It has been 1 year already since the unleashing of the text of the Post-Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.
It seems longer, in some ways.
Since it’s release, sharp divisions have developed in the Church over objectively ambiguous, now infamous elements of Chapter 8. You know the issues all too well.
Unity is breaking down. Bishops conferences now have differing policies, as do bishops of dioceses. You can now step across invisible, arbitrary borders and find yourself in a place with a different approach to Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried (adulterers) who have no true purpose of amendment.
The implications for doctrine, and the practice which flows from doctrine, are manifold and potentially devastating. A clue as to a possible future could rest in the remarks made about divorce and remarriage by the Superior General of the Jesuits a while back. In a clear defense of the antinomian and innovation approach to Chapter 8, the Jesuit General said that we can’t really know what Christ said about marriage. HERE and HERE The implications of such a view completely undermine Christianity itself, in that they shift belief from being Christocentric to being anthropocentric. We would no longer have any firm basis for … well, anything!
As I have written before, the ever-broadening controversies sparked by Amoris laetitia will lead more conservative and traditionally (i.e., faithful) clergy to continue to do what they do in keeping with the Church’s clear teaching in unambiguous documents and will lead more liberal and progressivist clergy to continue to disobey the Church’s laws and teachings with impunity.
The latter, some of whom are very powerful, are accelerating their antinomian efforts with an increasingly sanctimonious tone, while the former are becoming increasingly frustrated as they dig in and await open persecution.
A lot of us are trying to make sense of this as we ask God for direction and insight.
This book is in a series about how various religions are “Doing Theology”. As such, it is a status quaestionis book, in that it describes the present state of affairs. This book is intended to help (especially) students, who go from class to class in a bewildering tangle of various approaches, to figure out what is going on.
A lot of us ask: “What is the Pope up to?”
In her chapter on types of Liberation Theology, and in dealing with the tension between theory and praxis, Rowland drills into the possible approach of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. She writes (emphases and comment mine):
Situating Pope Francis
While much has been written about Pope Francis’s agenda for his pontificate and his personal history as a Jesuit Provincial and Archbishop, little has been written on his attitudes to the practice of theology as an intellectual discipline. This is because with Francis the accent is on social problems, not ideas, praxis rather than theoria. As he said to a Jesuit student who explained that he was studying Fundamental Theology: ‘I can’t imagine anything more boring.’ When a person says that he ‘can’t imagine anything more boring than Fundamental Theology’, it is not likely that his publications will be full of treasure to be mined for a book on how to do theology. In an article published in The Atlantic, Ross Douthat observed:
Francis is clearly a less systematic thinker than either of his predecessors, and especially than the academically-minded Benedict. Whereas the previous pope defended popular piety against liberal critiques, Francis embodies a certain style of populist Catholicism – one that’s suspicious of overly academic faith in any form. He seems to have an affinity for the kind of Catholic culture in which mass attendance might be spotty but the local saint’s processions are packed – a style of faith that’s fervent and supernaturalist but not particularly doctrinal. He also remains a Jesuit-formed leader, and Jesuits have traditionally combined missionary zeal with a certain conscious flexibility about doctrinal details that might impede their proselytizing work.
Nonetheless, it has been suggested by several academics and papal commentators that if Pope Francis has sympathy for any particular approach to Catholic theology, it is that of ‘People’s Theology’. One of the most extensive articles on this subject is Juan Carlos Scannone’s ‘El papa Francisco y la teologia del pueblo’ published in the journal Razón y Fe. In this paper Scannone claims that not only is Pope Francis a practitioner of ‘People’s Theology’ but also that Francis extracted his favourite four principles – time is greater than space, unity prevails over conflict, reality is more important than ideas, and the whole is greater than the parts – from a letter of the nineteenth-century Argentinian dictator, Juan Manuel de Rosas (1793– 1877) sent to another Argentinian caudillo, Facundo Quiroga (1788– 1835), in 1834. These four principles, which are said to govern the decision-making processes of Pope Francis, have their own section in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and references to one or other of them can be found scattered throughout his other papal documents. Pope Francis calls them principles for ‘building a people’.
A common thread running through each of these principles is the tendency to give priority to praxis over theory. [NOTA BENE…] There is also a sense that conflict in itself is not a bad thing, that ‘unity will prevail’ somehow and that time will remove at least some of the protagonists in any conflict. The underlying metaphysics is quite strongly Hegelian, and the approach to praxis itself resembles what Lamb classified as ‘cultural-historical’ activity and is associated primarily with Luther and Kant rather than Marx. (Kindle Locations 4226-4252)
There is quite a bit more, but this might provide a clue as to why His Holiness allow the chaos to grow without, for example, responding to the Five Dubia of the Four Cardinals which were submitted 200 days ago at the time of this writing. This may be why he sends mixed signals, such as telling Chilean bishops during their ad limina visit that Communion shouldn’t be given to the divorced and remarried, while having Card. Baldisseri (Synod of Bishops) write an approving letter to the bishops Malta after their shocking guidelines were released (The Maltese Fiasco).
Again, we wonder “What is Pope Francis up to?”
Again, I turn to Rowland, who writes specifically about Amoris laetitia and the conflict it has aroused. She describes the praxis and theory tension again and then:
[C]hapter eight of the document, or what might be described as the praxis chapter rather than a theory chapter, emphasised that those who find themselves in ‘irregular situations’ (what were formerly described as situations of mortal sin or morally disordered situations) should be spiritually and emotionally accompanied along the path of a gradual reintegration into the life of the Church. Whereas in previous Church teaching emphasis was on how the person’s rational intellect makes it possible to discern the true and the good and the beautiful, [NOTA BENE] the subtext of this document was that many contemporary people are in effect so far post-Christian as to be pre-Christian. The cultural environment in which they breathe, in which their wills and intellects develop, is so toxic to a Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage that their levels of moral culpability in what is an objectively sinful situation are not easily amenable to judgement, and thus the Church has to be for them a ‘field hospital’ when their life choices, based on subjective conceptions of the good, detached from Christian Revelation, cause all manner of damage. Notwithstanding the earlier endorsements of selected teachings of John Paul II, chapter 8 gives the impression that the role of the Church as ‘teacher of the Truth’ and ‘guardian of the deposit of the faith’ should be muted so as not to scare people away from the Church operating in her capacity as a ‘field hospital’. The change of language from ‘morally disordered’ or ‘mortally sinful’ to an ‘irregular situation’ is symptomatic of this muting. (Kindle Locations 4377-4389).
I have a strong sense that this is an accurate assessment of the subtext of Amoris laetitia Chapter 8.
I wonder: is it true? Often, I am struck with the thought that many people who might self-identify as “Catholic” in fact belong to some other religions than I do. If they pick and choose about important aspects of Catholic life and teaching, are they Catholic? Are so many people now, who are nominally Catholic, in fact pre-Christian? Is it, therefore, necessary to dumb-down or even distort doctrine so as “not to scare them away”? Is this the state of affairs today? And, if it is, does this accurately describe Pope Francis’, et al., strategy?
That said, I fear that this approach, IF that is Pope Francis’ true approach – and we can’t know for sure until he tells us clearly – this elevation of praxis over doctrine, will result in devastation. One could use this as a starting point to justify just about anything. Where does it stop?
Rowland rightly speaks of “subtext”. We can drill deeper and find, in that subtext, subtly threaded through, the denial of what the Council of Trent affirmed about the help of grace, and to which Trent applied an anathema. HERE God’s commandments are not impossible ideals. Neither God nor Holy Church impose impossibilities. That, however, is what is suggested by many who endorse the antinomian/innovation interpretation of Amoris.
For my part, I pray that God will guide us swiftly out of this time of conflict and uncertainty. I fear for souls.
To pave the way for such a grace-filled intervention, we had all better examine our consciences and…
GO TO CONFESSION.
Finally, I have put Rowland’s new book on my Amazon Wish List with a request for 30 copies.
Each year the seminarians of the diocese gather with Bp. Morlino (aka The Extraordinary Ordinary) for a solid jam-packed week in August. For the last few years I have given them copies of a good book which YOU readers have sent. For example, a couple years ago you sent copies of another spiffy book by Rowland, Ratzinger’s Faith.
Another time I gave them, with your help, Fr. Lang’s book on ad orientem worship, Turning Towards The Lord.
I make my request quite early this year because, in years past, the books I’ve asked for have sold out! Not only do you send them to me, but you get them for yourselves, which is great! However, that can slow the delivery. In order to have all the copies well before August, we should start now, just to be sure.
The moderation queue is ON.