My friend Fr. Gerald Murray, frequent contributor at The Catholic Thing and quite simply the best clerical TV commentator around (EWTN has to kick its game up to deserve him).
Fr. Murray has offered comments about Amoris laetitia one year after its release. HERE
Amoris Laetitia: Year One
[… what I cut was good, but I wanted to get into the marrow…]
[A status quaestionis…] What are we to make of Year One of the Amoris Laetitia era? We have had: papal silence on the dubia; papal approval of a draft statement by a group of Argentine bishops of the Rio de la Plata region that opens the door to the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics; affirmations by Cardinal Müller that Holy Communion cannot be given to those living in a state of adultery; the publication by the pope’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, of the statement by the Bishops of Malta that couples in invalid second marriages can receive Holy Communion if they at are at peace in their conscience with that decision; the reaffirmation by the Bishops of Poland that the teaching and discipline enunciated by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio have not changed, and that only those civilly remarried couples who live as brother and sister may be admitted to Holy Communion; the Archbishop of Philadelphia saying the same thing; while the bishops of Belgium and Germany agree with the bishops of Malta and Rio del La Plata, Argentina.
This is the current unholy mess. As the four Cardinals lament: “And so it is happening – how painful it is to see this! – that what is sin in Poland is good in Germany, that what is prohibited in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is permitted in Malta.”
There cannot be a divided truth about the indissoluble nature of marriage, or the nature of mortal sin or the nature of human freedom and responsibility for one’s freely chosen acts. The truth is one and must be defended from errors and misinterpretations. [Some claim that while doctrine has not changed, discipline has. However, is that a distinction without a difference? Praxis is rooted in doctrine and reflects it. They can’t be inconsistent and be, well, Catholic.]
Geographically different doctrine within the same Catholic Church is not simply bizarre. It is impossible. If such is found to be the case, then we are dealing with error in one place and true doctrine in another. It is not that hard to tell which is which.
In an explanatory note accompanying the dubia, the Cardinals prophetically identified what would be at stake if Amoris Laetitia did, by the express intent of Pope Francis, change the Church’s discipline concerning the non-admission to Holy Communion of those living in an adulterous union:
It would seem that admitting to communion those of the faithful who are separated or divorced from their rightful spouse and who have entered a new union in which they live with someone else as if they were husband and wife would mean [wait for it….] for the Church to teach by her practice[There is it! I asked if that was a distinction without a difference.] one of the following affirmations about marriage, human sexuality, and the nature of the sacraments:
— A divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, and the partners to the new union are not married. However, people who are not married can under certain circumstances legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy. [If we break down what the innovators and libs want, it really comes down to sex. To accomplish their agenda in the Church, sex has to be separated from the ends of marriage. Thus, they find strong allies from the homosexualist lobby.]
— A divorce dissolves the marriage bond. People who are not married cannot legitimately engage in sexual acts. The divorced and remarried are legitimate spouses and their sexual acts are lawful marital acts.
The logic here is airtight. [NB] If either of these alternatives is in fact what Amoris Laetitia intends, then it is Amoris Laetitia that needs to be revised. If Pope Francis did not intend either of these alternatives, then it is reasonable to ask him to clarify this as chaos and division spread, thus putting an end to the further growth of beliefs and practices contrary to the doctrine of the Faith.
The lay faithful ask to be confirmed in the Faith of the Church, and pastors of souls, especially parish priests, ask to be freed from what the Cardinals call in their second letter a “situation of confusion and disorientation.” These are holy desires. It cannot be in anyone’s true interest to leave matters where they now stand.
Fr. Murray’s analysis is sound. At the same time, there is another “if… then” which is suggested by what Tracey Rowland wrote in her terrific recent book Catholic Theology.
I’ve posted this before, but repetita iuvant. I’m convinced that Dr. Rowland is on to something. In relation to what Fr. Murray offers, Rowland description of the Pope’s ‘People Theology’ and his favorite four principles suggests another “if… then” binomial. Thus, Rowland:
… ‘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. 86 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 [a type of personalist leader wielding political power], 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 [check out 217-237] 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. [Read that again… priority of praxis over theory. Remember my comments that, right now more than ever even in the 80’s and 90’s, “pastoral” is used as a weapon against “doctrine”, “intellect”, “academics”, even “magisterium”, and certainly “law”.] There is also a sense that conflict in itself is not a bad thing, that ‘unity will prevail’ somehow [Hegel] and that time will remove at least some of the protagonists in any conflict. The underlying metaphysics is quite strongly Hegelian, [yep] 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. Professor Loris Zanatta of the University of Bologna has published an article entitled ‘Un papa peronista?’ in which he makes the claim that Pope Francis has used the word pueblo or people some 356 times in his papal speeches, that Pope Francis believes that poverty bestows upon people a moral superiority, and accordingly, that for Pope Francis, the ‘deposit of the faith’ is to be found preserved among the poor living in ‘inner city neighbourhoods’. Such a reading situates Pope Francis squarely in the territory of Scannone’s ‘People’s Theology’.
Rowland, Tracey. Catholic Theology (Doing Theology) (Kindle Locations 4240-4257). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
So, Fr. Murray is accurate in his presentation of his “if … then” propositions.
However, if Tracey Rowland is right, then it may be that Pope Francis is simply not interested in such reasoning.
Are the Four Cardinals (and a lot of other people) using one operating system and the Holy Father (and those around him – including a lot of people who want to instrumentalize the chaos for their own agenda within the Church) using another? Their operating systems don’t talk to each other or network together easily.
More on those “Four Priniciples”. I found this at Iglesia Descalza:
Already as Provincial of the Jesuits, Bergoglio stated, and then as Archbishop of Buenos Aires explained in more detail, government priorities leading to the common good12, namely: 1) the superiority of the whole over the parts (being more than a mere sum of the parts), 2) that of reality over ideas, 3) unity over conflict, 4) time over space. Reportedly, they are taken from the letter of Juan Manuel de Rosas (Governor of Buenos Aires) to Facundo Quiroga (Governor of La Rioja, Argentina) about the national organization, written from the Figueroa estate in San Antonio de Areco (December 20, 1834). Rosas doesn’t make these options explicit, although he takes them into account. Later — now as Pope — Francis introduced the last two priorities in the encyclical Lumen Fidei (55 and 57). Finally he develops and articulates them in Evangelii Gaudium 217-237, presenting them as a contribution based on Christian social thought “for building a people” (first, the peoples of the world, but also the People of God).
There is a lot more there, including analysis of each of the Four Principles.
Friends, if you want to understand more about Pope Francis, you should obtain this book as soon as possible.