More Musings on #AmorisLaetitiae and a ‘Statement” from great #confccb priests

Now that the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (P-SAE) Amoris Laetitia is settling in, I have few more observations.

First, “left” and “right” have reacted predictably.   We are challenged by the P-SAE in different ways.   The P-SAE doesn’t change Catholic doctrine, though some will claim that it does.  If the RIGHT, conservatives and traditionalists are now challenged to an even more compassionate approach to all who need pastoral care (I’m not saying thereby that they aren’t already compassionate – that’s just a canard), the LEFT, liberals, are now challenged by Pope Francis actually to embrace Catholic teaching and conform their pastoral approaches to it (and I am saying that they often don’t – and that’s just a fact).  Among other things, Amoris Laetitia is at least a call to liberals to fidelity to the Church’s teachings and to abandon dissent!  On this point Amoris Laetitia could cause some division in the catholic Left.  Some are more honest than others, after all. Those pastors of souls who aren’t, who dissent from clear Catholic doctrine both in the pulpit and in pastoral practice after this Exhortation will probably wind up in the deep cinders of Hell.  There.  I said it.

Second, the P-SAE Amoris Laetitia doesn’t change doctrine.  I don’t think, pace Jesuits, it develops doctrine either.  However, despite the fact that it doesn’t change Catholic teaching, most people – including the divorced and civilly remarried – reading garbage MSM will see headlines like “Pope Francis, Urging Less Judgment, Signals Path for Divorced on Communion” and “Pope to church: Be more accepting of divorced Catholics, gays and lesbians” and then perhaps hear loopy rubbish on Sunday (if they still go to Mass more than four times a year).  They will be left with the conclusion that the Church has changed its teaching on homosexuality and will think that it is okay to go to Communion.  There isn’t much that we can do about that.  What to do? We have to be clear in our own little spheres of influence about what Amoris Laetitia says and doesn’t say.

Third, I am contemplating the nature of the P-SAE itself.  I wrestled with this after Evangelii gaudium.  It is not an Encyclical Letter, which is a pretty weighty type of papal teaching instrument about faith and morals.   It is not an Apostolic Letter, which, either Motu Proprio or not, can either be doctrinal in nature or juridical.  It is not just an Apostolic Exhortation out of the blue, but rather it is a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.  As such, it is closely attached to the acta of the Synods that took place on the announced topic, the family.  An exhortatio is “an encouragement”.  If it is true to its nature as a P-SAE, then Amoris Laetitia “exhorts” more than anything.  I now consider myself duly “exhorted”… “encouraged”.  Pope Francis is pushing, exhorting, encouraging me to go in a particular direction.  When Popes exhort, we listen.  We Catholics must give assent to the Ordinary Magisterium. There are, however, levels of teaching and levels of teaching instruments.  There levels of documents but any level of document can be the instrument of a definitive or even infallible teaching, so long as the language is clear.  That said, a P-SAE isn’t all that weighty in itself.  It’s a fairly low level document intended to “exhort” and it is closely aligned to the Synod it remarks on.  The quality of the arguments and teachings are another matter and they must be given due consideration.

Meanwhile, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in the UK issued a good statement about Amoris Laetitia.  I know some of the organizers of the CCC/UK  They are fine men, good priests, and friends.  My emphaes.

Statement of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in response to the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia

The priests and deacons of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in England and Wales affirm with the Holy Father, in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the unchanging teaching of Christ and His Church regarding marriage, the family, and human sexuality.  They renew their pledge to continue to follow the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who acts with great clemency towards sinners, but also with pastoral clarity: ‘Go and sin no more’. (John 8:11)

Our members are heartened that the Exhortation calls for a return to the wisdom of Humanae Vitae (82), defence of the ‘inalienable rights’ of the unborn child (83), re-affirmation of the role of parents as the primary educators of their children (84), and warning of an encroaching ‘gender ideology’ (56).  In response to the Holy Father’s call, the Confraternity’s members particularly pledge themselves to work for better and more profound marriage preparation and accompaniment, and clearer, unashamed and more positive articulation of the good news of the joy of human love.

At a time when moral relativism has caused such confusion, the Confraternity recognises the need to work with pastoral sensitivity, guided by the consistent principles of Scripture and Tradition, and will help its members to discern wisely how to help individuals hurt by the crisis in marriage and family life of which the Holy Father speaks.  Those in irregular unions are a particular focus of pastoral concern, and need to be brought closer to Christ and his Church.  Confraternity clergy will continue to encourage those in problematic marital circumstances to move forward, by personal discernment in the light of the Gospel, and to deepen their involvement in the life of the Church, without losing sight of the fact that certain situations constitute objective and public states of sin.  The Church’s pastors must never neglect the call to repentance, and the need to avoid scandal which would cause the weak to fall, while accompanying their people with kindness and understanding.

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  1. greenlight says:

    Aren’t you ignoring the fundamental criticism, that document is intended to be misread? [I have ignored nothing. However, your planet’s yellow sun doesn’t give me psychic powers.] That it is intentionally ambiguous about the issue that it was really supposed to address? [I don’t think I neglected to point out that it is vague. It could be that many of the things that are vague and ambiguous are so because the people who wrote it just aren’t very good at writing. I don’t rule that out as a factor.] Yes, the “left” and the “right” can see what they want to see, that’s always been the case. [Yes. That’s a point I have made several times.] If someone sees what they want to see in, say, something B16 wrote then that’s on them because he was always clear and lucid. Here, paragraph 3 and footnote 351 (at least) seem carefully crafted to encourage innovation and deviation without actually contradicting church doctrine.

    This idea of saying “Thank you Holy Father! We will indeed strive to be more orthodox, just like you suggested!” may be the right move tactically, but it does seem pretty passive/aggressive. [Passive/aggressive? It seems to me that that is what Catholics do: we give respect and deference to the Vicar of Christ when he tries to teach. I – a Catholic priest – who made public promises to give assent to the Ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff – am perfectly content to affirm everything in this low-level document (a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is a low-level document) that expresses Catholic teaching and to be urged and exhorted by the Successor of Peter however ably or ineptly, and, in turn, set aside what is not relevant to Catholic doctrine.]

  2. GypsyMom says:

    Thank you, Father, for such a fair and even-handed analysis of this document. It calms so many fears. I always expect a liberal spin from the MSM on anything on anything related to this papacy–as the Geico commercial says, “It’s what you do.” What I find so difficult is the what comes from the Catholic blogosphere. It is always harder when you don’t quite see eye to eye with your own allies.

  3. Maineman1 says:

    Matthew 5:37/ “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

    This entire document was deeply unnecessary, as were the two Synods on the Family. Changing doctrine isn’t the point, Fr. Z; this is the bland retort of the Jimmy Akins and other Catholic Answers apologists of the world. The point is to distort praxis in order to cause disarray in Faith.

    Let me ask you: could the Protestant Reformers intentionally misconstrue the documents of the Council of Trent in order to promote Protestant doctrines?

  4. Lisa Graas says:

    As a Passionist and as a divorced and celibate Catholic, I am very disturbed by the Holy Father’s use of the term “irresistible passions” and his expounding on that. Can you please write something to encourage me? Thank you.

    [Look at its context in 273. He is talking about “real freedom”, which is “limited and conditioned”. There are those do not try to get their passions under control. For them, after a while, those passions become irresistible. They have no discipline or, much less, virtues to check their passions. All their habits are vicious.]

  5. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Fr. Z.,

    I think you are reading the document correctly. It is interesting that the only MSM source, “USA Today,” that I have noticed to have actually called around to both progressive and traditional Catholic voices has the headline “Celebration, confusion, dismay over pope’s words.” Here is link:

    Those expressing dismay in the piece are mostly “progressives”; those expressing “celebration” are mostly “traditionals.” And they seem to know what is really in the document. I don’t find anyone expressing much “confusion,” except perhaps the MSM reporter who was probably expecting those celebrating and dismayed to be the other way around.

  6. murtheol says:

    A friend said the Pope said to do what feels right. Here we go. Anything goes.

    [Alas, I’m afraid that that is the take-away for the ill-informed and the less-than-bright.]

  7. arga says:

    I have to agree with greenlight’s criticism of Fr. Z’s comment. There is no justifying a document that — once again — seems deliberately to surround matters of dogma with ambiguity and uncertainty, encouraging experimentation and even deviance from the truth. The document is windy, contradictory, and confusing. We all know what the pope’s job is when it comes to preaching the truth, and nothing could be more obvious than that this pope isn’t doing his job, and it’s not because he isn’t competent to do so.

  8. Papabile says:

    Father, respectfully, I find it hard to reconcile this Apostolic Exhoration with what came before it.

    In fact, I find the approach of the Confraternity to be somewhat disingenuous, because it appears to me that they are engaged in proof-texting their position (which happens to be the Church’s constant magisterial teaching until yesterday) while very obviously ignoring the overall intent of it.

    I trust they are a very doctrinal solid Confraternity, but I see no way to square the circle on this. In particular, I see actual inversions of previous magisterial statements, not the least, footnote 329.

    [They pointed out some good points that have been lost in all the gargling about the Letter.]

  9. LeeF says:

    What I will be interested in as time goes by, is how individual priests intend to put this into practice pastorally. [*sigh*]

    For example, I would think that a divorced and remarried couple should already have attempted to get an annulment. If not, then direct them there.

    Next, the couple should be open to having children, i.e. no artificial birth control, or the “discernment process” stops right there since they obviously don’t have a mature understanding of marriage meaning their current marriage could not meet the ideal even if it were a first marriage. Same thing with educating their children as to chastity before marriage, etc.

    Thus all the points of the P-SAE have to be considered as a whole instead of rushing to the checkout counter for a return to communion.

  10. McCall1981 says:

    Fr Z, would you be willing to comment on this? Two John Paul II Institute professors say that the mitigating factors that lessen culpability mentioned in Amoris Laetitia would not apply to the inability to receive communion. The inability to receive communion is based on the person’s objective state, not their subjective culpability, so those passages in the text cannot be referring to communion. Is this true?

    [Would that I had time to look at everything people try to send me to. However, based on your question, the ability to receive Communion is based on both subjective culpability and one’s objective state. That is to say, if you know that you are truly guilty of committing a sin that, objectively speaking is grave matter, then you must not go to Communion. However, even if you think that you might not be guilty for the sin committed because of some mitigating factor (you were compelled, afraid, etc.), and people know about the objective sin, it would be good to abstain from Communion to avoid scandal, until your public situation can be remedied. Remember: it is not obligatory to go to Communion ever time you go to Mass.]

  11. joan ellen says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for making the document distinctions, especially for those of us who never really learned them.

    Inside the Vatican has a link to the whole document. with Chapter 4.

    It says to me: 1. Stay in your family. 2. Return to your family. 3. If not able to return, accept & pray.

    Chapter 4 inspires me enough to want to read more of Pope Francis…especially in this document.

  12. chantgirl says:

    The devil is in the details. I don’t think there is a way to honestly read portions of Amoris and square them with prior Catholic teaching. Socci notes that the “brother and sister arrangement” is not mentioned in the document save to dismiss it in marginal note (n.329).

    To suggest that abstaining from adulterous sexual relations would provoke unfaithfulness and harm children is evil and a slap in the face to those couples who have done so. At no.186, Amoris turns upside-down the biblical and long-held understanding of what it means to be in the state of grace in order to receive communion.

    Ed Peters discusses other problems :

    James V. Schall, S.J. discusses the practical consequences of the exhortation:

    St. Corbinian’s Bear discusses the problems of devolving unspecified “doctrinal, moral, or pastoral issues” to unspecified local church areas:

    In the exhortation I find no mercy for abandoned spouses. I find no mercy for children of first marriages. I find no mercy for those trying to live as brother-sister. I find no mercy for priests, who are really on the receiving end of the mess of the exhortation. They will be the ones having to uphold church teaching in the confessional and at the communion line while people throw the Pope’s words back at them. Finally, I find no mercy for the sinners who could rise to the occasion and live chastely if only they were encouraged, or for those who go up to receive communion and eat to their own damnation.

  13. Sonshine135 says:

    I certainly agree that the statement from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy in the UK is a good one. I think they nail the spirit of the document in a comprehensive fashion. We cannot help those “c”atholics that get their understanding of the faith from CNN outside of praying for them and correcting them gently with facts when they state the obvious inaccuracies.

  14. Maltese says:

    I think it goes without saying that since Vatican II was not a dogmatic Council, this “exhortation” is in no way dogmatic (except where it reaffirms past dogma.) But, ironically, as one who used to vehemently criticize Vatican II, I have come to deeply appreciate portions of that Council. It large part because of it’s attempts at rapprochement with the Easter church. I think, in P-SAE, our Holy Father is trying to grapple with a drastically changing world, as Vatican II tried to do too. He wants the Church to seem as amenable to the modern world, as Vatican II tried to accomplish. But my own view is that the more the Church accommodates, or tries to accommodate, the world, the less relevant it really becomes. The world has always viewed the Church as staunch, strident, and steadfast, but now it is becoming a limp-noodle, and more-and-more palpable to modern tastes. Is that what we want it to be? Was Christ a limp-noodle palpable and palatable to modern tastes? Is that what He died for?

  15. R Morrison says:

    As the only Catholic in my family, I often find myself explaining the “hard teachings” of the Church, such as those relating to divorce. For better or worse, I generally begin with the concepts of Sanctifying Grace, Mortal Sin and the Sacraments. It seems that these concepts are important here, to say the least. It seems as well that their only explicit mention in the exhortation occurs in paragraph 301: “For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can 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. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.” What does this mean? What does the “solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations” tell us about whether one is in a state of mortal sin? The pope suggests that something has changed – “it can no longer be simply said . . .” – but I’m having difficulty connecting the logic dots here.

  16. St. Michael P.F.U. says:

    Thank you all of your posts recently as they have been helpful and I appreciate the CCC/UK statement which is very good

    two questions:
    (1) para. 303 is a difficult one for me because it comes close to being an example where the pope is in error. I know to understand what he is saying we take this in context of the hermeneutics of continuity but my question – is this an error? (Just the thought baffles me though as there should be protection of infallibility here.)

    (2) Is it just me or throughout the document is there a loss of an emphasis on the power that grace can have in a person’s life? Several times he seems to lower the bar for humanity mentioning certain ways of living as being merely an “ideal”, seeming to suggest this ideal cannot be reached by many. (Para 122,303,305)
    This seems to contradict John Paul II’s 1993 Encyclical Veritatis Splendor: “It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question…”
    But then he seems to contradict himself in para 307 mentioning that the ideal is possible with grace. Your thoughts?

    Thank you

  17. Christ_opher says:

    Thank you Father Z for taking the time to WDTPRS = What did the Pope really say. Have a great Sunday.

    [Alas, I fear thta our work has only begun.]

  18. ThankyouB16 says:

    Wow. Thank you, dear Father in Faith.

    I foolishly have been reading (“first”–important qualification) more “traditional leaning” sites and keeping an eye on what Fr. Martin and America have been producing: in the hopes of seeing “how bad it all can be” by listening to “the extremes.” The net result is that I have been upset and angry and personally forlorn. I should have avoided “the media” and stayed with my OWN reading of AL and Francis, and should have stuck to EWTN/AVE MARIA RADIO (Al Kresta had Ed Peters, Fr. Fessio, and a GREAT line-up of very reasonable and somewhat critical analysis of AL)…and YOU, Fr. Z, as the most important voice commentator out there.

    You are such an important voice to the “traditionalist” who wants to be sans-rancor, disdain, and sarcasm when it comes to our Holy Father, Vatican II, etc.

    All of us: re-read father’s words; then try the link for some good listening: Fr. Fessio; Ed Peters; et. al.

    [I don’t want to pour Lyle’s Golden Syrup all over this Letter. It has problems and some of those problems are not small. However, the challenge that the Letter presents is real. I choose the challenge even while I stare the problems square in the face.]

  19. DeGaulle says:

    Father Z, I haven’t read the document (I am weak) and so I rely on the summaries of people I trust, like yourself. Therefore, I can offer only a very general view. I have reconciled myself to the possibility we may not have a very good pope at the moment-this has happened often before, we are just after coming off a good run-but still maintain my loyalty to Pope Francis and the chair he occupies. However, if Pope Francis truly is the champion of the aging liberals (and I’m not too sure of that, either), he must be turning out to be an awful disappointment for their hopes. Kasper said this was to be the biggest thing for seventeen centuries-what a damp squib! Hyperbole aside, this exhortation may have been the last best shot for his like. They must be utterly disillusioned and their time is running out fast. There don’t seem to be as many liberals among the younger hierarchy or they’re just very quiet-I hope I am right.

    On the other hand, although there are nasty ambiguities, I haven’t found my own worst fears nearly realised. Actually, I am surprised at the line drawn for the natural family. This only encourages me.

    [Give the document some of your reading time.]

  20. Binker67 says:

    I hope the Confraternity of Catholic Priests in Great Britain feel confident that their Bishop’s Conference, meeting this week, won’t pull the doctrinal rug from under them in how they interpret AL.
    I have great concerns for the continued unity of the Church with how different Bishop’s Conferences around the world use AL.
    Both Holy Gospel readings in the Vetus and Novas Ordo’s of Mass for this Sunday cry out to us all at this time.

  21. Don’t you know heresy when you see it?

    “Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members. This is what it means to “discern” the body of the Lord, to acknowledge it with faith and charity both in the sacramental signs and in the community”

    That has never been the way to interpret 1 Corinithians 11:27-29, which is all about denying Holy Communion to anyone in the state or mortal sin.

    “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!”

    Really? Isn’t hell forever? Aren’t some souls in hell? [Francis often talks about the Devil and confession. I think he believes in Hell, which is forever. While I, too, found that statement to be poorly expressed, and the Letter is rife with poor writing, it seems to me that he is talking about human agents condemning, not the eternal fate of Hell. Indeed, by that logic, that Hell isn’t forever, perhaps heaven might not be either, which is absurd.]

  22. “thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. ”

    Wrong. Receiving Mercy IS conditional, conditional on repentance. But Francis has always wanted to push Mercy and suppress Divine Justice. The unmerited part is right, but half-truths are lies.

  23. “Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth”. This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.”

    Francis denies that it is impossible [um… did you mean… “possible”?] to avoid mortal sin, such as adultery, sodomy, fornication (living together) etc. He claims to avoid the wrong use of gradualism but he uses it nonetheless. Of course those nasty words are never used but instead “irregular unions.” Suppress even the talk of sin.

    [What you quoted from Amoris laetitia doesn’t support what you wrote. Perhaps it is elsewhere in the Letter, but that quote doesn’t say what you said.]

  24. martin.c says:

    Dear Father, the more I read the P-SAE, the more I am convinced: AL305 with its infamous footnote 351 allows pastors to give Holy Communion and absolution to a person in an objective and public state of sin, if they can “discern” in his/her situation “mitigating factors”, such as “difficulty in understanding” the “inherent values” of the “rule”, or being in a “concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently” (i.e., a situation which doesn’t allow them to stop committing adultery).

    This is the interpretation which reflects the “mens legislatoris”, the one which legitimizes what liberal priests all over the world have been doing for decades… and unless we all realize it and do something serious about it, it will be the one which will be implemented all over the world, the one which good priests and bishops will be sooner or later forced to implement.

  25. Pingback: Father Z Answers My Question About Amoris Laetitia And “irresistible Passion” | Lisa Graas

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