Canonist Ed Peters notes on some juridical issues in #AmorisLaetitia

The great canonist Ed Peters has some first thoughts about the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.  HERE

He doesn’t have a combox, so let’s him borrow this one.

First thoughts on the English version of Pope Francis’ Amoris laetitia.

There are as one might expect in a document of this length and written with access to the kinds of resources a pope commands, [I assume he means ghost writers]many good things said about marriage in Amoris. Whether those things speak with any special profundity or clarity is better left, I think, for each reader to decide individually. [A kind way to express that.]

That said, however, one must recall that Francis is not a systematic thinker. [By way of contrast, I just review Pope Benedict’s 2005 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia.] While that fact neither explains nor excuses the various writing flaws in Amoris, it does help to contextualize them. Readers who are put off by more-than-occasional resort to platitudes, caricatures of competing points of view, and self-quotation simply have to accept that this is how Francis communicates.  [That’s fair.]

[And since Peters is a canonist…] Some juridic issues that were widely anticipated include:

Holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Francis does not approve this central assault tactic against the permanence of marriage, [the Kasperite “tolerated but not accepted” Proposal] but [but] neither does he clearly reiterate constant Church teaching and practice against administering the Eucharist to Catholics in irregular marriage situations. And, speaking of ‘irregular marriage’, [marriage!  Some couplings are not any kind of marriage, but there are times in the Letter when that isn’t entirely clear.] nearly every time Francis uses that traditional phrase to describe what could more correctly be termed pseudo-marriage, he puts the word “irregular” in scare quotes, as if to imply that the designation is inappropriate and that he is using it only reluctantly.

Internal forum. Francis makes almost no commentary on the so-called “internal forum” solution. What little comment he does make on the internal forum in AL 300 is not controversial.  [For example: “Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.”]

Canon law in general. Francis makes almost no use of canon law in Amoris. What few canonical comments he does make are not controversial.

‘Same-sex marriage’. Francis leaves no opening whatsoever that ‘same-sex marriage’ can ever be regarded as marriage. AL 251.  [Clear as a bell.]

Some problematic points (in no special order) include:

1. Speaking of divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics, Francis writes: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy [i.e., sexual intercourse] are lacking ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Gaudium et spes, 51).” AL fn. 329. I fear this is a serious misuse of a conciliar teaching. Gaudium et spes 51 was speaking about married couples observing periodic abstinence. Francis seems to compare that chaste sacrifice with the angst public adulterers experience when they cease engaging in illicit sexual intercourse.  [An example of what I have mentioned before… the Letter glides from one group of people to another without distinctions.  Also, it is useful to review Gaudium et spes 51, which liberals normally ignore because of it’s reference to abortion as an “unspeakable crime”.  For liberals, V2 documents only contain non-condemnatory lollipops, hugs and fuzzy bunnies.  GS 51:  This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married [married] lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased. As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain. But where the intimacy of married [married] life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered. To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life. [read=abortion] But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love. For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life. Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal [married] love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal [married] chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law. [artificial contraception].  Peters nailed it.]

2. Speaking of “Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church”, Francis writes “Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way.” AL 292. This simple phrasing requires significant elaboration: forms of union that most radically contradict the union of Christ and his Church are [1]objectively adulterous post-divorce pseudo-marriages; forms of union that reflect this union in a partial, but good, way are [2] all natural marriages. These two forms of union are not variations on a theme; they differ in kind, not just in degree.

3. Speaking of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2384 describes as “public and permanent adultery”, Francis writes that some post-divorce marriages can exhibit “proven fidelity, generous self-giving, [and] Christian commitment”. AL 298. Many will wonder [I’m one of them…] how terms such as “proven fidelity” can apply to chronically adulterous relationships or how “Christian commitment” is shown by the public and permanent abandonment of a previous spouse.

4. In AL 297, Francis writes: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” To the contrary, it is precisely the logic of the Gospel that one can be condemned forever. CCC 1034-1035. [1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!” 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.] If one meant, say, that no one can be ‘condemned for ever’ by earthlyauthority, one should have said so. [NOTA BENE] But, of course, withholding holy Communion from those in “public and permanent adultery” is not a “condemnation”[NOT] at all, so the point being made is not clear.

5. In AL 280-286, directly discussing sex education for youth, I did not see any acknowledgement, indeed not even a mention, that parents have rights in this important area. Perhaps that is to be gleaned from comments about parents made elsewhere in AL.


Okay… that was one Peters Post.  And there is another, as long as we are at it.

The law before ‘Amoris’ is the law after

Holy Communion is to be withheld from divorced-and-remarried Catholics in virtue of Canon 915 which, as has been explained countless times, [NB] does not require Catholic ministers to read the souls of would-be communicants, but rather, directs ministers to withhold holy Communion from those who, as an external and observable matter, “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin”. [VP Biden… Rep. Pelosi…] The Catechism of the Catholic Church 2384 describes civil remarriage after divorce as “public and permanent adultery” (something obviously gravely sinful), so, if Francis had wanted to authorize the administration of holy Communion to divorced-and-remarried Catholics (and he did not want to repudiate CCC 2384, 1650, etc.) he would have had to have wrought a change in the law contained in Canon 915. [BUT… Francis didn’t change can. 915, did he?  And so the P-SAE Amoris laetitia is also a challenge to those who have ignored can. 915 to be more faithful to the Church’s discipline.]

[This is interesting…] To legislate for the Church popes usually employ certain types of documents (e.g., apostolic constitutions, motu proprios, ‘authentic interpretations’ …[Bulls] ) or they use certain kinds of language (e.g., ‘I direct’ or ‘I approve in forma specifica’). Amorislaetitiae, an “apostolic exhortation”, is not a legislative document, it contains no legislative or authentic interpretative language, and it does not discuss Canon 915. The conclusion follows: whatever Canon 915 directed before Amoris, it directs after, including that holy Communion may not generally be administered to Catholics living in irregular marriages.  [Get that? Amoris laetitia DIDN’T CHANGE LAW or DOCTRINE. Of course that’s not what will be claimed by those who haven’t been inclined to obedience or sound teaching.]

To this conclusion, however—and recalling that the burden of proving that the law changed is on those who claimed that it changed, not on others to prove that it hasn’t—I can anticipate at least three rejoinders.  [This guy’s posts are worth their weight in gold.  More, actually since posts don’t weigh anything… but you get my drift.]

The first is easily dismissed.

1. Pope Francis wrote that “Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.” AL 3, and 199, 207. But of course developing local approaches to proclaiming universal truths is a hallmark of “pastoral theology” (when that concept is properly understood and not offered as cover for avoiding the demands of Christian doctrine). [This, friends, was one of the things I feared the most in anticipation of this Letter – and, frankly, in everything else this Pope does – namely, devolution of the role of, for example, the mandate of the CDF to local conferences.  That would be disaster of the highest order.  Also, I once fell afoul of a prof of “pastoral theology” from a Roman university just exactly what “pastoral theology” is: he couldn’t tell me. He got mad at me, of course.] Church documents often encourage local initiatives, but they never authorize dilution, let alone betrayal, of the universal teachings of Christ and his Church. Amoris might well have left itself open to regional manipulation (as Robert Royal has explained) but Catholics committed to thinking with the Church will not develop particular approaches to ministry among the divorced that betray the common truth about the permanence of marriage.  [As I wrote yesterday.  The orthodox and faithful can find in this Letter a challenge to even greater compassion and zeal in pastoral ministry.  Those who have abandoned fidelity and obedience, and who have violated the promises and oaths they made a ordination, will continue on their course of deceiving souls, but with greater energy, hiding behind this new Letter.]

A second rejoinder is, however, more complex.

2. In AL 301 Francis writes: “Hence it is can [sic] [yep… sic… but remember that an English version will (eventually) have no real authority once (if) the Latin comes out… yes, I am an optimist.  I am also an unreconstructed ossified manualist.] no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” [I’ve received questions about that already.  I suppose that there are some people who are so poorly formed they haven’t the slightest clue about what they are into.  Also, there are others who really have undertaken the “brother sister” solution.  Remember: living together is in itself not the sin of adultery or fornication.  One might be putting oneself in an occasion of temptation and sin, which could be sinfully irresponsible, but it’s the sexual contact that is gravely sinful. This applies to two men or two women who live together.  Sexual contact makes that sinful.] This presents a more substantial objection to my conclusion above for, at first glance, Francis seems to attack the very idea that the irregular situation usually produced by a post-divorce civil remarriage is gravely sinful. [Yes, that is what that statement seems to be.  It is at least poorly written.] We need to consider this possibility carefully.

Setting aside whether any Church document ever ‘simply said’ what Francis implies above, one can agree that it would be wrong to assert that “all” people living in “any” irregular situation are necessarily “living in a state of mortal sin”. If even one person living in an irregular marriage situation does so with no suggestion of sin—and I can think of many*Francis’ point, narrowly and literally read, stands.

But Francis’ assertion here could mean something more contentious, namely: that we can no longer assert that any individual living in an irregular union could be “living in a state of mortal sin”—an assertion that would, I suggest, place Francis in opposition to Church tradition. [This is what libs are going to say. But they will be happy about it!] Let’s consider this possibility more closely:

A) The phrase “living in a state of mortal sin” could be understood as a short-hand way to describe many morally wrong living situations, one that summarizes Church teaching that all Catholics must, on pain of committing grave sin, abide by certain laws and teachings regarding marriage and sexual activity. That is how all of the canonists, moral theologians, and clergy whom I know, and most of the lay Catholics in my circle, use the term. I think it consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But,

B) The phrase “living in a state of mortal sin” could also be taken as judging the state of another’s soul based on their living arrangement. Whether speaking from ill-will or from inaccurate catechesis, Catholics who describe others (let alone all others) living in irregular marriage situations as “living in a state of mortal sin”—meaning by that phrase that such persons have necessarily incurred the guilt of grave sin—should indeed cease thinking and speaking that way. [See what I wrote, above.]

So, if the pope was thinking about those who use the phrase “living in a state of mortal sin” to imply an ability to read souls, then his admonition that one must not speak this way is quite sound, it does nothing to detract from the Church’s view that post-divorce civil marriage is an aggravated form of adultery, and it impacts not one jot or tittle of Canon 915. But to construe the pope’s words here as denying that freely living in an irregular marriage situation can be, as the Catechism holds, gravely sinful, and that therefore Canon 915 is not applicable to such cases, would be to attribute to the pope a conclusion at odds with Church moral and sacramental teaching. That accusation should not be casually made.  [And yet we see that there are some – at some web sites – who are making that claim.]

Finally, however, let’s assume that, however he expressed himself, [admittedly ineptly] the pope somehow really believes that few Catholics, perhaps none, living in irregular marriages are subjectively culpable for their state. Even that conclusion on his part would [NB] have no bearing whatsoever on the operation of Canon 915 [!] because, as noted above, Canon 915 does not (and cannot!) operate at the level of interior, subjective responsibility, but rather, it responds to externally cognizable facts concerning observable conduct.

Yet a third possible rejoinder relies another eisegetical reading of Francis’ words.  [“eisegesis” means to “read into” a text when interpreting it one’s own presuppositions and agendas, etc.]

3. Some think that AL fn. 351[the Infamous Footnote reads, about priests helping people to discern the truth of their “irregular” situations: “351 In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).”] and its accompanying text authorize holy Communion for Catholics in irregular marriages. I would ask, recalling that a matter of law is at issue, where does Francis do this? The pope says that Catholics in irregular unions need the help of the sacraments (which of course they do), but he does not say ALL of the sacraments, and especially, not sacraments for which they are ineligible. [Which probably means Holy Communion.  But also remember that, without purpose of amendment, they cannot be absolved in the Sacrament of Penance.  Also, if they are compos sui and in danger of death they don’t manifest sorrow for manifest sins they cannot be confirmed or anointed.] He says that the confessional is not a ‘torture chamber’ (a trite remark but not an erroneous one). And he observes that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect (thank God), but a powerful spiritual medicine, which it is—unless it is taken unworthily or in violation of law, a caveat one may assume all Catholics, and certainly popes, know without having to say it.  [Dear Dr. Peters… I think that, today, we have to remind people of this, even prelates.]

Bottom line: sacramental rules are made of words, not surmises. Those who think Amoris has cleared a path to the Communion rail for Catholics in irregular marriages are hearing words that the pope (whatever might be his personal inclinations) simply did not say.

* Example: One who was baptized Catholic but raised without knowledge of that fact, is (incredibly) bound by canonical form and thus, if married outside of form, he or she would be, by definition, living in an irregular union. It would be ludicrous to refer to such a person as “living in sin”. I can offer a dozen more fact patterns that would duplicate this point.

I love the smell of clarity in the morning.

Be sure to visit In The Light Of The Law for more large doses of refreshing clarity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in 1983 CIC can. 915, Emanations from Penumbras, The Drill and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. RobW says:

    This is great. Can’t share it on fb though :(

    [Facebook? What a shame.]

  2. Janol says:

    Fr. Z., thank you SO much for this posting. I follow Ed Peters’ blog and was delighted to see your reposting of his last two posts here along with your emphases and comments. I then stepped away from my computer for some reason and was immediately engulfed with consolation and gratitude to God for having brought me into His Church eons ago. How I needed these postings!! Finally some clarity and sanity (on at least two websites)! I have always marveled at and reveled in the treasures and riches of the Church but it is only within her that any clarity and sanity can be found at all. Thank you. You are both courageous. May the Lord continue to sustain you both.

  3. Benedict Joseph says:

    The patience and charity exhibited by both Dr. Peters and Fr. Z is heroic. The clear conscientious critique presented here is edifying and a model of faith and reason. Both of you have my sincere gratitude because, by your efforts, a fire raging within me has been brought to something of containment.
    That said, what continues to gnaw me, to a degree that is actually somewhat disorienting, is the simple reality acknowledged at the beginning of this analysis. It is the kernel around which this pontificate orbits, “…one must recall that Francis is not a systematic thinker…” Is this not tantamount to the chief financial officer of a bank lacking facility with economic reasoning? One might object that a pastor’s core is faith, but faith unhinged from reason most easily morphs into superstition or sentimentality. Given that the vast number of his support staff appear to bear the same impediment, who is to bring this chaos to order?
    After all the brutal secular headlines of Friday, a rather muted aura is apparent in that pen today, and even more so in the Catholic media, but for where they are dancing in the aisles of their “Wishup Space” this bright Sunday morning. This entire event bespeaks a problem far deeper and beyond what we are specifically addressing. More than once I have counseled and received the counsel that certain difficulties need be addressed indirectly. Are not we now beyond that point?

  4. dbonneville says:

    “Those who think Amoris has cleared a path to the Communion rail for Catholics in irregular marriages are hearing words that the pope (whatever might be his personal inclinations) simply did not say.”

    But isn’t that precisely the Jesuitical way? To say without saying, to “discern”, to induce surmising without the benefit of having clear, unambiguous words to work from? The sum total of the media simply report the obvious, that the way for communion for the divorced and civilly remarried is here. Otherwise what is the point of this document and the synod? The last two years has led to this point. And what else would “Rome will lose faith” look like? If people are going to be deceived it’s not going to be through obvious rejection of doctrine. If it was obvious, nobody would be deceived. Even the media would catch an obvious attempt to change what takes 2 seconds to verify. But a document like this is perfect for the wiley machinations of deceit.

    I was reflecting on the serpent who misquoted God and tricked Eve. But here we have the clear words of Jesus about marriage and a clear challenge to them that they are not right. Instead of “did God say?” we have “God said, but he is not right”. Is this not the stuff of apocalyptic apostasy?

    Or maybe I’m just reading into it too much. woulfnt be the first time :)

  5. LeeF says:

    More awesome analysis by Dr. Peters, and commentary by Father Z.

    Something to be considered as well is the logical consequences of certain (liberal) interpretations. The exhortation and discussion of same revolve around existing second civil marriages. But what of future cases? If a couple of divorced persons (we will assume them both to have been the innocent parties of each divorce) were to approach a pastor and ask whether they can get civilly married again and then receive communion afterwards, what is that pastor going to say? Go ahead and we’ll “discern” it later? Or “discern” it in advance and greenlight subsequent reception of communion?

    And taking this further, would not such a prospective couple reasonably (to them) under the new merciful guidelines just ask for a second sacramental marriage in the Church to begin with? After all, reception of communion by a divorced and remarried couple without annulments seems to imply such a second marriage is a sacramental one with all the spiritual benefits of same.

  6. The use of quotation marks in Vatican documents has a long and confusing history, embodying everything from short verbatim excerpt to mere emphasis; I do not think the Anglophone “‘scare’ quote” default interpretation can enjoy any preference in our reading of the Letter of the Week.

  7. vetusta ecclesia says:

    The already notorious footnote 351 speaks of the sacraments (plural). Penance clearly is implied. Which of the other six are also included? Extreme unction is rare. I think this plural is a back door to communion for those in irregular marital situations.

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “Hence it is can [sic] no longer simply be” cf. “non è più possibile”; “il n’est plus possible”; “ya no es posible”; “já não é possível”; “Daher ist es nicht mehr möglich”. It looked a bit like an under-punctuated aposiopesis (“it is – can – no longer simply – be -“), but it must just be a mistake.

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “And, speaking of ‘irregular marriage’, nearly every time Francis uses that traditional phrase to describe what could more correctly be termed pseudo-marriage, he puts the word ‘irregular’ in scare quotes”. Is it likely he does this, in part, with an eye to reconsidering canonical form in the future?

  10. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thanks so much for this post Father Z , and Dr. Peters.

    Dr. Peters & Fr. Z. said :
    “There are as one might expect in a document of this length and written with access to the kinds of resources a pope commands, [ ‘I assume he means ghost writers’ ].”

    Indeed , one might even assert that parts of this Exhortation were prewritten as well – both by the influence of Cardinal Kasper well in advance of the synod , only to be served up later on a big smelly platter at the actual synod itself on October 14 2015 by Cardinal R. Marx , who seemed to dart back and forth from allegiance to Rome and independence from Rome like a ping-pong ball in a heated match.

    A vivisective layer removal would likely reveal that Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried may never have been an original idea of Pope Francis nor part of his own agenda , because as the OP concludes :

    [Dr. Peters] “Bottom line: sacramental rules are made of words, not surmises. Those who think Amoris has cleared a path to the Communion rail for Catholics in irregular marriages are hearing words that the pope (whatever might be his personal inclinations) simply did not say.”

    There is a beast whose head is lurking and has been lurking just below the surface of the murkiness – a murkiness which is both pre and post synodal and which persists in the subsequent exhortation. And the beast’s name is contraception. The reason it is staying below the surface is that it would confound and reveal at least a good half of the Kasperrors all the happy modernists have been chewing on.

    The (poster boy and/or) poster girl the Kasperites want us to consider is usually a young lady who was being abused by her Catholic husband and had no choice but to leave and found someone to cling to who won’t abuse her – or we can substitute for that victim someone who put up with the abuse for years before finally leaving (with children) . . .sound familiar ? It should. These type of cases exist – I know of several personally. I also know of one woman who falsely claimed her husband from her Catholic marriage abused her in order to civilly divorce him (she is currently on her third “husband”).

    But did you know that, from the perspective of causality, one of the leading contributors to marriage breakdown/divorce among Catholics is . . . contraception ? Sad.

    Apparently a significant amount of married Catholics practice contraception and feel it isn’t something which is wrong or needs to be confessed. An elederly Deacon friend of mine digests all the studies and statistics on these type of Church matters (and I’ll provide a link to another reliable source at the end of this post).

    The above truth implies that none of the Kasperites could have taken this into consideration in their adherence to the Kasperite proposal ; whether through ignorace, or denial. What they are proposing appears presumptuous at the very least. Holy Communion for the Catholic who has divorced and civilly remarried is a proposal for potential sacramental disaster. Don’t think Kasperite poster-girl for a moment – think large scale : If most of the Catholics who have divorced were practicing contraception in their Catholic marriage, isn’t it rather utopian to think that if they divorce then enter into a civil marriage that the contraception they were used to, will somehow magically disappear ? All the more so given that many so-called practicing Catholics have gotten themselves into a state where they can’t shake contraception and no longer see it as something to be confessed ?

    If you’re a little hesitant to take my Deacon friend’s word for it , this problem is alluded to in a nice article entitled Contraception and Divorce: Insights from American Annulment Cases composed by a very adept canonist whose name presently escapes me . . . for some unknown reason . . . :)


    @dbonneville: I haven’t really any knowledge on the Jesuits as to how many may have one foot or both in any particular camp . I can tell you I went to a seminar here some 18 years ago by a Jesuit who stirred up all kinds of trouble and is considered “an intellectual” in his native European circles. In the question & answer period of the seminar someone asked him in French, “What about contraception ?” And he replied ,”Listen, contraception isn’t abortion.” And that’s how he tried to justify it- still get a knot in the stomach thinking about it. But my point would be there are certain Jesuits who don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush. I’m thinking primarily of Father John Hardon, S.J. He was a big contributor to the CCC and what he wrote about contraception , well, the clarity of his article could make a crystal clear glass of water look cloudy . . . not challenging what you are saying – only pointing out that not each or every one fits that mold.

    God Bless.

    For anyone who might wish to have a good easy to read catholic window on contraception – right from the inception of the Church to modern day:
    The Catholic Tradition on the Morality of Contraception, by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J..

  11. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Are “objectively adulterous post-divorce pseudo-marriages” ‘objectively adulterous’ in the absence of carnal knowledge? And is there distinct sin in “living together” under apparent marriage contract and seeming to regard that state as ‘marriage’?

  12. tominrichmond says:

    And yet… can one even conceive of having to do such a practically Jesuitical exegesis on Castii Conubii to ensure its readers that yes, it may technically not be in violation of Scripture and Sacred Tradition?

    O tempora, o mores. Yikes.

  13. Ave Crux says:

    Uncle! Uncle! I cry Uncle!

    Honestly, I can’t take the absurdity of this anymore. Do you realize the unending verbiage that is going on to try to understand what the Holy Father said and attempting to understand/interpret it in the context of revelation and Catholic moral teaching…?

    Moreover, when Our Lord made the same teaching clear in less than a few dozen words on several occasions?

    I am not a mystic; however yesterday evening when I was praying my rosary and reflecting on the Ascension, and how our Lord told his disciples to go forth to all nations teaching all that He had taught them, I asked our Lord about this recent Apostolic Exhortation since it was beginning to trouble me. I wondered “Could it possibly be true that those in irregular marriages should be admitted to the sacraments due to ignorance?”

    No sooner had I asked Our Lord for light, three times the words came to me quite distinctly “What was unclear about what I said?”

    I understood that He had spoken on the matter already quite clearly (“He who divorces his wife and marroes another commits adultery”), definitively, and unequivocally, and that nothing more needed to be said….”all else is from the evil one”

    Furthermore the thought came to me that confusion is from Satan, and clearly all this confusion can only be from him.

    Can we admit that something is seriously wrong in Rome?

  14. Ave Crux says:

    It will absolutely be interpreted that way in praxis. That is the sorry truth.

    And I dare say it was INTENDED as such – otherwise, why not simply *specify* the Sacraments referred to, given how serious lack of clarity in such a matter would be; it was left deliberately vague.

    We were left guessing for a reason.

  15. pmullane says:

    Ed Peters (and our host) truly are treasures of our church. Clear headed thinking such as this is invaluable in these times.

    Regarding point 1) “if certain expressions of intimacy [i.e., sexual intercourse] are lacking ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’.”

    What if, as often happens, faithfulness becomes endangered and the good of children suffers because the husband loses his well paid job and has to find work at a much lower rate of pay, and wife had her head turned by a handsome chap in a Mercedes? Would that make it moral for husband to start robbing banks to keep the faithfulness of his spouse? Why are sexual sins different? What level of sin is acceptable or tolerable to save the fidelity of a marriage that’s not really a marriage, for the sake of the children?

  16. Ave Crux says:

    This is an example of the terribly serious and distressing moral confusion that will be caused by this document and why is it clearly the work of the devil and an affront to God (can’t we simply say this?):

    ABOVE the following is indicated:
    Same-sex marriage’. Francis leaves no opening whatsoever that ‘same-sex marriage’ can ever be regarded as marriage. AL 251.  [Clear as a bell.]

    It may be clear as a bell to Canonists and Priests, but to the faithful, all of whom have been urged to read it, they will see same-sex unions coupled with the words “stability” and “family”, whereas God sees them only as an abomination.

    Are we afraid to say that anymore in order to recall souls to sanity, sobriety and salvation?

    Are we not mindful that such sins crucified Our Lord, and that we have become so effeminate as to refer to sodomy as a type of “family” that offers “stability”?

    Of what use is it to dissect these texts to rubber stamp then as being in conformity with canon law and doctrine when they scream scandal in the minds and hearts of the faithful on their face?

    Are we “straining the gnat and swallowing the camel”?

    Saint Catherine of Siena said “Enough silence! I see the world is rotten because of silence!”

    Her chapter in Dialogues on Discretion makes clear in burning terms – through the words of the Eternal Father – that those prelates who do not cauterize with fiery reproof the wound of mortal sin in the souls in their care, they allow it to corrupt the entire body and are the object of His great displeasure.

  17. Ben Kenobi says:

    Wow. Fantastic post, Father Z. This is incredibly helpful!

  18. iamlucky13 says:

    “But to construe the pope’s words here as denying that freely living in an irregular marriage situation can be, as the Catechism holds, gravely sinful, and that therefore Canon 915 is not applicable to such cases, would be to attribute to the pope a conclusion at odds with Church moral and sacramental teaching. “

    This point keeps coming to mind when I read comments in many different venues, including sometimes here. It needs emphasis.

    I worry about the average Catholic, not well-versed in Canon law and moral theology, hearing two messages:

    1.) Liberal Catholics saying, “The pope just declared Communion for the divorced and remarried is ok as long as they ‘follow their conscience.'”

    2.) Conservative Catholics saying, “The pope just declared Communion for the divorced and remarried is ok as long as they ‘follow their conscience.'” [?]

    If these two frequently opposing sides are saying the same basic thing, why would average Catholics conclude the pope said anything different? Sure, the latter then goes on to say why the pope is wrong, but why would the average Catholic listen to a random parishioner or commentator on the internet rather than the pope. The random commentator, after all, appears to the average Catholic to be dissenting.

    In reality, the problem is not that the pope is wrong, but that he is imprecise, and has (presumably) been misconstrued.

    Oh sure, it is possible that a heterodox interpretation is actually what Pope Francis intended, even though I don’t like to think so. It doesn’t matter. Dr. Peters better argued clearly what has been on my mind the last several days about why these interpretations have no merit. For my part, I dislike giving interpretations of an exhortation that are incompatible with doctrine and canon law more credibility than they deserve, which is none.

  19. iamlucky13 says:

    Also, I’m glad Dr. Peters noticed the problem with the reference to Gaudium et Spes. I saw that, too. I wonder if Pope Francis and those who assisted him noticed the difference and were thinking about some form of parallel, or if they misinterpreted it.

    Regardless, Amoris Laetitia goes nowhere with the quote from Gaudium et Spes. Those interested can read paragraph 298, the adjacent paragraphs, Familiaris Consortio 186 (also refernced in AL 298), and G&S 51 carefully to understand how those passages fit together.

    They amount to, “living together as brother and sister is hard and can leave one open to other temptations.”

    That’s it. There is no, “therefore, the following is excusable…” The rest of AS 298 merely points out other similarly difficult situations. Most of the rest of G&S 51 is actually the council fathers condemning the usual “therefore” suggestions offered: “To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed.”

    Regarding point 5, about parents having rights with regards to the sexual education of their children – this seems to be covered by the Pope’s comments on education in general. AS 84 refers to education as both “a most serious duty” and “a primary right” of parents that parents must defend and no one deprive them of. Pope Francis calls public schools a “subsidiary way” of supporting the educational duties of the parents “only…with [the parents] consent.”

  20. Pingback: Infamous Footnote 351 through the lens of the Prodigal Son |

  21. iamlucky13 says:

    Father, regarding your question mark to my previous comment: It appears to me that even many orthodox Catholics are interpreting Amoris Laetitia as trying to put a stamp of approval on Communion for the divorced and remarried.

    That sets up two opposing sides both agreeing that the Pope’s intent is to significantly break with past Catholic teaching and law. They just view the merits of that presumed intent differently. One side trumpets what Pope Francis neglected to condemn and a supposed revised teaching revealed in the footnotes. The other warns of the subversive message implied by ambiguity and what another poster above refers to as “the wiley machinations of deceit.”

    I’m concerned that promoting such a reading of Amoris Laetitia, regardless of Pope Francis’ actual intent, will have unintended consequences when read by those who are poorly catechized but not willfully dissenting. I appreciate what you and Dr. Peters have written about properly interpreting Amoris Laetitia and think this is the necessary approach that I hope other commentators will follow. I read your posts not as being without concern, but framing those concerns in a way that does not automatically presume heterodox intent.

  22. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Dr. Peters and Fr. Z, this is illuminating.

  23. Ave Crux says:

    Father, I do not see at all how footnote 351 can refer to anything other than Penance and Holy Communion. It clearly refers to Sacraments in the plural (what are they if not these two?), and then it precisely gives both the Eucharist and Confession as examples in the same “clarification”.

    It seems disingenuous to pretend otherwise; logic itself makes this clear.

    Furthermore, Baldisseri, the Pope’s chosen presenter reiterated this at the Press Conference when releasing the Exhortation to the public:

    Baldisseri said the following in this matter:

    “Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio. “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.”

    [T]he Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note that the help of the sacraments may also be given in “certain cases.” 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” and the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

    EVERY soul is eligible at the moment of death to receive Extreme Unction, and none of the other Sacraments (plural) would apply.

    Thus, it’s quite clear the document provides for those in unlawful unions to receive the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, even without amendment of life, based solely on their private conscience, not the teaching of the Church.

    It is a disservice to the Catholic faithful to pretend the document does not say that. To at least acknowledge this is only in conformity with the truth and reality.

    We need to face this crisis squarely and recognize it for what it is. Otherwise, who will raise the alarm and demand a course correction if everyone is told we are still on course when precisely we are not? Denial is a lack of responsibility.

Comments are closed.