My good friend Fr. Gerald Murray has a helpful piece today at The Catholic Thing about the ongoing Amoris laetitia controversy. He offers some clarity about the interpretation by the bishops of Buenos Aires of the ambiguous content of Chapter 8. Subsequently Pope Francis wrote them a private letter endorsing their views. That letter was later published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis with a note from the Secretary of State that it was part of the Pope’s official teaching.
That, however, doesn’t clear up anything.
Fr. Murray rightly points out that the Buenos Bishops contradict themselves in their document. The Buenos Bishops also state – and this is now approved by the Pope – that diocesan bishops retain the authority in their own dioceses when it comes to the situation of the divorced and civilly remarried.
Also helpful in Fr. Murray’s piece is his distilling the controversy into simple terms:
Here’s the problem: When a group of bishops teaches that persons in invalid second marriages are free to judge that it is not “feasible” for them to avoid committing acts of adultery, they are telling the faithful that they are not at fault for doing what the Catholic Church teaches to be gravely sinful. “Feasibility” means “the state or degree of being easily or conveniently done,” and even more precisely “capable of being done, accomplished or carried out.” The avoidance of mortal sin does involve difficulty and inconvenience. But the Church does not teach that grown-up people in their right minds are incapable of obeying God’s commandments.
To say to someone that it may be infeasible for him to refrain from acts of adultery is to advise him that, in effect, he is not subject to God’s law in this matter. When pastors tell Catholics living in sin that they are not really guilty of mortal sin as long as they decide that they cannot “feasibly” observe God’s law, the shepherds have seriously failed them.
This unchristian fatalism of denying man’s freedom and ability to avoid committing mortal sin leads to the incredible claim that adultery is not that bad for some people, that they are free to receive both sacramental absolution and Holy Communion without renouncing the intention to commit acts of adultery, and that this reception of the sacraments will “dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the aid of grace.” This plainly contradicts the Gospel as taught by the Church through the ages.
Do read the whole of Father’s piece over there.