More analysis: “There will be those who will try and contort #AmorisLaetitia into the Kaspser proposal”

The newly released Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia in English is HERE.

From the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, some analysis of Amoris laetitia. My emphases and comments.

Francis has left Church teaching on Communion for the divorced and remarried absolutely intact [Yes… but is that enough?]

Amoris Laetitia offers a compressive and eloquent, to the point of being lyrical at times, defence of the Catholic vision of marriage, Humanae Vitae and all.

While doctrinally packed, the pastoral concern of the document is no less intense. [“intense”…] At times, the tone is so personal as to read like a letter from one individual to another, [vintage Francis] and the concern of the Pope for married couples and families is palpable and most especially for young people being denied a formation in the true Christian understanding of marriage.  [There’s a key point.  Are people being formed in the Faith?  If people are to exercise their consciences, are they doing so according to the mind of the Church (and not by prevailing worldly mores or a fantasy, deluded “mind” of the Church?]

But, as good as it is, the real expectation surrounding this exhortation was not[not] about what it would say about married couples but rather divorced and remarried couples, discussion of whom dominated the media coverage of both sessions of the Synod on the Family.  [And other “irregular” couples, mind you.]

What we all wanted to know, really, was where the Pope would come down on the so-called Kasper proposal of allowing those in second, sacramentally invalid, marriages [adulterers] to receive Communion, even though their second unions are technically adulterous. [technically and in fact adulterous]

It was suggested that a “penitential path” could be found, whereby couples in this situation would, through personal reflection and internal forum conversations with their priest, progress towards the reception of Communion. [The Tolerate But Not Accepted Kasperian Approach.]

In fact, Amoris Laetitia shamelessly adopts the Kasper methodology of intimate and intense pastoral guidance but[BUT] the goal is no longer their eventual reception of Communion, but instead a deeper and more mature understanding by the couple of their situation in the light of the Church’s teaching.  [Yes… this is sort of fair.  However, then human nature kicks in and liberals toss out the teaching part in favor of a mercy emptied of content.]

In the eighth chapter, [sigh] entitled Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness, Pope Francis revisits the important distinction between the “law of gradualness” and “gradualness of the law” and, like St John Paul II before him, makes clear that while individual circumstances, understanding, and intentions can mitigate the culpability of a person, it cannot detract from the objective seriousness of a situation of sin, still less render it good.

The key to Amoris Laetitia’s treatment of the divorced and civilly remarried is the recognition that every marriage, and certainly every broken marriage, is unique. In line with his own image of the Church as a hospital, the intimate process of pastoral discernment outlined by the document represents a profound period of diagnosis, where the individual’s reality, and pastoral needs, can become clear.  [Diagnosis is a first step.  And we all acknowledge that the one seeking the proper diagnosis not be a cold-hearted, clinical machine.]

The first goal of this period of pastoral discernment is, according to Pope Francis, to provide a solid mechanism for welcoming those in irregular situations into the Church; a welcome that needs to be as individual as the person and their situation and which reflects that, whatever their circumstances, the parish is the proper home of every Christian.  [So far so good!  Who will object to that?  And I’ll be most parishes are that way.  Can they perhaps improve?  Probably.  But I don’t know of places where parishes and priests are as insensitive as this Letter perhaps (or some people behind the Letter) assume.]

Pope Francis repeats, again and again, that couples in irregular unions are not excommunicated, they are not, in the language of the old code of canon law, the vitandi – those to be shunned. On the contrary, their presence and participation in the life of the parish is essential, how else are they to be helped?

The second purpose of the period of pastoral discernment is to allow for the person to be met exactly where they are and genuinely accompanied along a period of discernment, formation of conscience, and growth in the faith.  [I am reminded of a priest friends references to young people and “psycho-geography”.  “I just want you to know that I’m there for you!”, they assure.  “I know where you’re coming from!”, they reassure.  “Are you in a bad place today?”, they sympathize.  That said… okay… we’ll meet them where they are and then go with them where they are going!]

Where Amoris Laetitia parts company with the Kasper proposal is the stated goal of this process. Kasper and his supporters were clear that the goal is always full sacramental participation in the life of the Church, most especially through Communion.  [The disaster scenario if there isn’t not true conversion and amendment of life.  Alas, I think that the soon-to-be infamous Footnote 351 is going to be taken by some as carte blanche to pass over that amendment step into an affirmation of “where they are” and “being there for them” before they go all the way to “the end” of the penitential process of discernment.]

Pope Francis is clear that the goal of this pastoral accompaniment is as individual as the person’s situation – and he does state that, in some cases, this can include access to the sacraments. [The infamous Footnote 351.  But NB!…] This will be held out by many as Kasper’s vindication, but, in fact, it couldn’t be further from the case.

When Francis refers to the sacraments his is referring, and this is explicit in the text, first of all to Confession, [CONFESSION!] which is our primary means of encountering the mercy of God. It is within this context that he insists that pastors consider the full complexity of a person’s situation and never think 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.”

The period of pastoral accompaniment and discernment described in Amoris Laetitia is, effectively, an extended guided examination of conscience leading to Confession.  [The writer is right.  And the Letter is great on this point.  So… what could go wrong?  Right?   We all remember what quite a few bishops and lots of priests did after Humanae vitae.  They basically told people that they could – in good conscience – do whatever they wanted to do about contraception.  “But Father! But Father!”, some of you wide-eyed progressives are bleating, “That can’t happen now!  This is Pope Francis we’re talking about!  He’s the first Pope who ever kissed a baby or smiled! He’s … ummm… leading us out of the darkness of rigid doctrine into the ineffable light of freedom and joy!  Priests won’t tell homosexual couples or the divorced and remarried or the cohabitating they can do anything they want because they are going to be faithful to the the Church’s… ummm… you see, they’ll be… like, it’ll be Communion and… but… they won’t… ahhhh…. YOU HATE VATICAN II!”]

It is in the light of this period of discernment that the person or couple can find their place in the life of the parish of which Francis says “necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practised in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.”  [At some point during the period of the two Synods that led to this, I recall mentioning that the Germans were determined that they couldn’t come home empty-handed.  They have their Church Tax to think about, after all, and keeping people in the rolls!  So, it seemed to me at the time that if they couldn’t get admission to Communion outright for the divorced and remarried and other “irregulars”, then perhaps they could get law changed to open up things such as being lectors at Mass, or Ministers of Communion (though they couldn’t receive – and how long would that last until people thought it was absurd and just did it anyway) or membership on the boards and committees of Church entities.  Is that what that is all about?  QUAERITUR.]

And for some this will mean being able to take Communion. But, crucially, when discussing these situations and the huge scope for different circumstances, the Pope refers to two documents in particular, St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried.

These documents both articulate the significance which individual circumstances can have, but also make it clear that only couples in irregular marriages who live a life of marital abstinence can receive Communion, and this is left absolutely intact by Francis.  [As I keep saying, theologically this is okay.  I am wondering about the application down the line.]

Without question, there will be those who will try and contort Amoris Laetitia into the Kaspser proposal, [into the full monty Kasper Proposal, mind you] but they will do so against the obvious and clear intentions of Pope Francis. [The people who would do such a thing have not been overly obedient to Popes and Canon Law and the Magisterium in the past.  What make you think that they will be now?] In fact, what the Pope has produced is something much more personal, pastoral, coherent, and enduring. If it can be successfully brought, in its fullness, into parish life, its potential is enormous.  [As I said in a previous post.]

Good analysis and food for thought.

But I repeat…

The people who would twist Francis’ Letter in such as way as to bring their own practices into a full-monty Kasperite scenario, are not the sort of people who in the past have been firmly obedient to Popes, Canon Law and the Magisterium.  What make you think that they will be now suddenly be obedient to the full-picture in Francis’ Letter rather than pick and choose the bits they like?

More later.

And, yes, the moderation queue is ON.  

NB: If I have the sense that you are simply reacting without have read and thought a bit, I won’t let your comment through.  Also, I won’t let through mere Francis bashing.  Take it elsewhere.  I’m sure there are places where you can do that.

I may release comments slowly so this doesn’t produce more heat than light.

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  1. Johnny Domer says:

    In addition to the textual arguments this article makes, could we also propose the argument that massive changes to the Church’s currently-existing Sacramental praxis are not effected in this fashion, through a single footnote in a Post-Synodal exhortation? This isn’t a legislative document. If the Pope were actually making a change to something, he would issue (as he did in reforming annulments) some kind of Motu Proprio that lays out how he is changing A, B, and C in the Code of Canon Law, to be effective starting on X date, all prior legislative documents to the contrary notwithstanding. That didn’t happen here. The proof of that can be seen in how the Holy Father refers to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts’ Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried–a document that any proposed change would have significantly amended, if not utterly rendered obsolete.

    Of course, the response could (perhaps legitimately) come that this Pope engages in legislative activity in new and novel ways (see: giving the SSPX permission to absolve sins in the Year of Mercy).

  2. LeeF says:

    If you head over to Big Pulpit, the blog aggregator, you can find even more commentary on this. As Sandro Magister points out, there is absolutely not a clear backing of communion for divorced and remarried. And Bishop Robert Barron offers a fairly nuanced first interpretation.

    By upholding and not changing doctrine, by references to FC and corresponding text from the PCILT which affirm same, and by emphasizing that in working with couples, a fairly long period of discernment involving confession, and which will not necessarily lead to reception of communion at the end, this does not seem to be a disaster at all, despite the fact that liberal pastors will distort it. And I am even less worried about homosexual couples, since they in no way have a relationship that could correspond to the ideal of marriage, and thus do not seem to be candidates for that process of discernment.

    And what is going to be the practical effects of all this? The divorced and remarried are not going to flock back the Church in droves, and the ones already in the Church and who on their own decided to receive communion are not going to go through this process when they already have adopted a Protestant-like primacy of individual interpretation. And the whole process seems to assume that reception of communion is only one of the possible outcomes, which also include living an abstinent marriage, and continuing on as before without communion.

    The real question as Father points out, is how this is going to be put into practice differently by various bishops conferences and bishops and priests. Are priests going to be free to apply this themselves, or are they going to be subject to norms set by the bishops conference or particular law of their diocese?

  3. Arele says:

    Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the NYT, tweeted this a few days ago, “If the goal were simply pastoral, you’d try annulment reform and see what happens. But if the goal is to prove the Church *can* change …”

    This really struck a chord with me.

  4. Benedict Joseph says:

    Your request to have a respectful discussion on the content of the document has my respect. What is orthodox and solid in the text does not require discussion but application. The asceticism required in marriage need be described as such, and the confection of false romanticism need not be employed or dwelt upon. I always ascribe that wonderful wisdom saying to Dorothy Day, but perhaps it was gleaned by her from some other source. “Love is a harsh and dreadful thing.” Should it not have been the title of this document?
    Has our anthropological reality morphed so much in the recent epoch? Why would our pastoral Holy Father have his personal theologian Victor Manuel Fernandez (consecrated bishop two months after the election of Pope Francis and author of “Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing” ) produce more than two hundred pages on a sacrament that has been the cause of martyrs, well examined over centuries, and particularly well reflected upon over the last fifty years, by far wiser and holier men than the good theologian. The reality is that despite widespread literacy, issues requiring cognitive skills are a bridge too far for most of the inhabitants of the planet. Theological capacity and context, once available on a certain level to children and adolescents by virtue of credible, comprehensive catechesis, are today nonexistent among Roman Catholic adults.
    A simple and brief post-synodal exhortation to take up adult, Christian responsibility in the face of the sacrament of Matrimony, along with a useful, credible, comprehensive instruction to priests on how to effect this in their parishes is what is required. Apparently that is a bridge too far, and we have more poetics camouflaging the crack in the wall to “do what you feel is right according to your conscience.”
    The local news, Drudge and the tickertape at the bottom of our screens are all doing their spectacular task of regurgitating the condensed content of “Amoris Laetittia.” Let us keep our eyes peeled, our ears open to determine what the exhortation conveys to the media – “that” is what matters. We really don’t need to read it. This mode of transmission was employed all through the Vatican council. Let the media hijack the document, interpret if for the groundlings, hands of the theologians and prelates are clean. Desired “new” teaching is conveyed and assimilated. Everyone knows full well how this works. “But we did our best. We didn’t do anything wrong. It was all despite our best efforts.”
    It is happening, and the desired effect is careening down the abyss.
    If they didn’t anticipate today’s exegesis on the airwaves, we are in even more dire straits than can be imagined.

  5. doreilly says:

    The problem that I see, and clearly many others, is the verbiage that telling us do let our conscience be our guide. Which hopefully will be read as, “after forming your conscience to the teaching of the Catholic Faith then, if you can clearly tell yourself it is right go ahead and do that (it isn’t being read that way).

    The problem is that is exactly the wording that has gotten us in trouble the last 50 years and the attitude of we should do this because it feels right to me that almost destroyed our faith and turned liturgy into polka dances.

    When confession lines are short, and communion lines are long and Sunday obligations are not so much an obligation for many people, then there is already a problem of people following their consciences and those consciences are not in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Despite anything people hoped this document would say, all they needed was a little bit of wording to set their conscience at ease. Which they got with “follow your conscience”. Sunday after Sunday, Countless divorced and remarried people are already taking communion, and I have NEVER seen the practice questioned let alone the priest denying communion. They have been taught to follow what YOU feel is right.

    Where did they learn it? Sadly, from many of our priests. There is very clear wording for example in the GIRM and other documents on when Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should be and more importantly should not be used, but, people like to be EMHC’s it makes them happy, and they would likely complain if they couldn’t it so the practice still continues widely. When was the last time you attended a Mass (not a TLM) that did not use EMHC’s? One small sentence in a post consular document saying it was allowed seemed to be enough to turn around every priest in most of the world to face the people instead of east during the liturgy. A similar sentence welcoming possibly other forms of music apart from chant was enough to bring pianos, drums, guitars, flutes, maracas and rock stars into every church and liturgy in America. Let’s not forget how we don’t need to give up meat on Friday’s anymore.

    I know Pope Francis doesn’t much care for those of us who like the rules clearly spelled out, or heaven forbid follow them and think they matter. He perhaps think we are deliberately leaving out those who don’t follow the rules. The crisis in our Church isn’t because people do not feel free to follow their conscience, it is not because people are not willing to make their own rules, it is in my opinion, because people have been allowed to do those things for too long. It seems at times the Church has become the parent afraid to tell their kids “no” for fear that they will have a temper tantrum. But we all know how those kids turn out. I believe they grow up to be “up talkers” and yell into phones at airports.

  6. Georgemartyrfan says:

    <q.The period of pastoral accompaniment and discernment described in Amoris Laetitia is, effectively, an extended guided examination of conscience leading to Confession.

    While I have read a large selection of certain parts and performed several word searches (words like confess, penitent, penitence, sorrow, sin, reconciliation, reconcile, etc.) I have found very little in this document to support the above statement. The support comes in the documents which are footnoted but still not due to direct reference. The surrounding paragraphs of the footnoted texts were clearly stated. While I cannot speak for the entire document, in places the material seemed to repurpose quoted text. For example, #149. I won’t quote here, but the usage of Timothy and Sirach here does not seem to me to agree with the contextual quotes from those books.

  7. dans0622 says:

    “What make you think that they will be now suddenly be obedient to the full-picture in Francis’ Letter rather than pick and choose the bits they like?”
    There is nothing–short of some sort of miracle–that could make me think that, Father. That’s why I think your call for prayer for clerics is essential. While there are some “Kasperites” out there who will do what they want to do no matter what any Pope says, there are some clerics who wish to follow the … directions (or whatever they are) of Pope Francis. Let us pray that they do so in accord with all that has come before (Scripture, Popes, Catechisms, Synods, etc). Since the people in the pew, or the people who we hope are going to be coming into the pew, are going to get their information from the secular press, they may well have unrealistic expectations, putting pressure on the clerics: “do what we want (full participation in the life of the Church) or else we will simply walk away.”

  8. LarryW2LJ says:

    I think what bothers me the most is the deliberate ambiguity that has been noted by many. In my mind, when it comes to affirming doctrine, which is unambiguous, one should strive to be likewise. If not, then you open the door just a tiny crack, and those with an agenda will hijack the document and will take wherever so they desire. I suppose that was the desired effect, however.

    And in the end, we end up really nowhere further along the road than we started. The Traditional and Orthodox will point to the document and say, “See?!? The teachings of the Church remain unchanged!” While the Progressives will see whatever they want to see. This is evidenced by the nuanced headlines already being published.

    Am I the only one who thinks this entire process was an exercise in futility?

  9. LeeF says:

    The issue that is not getting the attention it deserves in all this is that all this pastoral practice is attempting to cure symptoms of a problem, and not the root problem itself, which is that far too many couples are allowed to marry in the Church without the requisite understanding of and commitment to the ideal of marriage. Pastors should be turning away many, many couples instead of letting them walz through pre-Cana on their way to marriage six months later. Couples can’t be allowed to enter marriage thinking there are easy ways out via either annulments or “internal forum” solutions.

    A priest telling a couple, “come back when you have a more mature understanding of marriage,” wouldn’t be popular and could lead to some problems itself, but it would avoid the far greater problems caused by divorce and remarriage. It should not just be the couple that decides in pre-marriage discernment not to get married, but the Church itself that sometimes decides for them. Part of the reason we go to confession is because we are not objective in appraising our own spiritual condition.

  10. pberginjr says:

    The more I read about the AL, the more excited I am to get into it and read it, but I just can’t get over the fact that it’s 264 pages long. I know it’s a PSAE and not an encyclical (not that those are all that short these days) but couldn’t it have been much less (50-100), especially since it’s explicitly addressed to “Christian married couples and all the lay faithful”?

    I understand most don’t read them anyway but a Humanae vitae length document would be much more accessible to the laity in general than this. I also understand that this is doing something much different than HV. I suppose one good thing about the extensive length is that it’s very clear (proportionally anyhow) that everything besides chapter 8 (less than 1/12 of the document) is given much more weight and ought to be viewed as being the emphasis of the work as a whole (chapter 8 almost being an afterthought). But really, no wonder it wasn’t presented in Latin, less than a month to translate a document that size?

  11. Gerhard says:

    Not one mention of Hell.
    The “it all depends” approach obfuscates Christ’s message. Eternal life and eternal death (the latter not mentioned either) requires crystal clear certainty so that we all can know where we stand.

    Hence our Lord’s crystal clear teaching on fornication, remarriage and adultery.

  12. martin.c says:

    Dear Father or someone with sound knowledge of moral theology, please, please clarify this to me: No. 305 says: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. (fn. 351)”. And footnote 351 says: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.”

    I have two questions: the first one is the less important, which would be how this is not affirming that “someone in an objetive situation of sin” can, if he/she is “not be subjectively culpable, or fully such”, lawfully receive “the help of the sacraments.”.

    My second question is the most important: Does the proposition “it’s possible for a baptized to be in an “objective situation of sin” and “living in God’s grace” at the same time” contradict the Catholic Faith?

    Thanks in advance to whomever could provide some clarification on this.

  13. Thomas Sweeney says:

    My reservoir of brain power is exhausted trying to separate the ambiguous from the unambiguous. All my experience tells me, is that, this will be fodder for those who want to interpret it with a decided liberal bias, much like Vatican II. Whatever the Church teaches, to be really effective, should be plain and not subject to loopholes. For example “Henry you cannot marry Ann Boleyn,while Catherine still lives”, to do so, separates you from Holy Mother Church. Of course it is your decision, but please be aware of the consequences.

  14. What a disaster. The conscience is promoted as the be all end all, as feeling right, versus being formed in truth and obligated towards truth. I saw a graphic of Henry VIII and how he “discerned” with his confessor the option to “marry” Ann Boleyn. How apropos.

    Jesus teaching on marriage was a “demanding ideal” instead of the objective commandment it is.

    And the effective delegation to local authorities for pastoral practice, so in Germany adulterers (oh, don’t SAY that word! We need new language.) can receive Communion while those in Africa generally could not. Protestants behave that way – just ask Fr. Hunwicke. That internal forum reference at play here.

    Did you catch clever redefinition of “discerning the body of the Lord?” Now it is any priest who denies Communion to public sinners as they will be causing division and unnecessary distinctions. Those cads! Communion is for EVERYBODY.

    There is so much more that can be said.

    Any cleric following the pastoral practice promoted in this document is nothing more than the blind leading the blind.

  15. Aquinas Gal says:

    I’ve read most of it (including chapter 8) and am much relieved; it could have been a disaster. It’s not. The pope affirms Catholic teaching on marriage and contraception. He incorporates elements from John Paul’s theology of the body. And–dear to my heart as the Aquinas gal–he quotes Thomas a good amount.
    Some of the language is a little vague and disconcerting. I also dislike the talk about “rules,” because it is not just a matter of some rules but of what the Lord teaches. Those who will distort it are going to distort it. I think Francis wants to draw people back to the Church if he can.

  16. Joseph-Mary says:

    Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one. (Mt 5:37). Nothing in the Gospel about gradualism or seeds of goodness in mortally sinful situations, etc. No confusion in the Gospel. Some folks may indeed be condemned forever or there is no hell.

  17. Dundonianski says:

    Thank you Fr Marie-Paul, your first sentence cuts right to the chase, this is a disaster; genuflection to doctrine followed by archly and artly worded ambiguity offers a “mercy trumps Doctrine” ideal which will embolden the Kasperite faction to push on. A few gold sovereigns at the bottom of a septic tank won’t change the composition of the contents.

  18. tcreek says:

    Church weddings seem to be not important to many (most?) young Catholics.
    This Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research statistics show that while there were over 420,000 Catholic marriages in 1970, that number has dwindled to just over 154,000 for the year 2014.

    Why should Amoris laetitia also not apply to Catholics who marry their first (or any) spouse outside the Church since —

    … “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.” —for after all— “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.”

    Make sense to me. I can’t understand how Pope Francis could have missed all of these other “irregular” situations. I belong to a large parish and we have, maybe, six weddings a year.

  19. christulsa says:

    I’ve read and reread footnote 351, and unless I’m hallucinating (for the sake of the Church I wish that were the case) it is grammatically clear what Pope Francis is saying.

    He is saying that in certain circumstances unrepentant Catholics who are divorced and remarried can receive absolution in Confession, and receive Holy Communion.

    I will be looking to hear how Cardinal Burke read footnote 351. Or for that matter the Holy See. I suspect in the weeks and months to come, tradition-minded priests, bishops and cardinals will come out against it, and Vatican clarifications will only confirm what the language plainly says.

    Kyrie eleison.

  20. Auggie says:

    Need one “contort” or merely recline into the Kasper proposal?

  21. iamlucky13 says:

    @ martin.c
    “I have two questions: the first one is the less important, which would be how this is not affirming that ‘someone in an objetive situation of sin’ can, if he/she is ‘not be subjectively culpable, or fully such’, lawfully receive ‘the help of the sacraments.’.”

    The Church has long recognized that some conditions can lessen culpability, so that in some circumstances, performing a gravely sinful act might not be gravely sinful – the three conditions mentioned in the Catechism #1857 deal with this fact. See also what was written in the Robert Royal article about Thomas Aquinas. Pope Francis isn’t proposing something new here, but there is an extremely delicate balance to strike on this matter when applying it to real cases.

    The point is that if a person is not sufficiently culpable for a gravely sinful action, they do not fall into the state of sin and may receive the sacraments. Discernment of that, however, is never to be taken lightly, because we’re talking about the very state of our souls, and we must not conclude culpability has been diminished without good reason. Assisting a person to *accurately* make that discernment is one of the pastoral challenges that has many concerned about this exhortation.

    “My second question is the most important: Does the proposition “it’s possible for a baptized to be in an “objective situation of sin” and “living in God’s grace” at the same time” contradict the Catholic Faith? “

    The “objective situation of sin” is the neutral, rational analysis: Marriage is an indissoluble, monogamous union. Violating that union is gravely sinful. Grave sin causes separation from God’s grace and spiritual death of the soul. It is only in evaluating those objective facts in the context of a subjective circumstance – such as a person without appropriate knowledge of the sin or some other diminution of responsibility for the commission of the act – that an objectively sinful act might be found not to separate a person from God’s grace.

    Of course, this is not to say that “what is right for you is not what is right for me.” Right and wrong aren’t subjective, even if the ability to identify them and act accordingly might be. It is also dangerously easy to treat this sort of consideration very permissively. It can be very comforting to say, for example, “this is a habit for me, therefore I’m not fully culpable,” but we still have to at least desire and strive to avoid sin, even if our hope falters and we expect ourselves to fail. A habit we readily consent to isn’t really a habit that we have lost control of, but a choice about which we deceive ourselves.

  22. Rob83 says:

    The problem isn’t so much that faithful Catholics will read LA and get the wrong idea. For people who know their catechism, doctrine, Bible, and canon law, they will be able to resolve things in the light of truth and not be misled. The trouble is that people who are less well-versed in those things are vulnerable to confusion and especially to those who desire to mislead them, both human and otherwise.

    Vagueness or ambiguity in language is not a mercy to the faithful nor the priests who have to suffer “but Francis said” moments, particularly when those “Francis said” moments come not from actually reading the text or listening to Francis, but because of some ignorant or malicious source “interpreting” a cherry-picked portion that has left an opening and spreading those errors to the faithful (yes, the malicious would do this regardless even if the exhortation was nothing but a verbatim recitation of Trent, but they should have their work made as difficult as possible).

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear martin.c

    You wrote with a question about this:

    “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.”

    Without being too crude, there can be situations (rare), such a right temporal-lobe tumor, that makes sexual self-control almost impossible (such a case was in the medical literature a few years ago). Such situations and other medical abnormalities of the brain can, in certain circumstances cause people to commit objectively sinful acts, but for which they they have little or no subjectively immutable guilt. As such, they may very well still be in a state of grace, because the will has not been turned away from God – it has been overwritten, so to speak. Other emotional states, such as severe anxiety might have similar effects. One need only think of someone with anorexia nervosa. The Catechism speaks about such things in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (for example, no. 2352, no. 1746, and no. 1793).

    The Chicken

  24. juergensen says:

    “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.” (Matt 19:8-9).

    That’s good enough for me. No need to read 250+ pages of “nuance”. Think I’ll go out and catch a bullpen for my son. :P

  25. JKnott says:

    I read a beautiful summary of each chapter of the document yesterday which proved rather edifying.
    Since then I have seen a few commentaries by respected writers that call to consideration some concerns, one of those commentaries by Dr. Edward Peters.
    Nevertheless , a very strong memory came to my heart of the time in the past when I had the TREMENDOUS JOY of reading JPII’s “Faith and Reason” and his “Veritatis Splendor”
    So I would like to share the beauty of a couple of introductory paragraphs of the latter to put my mind at peace and hopefully others.
    The purpose of the present Encyclical ( “Veritatis Splendor”)

    4. At all times, but particularly in the last two centuries, the Popes, whether individually or together with the College of Bishops, have developed and proposed a moral teaching regarding the many different spheres of human life. In Christ’s name and with his authority they have exhorted, passed judgment and explained. In their efforts on behalf of humanity, in fidelity to their mission, they have confirmed, supported and consoled. With the guarantee of assistance from the Spirit of truth they have contributed to a better understanding of moral demands in the areas of human sexuality, the family, and social, economic and political life. In the tradition of the Church and in the history of humanity, their teaching represents a constant deepening of knowledge with regard to morality.8

    Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church’s moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied. In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church’s moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church’s moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to “exhort consciences” and to “propose values”, in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices.

    In particular, note should be taken of the lack of harmony between the traditional response of the Church and certain theological positions, encountered even in Seminaries and in Faculties of Theology, with regard to questions of the greatest importance for the Church and for the life of faith of Christians, as well as for the life of society itself. In particular, the question is asked: do the commandments of God, which are written on the human heart and are part of the Covenant, really have the capacity to clarify the daily decisions of individuals and entire societies? Is it possible to obey God and thus love God and neighbour, without respecting these commandments in all circumstances? Also, an opinion is frequently heard which questions the intrinsic and unbreakable bond between faith and morality, as if membership in the Church and her internal unity were to be decided on the basis of faith alone, while in the sphere of morality a pluralism of opinions and of kinds of behaviour could be tolerated, these being left to the judgment of the individual subjective conscience or to the diversity of social and cultural contexts.

    5. Given these circumstances, which still exist, I came to the decision — as I announced in my Apostolic Letter Spiritus Domini, issued on 1 August 1987 on the second centenary of the death of Saint Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori — to write an Encyclical with the aim of treating “more fully and more deeply the issues regarding the very foundations of moral theology”,9 foundations which are being undermined by certain present day tendencies.


  26. JamesM says:

    I am afraid I believe Footnote 351 is the Kasper proposal made part of the Franciscan magisterium.

    Reading it, it doesn’t take much work to see how it can be interpreted in this way. It also wouldn’t take a theologian of renown to spot this. As the Holy Father is a man of some intelligence, surely we must believe that he knew when writing it that this could be interpreted in such a manner?

    How difficult would it have been to clarify that this does not mean that those who are not divorced and civilly remarried can receive Holy Communion? I can’t see how any of us can not see the ambiguity as intentional. It is surely error by omission if not by commission?

  27. Maltese says:

    @Gerhard: nice, short, concise statement. A Pope’s place isn’t necessarily to tell people all the different ways they may be damned, but I think his place should be to tell his flock of the reality of sin–isn’t it the Church’s mission to be a hospital for the sick, and not just a meeting place for the well? Al does well to tell us we are all accepted (at least those who seek treatment), and not to be rejected, but I think it toes the line of moral relativism too closely.

    I think we, as Catholics, are getting too entrenched into legalism, and have lost our mystical vision of the eternal Trinity. I would like to remind readers of Saint John Paul II’s exhortation: “The FIRST NEED [emphasis added] of Catholics is to be familiar with the ancient tradition [of the Eastern Church] so as to be nourished by it.”

    We see “through a glass darkly” [1 Cor. 13:12], and so we have to enter the “Cloud of Unknowing” in Christ, in pure faith, which I think the East does very well in submitting to Christ in pure faith.

    Instead of helping us meditate on Christ more fully, my own personal opinion is that Al (beautifully written though it is) diminishes us into a moribund contemplation of the situational status of gays and unlawfully remarried Catholics.

  28. Maltese says:

    We should all read Saint John Paul II’s letter, Orientale Lumen (OL; Vatican Press, May 2, 1995) closely in these darkening days. Because our faith is broader than pastoral care–it’s existentially about the first thing young people read in Catechism class: love of our eternal God. What I see happening now is a distraction away from that central reality.

  29. xsosdid says:

    Maybe I need correction here, but if both “camps” see this as a win, and it seems to me that they do, then what we have is a defeat for clarity, precision and certainty, which is the entire point of a magisterium, and therefore we have a hierarchy officially giving in to apostasy.

  30. jacobi says:

    The article is vintage Catholic Herald, my “local paper ” if you wish. It starts with due praise and then raises the question of what the Pope actually thinks of Kasperism.

    The solution to those in irregular marriage situations already exists. It does not include the reception of Holy Communion, but this is not mentioned by the CH.

    One might ask, and I certainly do, why in these troubled times there is so much focus on irregular marriages. All Catholics have Crosses to bear, and an increasing number of Crosses. There is no exclusion at present by the Church for those in irregular marriages or for anyone else in positions of mortal sin. They exclude themselves.

    The real problem is that the Holy Father does not explicitly condemn the essence of Kasperism which is that some in mortal sin (and that is not just irregular marriages) may receive Holy Communion.

    So could Pope Francis possibly be in that category of Popes such as Liberius, or Vigilius, or
    Honorius or even ,self-admittedly, Peter?

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