There has been a lot of commentary in the last few hard days about Amoris laetitia (aka Familiaris divortio).
What I have been trying to get across is that 1) Amoris did not change Catholic doctrine or law, and that 2) even though there are insinuations and serious problems not to be glossed over in the document which will cause division among those already inclined to division, 3) both sides are challenged in the exhortation to greater compassion and fidelity.
I received in email some comments about Amoris laetitia from a thoughtful source who has been keeping a close eye on the machinations of the Synods, et al., for years. I have edited it heavily, while preserving the core.
Again, edited for public consumption, with my now oft-imitated treatment. So, crawl back in through the window and off of the ledge… read on:
First, The Big Question: who won the battle?
The question refers, of course, to the battle between the Kasperites and Catholics [note the distinction] over the question of the admission of the civilly divorced and remarried (CDR) to penance and holy communion. There are some corollary issues (pre-maritally cohabitating couples, same-sex couples, and simple adultery and fornication). But the Big Question concerns CDRs. Prior to the opening of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, none of us knew that the Kasperites were going to use the CDR issue as the thin-edge-of-the-wedge, or, if you prefer, the Trojan Horse, that Archbishop Bruno Forte stealthily snuck into the Synod’s Interim Report after the first week of the 2014 Synod. THAT was the moment when many of us knew that “homosexuality” was the bigger issue for the Kasperites, who were hoping that the sympathy that could be produced among bishops on behalf of CDRs was more likely to move the synod members to allow access to Communion on their behalf than was the “plight of homosexuals”. It’s like this: once a way had been found to admit CDRs to Communion, the Domino Effect would see to it that opposition to others, including homosexuals, would give way. NB: This is STILL the Kasperite strategy.
In answer to the Big Question, above, Catholics won the battle technically speaking, but the Kasperites won the battle in real terms.
Explanation: Read sections 297-312 of Amoris Laetitia. Technically speaking, the Pope does not spell out that CDRs can be admitted to the sacraments of Penance or Eucharist. Try to understand just how important a victory this is for our side. We won. The Pope knows this. Kasper knows this. Heck, even the NCReporter knows this (aka National Sodomitic Reporter). Just plain forget all the exegesis of footnotes that you may be reading about on the internet. The Pope does not draw a straight line from X to Y. He. Does. Not. And he knows that he would have had to that just that in order to change Church doctrine and discipline. In the end, he could not do it and he did not do it. For a long time I feared that he would, and I was not alone.
Some of you will rightly insist that this “victory” of ours is only a formal one (in the theological sense of “formal”). I agree. BUT… I’ll take it! Remember: This was NOT the outcome that Pope Francis along with Cardinal Kasper and Friends wanted. Since the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals in February 2014, when Pope Francis invited Kasper to address the entire College of Cardinal, Kasper and Friends have wanted to change Church teaching (they maintained they only wanted to change its discipline). They wanted the “Kasper Proposal” – that adopts the Eastern Orthodox practice of admitting “repentant” CDRs to Communion – to be formally adopted by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis made it clear to everyone that he was backing the Kasper Proposal, and Pope Francis knows how to use his absolute power! For example, he personally chose over 1/3 of the voting members of both Synods, he personally chose those who wrote all of the Synod documents, he named as Cardinals a couple of Synod bishops who backed the Kasper Proposal during the 2014 Synod, he demoted Cardinal Burke after the 2014 Synod, thus depriving the Cardinal of an ex officio place in the 2015 Synod. And I could go on. Nevertheless, the Pope was denied this victory twice, first at the 2014 Synod and then at the 2015 Synod. It became clear to Pope Francis that the Kasper Proposal was going to divide the bishops and that the division would be rancorous. So he pulled back.
As I said, we will take this. [Darn tootin’!] It’s not everything we wanted. We wanted the ban on Communion for CDRs that is found in the 1981 Post-Synodal Apostolic Letter, Familiaris Consortio, n. 84, to be ratified. The Pope did not do that either. But … and this is a big but… by not formally retracting the teaching in FC 84, he let it stand. [Re-read that if you have to.]
Hence, Catholics can maintain that Church teaching and discipline have not formally changed.
Ross Douthat, in an intelligent piece in the New York Times (aka Hell’s Bible), puts the matter clearly:
“Now we have an answer, of sorts. In his new letter on marriage and the family, the pope does not endorse a formal path to communion for the divorced and remarried, which his allies pushed against conservative opposition at two consecutive synods in Rome, and which would have thrown Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage (and sexual ethics writ large) into flagrant self-contradiction.
“But what he does seem to encourage, in passages that are ambiguous sentence by sentence but clearer in their cumulative weight, is the existing practice in many places — the informal admission of remarried Catholics to communion by sympathetic priests.”
Douthat is correct that Pope Francis does seem toencourage the current practice in many places whereby CDRs are admitted to Communion in spite of the fact that official teaching of the Church forbids it. ….
But for now I want to get back to the Big Question.
We won technically, but in real terms Kasper won.
The Kasper Proposal in effect was incorporated in the Amoris laetitia through the back door.
That is not everything that Kasper and Friends wanted, and they must have mixed feelings just as the Catholics do, but for very different reasons. If I were a Kasperite, in my heart I would be saying that the Catholics won, because I would know that unless and until Church teaching (discipline) formally changes, I cannot insist that my proposal be adopted everywhere by law.Priests here, there, and everywhere will be free to refuse sacramental absolution and Holy Communion to individuals who flat out refuse to live in accord with God’s law. Bishops will not be able to force priests to adopt the still legally prohibited Kasper Proposal. [A point I made the other day.] Priests who adopt the Kasper Proposal are probably priests who have done so all along.
[This adds a dimension that is IMPORTANT for SEMINARIANS! PAY ATTENTION! Do I have your FULL attention?] When seminarians study marriage and sexual ethics and encounter Amoris Laetitia in the classroom they will know what to think about it in advance, thanks to faithful bishops, theologians and bloggers! [This is a key to our future.] AL actually makes bishops more impotent the more they embrace the Kasper Proposal because they will only be able to huff and puff about it (see Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago!). But priests are free to follow the Church’s teaching as expressed in Familiaris Consortio 84, teaching that was not formally changed by AL. [That’s a WIN, friends.]
Herein lies the real weakness of the document called Amoris Laetitia.
IF Pope Francis were convinced that the Kasper Proposal is indeed fully orthodox in a Catholic sense, THEN why didn’t he INSIST that bishops and priests adopt it and why didn’t he spell that out? Why didn’t he expressly command that CDRs and others in “irregular” sexual situations be admitted to the sacraments of Penance and Communion, instead of just hinting at it? [QUAERITUR:]How is it merciful that persons whom the Pope claims are not living in sin be barred from the sacraments?
No, the logic of Pope Francis’ “theology” is that his version of mercy trumps all other considerations. So [NB] the fact that he does not take these steps, that all he can muster is a kind of wink and nod in the direction of admission to the sacraments, the fact that he could not expressly retract the law of the Church in FC 84 and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church means that Amoris Laetitia is [NB] in contradiction not with previous Church teachings, but with itself. And the weaker side in the Pope’s contradiction is the side that he personally favors.
That was probably a roller coaster for most of you.
The writer makes important points that everyone out there having a spittle-flecked nutty should ponder, preferably while breathing into a paper bag. Of course grasping what the writer is arguing requires, 1) actually thinking about it, 2 ) the long view, an eye on the future, 3) remembering what happened over the last three years or so leading up to this Letter.
I urge people who don’t want to think, or who don’t want to consider the lead up and the view to the future, not to comment here or elsewhere.
The moderation queue is ON and I will prune comments that are not ad rem.