Our Lord Jesus Christ wills”—The Correctors boldly claim this final and seventh heresy is to be found in Amoris Laetitia—“that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.”
Hmm. Now, I have refuted all the other charges of heresy the filial ones have made against the Holy Father. And you will recall, dear reader, I often had the difficulty in finding out exactly where in the text of Amoris Laetitia they think they find those notions. This is because they do sloppy work. They never say, “Well, heresy 3 is to be found in paragraph 297 in these words.” No. And thus I find the same trouble with supposed heresy 7. I find no passage in Amoris Laetitia—certainly not the passages quoted by the filial ones as smoking guns of some sort—where Pope Francis invokes the will of Christ or says anything about the Church “abandoning its perennial discipline” with regard to the Eucharist. Search for yourself.
Is it in §295? Here the pope discusses the Law of Gradualness, which in fact was taught by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio 34. The filial ones have no problem with FC.
“Oh, but Alt!” you will say. “St. John Paul II denies that this is a “gradualness of the law” as though there is a different law for different people!” Sure. And Pope Francis says the very same thing; and The Correctors include that wery part. “This is not a ‘gradualness of law,'” the pope says.
Is it in §296? Here Pope Francis says that the way of the Church has always been the way of reinstatement and not casting off forever. You would have to do a very labored job of reading into in order to presume that the pope somehow means that there are no conditions for reinstatement and former disciplines are defunct.
On the other hand, reading into, as opposed to reading, is a huge problem, I find.
Is it in §297? “No one can be condemned forever,” the pope says. “That is not the logic of the Gospel.” Again, watch out for reading into.
Is it in §298? The pope begins by noting that the divorced and remarried find themselves in a variety of situations, which can not all be rigidly classified as though all such persons are in mortal sin.
Now, that seems to me to be self-evident. Or at least, it ought to be. There are obstinate legalists in the Church these days, I know. Be that as it may, you have to do a good deal of reading into to conclude that §298 tells us anything about what Christ wills, or about sacramental discipline. That discussion is not there. The pope only goes as far as saying that pastors must “carefully discern situations.”
Well, what about §299? There, the pope says that he agrees with many of the Synod fathers, who believed that the baptized who are in irregular unions ought to participate in the Church “in the variety of ways possible.” They are not “excommunicated,” says the pope.
Well, now, “excommunicated” and “barred from the Eucharist” are not in fact the same thing. Dr. Ed Peters tells us as much when he points out that there has never been an excommunication against the divorced and remarried. That’s “fake canon law,” says Dr. Peters. So we are talking about two separate things here; and when Pope Francis says, “They are not excommunicated,” he is pointing out what has always been the case. He changes nothing about Eucharistic discipline.
A second point here is that the pope says that the divorced and remarried should take part in the life of the Church “in the varieties of ways possible.” By pointing that out, isn’t he implying that some ways are not possible?
Do the filial ones find this heresy in §300? The pope says here that, through discernment, one could realize no grave fault exists; and footnote 336 adds: “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.”
It’s very difficult to know what can be read into this. (This is one reason I have said the pope should answer the dubia, but I hardly go so far as to identify heresies in Amoris Laetitia.) For one thing, the pope does not invoke “the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ” or any such words; and according to the wording from the filial ones, the heresy is that the pope claims sacramental changes to be Christ’s will. So that’s one problem.
Second, the pope is talking about “particular situations” in a context that would imply exceptions, not a change in normative practice. Nor is a change in practice being mandated here. Odd indeed would it be for a pope to do any such thing in a footnote in an exhortation.
Third, to find this particular heresy here, the filial ones would have to assume that the “particular situations” the pope has in mind involve people who express no contrition or purpose of amendment. But here the “reading into” problem arises again. Pope Francis does not say that. In fact, let’s go back again to §297 and recall to our minds a passage the filial ones do not mention:
Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.
This is where the pope seems to be addressing people who show no contrition or purpose of amendment; and in their case, he says they are “separated from the community” and need to “listen … to the Gospel” and its “call to conversion.” It sure does not sound like the pope is suggesting handing out the Eucharist to the obstinate and unrepentant.
Or is the heresy in §301? The pope notes here that not everyone in an irregular union is necessarily in a state of mortal sin. And we’ve visited this before. It’s a reiteration of §298. Been there, refuted that. This is just an observation, a premise. You can’t conclude from it that the pope believes some wild thing unless the pope, you know, says that wild thing. Reading into, remember?
Is it in §303? Probably not, since The Correctors already seem to have taken up this passage with one of their earlier charges of heresy, and I addressed it here.
Is it in §304? I sure can’t find it there. In this paragraph, the pope is exegeting St. Thomas Aquinas’s view that there are always exceptions to general principles the more one “descends to matters of detail.” And unless you are a legalist, this is common sense. If your sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, you would get it out. Nothing herein about changing Church disciplines, about people who have no contrition, or what Christ wills.
Is it in §305? Again, no. This is of a piece with §303, in which the pope observes that not everyone who is in an objectively sinful state is guilty of mortal sin. Catechism 101, dear reader; it’s in CCC 1857—and those who are not may indeed grow in grace and in charity.
Now, here of course we have footnote 351, which Raymond Arroyo once called the “smoking footnote” permitting communion for the divorced and remarried: “In some cases this can include the help of the sacraments.”
“In some cases”—which? It “can include”—must it? The pope does not say. It’s natural to say, “Your Holiness, can you clarify?” It’s impertinent to say, “Heretic!” And the pope does not say here, “The will of Christ is,” which the filial ones claim. He does not say, “I even mean for those who are not contrite,” which the filial ones claim. He does not say, “I even mean those who express no purpose of amendment,” which the filial ones claim. The pope simply does not give us enough information in order to make those judgments. That may be cause to ask for clarity, but it is not cause to make a charge of heresy.
But is it in §308? Here the pope does make a claim about what he thinks Jesus wants. But note that he does not say that Jesus wants the Church to abandon former disciplines for those who express no contrition. What does the pope say Jesus wants? He
wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”
Well, of course the Holy Spirit “sows good in the midst of human weakness.” That’s what grace is. And note that the pope affirms that the Church must always “express her objective teaching.” And that the Church “does what good she can.” To say that at all implies the Church can’t do all things. The pope speaks generally here and one can’t say (for again it would be reading into, not reading) that Christ’s desire for the Church to be attentive to good in the midst of weakness implies abandoning “perennial disciplines,” as the filial ones claim. It’s just not there.
So where does the pope say that it is the will of Christ that the Church “abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.”
He doesn’t. The filial ones read it into the text. Their whole “correction,” in fact, is one massive exercise in reading into. But it’s not there.
And then there were none.