Previously, I have posted “Dr. Robert Fastiggi Defends Amoris Laetitia Against Critics” (10-3-17). Full disclosure: Dr. Fastiggi (a professor of systematic theology) is a good friend, and asked me to post material of his that was (initially) mistakenly believed to have been deliberately deleted. I happen to agree with his take on these issues, as well. He has asked again if I could post the present material, which is derived from all public postings, including an article by Dr. Joseph Shaw at Rorate Caeli, and a follow-up article in the same venue. Dr. Fastiggi’s portions, which he sent to me, are (he informed me) “in the public domain on Shaw’s twitter account.”
The words of Dr. Joseph Shaw (Fellow in Philosophy at Oxford) will be in blue. Dr. Fastiggi’s and those of his associate and co-writer Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein (professor of dogmatic theology) will be in regular black. I have edited in a back-and-forth Platonic-type format, as much as possible, according to my usual custom, so that readers can grapple with opposing positions, side-by-side.
You know you’ve had an influence when the Vatican Insider addresses you by name.
What interests me about this is less the attempt to suggest that the Correction’s signatories are shifting their position–we haven’t in the least, although we are getting used to our critics using calling us names and being economical with the truth–but the second paragraph I quote. For the information of Fastiggi and Goldstein, ‘impressions’ are always subjective, but they are our window onto the world. What we can determine about what what is going on, based–obviously–on what we can see and hear (‘impressions’), is indeed that ‘Pope Francis doesn’t want orthodoxy’.
And I would go further than what F & G say: our impression is not based ‘mostly’ on non-authoritative statements, but entirely upon non-authoritative statements by Pope Francis, plus his failures to speak. It should be obvious that it is impossible for the Supreme Pontiff to guide the Church away from the Deposit of Faith authoritatively, since his authority is given him to confirm the brethren in the Faith. What we find, indeed, is that Pope Francis has singled out modes of communication which cannot possibly be mistaken for authoritative statements, when he indicates the kind of interpretation he wishes people to have of Amoris laetitia. These include his remark in a press conference that Amoris makes a ‘change’; a private letter to the Bishops of Buenos Aires; the printing of the guidelines drawn up by the Bishops of Malta in L’Ossovatore Romano; and most eloquent of all, his refusal to answer the Four Cardinals’ Dubia.
It is not our impression only: it is the impression gained by many theologians and bishops who regard themselves as loyal to the Pope, who are taking the hints, the nods, and the winks, and are writing, and promulgating guidelines for their flocks, which are impossible to square with the constant practice and teaching of the Church, or indeed with Canon law as it currently exists.
The answer which comes to mind, inspired by Canon 212, is that those who think that this is happening should make their concerns known to the proper authorities, without ruling out that they should make them known to their fellow Catholics. In light of Matthew 18:15, it makes sense to go public when private communications have had no effect.
First, it speaks of theologians who reject the Ordinary Magisterium, not to those who wish to uphold it. Secondly, it speaks of theologians who have (or easily could have) dialogue with their superiors. It would be a very different matter for Donum veritatis to say that theologians should not publicly support the Magisterium, or for it to contradict Canon 212 by saying that lay Catholics in general should not make clear ‘concerns’ to their fellow Catholics, or indeed to contradict Matthew 18:15-17 about making problems public when private admonitions have failed. For DV to have said any of those things would, obviously, have been insane.
Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and I wish to thank you for your tone of civility. We hope to reply with equal civility regarding your post: “A Challenge for Fastiggi and Goldstein.”
Certainly the Pope deserves the chance to clarify what exactly he means, in the context of disagreement about what that may be. That is why many people, including the ‘Four Cardinals’, have been respectfully but urgently asking Pope Francis for such a clarification: as you know they wrote to him in September 2016, more than a year ago. He has not responded formally, but meanwhile many of his supporters have been telling us that various informal responses are clear enough, and have criticised strongly those unwilling to allow their interpretation of Amoris to be guided by these informal indications. In any case, other people have been guided by them, and Pope Francis has not intervened to put them right.
Documents emanating from the Holy See or General Councils can contain both Magisterial and non-Magisterial statements. Non-Magisterial statements would include, obviously, those not concerning faith and morals, such as historical claims. They also include statements which are unclear: there can be no obligation on Catholics to believe a statement if they cannot determine what the statement means. Yet another category of non-Magisterial statements in official documents are those which go beyond or against the Ordinary Magisterium.
An example of this last case which is not controversial is the claim of the Council of Florence-Ferrara that the sacramental ‘matter’ in priestly ordination is not the laying-on of hands, but the handing over of the chalice. We commonly say that statements of General Councils other than anathemas have non-infallible teaching authority from the Ordinary Magisterium. In such a case, however, it would be more accurate to say that this statement is not a statement of the Ordinary Magisterium at all, since it contradicts the Ordinary Magisterium, and the Ordinary Magisterium cannot contradict itself.
We appreciate your attempt to respond to our seven points, but you argue in a way that concedes the main point we are making. In so many words, you acknowledge that all you can present is your subjective belief that Pope Francis is doing what you claim he is doing, viz., effecting the propagation of heresies in the Church. You, of course, are entitled to your opinion, but we find your accusations unjust and excessive. As we noted, even private theologians accused of heresy are entitled to the due process outlined in the CDF document, Ratio agendi of 1997. But you and your associates have accused the Roman Pontiff of facilitating the spread of heresies, and all you can present are some references, assertions, and subjective beliefs, which are all open to question. Because the Holy Father did not respond to your accusations submitted at first privately, you have taken it upon yourselves to make your accusations public via the mass media. Thus, you have publicly accused the Roman Pontiff of propagating heresies.
In Amoris Laetitia there’s no new doctrine or explication of some juridical points of the doctrine, but an acceptance of the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments. The only question is their pastoral application in extraordinary situations. The Pope will not and cannot change either the doctrine or the sacraments. What he wants is to help couples in very difficult circumstances as a good shepherd, but in accord with the word of God. (Interview with Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, Sept. 28, 2017)
We wonder why, then, you include twelve passages of Amoris laetitia in the Correctio, which you say— “in conjunction with acts, words, and omissions” of the Holy Father— “serve to propagate seven heretical propositions.” ‘
Because that is the case. This really isn’t so difficult: AL could be read in an orthodox sense, but the interpretation being given it doesn’t allow it. I think I’ve said that often enough now.
As to the Pope’s intentions, these are the intentions being imputed to him by his supporters, such as the bishops of Malta, and he is not correcting them. It is enough for us to say that what he is doing is an invitation, without seeking to judge what exactly he intends, since we are not in a position to judge that.
It seems you are now admitting that we have presented a large amount of object evidence which you have not even addressed, let alone refuted, so thank you.
I and others have already addressed your La Stampa arguments.
I think we’ve both said enough to allow our readers to make their own minds up.