A Dominican Thomist examines the claim that “Amoris laetitia” is “Thomistic”

Aquinas_AmorisThis is really important.

I’ve been waiting for a Dominican well-versed in Thomas to examine the claim that Amoris laetitia is a “Thomistic” document and/or that it makes good use of the Angelic Doctor’s words.

At LifeSite find an examination by Father Thomas Crean, O.P., who has serious credentials.

I think what he wrote settles the issue.

I suggest that you print it out.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Not a Thomistic document. Why, dare I ask, would some claim that it is, when the idea is quite simply false?

  2. andreags says:

    I think it would be misleading to give the impression that there isn’t other Dominicans, well versed as well, who has a positive view on Amoris Laetitia. [So what? THIS Dominican has made the best examination of the use of Thomas in AL.] Please read this interview with professor Thomas Michelet op. at the Angelicum: http://www.famillechretienne.fr/eglise/vie-de-l-eglise/correction-filiale-les-accusations-d-heresie-ne-sont-pas-fondees-225878

  3. andreags says:

    When the master of studies Dom Basile Valuet at Barroux ( hardly a liberal…) has published a long refutation in the Thomist Revue “la Revue Thomist” showing that there is nothing revolutionary in Amoris Laetitia, it seems reasonable to conclude that the issue is not settled Father

  4. Lurker 59 says:

    Thank you Father.

    Father Crean’s piece is really quite level headed. The various responses that I have seen regarding AL from Thomists tend towards a direct “no”, but this piece explains how it might be possible that some might find AL Thomistic and then refutes those positions. This is a great service to the Church and should be, as you said, printed out.

    The piece linked to by andreags, even with my paltry French skills and leaning on Google Translate, is not an address of the topic at hand of the Thomistic qualities of AL not in the slightest. It is not even a refutation of the premises that there is something wrong with AL as that requires accurately stating the contrarian position and then giving evidence that refutes. It is more about the prudence of refuting AL than anything.

    Back to the topic at hand — Of great service here is Fr. Crean’s pointing out how AL inverts the universal and the particular in order of precedence. Doing so has dire consequences and that AL does so allows one to say that not only is AL not Thomistic, but also not Aristotelian nor Platonist. Focusing in on the epistemological structure of AL, even if Fr. Crean does so indirectly, allows us to start getting into deeper questions. Though the question of “does AL allow or require that the non-annulled divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist?” is an important question, the questions of what are the metaphysical and epistemological underpinning of AL are starting to be looked at.

    Any document is Catholic not because a priest wrote it nor that it quotes a lot from scripture or the Fathers. Rather it is Catholic because it presents a Catholic metaphysics understood and applied by a Catholic epistemology.

  5. Pingback: Amoris Laetitia is ‘ambiguous,’ ‘not a Thomistic document’: Filial Correction signatory - News for Catholics

  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Perhaps the Dominicans should have a good ol’ fashioned Disputation.

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    Head-fake. What do you mean by “revolutionary”? In any event, the Dominican quoted here didn’t say that it was revolutionary, merely that it wasn’t a Thomist document.

  8. Fr. Kelly says:

    I don’t think that either Fr. Z or Fr. Thomas Crean are basing their arguments on the fact that Fr. Crean is Dominican. After all, so is Cardinal Schonborn.

    Rather Fr. Crean’s statement stands on the basis of the things he pointed out — the quotations of St. Thomas out of context and to support positions that he did not and would not hold.

    St. Thomas is very clear on the fact that those in unrepentant mortal sin are to refrain from receiving Holy Communion cf for example, ST III Q.80, a.4

    To try to insist that St. Thomas would support the reception of Holy Communion by those living in a state of unrepentant sin seems disingenuous at best. Pace andreags, it does not seem “reasonable to conclude that the issue is not settled”

  9. Benedict Joseph says:

    A picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
    You have made my day.
    God reward you!

  10. graytown says:

    “Disingenuous at best”-
    Thank you Fr Kelly.
    The fact that the writings of this great saint would be intentionally twisted is frightening.
    Where are we headed ?

  11. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    @andreags: In the link you provided, Fr. Michelet, O.P., does not offer an analysis of AL with respect to its Thomistic qualities and he does not provide a refutation of the arguments in the Correctio Filialis. He does give us a fair amount of hand-waving, irrelevant history, shrugs, and facile assurances. I think we can fairly place him in the group described by Cardinal Sarah in his book La Force du Silence, who always told the mistress when she inquired about matters on the estate, “Tout va bien, Madame!” “All is well!” The Cardinal was talking about the false shepherds in the Church who refuse to recognize the serious problems we have.

  12. Antiquorum says:

    Great read. How many people will actually go to the effort to look up the actual passages that AL quotes? I need to pick up a copy of the Summa and a good commentary.

    It’s outrageous that they would misuse the good doctor’s writings to allow mortal sin.

  13. Aquinas Gal says:

    I always thought that in some places, AL takes St Thomas out of context. Some of it seems so obvious, it’s hard for me to believe that the authors of the document really didn’t realize that. As Fr Crean says of one instance at least, it’s truly bizarre.

  14. iamlucky13 says:

    All the rest of his critiques aside, Fr. Crean does point out that Amoris Laetitia at times draw on St. Thomas’s discussions of morality and culpability, which I think was the scope of Cardinal Schonborn’s intent in calling the exhortation Thomistic. So Cardinal Schonborn is not entirely off-base there.

    That is, however, a rather narrow meaning of Thomistic.

    And the whole question is a bit of a distraction from the question of what Amoris Laetitia gets right versus what needs to be treated carefully due to ambiguity or proximity to potentially heretical interpretations. Identifying parallels to some of St. Thomas’ writings does not validate the exhortation.

    Identifying consistency with the theological and moral principles St. Thomas helped the church develop can potentially validate it on the other hand. Unsurprisingly, that’s where Fr. Crean devotes most of his effort responding, because as he says, “In regard to misleading uses of St. Thomas, there are minor and major examples.”

  15. ususantiquor says:

    I have not been able to find Valuet’s piece in Revue Thomiste, but in a 2016 interview in La Nef (link below) he clearly says that a clarification from the Pope is necessary. He was, at least then, aware of serious issues with granting absolution to divorced and remarried couples who continue their sexual activity once their malformed consciences are corrected.


  16. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Thank you for posting the link Padre . . . well worth the read.

  17. Poor Yorek says:

    I think we can fairly place him in the group described by Cardinal Sarah in his book La Force du Silence, who always told the mistress when she inquired about matters on the estate, “Tout va bien, Madame!” “All is well!”

    Huh. Always thought that was Kevin Bacon’s line in Animal House ! :-)

    A Dominican whose opinion on “Thomasticity” I would value is Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P., S.T.D.

  18. TonyO says:

    Right, the article linked by andreags is pointless, attacking a straw man. Neither Fr. Crean nor the Correctio call AL “heretical”, for instance.

    And AL, standing on its own, probably is not heretical. One can read it to say:
    a) because of defects in knowledge or of consent, a person might be committing adultery but not be in a state of mortal sin.
    b) a person committing adultery but not in a state of mortal sin , if he receives communion, receives grace and strengthening of the soul.
    c) we should want such persons receiving grace and strength.

    But both JPII and Benedict agreed that a person who is in the state of grace but was living what had the outward appearance of “manifest grave sin”, namely, seeming cohabitation and the formation of a union of the whole life, could not receive communion unless scandal is prevented. Scandal can be prevented, for example, if they don’t receive in the Mass with everyone else, but separately go to the sacristy later after Mass and receive alone. This assumes that the outward appearance (that they continue to live in the same house) gives false testimony to the reality, which is that they have chosen to live as brother and sister.

    The unnecessary, confusing, and problematic silence is that AL – and the implementations after that seem to be approved – fail to ask the following question, or even to leave room for it: If a couple divorced and remarried (without an annulment) were previously in a state of grace due to a grave defect in their knowledge of the moral condition of their adultery, and they go to the priest to “discern” their situation, the priest might well discern that they have been so far living in a state of grace due to the defect in their knowing. THEN WHAT? The priest will then TELL them what they need to know, so that they can no longer point to ignorance to be the reason their adultery is not bringing about a state of mortal sin. If, at that point, they continue to live as if married, when they know it is wrong and matter for mortal sin, then they no longer are in a state of grace. And the priest, knowing that they have rejected correcting their lives, knows that they are in a state of mortal sin (so far as his priestly right and duty to “bind” goes), and must not give them communion, after all. All the talk of “discernment” avoids and obscures the also necessary duty of teaching.

    The second unnecessary ambiguity is the Pope’s seeming to say yes and no at the same time: on the one hand, he insisted that AL did not change any rules – even though he could have changed canon 915 if he chose to. On the other, he seems to intend that pastors reverse the presumption that goes into the usual working of 915: if a couple that is known to be divorced and remarried and is outwardly living the life of cohabitation, the presumption of the canon is such that they are to be denied public communion (though perhaps not privately if in the internal forum the priest knows they are living as brother and sister AND if scandal be prevented as above). Whereas under the Francis Effect, said couple living the life of cohabitation is to be presumed to be potentially living in a state of grace and therefore not to be censured by being denied communion. Well, you can’t have it both ways, that you don’t change the canon but you reverse the way the presumption works. One might think that Francis is claiming that due to the degeneracy of our society, one must no longer presume that a so-called “married” person understands what marriage is, and thus neither presume that a RE-married person is committing adultery. But if he wants that to control the pastor’s response about giving communion, he needs to change the canon.

  19. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Some people may prefer a bound print version of the Summa. Such are usually printed in four- volume sets, and can be pretty pricey. An free, online version is available at http://www.newadvent.org/summa/. The cool thing about the latter is that it’s searchable by using Google, entering the search term you’re interested in, and adding:

  20. JabbaPapa says:

    andreags :

    Please read this interview with professor Thomas Michelet op. at the Angelicum

    Friar Thomas doesn’t at all address the question of whether or not Amoris Laetitia might be “Thomist”.

    And he too concedes that “Certains ont cru que le pape voulait brader l’enseignement traditionnel, proposer une nouvelle conception du mariage qui ne soit plus catholique, autorisant le divorce ou la communion aux pécheurs publics” ; and “Partir du principe qu’il contredit l’enseignement traditionnel de l’Église, c’est se mettre soi-même en rupture avec la Tradition, car c’est adopter une «?herméneutique de rupture?» que partagent ceux qui veulent la Révolution dans l’Église” — which is precisely the problem that some have denounced in the way that the Exhortation has been (mis-)interpreted, and certainly mis-used by some extremist liberals.

    His position is clearly that there is a problem in how Amoris Laetitia has been received by some quarters, though he is proposing a far more cautious reaction to that fact than the signatories of some petitions have had themselves.

  21. Daniel W says:

    Dr Peters seconds Fr Kelly’s response that …
    “St. Thomas is very clear on the fact that those in unrepentant mortal sin are to refrain from receiving Holy Communion cf for example, ST III Q.80, a.4”
    AL never denies this. This superficial approach of Ed Peters and Fr Kelly indicates that they have little understanding of the issue. [And then he becomes condescending. FAIL.] The issue is whether one can absolve and give Holy Communion to those who do not commit to abstain from sinful acts involving grave matter (adultery), but where the circumstances are judged as mitigating culpability so much that even this adultery would not involve (formal) mortal sin for such persons. [Uh huh. Right.]

    Fr Crean makes a similar error, by bringing into his argument St TA’s statement: ” “Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it” (3a 80), or the identical teaching in the Scriptum (Super Sent., lib. 4 d. 9 q. 1 a. 5 qc. 1 co).”
    This statement by Aquinas is the reason why those in what the CCC calls a” situation of public and permanent adultery” were not given Holy Communion.
    StJPII broke this long tradition by allowing the “living as brother and sister” exception. [Apparently, if they are not living as husband and wife, but rather living as brother and sister, they are not living as adulterers.]

    By using the above quote in reasoning that AL is NOT Thomistic, Crean is basically saying that StJPII is NOT Thomistic either !!
    Now that’s what I call Thomist of the Strict Observance!!

    Every time I read Ed Peters on this issue, I become more grateful for the wisdom of this pope. [And, again, a personal insult at the end. FAIL.]

  22. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Willful ignorance is not an excuse the prevents the mortal gravity and personal culpability of an objectively grave matter.

    I don’t buy the “they didn’t care at all to find out so they can’t commit mortal sins” nonsense. Maybe not caring enough to find out what is a mortal sin when knowledge is immediately available is itself mortally sinful?

    What the heck is the point of spreading the Gospel to all nations if it is only a burden whose knowledge causes sinful concupiscient people to go to hell once they’ve learned what is right and wrong? The New Testament is a covenant of grace, not just knowledge of law. Why read the Catechism if it just gives us the knowledge that all out addictions and disorders are gravely sinful when before they may have just been venial through “ignorance?”

    It is not impossible for the justified to follow divine and natural law according to Trent. People are always better knowing the law and receiving God’s graces than living in perpetual darkness and ignorance. Its always better to admonish the sinner about their sin than to let them wallow in it.

    I think very few of us are truly invincibly ignorant. I think a lot of ignorance is willed because, well, people like to sin and dont want to feel guilty about it. I know thats how I lived for a long time. We want what we want. That’s willful ignorance. I mean Americans spend hours a day on the internet. Add to that the amount of time watching college and professional sports, sports commentary, HG TV, and social media that most Americans spend in a week. If they haven’t googled what the Catholic Church teaches about the basics of marriage and remarriage during the last year of Facebook wall-trolling or internet cat meme viewing then they clearly don’t care and that lack of caring about what may or may not be sinful has to be on them.

    Wherein I ranted, sorry.

  23. TomG says:

    Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda: after that performance, I say rant all you want!

  24. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Let’s keep this simple: a Catholic who doesn’t know that marriage is indisoluble, doesn’t know what adultery is, and doesn’t know that he is committing adultery, is so ignorant and uncatechised that he has no business being admitted to the Eucharist in the first place. He has flunked first grade catechism on the Sixth Commandment.

  25. TonyO says:

    The issue is whether one can absolve and give Holy Communion to those who do not commit to abstain from sinful acts involving grave matter (adultery), but where the circumstances are judged as mitigating culpability so much that even this adultery would not involve (formal) mortal sin for such persons.

    Daniel W, let’s take on that issue squarely.

    If the reason they were not culpable in the sense of mortal sin (from past acts of adultery) was due to lack of knowledge, then the priest must necessarily give them the knowledge so that now, they have no lack of knowledge that excuses from mortal sin. (A priest who declines to so educate them would commit a mortal sin himself by failing his obligation to help them get out of sin – this is very clear in the Scriptures.) If, then, they intend to persist in adultery, they cannot be absolved.

    There are a few kinds of defects of consent that could diminish culpability so that they were not in a state of mortal sin from past acts of adultery. The interesting thing is, they (the causes of mitigated guilt through diminution of free consent) do not relieve a person from intending to avoid the sin in the future. In order to be absolved, the person must at least intend to not go on committing it – even if, knowing his own weakness, he can reasonably predict he will fail. So, whatever the state of their souls in regard to earlier acts of adultery, they cannot be given absolution when the priest knows they intend to continue to commit the sin.

    Nor can the priest (knowing they intend to continue to commit adultery) give them communion at Mass. [The priest must be sure NEVER to break the Seal by acting on information he knows only from confession.] Regardless of whether they are in a state of mortal sin, or venial sin due only to a defect in consent in their earlier acts of adultery, by the mere outward fact of their continuing to cohabit and live as if married without actual marriage they would contribute to scandal by receiving communion. [Hence, my solution.] It is not the inward state of their souls in mortal sin that causes the scandal (for the scandal would be caused even if they were in venial sin due to a defect of consent), it is the manifest nature of the grave sin of adultery itself, which their outward lives attest to.

  26. KateD says:

    What a great article. Thank you Father. Printing.

  27. ususantiquor says:


    If you have a link to Dom Basile’s commentary in RT, could you share it with us. You are right: Barroux is a bastion of Tradition and if their master of studies is said to be defending AL, I would like to see it for myself in black and white. Thanks.

  28. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    Are we really supposed to believe that this is really about bringing the comfort of the Sacraments to the poor divorced and remarried, lest they feel rejected and marginalized? No, this is really about erasing the entire idea of inherent evil so as to open the door to every kind of aberrant behavior. Can anyone guess which kind of behavior will be first in line? Anyone? Anyone?

  29. JabbaPapa says:

    ususantiquor :

    While I’m not andreags …

    If you have a link to Dom Basile’s commentary in RT, could you share it with us. You are right: Barroux is a bastion of Tradition and if their master of studies is said to be defending AL, I would like to see it for myself in black and white. Thanks.

    There is no online version of the article.

    The best I’ve found is the following (French ; and quite densely packed) blog post, concerning the current political arguments between “conservatives” and “progressives” — which details some of Fr. Valuet’s positions in that article.


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