ASK FATHER: If Orthodox schismatics can receive Communion, why not divorced and remarried (adulterers)?

From a reader…


“Amoris Latitia” contains the footnote [351] stating those living in
irregular unions can be admitted to holy communion in some
circumstances; the idea being that they may be in the state of grace, despite how (objectively) they are living in a publicly sinful state. Based on the constant practice and teachings of the Church, this is erroneous.

However, canon law permits holy communion to be distributed to schismatics: “Catholic ministers may licitly administer the sacraments of penance, Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the oriental churches which do not have full Communion with the Catholic Church, if they ask on their own for the sacraments and are properly disposed. This holds also for members of other churches, which in the judgment of the Apostolic See are in the same condition as the oriental churches as far as these sacraments are concerned” (CIC 844 § 3).

Is not schism, and adultery, both to be regarded as publicly sinful situations? In other words, if holy communion is to be denied to adulterers, does it not have to be denied to schismatic as well (despite how canon law sanctions it)? The alternative being, if in principle schismatics may receive holy communion if “properly disposed”, does not such proper disposition potentially apply to all other categories of public sinners?

We have to be careful with words, terms.  As the old adage runs: Seldom affirm, never deny, always make distinctions.

The 1983 Code for the Latin Church, can. 751, gives us definitions of heresy, apostasy, and schism.

The Code rarely gives definitions of terms. When it does, that is how the term is to be used throughout the Code and subsequent commentaries. Other definitions of these words may hold weight in other areas, but in canon law that is how these defined words are to be used.

Canon 751 says that schism is the withdrawal (detrectatio) of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him. By this canonical definition, then, someone who was baptized into, say, the Greek Orthodox Church, cannot be canonically considered a schismatic. Why? He has not withdrawn any submission to the Supreme Pontiff because he was never in submission to the Supreme Pontiff.  He cannot be accused of the canonical crime of schism.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a schism.  It means that in the eyes of the Code that guy isn’t considered schismatic.

Most members of the Orthodox Churches are not subject to the canonical crime of schism.  Those who commit schism in order to become Orthodox… that’s another kettle of borscht. Hence, to say that they are in an objective state of sin (canon law deals mainly with crime, and tangentially with sin) would go outside canon law’s definition.


Consider a person who was baptized as an infant in the Greek Orthodox Church, and then brought up in accord with the teachings and beliefs of that Church.  It is an entirely different thing to choose, as an adult, to attempt to enter into a marriage while one’s spouse remains alive!

Even considering that one’s guilt may be diminished because of ignorance, one is still responsible for one’s actions as an adult. If those actions have placed one in an objective state of sin, the burden lies on one’s own shoulders to extract oneself from that state (with the help of a confessor) or to demonstrate (with the help of one’s pastor and/or a trained canonist) that one’s irregular situation can be regularized.

The Church’s merciful solicitude towards our separated brethren, who share our belief in the efficacy of the sacraments and apostolic succession, who find themselves in circumstances where they have no reasonable access to their own priests, must not be confused with the ill-conceived notions of mercy that would gloss over one’s responsibility to own up to one’s own actions and set one’s own house in order before approaching the sacraments… and that means Eucharist, certainly, but Penance too, since we need to amend our lives to receive absolution.

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Card. Schönborn: “sacraments” in Infamous Footnote 351 means mainly the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation)

The other day Pope Francis told journalists during the airplane presser on his return to Rome from Lesbos that, to understand the controversial bit in Amoris laetitia Infamous Footnote 351, we should have recourse to Card. Schönborn’s address at the presentation of the Post-Synodal Exhortation on 8 April.  I posted that text HERE.

Remember what the Infamous Footnote says…

“Sacraments…”  Which “sacraments”?  The only two candidates here are Penance and Eucharist.   However, we know that Communion can’t be received in the state of mortal sin.  Also, according to can. 915 of the Latin Church, those who are publicly known to be persevering in grave sin may not be given Holy Communion.

That said, Pope Francis’ words in the Infamous Footnote have been taken by many to mean that some “irregular” couples, at the determination of the priest – somehow in the internal forum – should give Communion to such couples, or indicate to them that they can go to Communion.  That seems to be contrary to what the Church perennially teaches, given Christ’s own words about marriage and… well… Catholic common sense.

BUT WAIT! There’s more!

Card. Schönborn gave an interview to Vatican Radio (HERE) in which he said that “sacraments” here refers mainly to the Sacrament of Penance!

On one point, in particular, Cardinal Schönborn offered significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“I think it is very clear,” said Card. Schönborn, “there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”

Ummm… no, Your Eminence, it is NOT “very clear”.  It is unclear.  The note says “sacraments” not “mainly sacrament of penance/reconciliation”.

Let’s see the transcript:

[…]CRA: Observers and some Synod Fathers expressed concern during the two Assemblies regarding process, direction and content: to the extent that those concerns were legitimate, can those who voiced them be satisfied with the document?

Card. Schönborn: The diversity of critiques that has been expressed during the Synod is quite large, and I am sure that not everybody will be satisfied with this document. It was never the case – I can’t remember any post-Synodal Exhortation that received applause from everybody. The fact is, Pope Francis has based his Exhortation largely on the results of the two Synods, and the texts he used for [the basis of] his own writing were voted on by an over 2/3 majority of the Synod Fathers, so there is a large consensus behind it. He is not innovating: he is continuing with what the Synod had already prepared and offered him.  [In keeping with what Card. Burke said when he aligned the Exhortation more closely to the acts of the Synod than the Pope’s Ordinary Magisterium.]

CRA: You have said that the continuity runs also between this document and another, specifically, St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio… 

Card. Schönborn: I am profoundly convinced that, 35 years after Familiaris consortio, Pope Francis has given us a beautiful example of what [Bl.] John Henry Newman calls, “the organic development of teaching.” [I wonder how many are convinced that this is so.] [St.] John Paul II has already innovated in some points: not a break with tradition, but his “Theology of the Body” was something very new; his words on graduality inFamiliaris consortio were rather unusual; his words on “discernment” in Familiaris consortio #84 were quite surprising – his strong invitation to discern different situations. Pope Francis is very much in continuity with this, and the Synod was – the two Synods were [as well]. Discernment was a key word in Pope Francis’ Exhortation. It is very “Jesuitical” – discernment of spirits – and that leads him to an attitude that was already present in Pope Benedict’s teaching, in Pope [St.] John Paul II’s teaching, that the Church offers help to those who are in so-called “irregular situations”. [Nota bene:] He adds a little note, where he says, “In certain cases, also, the aid, the help of the sacraments.” That’s all he said.

CRA:  That brings us nicely to the point, because, when we are talking about discernment, we are inevitably also must discuss conscience – but we must let Mother Church form our consciences – and Pope Francis certainly knows this, though it does bear mention. [And the Big Question…] The sacraments: which ones, and in what order?

Card. Schönborn: I think it is fairly clear: [Please, Your Eminence, make it clear!  And is it “fairly clear” or “very clear” (above)?] there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified. [Ummm… “clarified”?  What does that mean?  Also, these people either have a firm purpose of amendment (in regard to sinful behavior) or they don’t, even if they must stay together for some good reason (e.g., care of children, care of the sick, etc.).] Pope Francis has himself given an example: when a woman [in an irregular marital situation] comes to confess her abortion – the sin, the grave sin of abortion – not to relieve her, even if her situation is irregular – the discernment of the shepherd can be, and I would say, “must be”: you have to help this person to be freed from her burden, even if you cannot tell her that her marital situation has been regularized by this absolution – but you cannot [let her leave] the confessional with the burden of her grave sin she finally had the courage to come to confess. [Ummm…. you can’t target one mortal sin among others for absolution, leaving the others unabsolved.  Censures, yes.  Sins, no.  It’s all or nothing.  So, is he saying that even in the absence of a firm purpose of amendment regarding sexual relations in that “irregular” relationship, the priest “must” still give absolution?] That was the example he had given, and I think it is a very good example for what this little note could mean in certain cases: i.e. “[…]even the help of sacraments.” 

I guess I still have questions about what the Infamous Footnote 351 means.

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RECENT POSTS and THANKS! Mass for Benefactors

First, help each other…

Your Urgent Prayer Requests

Next, please contribute to this worthy project…

ACTION ITEM UPDATE! Pontifical Vestments Project new PHOTOS

And now some of the posts that have have and will scroll off the front page.  Since the release of Amoris laetitia, I’ve been busy.

I daily send up prayers for all those who have asked me to pray for them or for some petition that they have.  I get a lot of these requests.  Even if I don’t respond by email, I do it.

I daily offer prayers also for everyone who donates using the button on the side bar or who has subscribed for a monthly donation.  I am also grateful to people who send items from my wishlists on Amazon (see sidebar).  It is my duty and pleasure to pray for benefactors.

I will say Holy Mass TODAY, this afternoon, at 17:00 CDT for the intention of my benefactors.

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Please use the sharing buttons! Thanks!

Registered or not, will you in your charity please take a moment look at the requests and to pray for the people about whom you read?

Continued from THESE.

I get many requests by email asking for prayers. Many requests are heart-achingly grave and urgent.

As long as my blog reaches so many readers in so many places, let’s give each other a hand. We should support each other in works of mercy.

If you have some prayer requests, feel free to post them below.

You have to be registered here to be able to post.

I still have a pressing personal petition.  Really.

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The Continuity of Examinations of Conscience

His Hermeneuticalness, my good friend Fr. Tim Finigan, has reposted his good Examen pamphlets.  Perpend:

Confession leaflets back online

People quite often ask me for the confession leaflets that I published on the website of my previous parish. Fr Zuhlsdorf was kind enough recently to make them available via his blog. I have now found a home for them on an almost dormant website that I set up a few years ago for my own stuff. Here is a link to the downloads page. I am delighted to make them available for priests and catechists, but please don’t email me asking for permission to use them. As the page says, they are released under a creative commons licence and you can use them without asking (I do receive enough email to keep me from getting lonely, thanks.) [You could drop a note with an expression of prayers and thanks for his wonderful ministry.]


Read the rest over there.

I hope to see Father in June.

Speaking of Fr. Finigan, I will soon have a … ROSE VESTMENT PROJECT!

Remember that?

This is what I’m considering.

It isn’t baby-rattle pink and in the right light it is just about right.

And… while I’m at it…

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Your Sunday Sermon Notes

Was there a good point or two in the sermon your heard the Mass of Sunday obligation this week?

Let us know.

I spoke about Amoris laetitia, what it is and what it isn’t.

QUESTION: Did you hear comments about Amoris laetitia?

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Francis: “What I ask you is to read the presentation of the document made by Cardinal Schonborn.” Okay, Your Holiness, we’ll do that.

16_04_18_schoenborn_01Pope Francis told journalists during the airplane presser on his return to Rome from Lesbos that to understand the controversial bit in Amoris laetitia Infamous Footnote 351 we should have recourse to Card. Schönborn’s address at the presentation of the Post-Synodal Exhortation on 8 April.  A journalist asked the Pope if the document changed anything for divorced and remarried couples (who currently may not receive Communion).

The pope said (listen to the video):

I can say, yes.  Period. But that would be too simple/small an answer.  I recommend to you that you all read the presentation which Cardinal Schönborn gave, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, [Ummm… no, he wasn’t.  He was member, but never an official of the Congregation. He was a member of the ITC and was the editor for the CCC, but he was not in the CDF as an official.] and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will be answered.

He said (emphasis mine):

I recommend to you that you all read the presentation which Cardinal Schönborn gave, …. In that presentation, your question will be answered.

Okay, Your Holiness.  You ask.  I hear.  That’s what I am going to do.

Let’s make sure that others can read it, since it is that important.

For the exact words of the Cardinal, the video of the presentation is archived at for 8 April.  It is also on YouTube (embedded below).

Schönborn begins at about… 00:27:00.  Fr. Lombardi notes that the translations handed out to journalists were not official, were just working translations.  I assume Schönborn wrote it in German, but I don’t know that.  It was delivered in Italian, which I think we have to take as the official version.  He makes some informal remarks at the beginning and then get’s into his prepared text.  NB: Along the way Schönborn departs from his text and makes remarks aside.

Here is the English (working translation – over  3100 words in English!).  I won’t try to insert all of his asides, but I capture the sense of a couple in red:

The evening of 13 March 2013, the first words of the newly-elected Pope Francis to the people gathered in St. Peter’s Square and throughout the world were: “Buona sera” – “Good evening”. The language and style of Pope Francis’ new text are as simple as this greeting. The Exhortation is not quite as brief as this simple salutation, but is similarly close to reality. In these 200 pages Pope Francis speaks about “love in the family”, and does so in such a concrete and simple way, with words that warm the heart like that good evening of 13 March 2013. This is his style, and it is his hope that aspects of life are spoken about in the most concrete way possible, especially with regard to the family, one of the most elementary realities of life.
It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.
Before entering into the text itself I would like to say, in a very personal way, why I read it with joy, gratitude and always with strong emotion. In the ecclesial discourse on marriage and the family there is often a tendency, perhaps unconscious, to discuss these realities of life on the basis of two separate tracks. On the one hand there are marriages and families that are “regular”, that correspond to the rules, where everything is “fine” and “in order”, and then there are the “irregular” situations that represent a problem. Already the very term “irregular” suggests that such a distinction can be made very clearly.
Those, therefore, who find themselves on the side of the “irregular” families, must live with the fact that the “regular” families are on the other side. I am personally aware of how difficult that is for those who come from a “patchwork” family, due to the situation of my own family. The discourse of the Church in this regard may cause harm and can give the sensation of exclusion.
Pope Francis’ Exhortation is guided by the phrase “It is a matter of reaching out to everyone” (AL 297) as this is a fundamental understanding of the Gospel: we are all in need of mercy! “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone” (John 8, 7). We are all, regardless of the marriage or family situation in which we find ourselves, are journeying. Even a marriage in which everything is “going well” is journeying. It must grow, learn, and overcome new phases. It knows sin and failure, and needs reconciliation and new beginnings, even in old age (cf. AL 297).
Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one. For me Amoris Laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium. Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues. Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take of our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany. These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.
My great joy as a result of this document resides in the fact that it coherently overcomes that artificial, superficial, clear division between “regular” and “irregular”, and subjects everyone to the common call of the Gospel, according to the words of St. Paul: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all” (Rom. 11, 32).
This pervasive principle of “inclusion” clearly troubles some people. Does this not favour relativism? Does the frequently evoked mercy not become permissiveness” Does there no longer exist the clarity of limits that must not be exceeded, situations that must objectively be defined as irregular or sinful? Does this Exhortation favour a certain laxity, a sense that “anything goes”? Is Jesus’ mercy not instead often severe and demanding?
To clarify thus: Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task:
“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35).
Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36). “We have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families. This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed to inspire trust in God’s grace, has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive, but quite the opposite” (AL 36).
I would like to relate here an experience of last October’s Synod: as far as I know, two of the thirteen “circuli minores” started their work by first hearing an account from each participant of his own family situation. It soon emerged that almost all the bishops or other participants in the “circulus minor” had encountered, in their families, the themes, concerns and “irregularities” that we, in the Synod, have discussed in a rather too abstract way. Pope Francis invites us to speak about our own families “as they are”. And here the magnificent aspect of the Synod journey and of its continuation with Pope Francis: this sober realism of families “as they are” does not take us far at all from the ideal! On the contrary, Pope Francis succeeds, in the work of both Synods, to offer a positive outlook to families, profoundly rich in hope. But this encouraging outlook on families requires that “pastoral conversion” we find in Evangelii gaudium. The following text from Amoris Laetitia outlines this “pastoral conversion”:
“We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (AL 37).
Pope Francis speaks of a profound trust in the hearts and the nostalgia of men. He expresses this very well in his reflection on education. Here we perceive the influence of the great Jesuit tradition in education in personal responsibility. He refers to two contrary dangers: “laissez-faire” and the obsession with controlling and dominating everything. On the one hand it is true that “Families cannot help but be places of support, guidance and direction, Vigilance is always necessary and neglect is never beneficial” (AL 260).
But vigilance can also become excessive: “Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience. … If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy” (AL 261). I consider this thought on education very enlightening in connection with the pastoral practice of the Church. Indeed, precisely in this sense Pope Francis often returns to the issue of trust in the conscience of the faithful: “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (AL 37). The great question, obviously, is this: how do we form consciences? How do we arrive at what is the key concept of all this great document, the key to correctly understanding Pope Francis’ intentions: “personal discernment”, especially in difficult and complex situations? “Discernment” is a central concept in Ignatian exercises. Indeed, these must help to discern the will of God in the concrete situations of life. It is discernment that grants a person a mature character, and the Christian path should be of help in reaching this personal maturity: not forming automatons, externally conditioned and remote-controlled, but people who have matured in their friendship with Christ. Only when this personal “discernment” is mature is it also possible to arrive at “pastoral discernment”; which is important especially in “those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us” (AL 6). The eighth chapter refers to this “pastoral discernment”, a chapter likely to be of great interest not only to ecclesial public opinion, but also to the media.
I should however mention that Pope Francis has described Chapters 4 and 5 as central, not only in terms of their position but also their content. “we cannot encourage a path of fidelity and mutual self-giving without encouraging the growth, strengthening and deepening of conjugal and family love” (AL 89). These two central chapters of Amoris Laetitia will probably be skipped by many people keen to arrive at the so-called “hot potatoes”, the critical points. As a pedagogic expert, Pope Francis knows well that nothing attracts and motivates as strongly as the positive experience of love. “Speaking of love” (AL 89) . this clearly brings great joy to Pope Francis, and he speaks about love with great vivacity, comprehensibility and empathy. The fourth chapter is a broad-ranging comment on the “Hymn to charity” in the thirteenth chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians. I recommend meditation on these pages to all. They encourage belief in love (cf. John 4, 16) and trust in its strength. It is here that growth, another key word in Amoris Laetitia, finds its main location: in no other place does it manifest itself so clearly, but it can also turn cold. I can only invite you to read and enjoy this wonderful chapter. I think it is important to indicate one aspect: Pope Francis speaks here, with rare clarity, of the role of the passions, passions, emotion, eros and sexuality in married and family life. It is not by chance that Pope Francis reconnects here with St. Thomas Aquinas, who attributes an important role to the passions, while modern society, often puritanical, has discredited or neglected them.
It is here that the title of the Pope’s exhortation finds its fullest expression: “Amoris Laetitia!” Here we understand how it is possible to “discover the dignity and beauty of marriage” (AL 205). But here it is made painfully visible how much harm wounds to love can cause, and how lacerating the experience of a failed relationship can be. Therefore it is unsurprising that it is largely the eighth chapter that has attracted attention and interest. Indeed, the question of how the Church treats these wounds, of how she treats the failure of love, has become for many a test question to understand whether the Church is truly the place where God’s Mercy can be experienced.
This chapter owes much to the intense work of the two Synods, to the extensive discussions in the arenas of public and ecclesial opinion. Here the fruitfulness of Pope Francis’ method is shown. He expressly wished for an open discussion on the pastoral accompaniment of complex situations, and has been able to fully base this on the two texts that the two Synods presented to him to show the possibility of “accompanying, discerning and integrating weakness” (AL 291).
Pope Francis explicitly makes his own the declarations that both Synods presented to him: “the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support” (AL 297). With regard to those who are divorced and civilly remarried, he states: “I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that … the logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care. … Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always…” (AL 299).
But what does this mean in practice? Many rightly ask this question. The definitive answers are found in Amoris Laetitia, paragraph 300. These answers certainly offer material for further discussions, but they also provide an important clarification and an indication of the path to follow. “If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations … it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases”. Many expected such rules, and they will be disappointed. What is possible? The Pope says clearly: “What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases”.
How this personal and pastoral discernment can and should be is the theme of the entire section of Amoris Laetitia constituted of paragraphs 300-312. In the 2015 Synod, in the Appendix to the statements by the Circulus germanicus an Itinerarium of discernment, of the examination of conscience that Pope Francis has made his own.
“What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which “guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God”. But Pope Francis also recalls that “this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church”.
Pope Francis mentions two erroneous positions. One is that of excessive rigour: “a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings” (AL 205). On the other hand, the Church must certainly never “desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur” (AL 207).
Naturally this poses the question: what does the Pope say in relation to access to the sacraments for people who live in “irregular” situations? Pope Benedict had already said that “easy recipes” do not exist (AL 298, note 333). Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation, in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (84) (AL 298). “Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God” (AL 205). He also reminds us of an important phrase from Evangelii gaudium, 44: “A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties” (AL 304). [S. inserted what he thinks is a key to read AL: experience of the poor, in their lives they experience the small steps on the way to virtue which can be larger than the successors of those more comfortable … He notes that Francis has a lot of experience with the poor.]  In the sense of this “via caritatis” (AL 306), the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) devethat the help of the sacraments may also be given “in certain cases”. [He also departed here, to point out that 351 adds something.  In the text of AL we read that people in “irregular” situations must receive the help of the Church, and the Infamous Note adds “sacraments”.]  But for this purpose he does not offer us case studies or recipes, but instead simply reminds us of two of his famous phrases: “I want to remind priests that the confessional should not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (EG 44), and the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (EG 47).
Is it an excessive challenge for pastors, for spiritual guides and for communities if the “discernment of situations” is not regulated more precisely? Pope Francis acknowledges this concern: “I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion” (AL 308). However, he challenges this, remarking that “We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel” (AL 311).
Pope Francis trusts in the “joy of love”. Love is able to find the way. It is the compass that shows us the road. It is both the goal and the path itself, because God is love and love is from God. Nothing is more demanding than love. It cannot be obtained cheaply. Therefore, no-one should be afraid that Pope Francis invites us, with Amoris Laetitia, to take too easy a path. The road is not an easy one, but it is full of joy!

[00532-EN.02] [Original text: Italian – working translation]

16_04_18_schoenborn_03In the text for the presentation – that’s what the Pope asked us to check – the Cardinal does not talk about development of doctrine.  There is no mention of novelties or new things.  He doesn’t mention Newman.  None of this is in the text as passed out before the presentation, nor in his actual delivery (watch the video).

Did the Pope also mean “Schönborn’s presentation and all his Q&A answers!”?  I don’t know.  But he didn’t say “Listen to what Schönborn says about Amoris laetitia.”  He said read the presentation of Amoris laetitia.

So, what did Schönborn really say in the Q&A about development?

Here is the audio.  In the video go to 1:48:30 ff.:


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WDTPRS 4th Sunday of Easter (2001MR):

For this 4th Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday, we have a little gem for a Collect.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, deduc nos ad societatem caelestium gaudiorum, ut eo perveniat humilitas gregis, quo processit fortitudo pastoris.

Note the nice eo…quo construction and the rhythmic endings of clauses which makes the prayer so singable.  There is synchesis in the last part, a parallelism of grammatical forms “ut A-B-C-D, A-B-C-D”.  The prayer’s structure resembles the orderly procession the vocabulary invokes.

Procedo is “to come forth” as well as “to advance, proceed to.”  It comes also to mean, “to result as a benefit for” someone or something.  Think of English “proceeds”, as in money raised for a cause.  “Procession” (apart from the liturgical meaning) is a theological term describing how the Persons of the Trinity relate to each other. A societas is “a fellowship, association, union, community”, that is, a group united for some common purpose.  I’ll render it as “communion”, which gets to the relationship we will have in heaven and, in anticipation, as members of Holy Church.

There is a nice contrast in humilitas and fortitudo.  They seem to be opposites.  True to the ancient Roman spirit, humilitas has the negative connotation of “lowness”, in the sense of being base or abject.  On the other hand, fortitudo means “strength” and even “the manliness shown in enduring or undertaking hardship, bravery, courage.” In the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary, whence comes today’s prayer, that fortitudo was originally celsitudo (“loftiness of carriage”, also a title like “Highness”). Fortitudo could poetically refer to Christ’s moral strength and endurance in His Passion and death.  Moreover, Our Lord chooses the weak and makes them strong with His strength, His fortitudo (cf 1 Corinthians 1:26-28).  Weakness and strength are not to be measured by worldly successes.


Almighty eternal God, lead us unto the communion of heavenly joys, so that the humility of the flock may attain that place to which the might of the shepherd has advanced.


Almighty and ever-living God, give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd, and lead us to join the saints in heaven.


Almighty ever-living God, lead us to a share in the joys of heaven, so that the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before.

Translators occasionally turn an abstract idea that sounds like a possession (a trope called synecdoche), as in “the humility of the flock” or “the might of the shepherd”, into a characteristic of the possessor, as in “the humble flock” or “the mighty shepherd”.  I think we lose something beautiful in that exchange.  You decide.

In our Collect is the image of Christ as shepherd.

In mighty resolve He precedes us, the humble flock. He leads us back to that from which He first proceeded, communion with the Father and the Spirit.

In the Greek Neo-Platonic philosophy that informed early Christian thought we often find the paradigm of going forth (proodos, or Latin exitus), a turning around, and returning back (epistrophe, reditus).  It seems to me that this common ancient pattern is echoed in today’s ancient prayer.

This Collect also reminds me of mosaics in the apses of Christian basilicas. Mosaics are assembled from tiny bits of colored stone, tesserae, into beautiful spiritual works with many symbols.  Up close, individual tesserae are unremarkable, often flawed.  Once a great artist gathers and arranges them according to a plan, they proceed to dazzle and amaze.  Holy Church is rather like a mosaic: just as one tessera makes the others more beautiful, we small individual Catholics, with different vocations, in diverse places, and even distant eras in history, play important roles in a larger societas.

The mosaics in apses of ancient and Romanesque churches often depict Christ dressed in glorious imperial trappings.  Apostles and saints, His celestial court, stand on either side bracketed in turn by Bethlehem or the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem.  Beneath the feet of Christ, mighty Shepherd King, are lines of courtly sheep, hooves elegantly raised as they process into a green safe place where water flows, symbolizing the river Jordan and our baptism.

The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, proceeded from the Father from all eternity. He proceeded into this world in a mighty gesture of self-emptying in order to save us from our sins, turn us away from sin and death, and open for us the way to salvation.

In His first coming, Christ came in humility to take up our fallen societas, our humilitas, His grex, into an indestructible societas with His divinity. In His second coming, clothed in His own fortitudo He will shepherd us into a new societas in heaven.

If you are a sheep who has strayed, come back now to His fold, Holy Catholic Church.

If you are a shepherd who has strayed…, for the love of God, do not any longer mislead the flock of HIS pasture.  You put souls in danger, one of them being your own.  Be faithful to the teachings of our Lord and His Holy Church as duly enunciated in Scripture and in sure references such as the Roman Cathechism of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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WDTPRS 3rd Sunday after Easter (1962MR): Be distinguished by your profession of Christ!

In the midst of chaos, we need to bring our minds to work at hand, our work of sacred liturgy, the renewal of which is our only hope for true revitalization of the Church.

This Sunday’s Collect survived the knives of the liturgical experts and was inserted into the 1970 Missale Romanum on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The redactors who glued the Novus Ordo together, however, removed the word iustitiae, thus returning it to the form it had in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary. Other ancient sacramentaries, such as the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis as well as the Augustodunensis had the iustitiae. In any event, by the time St. Pius V issued the the Missale Romanum of 1570, which I am sure you have on hand, someone had seen fit to make it read, “in viam possint redire iustitiae”, which endured until the 1970MR and subsequent editions.


Deus, qui errantibus, ut in viam possint redire iustitiae, veritatis tuae lumen ostendis, da cunctis qui christiana professione censentur, et illa respuere, quae huic inimica sunt nomini, et ea quae sunt apta sectari.

Stylistically snappy! It has nice alliteration and a powerful rhythm in the last line.

I think there is a trace here of John 14, which I will show you below. Can we also find a connection between this Collect in a phrase from the Roman statesman Cassiodorus (+c. 585 – consul in 514 and then Boethius’ successor as magister officiorum under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric)? Cassiodorus wrote, “Sed potest aliquis et in via peccatorum esse et ad viam iterum redire iustitiae? … But can someone be both in the way of sins and also return again to the way of justice?” (cf. Exp. Ps. 13).

Is this prayer old enough to have been known by Milan’s mighty Bishop St. Ambrose (+397) or even St. Augustine of Hippo (+430), who use similar patterns of words?

Your thorough Lewis & Short Dictionary says censeo has a special construction: censeo, censeri aliqua re, meaning “to be appreciated, distinguished, celebrated for some quality”, “to be known by something.” This explains the passive form in our Collect with the ablative christiana professione. Getting christiana professio into English requires some fancy footwork. We could say “Christian profession”, but this adjectival construction really means “profession of Christ.” This same thing happens in phrases such as oratio dominica, “the Lordly Prayer”, or more smoothly “the Lord’s Prayer”.

Via means, “a way, method, mode, manner, fashion, etc., of doing any thing, course”. There is a moral content to via as well, “the right way, the true method, mode, or manner”.

Let’s see what people used to hear in church on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the…


God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him
reject what is contrary to the gospel.

And now, ….


O God, who do show the light of Your truth to the erring so that they might be able to return unto the way of justice, grant to all who are distinguished by their profession of Christ that they may both strongly reject those things which are inimical to this name of Christian and follow eagerly the things which are suited to it.


O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor.

Ancient philosophers (the word comes from Greek for “lover of wisdom”) would walk about in public in their sandals and draped toga-like robes. Thinkers such as Aristotle were called “Peripatetics” from their practice of walking about (Greek peripatein) under covered walkways of the Lyceum in Athens (Greek peripatos) while teaching. Their disciples would swarm around them, hanging on their words, debating with them, learning how to think and reason. They would discuss the deeper questions the human mind and heart inevitably faces. They were effectively theologians. We must be careful not to impose the modern divorce of philosophy from theology on the ancients. In ancient Christian mosaics Christ is sometimes depicted wearing a philosopher’s robes. But He doesn’t merely love Wisdom, He is Wisdom incarnate, the perfect Teacher!

He is the one from whom we learn about God and about ourselves (cf. Gaudium et spes 22 – which the young Pope John Paul II helped to write during the Council).

The Collect also reminds me of the very first lines of the Divine Comedy by the exiled Florentine poet Dante Alighieri (+1321) who was heavily influenced by Aristotle’s Ethics and the Christianized Platonic philosophy mediated through Boethius (+525) and St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274). The Inferno begins:

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense, and harsh –
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.

Dante, the protagonist of his own poem, is describing his fictional self. In his poetic persona, Dante is in the middle of his life (35 years old – half of 70, the number of years mentioned as man’s span in Ps. 90:10). He is mired in sin and irrational behavior, having strayed from the straight path of the life of reason: he is in the “dark wood”.

The life of persistent sin is a life without true reason. Human reason, when left to itself without the light of grace, is crippled.

Dante likens his confused state to death. He must journey through hell and the purification of purgatory in order to come back to the life of virtue and reason. In the course of the three-part Comedy the Poet finds the proper road back to light, Truth and reason through the intercession of Christ-like figures, such as Beatrice, and then through Christ Himself. In the Comedy, Dante recovers the use of reason. His whole person is reintegrated through the light of Truth.

Don’t we often describe people who are ignorant, confused or obtuse as “wandering around in the dark”?

This applies also to persistent sinners. By their choices and resistance to God’s grace they have lost the light of Truth. God’s grace makes it possible for us to find our way back into the right path, no matter how far from it we have strayed in the past. When we sin, we break our relationship with Christ. If in laziness we should refuse to know Him better (every day), we lose sight of ourselves and our neighbor.

Christ, the incarnate Word, gives us consolation:

“‘Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way (via) where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way (via)?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way (via), and the truth (veritas), and the life (vita); no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him…. He who has seen me has seen the Father’” (cf. John 14:1-6 RSV).

We Catholics, who dare – DARE – publicly to take Christ’s name to ourselves, need to stand up and be counted (censentur)!

In what we say and do other people ought to be able to see Christ’s light reflected and focused in the details of our individual vocations. To be good lenses and reflectors of Christ’s light, we must be clean. When we know ourselves not to be so, we are obliged as soon as possible to seek cleansing so that we can be saved and be of benefit for the salvation of others. We must also practice spiritual works of mercy, bringing the light of truth to the ignorant or those who persist in darkness either through their own fault or no fault of their own.

Every Catholic is called to evangelize, if not in an “official” capacity in the Church’s name, at least through the obligation we have as members of Christ’s Body the Church.

Evangelization and the efforts of ecumenism are an obligation for every Catholic.  There are still people living in darkness. We must “preach” always and, as the phrase often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says, sometimes use words.

When people look at us and listen to us, do they see a light-extinguishing black hole where a beautiful image of God should be?

Posted in EASTER, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS | Tagged | 1 Comment

Pope Francis seems to approve Card. Schönborn’s explanation of #AmorisLaetitia

I am waiting for the whole, official transcript of the airplane presser granted by Pope Francis on the way back to Rome from Lesbos. But, in absence of a transcript, here is the video. Ipsissimis verbis

Meanwhile, Crux 2.0 has this.  Skip past the rubbish about Bernie Sanders… blah blah blah:

Amoris Laetitia

Two of the nine questions Francis answered in 30 minutes were about his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. One journalist asked the pope point-blank if the document changed anything for divorced and remarried couples, who currently can’t receive Communion.

The pope said “Yes, and that’s it.” [! – see my update, below.]

“I could leave it there, but this would be a simplistic answer. What I ask you is to read the presentation of the document made by Cardinal [Christoph] Schonborn.”  [That sounds like an endoresment of what Schönborn said.  Right?]

A second journalist asked Francis about [infamous] footnote 351 of the document, which, for many, is where Francis actually opened the door for divorced and remarried Catholics to access Communion, asking why the pontiff put such an important point in a footnote.

“When I called for the first synod, most in the media were worried about this issue, and I, who am not a saint, got frustrated and then sad,” he said. “Why is it that the media who focus on this don’t see that this is not the big issue?”  [I think it could actually be a big issue. I don’t think that answered the question.  But he seems irritated.  Gosh!  Who would ever be irritated by newsies?]


Pause here and breathe deeply.  Going on…


He listed what he believes those real issues are.

“Why is it that they don’t see that the family, around the world, is in crisis?” he said. “That despite the family being the foundation of society, the youth today doesn’t want to get married? That the birth rates in Europe make you want to cry?”  [Yes, Your Holiness.  I agree.  However, does the solution depend on clarity, a clarion call?  Or does it depend on ambiguity?]

Se we are back to square one.

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is still only what it is, but now Pope Francis says that Schönborn got it right.

Time to digest.

Moderation queue is ON.


The pope really said (listen to the video):

I can say, yes.  Period. But that would be too simple/small an answer.  I recommend to you that you all read the presentation which Cardinal Schönborn gave, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, [Ummm… no, he wasn’t.  He was member, but never an official of the Congregation. He was a member of the ITC and was the editor for the CCC, but he was not in the CDF as an official.] and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will be answered.

Note that that “Punto… Period… Full stop” isn’t delivered in the way that a tyrant such as a liberal democrat pol like Pres. Obama would use it, to cut off and end discussion. It not as sharp as that in delivery, though in a transcript it might seem severely dismissive. You can tell he doesn’t like talking about it, but he is not slamming the door.

This doesn’t change all that much from the Crux version, but it more accurate.

Posted in One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Pope Francis, Synod | Tagged , , | 54 Comments