that by the grace of God, I don’t live in such a circumstance.

  34. joan ellen says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z for the 2 directions above. They are supportive & most helpful.

  35. nine man morris says:

    This is a good article by Dr. Feser to read at this time http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/11/papal-fallibility.html

  36. Nat says:

    Okay, I know what you are saying, I am not trying to have a freak-out here…. BUT…. Here’s my problem, I am raising teenagers who I am trying to encourage to read and learn about their Faith. We have great formation at our parish… but then out they go to meet other young Catholics in the diocese who are head over heels with Pope Francis. His openness to new ideas, etc, etc… We, Mom and Dad, are pretty quiet about suggesting our teens head out to World Youth Day (with all our kids many, many cousins and friends who do go), or read anything spoken or written by the Pope. Out of “respect” for the office we try not to criticise openly, but then they read something like one of his off the cuff airplane interviews, new works of mercy or letters, and we need to answer some questions. Pray, fast, alms… of course all that. But my state in life requires a good answer to give to my teenagers.. now… What do I say? Pray for the Pope… he doesn’t seem to be teaching what your Catechism has taught for the last 12 years… listen with respect because of his office? “I” can weather the nonsense, but I am watching my kids relations (one cousin just joined the Jesuits…) and friends fall off into nonsense land while we are looking more like the fringe of Catholicism. I try to get them to read Cardinal Sarah, and Bishop Schnieder, then of course St. Augustine, etc . I personally pray to the Holy Spirit daily to guide my words, but somehow it still doesn’t seem like it is enough. I know that if I say nothing I will regret my lack of courage for the rest of my life. So, seriously (I am not being sarcastic), what DO we say to the young adult/teenagers watching and listening?

    [You must be ready to discuss with them the CHURCH’s Catechism. You will have to be prepared to do this. If every day you fill their heads with how confusing Pope Francis is making things, how terrible things are in the Church, go on and on about every negative story, how’s that going to go? We have to be smart about this. Many of us have to know what is going on, and we must be realistic. However, we also have to be cool and prudent.]

  37. juergensen says:

    What a disaster. During the last two pontificates it almost always was a joy to read news from Rome. Not so any more. I can barely stand to read anything from Rome these days. It is always an attack on the faith, from those supposedly in charge of the faith. What a disgrace.

  38. Aaron I. says:

    Isn’t this letter just the common sense application of Amoris Laetitia?

    I’d expected AL to try to justify divorce and remarriage. It doesn’t. It simply points out the obvious fact that not everyone committing grave matter is guilty of mortal sin. Mortal sin requires grave matter, full knowledge, and full consent. Grave matter is a given. Obviously in 2016 full knowledge is often lacking. That boils down to a discussion of vincible vs invincible ignorance. With so many priests providing poor education/formation to the laity, many may have invincible ignorance. Then there’s the matter of consent, which can be reduced by addiction, psychology, circumstances, etc. Here’s a key phrase from AL paragraph 301 “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent values’ or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin”

    So yeah, I don’t see any change in doctrine here. Infallibility won’t be broken, nor can it. They’re simply going to milk the concepts of invincible ignorance and impaired will for all they’re worth. To my mind it would be best to have a priest EDUCATE the couple (ignorance – whether invincible or vincible – is now removed) and then have them live chastely, thereby removing the grave matter. Francis, though, in AL (in a footnote) poo-poos the very concept of living chastely as indecent. I don’t think he promulgates them to continue to live in ignorance either, as he does call for discernment (whether that will actually HAPPEN in practice as opposed to just receiving an instant green light is another matter). I think all the abuse will come in the field of “impaired consent”, which can be taken to mean any number of things to the right (or wrong) priest.

    The real problem here is that this strategy of “it’s still wrong, but their culpability is lessened/removed” can be used regarding ANY moral issue. Frightening to think where this could be applied next.

  39. stephen c says:

    Pope Francis very much needs our prayers. When I was a child, Pope Paul VI was the Pope, and I prayed for him, because that is what Catholic children do for their pope. Pope John Paul was Pope for so short a time that I do not remember deciding to put in the effort to pray for him or not. Pope John Paul the Second was so clearly blessed with love of others that I thought he did not need my prayers – but I prayed for him anyway – because almost everyone, including me, knew that his resplendently evident concern for others made him a target for confident and arrogant evildoers – as we later learned, they encompassed an amazing range, from the Bulgarian secret service and their lackeys to the manipulative founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and many others. What a sad story the lives of the enemies of Pope John Paul II is, but one can hope that even his worst enemies repented before, or at, the moment of death! Pope Benedict was such a joyful person when he was a cardinal and when he was a pope, I know he was not perfect, but I felt so comfortable knowing that someone as compassionate and intelligent as him had taken on the impossible job he had taken on…I should have prayed more for him than I did! I am sure if he knew as much about me as I knew about him he would have prayed to God for me in the way that I did not for him! Pope Francis has never claimed that he does not make mistakes – and I pray for him every day. God will forgive me and Pope Francis our mistakes, or God will not: and the only reason God would not is because we did not ask, or because we asked in an unloving insincere way. Pope Francis, whatever his faults and mistakes may be – and as anyone who knows history is aware of, Popes are prone to faults and mistakes, like it or not – is a prayerful person who is responsible for many wonderful quotes describing the love of God for us: that is a good start. Yes I think that Pope Francis has been given bad advice and acted in a way he should not have on that advice – but if you had asked me, back in 1965, (assuming I, then, were as old as I am now) to predict whether we would have been as lucky as we have been with the next 51 years of Popes (1965-2016) , I would have underestimated the level of blessings in those 51 years. Just to put things in perspective.

  40. un-ionized says:

    Tailspinning not allowed. Work, pray. Repeat until tired. Repeat some more.

  41. Nat says:

    Father, my point is that I am trying to avoid speaking negatively about Pope Francis to my teenagers. In fact, I try to not talk about it at all if I can and focus on living the Faith. I DO talk about the Faith and the Catechism most of the day. The problem is what do I say to them when I get cornered and I have to say something. THAT is the problem.

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  43. Benedict Joseph says:

    One commentator contributes a well-crafted and reasonable perspective on the reality which stands before us, “There seems to be some problem with this indefectibility notion unless indefectibility means you can’t be wrong because the Law of Noncontradiction doesn’t actually hold …”
    Despite the bitter response his estimation provokes in me I cannot deny his logic. What is now transpiring is what was intended by the inhabitants of the viper’s tangle who colluded before the council to hijack that moment of opportunity in Church history for their own devise. Pretending it did not happen is no longer an option. That masked reptilian connivance thrived all through the pontificate of John Paul and Benedict. Pretending it is not what it is is simply suicidal. Rest assured, “Amoris Laetitia” is simply the unlocking of the door of moral collapse after fifty-five years of walking around with the key in the pocket. Its “reasoning” is already boldly operative in the confessional as I have experienced. One is so undermined you just cannot believe what you hear. Pretending our Church is not in collapse is simply no longer possible.
    We need to confront the reality before us. Can we acquiesce to the substitute church “Nine man morris” rightly announces exists? Welding “evangelical obedience” as a weapon to inforce silence is a sacrilege and unacceptable. Where are the men that will call this operation to account?

  44. HeatherPA says:

    Dr. Peters, I do not consider myself anywhere near an equal to respond to you in a worthy manner in this regard.

    I was thinking in particular of Pope Clement VII or Pope Benedict IX.
    I wrote my post before the Pope’s letter was “officially confirmed”.

    As a long time reader and sometime poster to this blog, I have admired you a long time. I apologize for offending you and Father Z as well.

  45. Filipino Catholic says:

    Time will tell perhaps if this becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If it does, then we may expect in the near future that someone does a Paul (or even a Savonarola) and “withstands [the successor of] Peter to his face, for he is blameworthy”.

  46. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Okay, well, folks have trotted out the very few, obviously weird, localized cases that most everyone is familiar with. As I thought, we are long, LONG way from showing “several horrible popes who confused the faithful”, etc. But exaggeration of the problems of the past when talking about the (I would say, indisputably worse, more systematic, more numerous problems impacting countless more people) problems of the present, dilutes our appreciation of how serious the present mess really is.

  47. LarryW2LJ says:

    I have two teenagers. I have been thinking about what to say to them in the event they ask me my opinion on this. I have decided to ask them, “What did Jesus say about this matter?” and then tell them, ” It’s plainly there, in the Gospel, for all to see, and this has been handed down to us, since then.” And I will let it go at that.

  48. Prayerful says:

    These are confusing times. There were Popes of the past who were not chaste, who were little better than warlords or gangsters, but they did not issue a stream of bizarre speculations on marriage (even the official transcript of Papal ideas on validity removes the contention that most marriages might be invalid) and the sacraments. Even if not infallibly uttered, certain statements do harm. Anyhow, I’m not that sure this letter is authentic, and even if it is, it isn’t clear whether the statement has any bearing on policy. I’ll pray that Pope Francis preaches the Faith well and clearly.

  49. robtbrown says:

    Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says,

    Cardinal Bergoglio instructed his priests to give Communion to absolutely everyone, no questions asked.

    Whatever the truth of that, at large public masses with pro abort politicians, he would let someone else give them Communion.

  50. robtbrown says:

    nine man morris says:

    Two-thirds of Catholics approve of communion after divorce and remarriage

    Don’t you mean American Catholics?

  51. Gerhard says:

    Surely children, with consciences properly formed, would not want their parents to risk hell and eternal damnation by continuing to commit mortal sin when there is a chaste way forward which lets everyone live happily ever after and receive the sacraments?
    Just because an ignorant selfish brute (male or female), to whom one is not even properly married, wants sex surely doesn’t mean that we have to go along with it?
    It’s impossible to fool all the people all the time, and to fool God any of the time.

  52. stuartal79 says:

    Why is everyone on here so utterly depressed and defeated? If you are unsure of how to defend the faith in light of this disturbing letter pray about it and get your talking points from men like Archbishop Chaput, Cardinal Sarah, Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Pell and other faithful priests. Encourage and support faithful priests who are defending the faith! AL can actually be used against those who say Church teaching has changed. Check out what Cardinal Muller had to say about it.

  53. Benedict Joseph says:

    Thank you, Dr. Peters, for not minimizing the gravity of what is transpiring.
    God reward you.

  54. Janol says:

    Fr. Z said: “…but only if they aren’t running in circles waving their hands in the air and shouting “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIEEEEEE! ”

    LOL. Thank you for that. Good gallows humor. I needed a good laugh. I’m really laughing out loud which probably shows how down I’ve been over this. Of course, it’s not death itself but the dying or what may preceed it which is most dreadful.

  55. rwj says:

    After Amoris Laetitia, my pastor said quite clearly that he would give Holy Communion to those who wanted to receive (regardless of divorce/remarriage and subsequent adultery). He also said he didn’t have time to read AL and asked me to read it for him and offer commentary. He still has not read it.
    I did as he requested and explained that the Holy Father, by his vagueness on the issue, in no way authorized a change to the Church Law.

    Apparently, by not reading it, he understood the Holy Father’s intentions (the one that admits “no other interpretations”) better than those of us who endeavored to prove that the Holy Father was not dissenting from the Church, and had faithful intentions.

    After the exhalation of Cardinal Kasper
    After the removal of Cardinal Burke
    After the Synod mess and its pre-drafted conclusion
    After Amoris (which for any of its virtues will only be remembered for its great vice)
    Now in a letter to the Holy Father’s homeland- he removes any last shadow of doubt of his intentions. This will have his desired outcome. He obviously knows that he doesn’t have to change the Canons (yet) — then perhaps he would actually face opposition from faithful members of the church.

    God help us! I certainly don’t know exactly what to do with this situation internally– but in my own little parish, but I will never knowingly teach heresy. I wonder what happens to our Church as more and more of us have the scales fall from our eyes concerning the current pontiff. God please hear our prayers for Francis and the Church.

  56. pseudomodo says:

    Hmmmmm……. FWIW

    Let’s say I wrote an treatise asserting that certain creatures adorning bars and man-caves throughout the nation could possibly be considered to be jackalopes.

    My treatise is met with wild delight on one hand and absolute scorn on the other.

    An eminent body of biologists write a scathing condemnation of my treatise confirming that my assertion was, is and always has been complete balderdash. Another eminent body provides irrefutable proof that jackalopes do exist.

    But another body of colleagues on the nether side of the planet publish a document actually implementing my treatise and providing formation for biology students on the care and protection of jackalopes.

    I am delighted about this and I write a letter telling them that their document is absolutely correct and in fact there is no other interpretation possible for my treatise. In other words, my letter confirms their document commentary on my Treatise.

    Presuming my treatise is actually correct in the first place……

    It’s all about the documents and their contents…..

  57. thomas tucker says:

    On one hand, I can imagine the same sort of consternation occuring when the practice of confession and penance was change to private auricular confession and private penance rather than long public ones. I’m sure many felt that the faith was being waterd down for pastoral reasons. On the other hand, I can well imagine, in answer to Aaron’s question/observation above, where this is indded going, since one could infer that same-sex attraction is also objectively sinful but not morally culpable due to inner compulsion.

  58. Thomas Osborne says:

    The point of the historical examples is that most Catholics before the sixteenth century believed that a Pope can be a formal heretic with contumacy, at least in the sense that the person who was elected Pope can be a heretic, and that the better theologians have thought that the Pope does not cease being a Pope simply by the fact that he is a heretic. Most defenders of this opinion had strong notions of papal infallibility (stronger than Vatican I), and this opinion has never been denied by the Church and does not conflict with Vatican I. So whether or not Honorious, Liberius, and the four or five others in the standard lists were really heretics, Catholic belief was that it could be possible. So, even if the Pope is formally heretical, which I hope is not the case, it should not disturb people’s faith or be used in defense of sedevacantism. See http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/can-pope-heretic and http://thomistica.net/commentary/2014/10/16/thomism-synods-heresy-and-the-prdl?rq=banez ; http://thomistica.net/commentary/2016/2/24/current-events-almost-prove-thomistic-thesis-1?rq=heresy

  59. Thomas Osborne says:

    I should add that at least Catholics have believed that things were worse in the Church than they may be now, whether or not it is historically the case. It seems to me that this point is significant.

  60. Nat says:

    With all due respect, Father. Though it is true that being calm, cool, and collected is the way to devise the plan and weigh the risk of casualties, the foot soldiers on the ground actually carrying out the plan are usually fueled by “righteous anger” aka “spitty-flecked nutty”. This reaction has a way of fueling the comeback charge in battle. It has it’s uses, too.
    Personally, when I am calmly doing my thing and telling myself not to worry because it will pass I tend to forget the gravity of the situation and do not have the energy to put out extra effort to sacrifice more and pray more fervently. I need the undercurrent of adrenaline to remind me that this is a fight or else I fall asleep.
    Yeah, yeah, I know. It needs direction.. but quelling it entirely doesn’t sound like a good plan. Most of us don’t have the time or academic background to put it all in historical perspective, or explain using canon law the actual degree of misdeed being promoted, or silence and time (parents have little of this) to pray, contemplate, and discern what the best reaction to the situation is. God uses anger, too, to tell us something is wrong and spurs us on to do something. We need to stay awake.

  61. Geoffrey says:

    “Matrimony does not impart that ‘indelible mark’. But divorce does not nullify matrimony.”

    Indeed! I suppose “delible mark” would be more accurate, though not often heard.

  62. Joe in Canada says:

    I take the relevant section of AL and this clarification to be an approbation of the concept of “internal forum”. The way I was taught “internal forum” seemed fully Catholic. A woman (say) who was married in the church, divorced, and subsequently married civilly, who is convinced that her first marriage was invalid, but who cannot get an annulment. For example, she discovered after the marriage that her husband had had a vasectomy, or was an active practicing homosexual with no desire to have marital relations, or etc. But he is absolutely willing to admit these things to anyone else, or to get an annulment. If I haven’t picked clear enough examples, assume that the situation is such that she could clearly get an annulment IF he cooperated. But he doesn’t. Externally she is not free to marry in the church, or receive a blessing for her civil marriage, or receive Communion. But internally she is. The discernment with the priest provides her with the moral clarity of her situation. Then you have to avoid scandal – we were told to recommend she refrain from Communion unless she was in a setting where no one knew her.

    We were also taught that this would be relatively uncommon, and would require the sort of pastoral care the HF talks about.

  63. Maineman1 says:

    Fr. Z,

    Have you witnessed, or have you been informed of, any jubilant responses to this news from openly dissenting pseudo Catholic organizations or media?

  64. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Z is absolutely correct. Nothing in Catholic teaching has changed. Those who were previously in valid marriages, and have since remarried without a declaration of nullity, cannot receive Holy Communion. Period.

    The Pope is trying to direct clergy in those cases where previous validity of a marriage, and subsequent declaration of nullity, are murky, complicated and confusing to sort out.

    These are the cases that even the best, most orthodox seminary professors could never have prepared us for. Everyone: please quit acting, talking, and writing as if every married couple’s history and their cases can be so easily figured out by the rules of canon law. The Pope’s comment of “discernment” is quite orthodox because it refers, not to dispensing with rules, but trying to understand how they apply. There really are examples when we know not whether there is actual adultery and sin, or the invalid, previous non-marriage case, which was the tribunal says cannot be processed for a declaration of nullity.

    Kudos to Fr. Z for trying to explain that the Church has ever toiled in a minefield when we look at love and marriage, and when it was real/valid, and when it wasn’t. Canon law and tribunals do their best, but with some
    cases, even they are stumped–thus, the need for the internal forum, which is what Francis is dealing with.

  65. Richard_amdg says:

    “…not many people would be able to discern that they can honestly receive Communion.” Seriously? How about a retraction and correction of “many” to “no one”. It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the world, but for a blog FrZ?

  66. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick, thank you, I could not say it nearly as well.

    HeatherPA, I agree with your comment and could easily see myself writing it. Anecdotally, while we may not be able to quote specifics, at least myself not being a theologian, I have the impression we have had a few popes who about whom we could say were horrible and confused the faithful.
    What seems more important than a non-theologians comment about papal specifics, is that as Dr. Peters said, right NOW we have a mess, an unmitigated mess, and we are many of us still waiting for Bishops and Cardinals to stop explaining and covering and get real. He’s promoting heresy, shocking and scandalizing the faithful, scattering the sheep. People are hurting over this.
    We are doubly scandalized by the denials and avoidance. When does it end.

    HeatherPA, I can’t see any reason for you to apologize. Just sayin.

  67. Margaret O says:

    So what if the woman/man in the second marriage demands an abortion because the baby in-utero is suffering from Down’s Syndrome? What if one of the spouses demands contraception or the use of the morning/after pill? To save the ‘second marriage’ because of the children, would the couple be allowed to receive Holy Communion regardless? What if the second marriage happens to be a same-sex marriage and there are children involved because of adoption or IVF? May they carry on having sexual intercourse and front up to Communion?

  68. rocko36 says:

    Regarding your comment:

    “the way this all will surely be reported, will open the door to abuses, abuses which I – for one – cannot fathom that any Pope would intend”

    I must disagree: I believe this was EXACTLY what was intended. That is to have Pope Francis weigh-in on the debate through an obscure letter that dissenters would obviously pick-up on and trumpet far and wide.

  69. stephen c says:

    Dr. Peters, I also wish to thank you, for the same reason Benedict Joseph thanked you.

  70. Ave Crux says:

    Father Z: EWTN confirms today that Pope Francis approves of the Bishops Statement allowing those in irregular sexual unions to receive Holy Communion without the necessity of practicing continence: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/Vatican.php?id=14247 [EWTN does not speak for the Holy See.]

    It is the same old story of being “selective” and counseling that in this situation any possibility of causing confusion about the indissolubility of marriage should be avoided — but of course we know it’s useless to make that point, because it will unavoidably do exactly that.

    Furthermore, NO exceptions can ever justify Sacrilege or trivializing the teachings of Christ — does not Our Lord and His teachings, His feelings in the matter count? Must people always have sex at all costs….even that of disobeying Christ and receiving Holy Communion, too?

    No…just to make people feel better, we will force Our Lord to go to them in Holy Communion, despite His moral teachings and His abhorrence for unrepentant sin. “It would be better that you pluck out an eye….cut off a limb…than to go with both into everlasting hell fire….”

    Father, it is enough!

    If it is a sin to stand silent while someone’s life is threatened before our eyes, so is it a sin to be silent when the Pope counsels immorality and sacrilege.

    It’s not a matter of “panicking” — it’s a matter of DOING THE RIGHT THING…

    Saint Catherine of Siena said:

    We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence.

    [Being frustrated, sad, and angry does not exonerate us from being prudent.]

  71. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    All that accomplishes is to avoid an embarrassing photograph. Since he was the bishop, letting others do it was grave matter, as if he had done it himself. This is true in Rome, as in Buenos Aires or anywhere.

    Cardinal Burke demonstrated years ago, with excruciating thoroughness, that it is grave matter for a bishop to allow his priests (etc.) to violate Canon 915:

    http://tinyurl.com/canon915

  72. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Do not look to Archbishop Chaput. He has recently discovered that he can detect no difference between a pro-life candidate and a lifelong abortion fanatic who promises to persecute Christians and force them to change their beliefs.

    http://catholicphilly.com/2016/08/think-tank/archbishop-chaput-column/some-personal-thoughts-on-the-months-ahead/

  73. jhayes says:

    At Catholic Culture Dr. Jeff Mirus explains that the Church’s rules on receiving Communion are disciplinary, not doctrinal

    It is not incompatible with the Church’s doctrinal teaching on either marriage or Communion to argue that, under some circumstances, persons involved in invalid marriages ought to be admitted to Communion. It is very possible to question the prudence of such a practice, as one consequence could be to weaken the Catholic understanding of and commitment to marriage in the minds of the faithful. But that remains a prudential question, which means legitimate disagreement about the best course is possible….

    What all this means, again, is that the decision to admit someone in this situation to Communion is purely prudential. The key question is: Which is more important, the potential scandal which could weaken the commitment of others to the Church’s teaching on marriage, or the need for the (venial) sinner (caught in a no-win situation) to be spiritually nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ?

    A final point worth mentioning is that the Church’s prudential judgment about this matter can legitimately change with cultural conditions. For example, in a culture which generally respects the permanence of marriage, the potential scandal might be far greater than in a culture which generally denies the permanence of marriage (in which case it may be difficult to erode that concept any further).

    http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otc.cfm?ID=1413

    See the article for Dr. Mirus’s explanation of how a person in a second marriage without an annulment might be sinnning only venially, and thus not be required to abstain from Communion under Canon 916. [No one has ever denied that. Our understanding of the conditions for mortal sin apply to ALL sins. However, in this case, it is more than likely that such a case would be quite rare.]

    Eventually, there will probably need to be some revision to Canon 915 to conform it to Amoris Laetitia, but that would be simply a disciplinary change not a doctrinal one. [There is no need to change that canon. There is great need to APPLY that canon.]

  74. un-ionized says:

    Fr. Sotelo, thank you for writing that. Canon law is pretty clear but it is in people’s nature I guess to want to second guess and prejudge what person fits into which box. And I know of a case recently where something was clear by canon law but the people involved just didn’t want to do it right so they had to just let the invalid baptism stand. The canon law and what had been done were both clear, the willingness just wasn’t there, it was more convenient to do nothing. So, we do what we can do and hope and pray.

  75. Ann Malley says:

    “…If the Pope wants to change something, or try to change something, he must do it explicitly with the proper form and promulgation. Private letters and off-the-cuff remarks on airplanes don’t change law or doctrine.”

    Then, my position, when approaching teens would be to convey the whole truth. Teach the Catholic Faith to include that, despite the hoopla of popularity over Pope Francis and his modernizing attempts, what is being applauded is nothing more than, in my view, a PR campaign that is seeking to pretend that doctrine can change…. under Francis the deliverer.

    So while some may believe that speaking clearly about all that is going on only amounts to one negative story after another, the truth is what will set us free. The truth about what the Pope’s limitations are will set us free. Why? Because unlike many are being led to believe, the Pope is not a free agent who can change reality – even by way of insinuation and an uptick in smiles.

    Educate your kids about the whole story. That is not negative. Rather it shows that God is the Head of His Church despite our human weakness, and even despite the seemingly deliberate opening of doors that should, prudentially, remain firmly shut.

  76. robtbrown says:

    jhayes,

    Dr Mirus is wrong. It is doctrinal.

    More about it later. I’m running late.

  77. DaveP says:

    If nothing else, we should say another heartfelt prayer of thanks for the much more rigorous precision recent popes exercised so consistently in their various communications.

    Thank you, Father Z, your post above is a real tonic for misplaced and unnecessary worry. I am reminded of many news stories that came out following the death of Pope St John Paul II which speculated feverishly about what the new Pope would do, all couched in terms of opinion polls, marketing, and so forth.

    Remarkably, it was Business Week that pointed out that the Church thinks in terms of centuries, not quarterly earnings, so all the speculation was really beside the point. So if this particular Pontiff steers the Barque of Peter too close to the shoals, she may take some damage but nevertheless will sail on, and Our Blessed Lord will make something good out of it.

    That doesn’t mean those of us on deck won’t get queasy!

  78. The Masked Chicken says:

    Fr. Stoleto wrote:

    “These are the cases that even the best, most orthodox seminary professors could never have prepared us for. Everyone: please quit acting, talking, and writing as if every married couple’s history and their cases can be so easily figured out by the rules of canon law. The Pope’s comment of “discernment” is quite orthodox because it refers, not to dispensing with rules, but trying to understand how they apply. There really are examples when we know not whether there is actual adultery and sin, or the invalid, previous non-marriage case, which was the tribunal says cannot be processed for a declaration of nullity.”

    Fair enough, but hard cases make bad law. Of course, given fallen human nature, there will be complicated cases, where the truth can only be known to a statistical guess. Those are sad cases, but how many of such cases are being lived as the authentic crosses they must, necessarily, be? Given the uncertainty in some of these cases, going to five different priests would produce five different, opposing, judgments, and given the gravity of the situation if one is wrong, at what point can one have said to have formed a certain conscience upon which to act? Is getting the judgment one wants from one of the five priests enough? In such cases, one is safer to follow the adage, “When in doubt, leave it out.” No one ever was damned for not going to Communion and if the situation truly is so complex that only God can sort it out, then let the couple make many spiritual Communions – there is zero risk of scandal from that – and offer up their desire to receive physical Communion for the sanctity of marriages. That is heroic virtue. It might, also, be the sacrifice necessary for the miracle which might resolve their case.

    One very serious problem I have seen is the case where a divorced (non-Catholic, but converting) person, not, yet, annulled ( no court action sought) wants to marry a Catholic person and, instead of waiting for the divorced person to enter the Church and seek an annulment, seeks the, “discernment,” of a priest who tells them that, certainly, the annulment will go through and, so, rather than do things in proper order, the couple decides not to wait and goes through with the marriage, either civilly or in a non-Catholic ceremony. Certainly, these sorts of cases are an abuse of the internal forum, but they are happening, right now, because of people, lay and ordained, reading implications into AL that simply aren’t there.

    Every human law admits of exceptions. That is, generally, understood. The, so-called, “internal forum solution,” has always existed as a matter of understanding within the law, which is written for normal or regular cases. Hard cases do not define a law, but, rather, the humility that any law must have in its application. When the internal forum is applied without the humility it pre-supposes, as a more normal expression of the law, then does not that exception harden into a norm?

    The proliferation of the internal forum in matters of divorce and the sacraments begs for an analysis of why this is the case. Are there really many more hard cases? Why? In many cases, one must suspect that it was faulty formation of the couple at the beginning that led to the complexity at the end. Why, then did not Pope Francis focus AL on the infinitely more productive task of defining a universal catechism of marriage – of putting his effort up-front instead of dealing with so many back-end issues? It is better to cure early with a band-aid then to require major surgery, later. Has he given up hope that those seeking marriage will listen to such a catechism? It seems to me that the focusing on the hard end-cases instead of trying to clean up marriage preparation, is either a tacit admission that few would listen or that there is no real interest from the hierarchy to do so – in which case, they can expect things to deteriorate, even more.

    It is infinitely more merciful to avoid a fight, when reasonably possible, than to have to slay one’s opponent. I am not really impressed with what passes for leadership on marriage issues in the Church. Making the rare into the commonplace (given that divorces are at 50%, how can the internal forum be thought to be only a rare situation) is getting all of the press, these days. In my opinion, the laity – the only people who can get married, will have to lead the way in the practical issues. Make strong leadership. Create marriage programs based on the difficulties you know. Just do it. Don’t wait for the ordained to lead. Many have abdicated that responsibility. You are the stewards of marriage, not priests. You are the sacrament lived and experienced. We all think that if only priests would preach on marriage it would change things, but, in reality, it is those in good marriages who will have to sell the idea and ideals to a generation that will not hear priests.

    If you want to reduce the use of the internal forum, for Goodness sake, strengthen the external forum.

    The Chicken

  79. Janol says:

    Am I wrong and way too simplistic in that I have always seen the resolution of these particular hard cases to lie in respecting the objective external order, so as to preserve order and governance in the Church.

    Given the teaching of the Church that a person in the state of grace who is not able to receive Communion sacramentally may make an act of “Spiritual Communion” in which all the effects and benefits of sacramental Communion are bestowed, it seems to me that the requisite disposition of charity to receive Communion would be the willingness to forgo/sacrifice one’s own ‘right’ to receive sacramental Communion (by making an act of Spiritual Communion instead) for the sake of the good of the Church – to avoid scandal and confusion. It seems to me that someone who is not willing to bear that sacrifice, for the good of the Church, does not have the love of the brethren he ought, in order to receive. (Here, I’m leaving aside the possibility of receiving sacramental Communion in a place where one is not known.)

    Those who are truly in a state of grace should be willing to accept this sacrifice, believing in the teaching of the Church on Spiritual Communion. And those who are not in a state of grace would gain more by internally expressing their desire for Communion than if they were to receive sacramentally unworthily, which we have been warned against. If those denied Communion so love the Lord and yearn to receive Him, they can draw close to Him in prayer and the Blessed Sacrament and beseech Him for all the graces necessary so as to receive Him sacramentally.

    How can one regard such a solution as inhumane or lacking mercy, if Mercy will come either sacramentally or spiritually to the heart disposed to receive Him.

    There are many who for different reasons have no access to the sacraments, yet God provides.

  80. Ave Crux says:

    The following is further proof of the terrible damage being done that needs to be repudiated by faithful Catholics.

    The whole world thinks this is now fine, regardless of the nature of the document in which the Pope made these statements. This is why every faithful Catholic journalist, blogger and pastor must call these errors what they are. Our silence is blameworthy in the sight of God.

    HEADLINE AT CALIFORNIA CATHOLIC DAILY
    (one of countless headlines proclaiming the same thing):
    “Pope: celibacy [Probably not the right word to use.] not required for divorced and remarried communicants
    Leaked document confirms that Pope Francis interprets Amoris Laetitia as allowing Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics”

    “In a letter reportedly leaked by a priest in Argentina, Pope Francis writes that there is “no other interpretation” of Amoris Laetitia other than one admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion in some cases. The letter, dated September 5, comes in response to a confidential document by the bishops of the Buenos Aires pastoral region to priests instructing them on the application of the Pope’s controversial apostolic exhortation.
    ….
    “The document by the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires interprets for priests in the region the 8th chapter of Amoris Laetitia on how to deal with couples who are remarried after divorces but have not been granted annulments. It follows closely the language of the most controversial parts of the papal exhortation including the infamous footnote 351, which opens the door to what Cardinal Raymond Burke and other faithful bishops have called ‘sacrilege.’
    ….
    “The Pope’s letter affirms this path with effusive praise for the bishops’ work. Writing to the delegate of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region, Monsignor Sergío Alfredo Fenoy, the Pope says, ‘I thank you for the work they have done on this: a true example of accompaniment for the priests.’

    Pope Francis adds: ‘The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations. And I am certain that it will do much good. May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity.’

    The leaked document is the first time there is explicit confirmation that Pope Francis interprets Amoris Laetitia as allowing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics without the condition that the couple in the irregular situation live as brother and sister without sexual relations, as was always required by the Church.”

    And while it can be said that none of these news outlets can “speak for the Holy See”, Pope Francis as Pope is speaking for the Holy See.

    This is the tragedy and scandal; everyone will follow his lead and consider it acceptable practice. Those who abstained previously out of respect for the Eucharist and the teaching of the Church will now consider this is no longer necessary.

    The abuses will be rampant and universal, and no one will follow any “path of discernment” — which would be completely subjective and come across as judgmental were certain individuals are excluded as not being “sincere” or “pious” enough.

  81. Canonically, does the sin of scandal fit into these discussions about adulterous “marriage”? I see several times where scandal can occur. First, I see scandal being caused in children born in a first marriage. The civil divorce may cause scandal, in part because the civil forum had no requirement that either spouse do anything wrong before the divorce was decreed, and then civil remarriage may cause scandal, since it radically restructures the child’s family and daily life (even more so than the divorce). The social science data tells us that children from these marriages have elevated risks for all sorts of very negative outcomes. Doesn’t this suggest that there is unaddressed scandal?

    Next, I am thinking of the children born into the adulterous “marriages,” as well as the first children; they are all witnesses to the adultery. By that I mean that once they reach a certain age, they know that the man and the woman are engaging in sexual acts. Both sets of children are being subjected to erroneous ideas about what the Church teaches regarding the proper context for sexual activity. The adults are failing in their duties as parents by their poor example, and are possibly causing scandal.

    Is there any way to address these points with canon law as a way to protect children from scandal and also to defend marriage from the ongoing attacks?

  82. robtbrown says:

    It is a matter of doctrine, based on 1 Cor 11, that Communion should not be given to the unworthy, i.e., those not in a state of grace.

    St Thomas notes that knowing moral principles is fairly easy, but using them to evaluate the morality of a concrete action (including the culpability of the actor) can be very difficult. It’s not hard to recognize grave matter, but inferring culpability is another question.

    Dr Mirus is correct when he says than applying the question of marital validity (thus Communion to the divorced) to a concrete situation involves Prudence. Prudence, however, is commonly involved in the application of moral principles to concrete moral situations.

    On the other hand, he is wrong to say that such application of Prudence is merely discipline. Church disciplines refer to positive law–rules for fasting, a celibate priesthood, or the obligation of certain Feasts–the cessation of which does not directly affect doctrine. If a decision is made that Christmas no longer a Holy Day of Obligation, the doctrine of the Incarnation remains untouched.

  83. jhayes says:

    robtbrown wrote It is a matter of doctrine, based on 1 Cor 11, that Communion should not be given to the unworthy

    I think Dr. Mirus’ point is that in deciding who is “unworthy,” the Church is exercising a disciplinary role, not defining doctrine.

  84. robtbrown says:

    jhayes says:

    robtbrown wrote It is a matter of doctrine, based on 1 Cor 11, that Communion should not be given to the unworthy

    I think Dr. Mirus’ point is that in deciding who is “unworthy,” the Church is exercising a disciplinary role, not defining doctrine.

    I made a point of not referring to defining doctrine.

    Once again; The application of doctrine (here, moral doctrine) is not merely Church discipline. That is because doctrine is composed of specific words that are to be understood in a certain way.

    As I have written here before, the pope is considering the divorced/remarried just from the point of view of Confession/Holy Communion. Then later, he encourages integration into the community, which, in so far as the Eucharist, is involved refers to the parish. Such encouragement is not a little bit naive.