More Defenses of Amoris Laetitia & Pope Francis

More Defenses of Amoris Laetitia & Pope Francis April 26, 2016


Image by “Nicola”: 20 August 2015 [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


See my first post on Amoris Laetitia and a follow-up one. These off-the-cuff reflections come from a good discussion where two people were critical of Amoris Laetitia (in part) and myself and two others defended it, and the Holy Father. It is a private thread, so I can’t cite the others, but I will paraphrase a few portions (in brackets).


The “observer” is left with some folks who disagree with Amoris Laetitia or are unhappy about it, and others who think it is good and fine. I’m in the latter camp.

But as a generality, I trust the pope, and trust that he knows what he is doing. I have not seen the slightest evidence that he is not orthodox, regarding anything.

[allusion was made to Cardinal Kasper and Pope Francis placing him in a prominent position in the family synods]

Many if not all or virtually all of the more liberal Cardinals were appointed by Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict in the first place. Kasper was made a Cardinal by John Paul II and made President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity by Pope Benedict.

The problem of liberal bishops and theologians (or those who don’t actively oppose liberalism, if they are not personally liberal) is very complex and implicates far more than Pope Francis. He is leading the Church that he inherited. It has been complex and troubling after the wholesale rebellion after Humanae Vitae in 1968. The Church has done all it can to avoid a schism, and that involves all sorts of less-than-ideal situations with individual bishops (the German case being the most troubling).

As I understand it, Apostolic Exhortations are not the sort of document that introduce new doctrine. Amoris Laetitia never states that divorced and remarried can receive Holy Communion. Therefore, the present Church law exists as it was (as I believe Amoris Laetitia alludes to several times). I think it’s rather like the Supreme Court not commenting on a case, which means that the decision of the Court below it stands.

If the document is distorted in application by the theological liberals, what else is new? Have they not done the same with Vatican II for fifty years? Have liberals not butchered the Bible itself for 250 years?

Then the question becomes whether it is the fault of the document or those who distort it. Traditionalists and radical Catholic reactionaries place the blame squarely on the (take your pick) “ambiguous” or “heterodox” Vatican II documents. I place it in the confused brains and convoluted policies of liberals.


That’s what they have been saying about the Vatican II documents for 50 years [that they are confusing and (deliberately?) ambiguous], and about Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclicals and other documents, which were regarded as Byzantine philosophy-speak.

If we have a philosopher-pope, his documents are criticized as inexplicable. If we get one who approaches things pastorally, he gets the same criticism. I guess these poor popes can’t win for losing. It matters not what style they have or approach they take. The common thread with all of them is pope-bashing and “we know better than the pope” / “why is he doing these stupid things that even my dog-catcher knows are wrong?”

[it was noted that there are two errors of uncritical thinking: bashing everything the pope says, or believing that he can never be wrong about anything]

I don’t agree with absolutely everything he says, or think that I have some obligation to do so. Of course, this is always the accusation against defenders of the pope: especially from traditionalists and always from reactionaries.

I have said that as a matter of fact (not some faux “necessity”), I have personally not seen heterodoxy in this pope’s teachings. That’s different from claiming that it is not there at all, or saying that it couldn’t possibly be. I believe that a pope could possibly be individually a heretic (while God would prevent him from officially promulgating the error).

I disagreed with Pope Francis in Laudato Si regarding both global warming and nuclear power, and said so in my defense of it. I was just like you: agreed with 98% of it, and praised it; disagreed with a few portions. The pope said straight out that those portions were not magisterial, anyway.

I have disagreed with popes regarding the Iraqi War and absolute prohibition of capital punishment (I favor it for mass murderers and terrorists only).

Deacon Jim Russell and Scott Eric Alt (I believe) and myself are not saying that error isn’t possible, period, but that error or heterodoxy is not present in Amoris Laetitia.

I always tend to argue by analogies, and I just thought of another one. Some of our Protestant friends (at least if they are like I used to be as a Protestant) think it is the most outrageous thing in the world to believe in an infallible Church, protected by God.

So, along these lines, when I defend Catholic teachings, they say that I am doing so simply because I have to. I’m special pleading, spinning, propagandizing, because I “have” to, as an apologist.

I reply that it is not only true that I believe the Church could not teach theological or moral error, but that it also has not in fact done so. These facts can be analyzed historically. They’re “out” there to analyze. And so we can look at, e.g., the cases of Popes Honorius, Liberius, and Vigilius.

But for the mind skeptical of Catholic claims, it is unthinkable that any human organization could not err, or has not erred. They think that I, as an apologist, must somehow be performing some sleight-of-hand, or pulling a fast one. It’s fideism, blind faith, throwing away my mind (so I am told).

I make my arguments, don’t see any plausible alternative views (from among my 800 or more online debates), and so I maintain the view I have had since 1990 in faith. The facts line up. I become more confident all the time in my faith. It’s one of the huge blessings of being an apologist (seeing the weakness of opposing arguments and the great superiority of ours).

It’s very similar with this stuff. Some folks can’t believe that there are readers of Amoris Laetitia who don’t see anything wrong with it. They have read the fashionable narratives (usually fed by a combination of the secular media, traditionalist and reactionary commentary, and the theological liberals), and so they interpret the document through that hazy lens. More and more people have jumped onto the narrative and bandwagon of “Pope Francis as a liberal and loose cannon” and they interpret accordingly. But the foundational premise is wrong.

There are those of us who truly don’t see a problem with it. It doesn’t follow that I fancy myself as some sort of expert on papal documents or canon law or the fine points of liturgical and moral theology. I do not and am not. I’m simply giving my opinions as a lay apologist. I don’t see any insuperable problems with it.

I would say that people like Robert Royal, Jeff Mirus, Phil Lawler, Fr. George Rutler, and some others, are starting to give into what I think is a false narrative. I predict that it will fast become a slippery slope into further “dissent”.

I say that because I have observed how these things work for now at least 20 years if not 25. The criticisms keep getting greater and greater. Everyone starts jumping on the bandwagon.

We continue to disagree as to what he is doing and not doing. The liberals (not you!) are spinning the document like a top, just like they have done with Vatican II.

The reactionaries are stating straight out that they predicted all along, not that Amoris Laetitia would be in and of itself heterodox, but that it would be weak, ambiguous, and perceived as heterodox or “progressive” by the modernists and what they call “Novus Ordo Catholics” or “Vatican II Catholics” or “neo-Catholics”: whom they regard as heterodox and virtually modernist, or in bed with modernism, by their own arbitrary and quasi-schismatic standard.

This is precisely the traditionalist and reactionary criticism of Vatican II, that I have dealt with times without number. It’s history repeating itself.


So we can all see and agree that the folks here are good orthodox Catholics in good faith, but some here can’t grant that to the Holy Father? That’s precious . . .

I say Vatican II  is great and perfectly orthodox. Traditionalists and reactionaries say it is ambiguous and/or heterodox, and literally causing the problems in the Church today (as if there were no such things as, say, the 60s, the sexual revolution, the overwhelming influence of secularism, etc., etc.). Take your pick . . . If people go after Vatican II, they will certainly bash and/or trash an Apostolic Exhortation as well. It’s all of a piece.

All we need to know about the devil’s time-honored strategy of “divide and conquer” is here in this thread and in the increasing chorus of Francis-bashers or partial critiquers. It’ll get worse and worse, because that is human nature.

The same occurred later in Pope St. John Paul II’s reign, went away in Benedict’s reign (because he was the darling of traditionalists and reactionaries) and now it is here again. It’s all entirely predictable.

[what other magisterial document or pope has created this much fuss?]

Vatican II, as I have argued, Pope St. John Paul II’s ecumenical proclamations and actions (like the Assisi conferences). JPII was trashed and bashed in his later years. I know. I was there defending him.

I was also there recently defending Pope Benedict, when Michael Voris claimed (within the last few months) that he exaggerated his illness in order to resign: which action was “immoral” and an abandonment of the flock. Reactionaries like Voris will attack anything they don’t agree with, whether a pope or not.

[Cardinal Kasper, in his errors, was not promoted by Popes John Paul II or Benedict]

He was appointed Cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II and head of ecumenical outreach by Pope Benedict. 

[Certainly you aren’t saying that these people are making their criticisms because liberals are? Lioberals may have some legitimate points that we can agree with]

No; I’m saying that they (and you) are the ones (for varying reasons) who are beginning to increasingly buy into the narrative that there is something fundamentally, seriously wrong with Pope Francis, whether he is (at best) maddeningly inarticulate (the mildest form) or ignorant of basic tenets of theology and moral theology (more severe criticism) or flat-out heterodox / modernist (the strongest bashing).

This is to be fully expected. I see them as casualties in the battle with the devil to avoid the dividing and conquering where he is spectacularly succeeding with regard to creating havoc within the Church.

Of course I’m not saying that anyone is deliberately following Satan and trying to do his bidding. They’re all perfectly sincere and well-meaning, as you are.

But I am saying that this sort of internal division is part of the master plan by Satan. He’s the conspiratorialist. I wrote yesterday on my Facebook page:

The devil is very vigilant in his attacks upon the Church and the Holy Father. He is absolutely ecstatic these days to have so many orthodox, good, faithful Catholics, helping him do his dirty work.

Even Satan was surprised that Catholics by the millions could fall for these lies. But so it is. A huge gain for the kingdom of hell . . .

One could write an entire new Screwtape Letters just based on the manifold lies being lobbed against the Holy Father, ultimately inspired by the Father of Lies.

The “Lies” I referred to there are the three variations of the hostile “narrative” that I outlined above. People buy into those and proceed accordingly. But I deny that all three are true. So (if I am right about that) it’s a house of sand.

Now it may be that if and when we get to heaven, God will tell us, “Royal and Lawler and Mirus et al were right: Pope Francis messed up royally in Amoris Laetitia and confused the flock and will spend 1000 years more in purgatory as a result.”

If so, I’ll yield in obedience to the Omniscient and All-Good Wisdom. Right now, I don’t see it. Sorry!

And Deacon Jim Russell is right: it’s mostly the “pointy-heads” (I say with all due affection) and reactionaries in their entirely predictable reaction who are agonizing over this.

I predicted some of their behavior myself. I said that Steve Skojec (of “One Vader Five”) was gonna “diss” Cardinal Burke (a great darling of both traditionalists and reactionaries) as soon as he read what he said about Amoris Laetitia. Sure enough, he did, within hours of my “prophecy.”

Hilary White (of Lifesite News and The Remnant) did him one better. For her, all the bishops are liberals and hacks, and anyone who attends the Novus Ordo Mass and likes Vatican II is of an entirely different religion, called “Novusordoism.” She has made this clear, many times. I’ve documented it myself.

And it’s where Skojec and his ilk are headed, the more they follow this path. I have seen these trends these past 25 years. And it influences how I look at this sort of thing, too (as an old sociology major to boot). I take a long view of it, in light of past trends and history.

[you are interpreting all this in light of your own narrative that any criticism is diabolically-based. This makes you fundamentally biased]

I have not. You’re not reading what I have been saying very carefully. I’m just saying that the devil divides and conquers. One could take a position (I would agree) that even if such discussions are justified or worthwhile, they should be done in private and not in public. At least your thread is not a public one. I commend you for that.

Moreover, I certainly don’t think that when St. Dominic and St. Francis and St. Catherine of Siena took it to popes big-time, that this was the devil triumphing and speaking through them. And that was because they were right in their criticisms.

The key to all is what the facts are, not some predetermined narrative through which everything is filtered.

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