April 23, 2020

There are plenty of materials now explaining Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (I have 29 articles in my collection of links defending Francis), but — just as with similar endless complaints and whoppers about Vatican II — nothing is ever good enough for the endless questioners and complainers.

First it is said that Amoris Laetitia is unclear, or that it is modernist, or that it is orthodox but so ambiguous that no one can understand it (per the usual standard talking points about Vatican II in some circles). Some think that is due to incompetence (Pope Francis is unable to construct coherent sentences or ideas), others, that it is a deliberate liberal conspiracy (he’s a stinking liberal, or everyone around him is, and they play him like a fiddle).

Then it’s said that we need a clarification. So we get those from both Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Schönborn. Then it is said that this ain’t good enough, because it’s only from lowly cardinals and not the papa.

Then Waldemar Żurek writes on my Facebook page: “If Cardinal Müller were to resolve problems with the ambiguous Amoris Laetitia he would officially present the document in Vatican, and not on the occasion of the presentation of his private book in Madrid. But apparently it was made to calm the naive …”

And he cites One Vader Five, where Dr. Maike Hickson opines in her infinite and glorious wisdom: “We are in a situation where the head of Doctrine (Müller) now says something different from what Pope Francis has said. This seeming inconsistency is detrimental to many souls who are in need of clear instructions with regard to the salvation of their own souls.”

Then they say that it’s not good enough to bluntly say that nothing has changed. It also has to be explained (apparently at length, or they are unsatisfied again) beyond simply stating it.

It’s funny and ironic and tragi-comic, too, because we hear all this babble now about old Church documents in the “good old days” being short and sweet. But the shorter they are, the less is explained in depth, right?

Now more explanation is demanded, and Francis writes very long, nuanced documents. Then people complain that they are too long and confusing. One can’t win for losing.

Nothing will ever satisfy a certain skeptical / traditionalist (some of that class) or reactionary mindset.

The End didn’t come as the reactionaries and fellow eternal grumblers had hoped, so they immediately (in their pride and stubbornness) went to Plan B: pretend that we have “Vatican II document”-like clever sneakiness, ambiguity, and jesuitical “textual conspiracy”: “death by a thousand cuts”-type thinking.

It has to be bad, whatever the “truth” is . . .

These nattering nabobs of negativism are so much like the folks that St. Paul rebuked, who “will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7).


Related Reading

Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis’ “1968 Moment” [4-8-16]

Defenses of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia [4-9-16]

More Defenses of Amoris Laetitia & Pope Francis [4-26-16]

Satan Loves Divisions Re Amoris Laetitia [5-2-16]

Dialogue: Amoris Laetitia: Confusing or No? [5-3-16]

Amoris Laetitia, “Trads” & Reactionaries [5-4-16]

Amoris Laetitia Has Already Been Clarified Many Times, Including by High-Ranking Cardinals [11-16-16]

Dr. Robert Fastiggi Defends Amoris Laetitia Against Critics [10-3-17]


(originally posted on 5-6-16 on Facebook)

Photo credit: JFJunior  (4-27-16) [PixabayPixabay License]


October 12, 2017


Dr. Christian Brugger is Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington D.C. He replied to an article by Dr. Robert Fastiggi and Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein, as noted in a LifeSiteNews article. Dr. Fastiggi then replied further in the combox and interacted with a “David” there. David’s words will be in blue.


Fastiggi’s and Eden’s claim on 303 seems to have gone nowhere, and indeed really does not change the meaning of the text. This is perhaps why they have quickly moved on to another angle to try and discount the “correctio” and any critics, by claiming these folks are not following proper “protocol.” That too is failing quickly, receiving refutation from other voices now, such as canonist Ed Peters, and I don’t think they will be able to dismiss him as some sort of hyper-critical, “anti-Francis” type. As others have pointed out such folks seems to engage in papal positivism, exalting the will of a pope no matter what he says or does, in any form or context said, even if contrary to the Church’s Tradition; in which case they are not interested so much in the truth but in a cult of personality. Indeed, as no less than Cardinal Mueller has confirmed, there is a tremendous emphasis on power, cult of personality, personal allegiance under this pontificate, to the expense of truth. It is certainly not the Catholic tradition that no one can ever criticize or question anything a Pope says, especially when it is so obvious there is a serious problem.

Prof. Brugger is a good theologian and a fine man, but he still seems to believe that AL 303 implies that God is asking people to continue to sin in some cases. In his April 22, 2016 article in Catholic World Report, Brugger writes that AL 303 suggests that “God can be ‘asking’ someone to live in a life-state in which they are objectively violating grave matter.” Then in a Sept. 28 ‘17 LifeSiteNews article, he states that “the generous response” owed to God is “a certain state that is objectively at variance with the universal command of the Gospel.” Now Prof. Brugger argues that, because the subject remains “this conscience” in AL 303, this proves that the “generous offering owed to God” is the recognition that one is living “contrary to “the universal command of the Gospel.”

Prof. Brugger fails to see that AL 303 clearly distinguishes between a conscience’s recognition that “a given situation is objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel” and this same conscience’s subsequent recognition of a “generous response owed to God in the present circumstances.” The subject “conscience” might be the same but the object is different. The “generous response” is not the situation that is at variance with the command of the Gospel but an offering that God is asking amid the mass of impediments even though it may not yet be the perfect objective model.

What might be this “generous response?” Pope Francis does not give an example in AL 303 because he’s speaking in general terms of the dynamics of conscience. Moreover, he knows that concrete cases vary widely. In our Sept. 26 article in La Stampa, Dr. Goldstein and I provided a hypothetical example of a couple in a purely civil “marriage” recognizing that God is calling them to live in continence. We chose this example deliberately to demonstrate that “the generous response” could be the ending of a particular sin. Our example was an attempt to show that Professors Brugger and Seifert are wrong to believe AL 303 implies that God is asking some people to continue to live in an objectively sinful state. It’s really just the opposite. AL 303 teaches that conscience will come to recognize that God is asking for a step in the right direction away from sin. Pope Francis explains this again in AL 305 when he says “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.’”

In a recent interview the Italian philosopher, Rocco Buttiglione, provides this example for AL 303: “Imagine a father who has a sick son and the child improves. He still has fever but has stopped vomiting; the child manages to keep in his stomach what he eats and has started a therapy that seems to work. The father is happy. Is he happy about the fact that the child is sick? No, he is pleased that his son gives symptoms of improvement and healing.”

This is what Pope Francis is saying in AL 303. God is not happy with situations that are objectively at variance with the command of the Gospel. God, however, is happy when people in such situations discern in conscience that He is asking them to make a choice that moves in the right direction—even if they still need to progress further toward a more complete fulfillment of His will. This is the law of gradualness not the gradualness of the law. It is sad that this beautiful and compassionate message of AL 303 has been so completely misunderstood by scholars who have failed to grasp its true meaning.

It seems you yourself are not sure this is the only meaning- that the generous response “could” or “might” be- not must be- continence. So, one could continue living in objective sin and offer some other “generous response?” And, Buttiglione openly argues that continence is not an absolute precondition; and therefore it may not constitute the offering made?! But he erroneously claims they can co-exist by confusing the subjective/objective issue, which he has done before and Ed Peters, among others, refutes. (Peters has a piece at Catholic World Report.) And compared with the absolute language of continence as a precondition in Familiaris Consortio et al., we have a clear change. So, even among those denying heterodoxy there are folks who admit no absolute requirement of continence, but try to explain how that can now be the case.

The whole problem is, in fact, that a call to continence is no longer being required in practice, which thus negates the meaning you impute anyway. Let us take the Maltese guidelines, which clearly indicate continence is not a requirement whatsoever and even state that communion cannot be denied to a couple still committing adultery. And it claims AL and Francis as its authority; and Francis has not only not disavowed this approach as inconsonant with his intent but given explicit public approval for these guidelines. The German guidelines also do not require continence as well as those of Rome; and arguably the Argentinian too but this might be debatable. And, people claiming to speak for Francis have also indicated this position, e.g, Archbishop Paglia, Cardinal Schonborn, who dishonestly claim that this notion was taught by JPII in some implicit way so therefore there is no rupture. (This is an unwitting admission something is wrong, for why even have to try to rationalize it by claiming it is part of a prior magisterium?) The Maltese guidelines also say that continence may actually be harmful, people are not necessarily capable of that (arguably a heresy, if not error, in itself), so adultery is essentially a solution. Semantics does not take away the underlying premise God is calling people to commit adultery, and how much they are imputable does not the disqualify that.

How do you account for all this? Are episcopal conferences and others all mistranslating AL, reading  something into it that isn’t there, not grasping the true meaning? Why hasn’t Francis/Holy See then corrected this, etc, etc.? #303 is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. This, of course is the reason for the request for clarity, the Dubia, the Correctio. This is why the notion it is simply mistranslation/misinterpretation and critics are reading things into the text that are not there, cannot be sustained and is an untenable denial of an objective situation.

My comments were only focused on AL 303. I can’t speak for all these episcopal conferences that you mentioned. I believe Pope Francis has not changed the requirements of FC, 84 or the CCC, 1650. In AL 303 he was only speaking about the dynamics of conscience and how some people recognize that God is asking them to take a step in the right direction. We know that people are at different stages of conscience development. Pastors and friends need to help such people begin the process of living fully according to God’s plan, which, as Pope Francis teaches in AL 297, is “always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.” If you wish to know my thoughts about whether the divorced and civilly remarried should receive Holy Communion without observing continence, google “Fastiggi Kasper” and you find out.

[“David” replied again: see it at the link provided above]


Photo credit: You Tube still of Dr. Robert Fastiggi, at a conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville; video posted on 5-26-14 [link / Standard YouTube License]


October 3, 2017


Dr. Robert Fastiggi and Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein wrote an article for La Stampa, entitled “Does Amoris laetitia 303 Really Undermine Catholic Moral Teaching?” (9-26-17). Here I am documenting his replies (in comboxes), to critiques from Dr. Christian BruggerDr. Eduardo Echeverria, Dr. Joseph Shaw, and others.

Dr. Fastiggi and Dr. Goldstein — predictably — are being mocked, insulted, and scorned with regard to their article by two of the usual reactionary suspects: Chris Ferrara (The Remnant) and Louie Verrecchio (aka Catholic). Louie calls Pope Francis “Jorge” in his article.


Replies to Dr. Brugger and others in the combox:

Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and I are grateful to Prof. Brugger for his reply and his tone of civility. We are glad that he finds our translation “superior.” The flaw in his analysis is his claim that the quod is clearly referring back to statum quendam. This does not seem to follow from the Latin. The “quod” refers to to the liberale responsum (generous response) and not to the statum quendam (given situation). This is made clear from the copulative verb, sit, which links quod to responsum. Furthermore, a “response” involves an act of the will, but a “given situation” is a condition and not a personal act. We believe Professors Brugger and Seifert are reading into the text what they think Pope Francis is saying, but their reading does not seem to follow from the text itself.

We should also note that even the English translation posted on the Vatican website (which preceded the Latin posting) can be read in a more benign way than Professors Brugger and Seifert claim. The Latin text, which is now in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, should be considered normative, and it makes more clear the Holy Father’s meaning, a meaning which we explained in our article. (9-29-17)


Cardinal Müller recently said that the statement of the Argentine bishops can be interpreted in an orthodox way. I agree with him. See his interview in the National Catholic Register. (9-29-17)


The Holy Father need not answer the Dubia directly. It might, though, be helpful for him to clarify certain matters in his own way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Oremus. (9-29-17)


You’re assuming that the “given situation” is one of active adultery. In AL 303, however, the Holy Father is only speaking in general terms about the dynamics of conscience so he does not provide any concrete examples about what the quod or the “generous response” might be. In our article, Dr. Goldstein and I provided an example in which the generous response involves the couple choosing to live in continence. We believe the Holy Father is saying “that in some complex and irregular situations a person’s conscience will recognize that God is asking for a generous response, indeed an oblationem, or offering, that moves in the right direction even though it doesn’t completely rectify the objective irregularity of the situation.” (9-30-17)


Reply to Dr. Eduardo Echeverria (10-1-17):

The article that Dr. Goldstein and I wrote was narrowly focused on the text of Amoris laetitia [AL] 303. We tried to make it clear that we need to understand the meaning from the text itself as contained in the normative Latin. Prof. Echeverria seems to argue that we can understand the meaning of AL 303 via inferences from other parts of the exhortation. These inferences, though, are open to question, but that would take a long time to explain. In addition to Prof. Echeverria, Dr. Goldstein and I also received replies to our article from Prof. E. Christian Brugger and Prof. Joseph Shaw. I give credit to Prof. Brugger for actually trying to argue for his interpretation from the normative Latin text.

I am glad Prof. Brugger raised the points that he did because it made me realize that his reading of the text is really untenable based on the text itself. Prof. Shaw in his article posted on Lifesite News tried to argue that there is no substantive difference between the meaning of the text in the normative Latin and that contained in the posted vernacular texts.

Here is the essence of my argument:

Perhaps there is no substantive change in meaning between the normative Latin text of AL, 303 and the other vernacular languages we mentioned. This, though, does not resolve the question of what the text actually means. Dr. Goldstein and I wrote our article to question the way Professors Seifert, Brugger and others understand the text. All of these interpreters seem to assume that “the generous response” owed to God in AL 303 necessarily involves objective sin. Dr. Goldstein and I do not believe the normative Latin text supports such a reading. There is no reason to believe that the “generous response” (liberale responsum) owed to God is the same as the “given situation” (statum quendam) “objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel.” Furthermore, a “response” involves an act of the will, but a “given situation” is a condition and not a personal act. How does one respond with a situation or condition? You can’t respond to a situation with the situation itself. This would be like someone being diagnosed with diabetes and responding to this condition with the diagnosis of diabetes. This makes no sense at all.

Even in the other vernacular translations, there seems to be no reason to assume that “the generous response” (la risposta generosa; la respuesta generosa; la réponse généreuse; die grossherzige Antwort) is the same as “a situation” (una situazione; una situación; une situation; eine Situation). This is made even clearer by the Latin non modo (not only). Pope Francis is saying that conscience “can not only recognize a given situation to be objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel,” but “it can also (etiam) recognize sincerely and honestly what may be (quod sit) the generous response owed to God in the present circumstances.” The language of “not only … but also” suggests that something else is discerned by conscience beyond a simple recognition that one’s present situation is “objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel.” It would be absurd to think one could offer an objective sin to God. Dr. Goldstein and I, however, do not believe there is anything in the text that suggests that this is what Pope Francis meant. As we said in our article, we believe that the Holy Father is saying “that in some complex and irregular situations a person’s conscience will recognize that God is asking for a generous response, indeed an oblationem, or offering, that moves in the right direction even though it doesn’t completely rectify the objective irregularity of the situation.”

Prof. Echeverria ends his article with a very valuable quote from Cardinal Müller about the need for more clarification, which can only be provided by the Pope. He fails, though, to mention that Cardinal Müller also says that “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.” Does Prof. Echeverria agree or disagree with Cardinal Müller in this regard? It would seem that he disagrees because in his April 2016 CWR article he claims that Pope Francis opens the door to situation ethics and implies support for the gradualness of the law. It’s difficult to see how AL could contain “an acceptance of the doctrine of the Church and the sacraments” and yet open the door to situation ethics and the gradualness of the law. It would also seem that Prof. Echeverria disagrees with Cardinal Ouellet, Archbishops Chaput, Sample, and Prendergast, as well as the Bishops of Poland and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and the Northwest Territory along with Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Thomas Olmsted, James Conley, Steven Lopes, Philip Egan, and Vitus Huonder who all understand AL in line with Catholic tradition. Did they miss something or are they being dishonest? To be consistent Prof. Echeverria should be willing to correct them publicly for their endorsement of a papal exhortation that opens the door to situation ethics, the gradualness of the law, and undermines the need ‘for the grace of the sacrament of confession” (as he suggests in his April 2016 article).

Prof. Echeverria is my colleague and my friend. I wish I could say he responded well to the article that Dr. Goldstein and I published. Unfortunately, he did not. Instead he repeated his problems with Amoris laetitia and failed to address the core of our article, which was narrowly focused on the text of AL 303 itself.


Reply to Lifesite News Oct. 2, 2017

Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein and I are grateful for these comments, which show an interest in the article we published in La Stampa. I should note that I twice tried to post a response to Dr. Joseph Shaw’s Sept. 29, 2017 article, “Critics of Filial Correction are wrong. Here’s why.” Both posts were up briefly, but then they disappeared. I hope this present post won’t be deleted.

I think the case made for the “Correctio” is weakening. In his Sept. 29 article, Dr. Joseph Shaw replies to Dr. Jacob Wood and states: “It is not that we’re saying that the text of Amoris cannot be bent into some kind of orthodoxy. What we are saying is that it has become clear that orthodoxy is not what Pope Francis wants us to find there.” Dr. Shaw’s claim that Pope Francis doesn’t want orthodoxy, however, is based on subjective impressions derived from mostly non-authoritative statements of the Pope. This does not seem to be a very strong foundation for accusing the Roman Pontiff of promoting false teachings and heresies.

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski says that the article I co-authored with Dr. Goldstein shows that AL 303 “admits of an orthodox reading but it does not preclude the heterodox reading.”  Many passages of the Bible, though, can be given both an orthodox reading and a heterodox reading. Why should we assume the heterodox reading is more plausible than the orthodox reading? Once again, it seems that the critics of AL must rely on subjective impressions rather than evidence that cannot be challenged.

Dr. Josef Seifert might be correct that the Latin text was not the original text of AL. Dr. Goldstein and I probably would have done better to speak of the “official” Latin text rather than the “original” Latin text. This, though, is really a minor point because the Latin text in the AAS is now the normative text. Even if Dr. Seifert thinks there’s not much difference between the Latin text and the posted English text, he still has not responded to the substance of the article I co-authored with Dr. Goldstein. In that article Dr. Goldstein and I argued that there is nothing in AL 303 that indicates that the “generous response” owed to God is an objective sin. Such a claim is based upon an assumption of Dr. Seifert that is not evident in the Latin text. In his Lifesite News response, Dr. Brugger tried to argue that what was owed and then offered to God was the “given situation” (statum quendam). This, though, makes no sense. A response involves a personal act of the will, but a situation is a condition not a personal act. A person cannot respond with a condition. This would be like a person diagnosed with diabetes responding to the disease with the condition of the disease.  Contrary to Dr. Seifert AL 303 does not “destroy the entire moral teaching of the Church.” And contrary to Dr. Shaw, the Correctio is not based on solid evidence. Instead, it is based on a collection of subjective impressions that are open to question. (reply to “Criticism of Pope’s teaching not based on faulty translation: Filial Correction signer”, Pete Baklinski, LSN, 10-2-17)


Photo credit: Photo from Dr. Fastiggi’s faculty information page / curriculum vitae, for Sacred Heart Major Seminary (Detroit, Michigan).


November 16, 2016

. . . including by high-ranking cardinals.


Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke (2-22-14) [Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


So why are Cardinal Burke and three other retired cardinals asking for it again? I have massively documented the repeated clarifications and defenses of this papal document, in my collection, Pope Francis Defended: Resources for Confused or Troubled Folks. Here are the articles I have compiled (including a few thoughts of my own), with their original numbers in my collection (which I will refer to below):


198. Amoris Laetitia: Pope Francis’ “1968 Moment” (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 4-8-16)

199. Pope Francis’s New Document on Marriage: 12 Things to Know and Share (Jimmy Akin, Catholic Answers blog, 4-7-16)

200. Pope Francis Shatters Reformers’ Dreams with ‘Modern Family’ Document (Thomas D. Williams, Breitbart, 4-8-16)

201. Interpreting Amoris Laetitia ‘through the lens of Catholic tradition’ (Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency, 4-8-16)

202. First Thoughts on “Amoris Laetitia” (Bishop Robert Barron, Aleteia, 4-8-16)

203. “True Innovations but Not Ruptures”: Cardinal Christoph Schönborn Presents “Amoris Laetitia” (Diane Montagna, Aleteia, 4-8-16)

204. Pope Affirms Traditional Marriage (Bill Donohue, Newsmax, 4-8-16)

205. Pope Francis on Love, Marriage, and the Family (George Weigel, National Review, 4-8-16)

206. The Pope’s Exhortation – A Parish Priest’s Perspective (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing On My Head, 4-9-16)

207. Defenses of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 4-9-16)

208. Pope Francis Quashes “Who am I to judge?” Speculation in Amoris Laetitia (Artur Rosman, CosmosTheInLost, 4-11-16)

209. Steve Skojec Says Amoris Laetitia 298 Condones Adultery. Steve Skojec is Wrong. (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-11-16)

210. Amoris Laetitia and the Constant Teaching and Practice of the Church (Cardinal Raymond Burke, National Catholic Register, 4-11-16)

211. Francis has delivered an eloquent defence of the Catholic vision of marriage (Ed Condon, Catholic Herald, 4-8-16)

212. Pope Francis’s revolution has been cancelled (Damian Thompson, The Spectator, 4-8-16)

213. Things Pope Francis Says in Amoris Laetitia That Few Will Mention (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-11-16)

214. Amoris Laetitia: What Does Pope Francis Want Us to Do? (Deacon Jim Russell, One Faith, 4-13-16)

215. Amoris Laetitia – Chapter 8 and That Footnote… (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing On My Head, 4-13-16)

216. Pope Francis on love in the family (Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, CatholicPhilly.com, 4-14-16)

217. “Integrating Weakness”: Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-14-16)

218. Pope Francis Gives Another Interview; False Reporting at 1 Vader 5 Begins Forthwith (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-16-16)

219. Amoris Laetitia and the “Brinkmanship” of Pope Francis (Deacon Jim Russell, Crisis Magazine, 4-18-16)

220. Pope Francis is a social conservative (Tim Stanley, The Telegraph, 4-18-16)

221. Life Site News Gets a Pope Story Wrong. Again. (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-19-16)

222. Amoris Laetitia and the Progressive Pope Myth (Anthony S. Layne, Catholic Stand, 4-23-16)

223. Is Amoris Laetitia’s Discussion of Culpability a “Serious Problem”? (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-25-16)

224. Does Amoris Laetitia Tell Us Not to Judge? (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-25-16)

225. More Defenses of Amoris Laetitia & Pope Francis (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 4-26-16)

226. Dialogue: “Bad” Bishops & “Confusing” Francis (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 4-28-16)

228. Interacting With the Spaemann Interview on Amoris Laetitia (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 4-30-16)

229. Cardinal Schonborn Gives Clarification on Communion (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 5-1-16)

230. Satan Loves Divisions Regarding Amoris Laetitia (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 5-2-16)

231. Amoris Laetitia: Welcome to the Field Hospital (Deacon Jim Russell on Scott Eric Alt’s blog, To Give a Defense, 5-2-16)

232. Now if Life Site News Could Correct the Record. Again. [Regarding some important missing facts in an article about Cdl. Schonborn’s presentation of Amoris Laetitia] (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 5-2-16)

233. Dialogue: Amoris Laetitia: Confusing or No? (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 5-3-16)

234. Amoris Laetitia, “Trads” & Reactionaries (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 5-4-16)

235. Is Amoris Laetitia Inconsistent in Its Treatment of Conscience? (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 5-4-16)

236. Cardinal Müller: Magisterium on Remarried Divorcees Unchanged by Amoris Laetitia (Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 5-4-16)

237. Cardinal Müller: Amoris Laetitia is in line with previous teaching on Communion (Catholic Herald, 5-4-16)

238. Amoris Laetitia in Light of Mitus Judex (Deacon Jim Russell, Facebook, 5-4-16)

239. Gotta Love the Buzzing, Mosquito-Like Critics of Amoris Laetitia (Dave Armstrong, Facebook, 5-6-16)

240. Does Amoris Laetitia Treat the Moral Law as a Mere “Ideal”? (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 5-10-16)

241. Does Amoris Laetitia Contradict the Council of Trent? (Scott Eric Alt, To Give a Defense, 5-10-16)

261. What Pope Francis said about Communion for the divorced-and-remarried (Catholic News Agency, 9-13-16)

262. Interpretations of Pope Francis’ Application of Amoris Laetitia with Regard to Extraordinarily Difficult Domestic Situations (Dave Armstrong: my comments in my lengthy Facebook thread, 9-14-16)

263. Not heretical: Pope Francis’ approval of the Argentine bishops’ policy on invalid marriages (Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, 9-15-16)

267. Cardinal Schönborn: Pope Francis follows John Paul II’s teaching on communion (Catholic Herald, 4-8-16)


That’s 47 articles. Granted, of course they are not all of the same authority (and include even my own strictly “amateur” — in terms of canon law — reflections).  But they include express statements of the orthodoxy of the document from the likes of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn: a very high-ranking Cardinal, who was the editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see #203, 229, 232, 267). He has stated:

In this document, for me, there are true innovations but not ruptures. Just as what Pope John Paul II did with the image of God applied to man and woman was not a rupture… but a true development. (#203)

There are no novelties in this document. (#267)

Moreover, we have the clarification from no less than Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who is the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope Benedict XVI’s office before becoming pope). This congregation was founded in order to defend the church from heresy, and is the body responsible for promulgating and defending Catholic doctrine. When the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger clarified things in that office, it was always quite sufficient for the more “traditional” folks in the Church, concerned about questions of orthodoxy and liturgy. So why isn’t it sufficient when Cardinal Müller confirms the orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia? I listed two articles containing Cardinal Müller’s opinions (#236-237). Here are a few of his informed judgments:

At no point has the Pope called the arguments of his predecessors into question.

It is not possible to live in God’s grace while living in a sinful situation . . . [such people] cannot receive Holy Communion unless they have received absolution in the sacrament of penance. . . .

[The] “Church has no power to change the Divine Law . . . not even a pope or council can change that. . . . [it is a] “misreading” [of Amoris Laetitia to suggest otherwise.] (#236)

If Amoris Laetitia wanted to overturn such a deep-rooted and important discipline, it would have expressed this precisely and given reasons for it.

They [divorced and remarried] are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. . . .

Without going into details, it is enough to point out that this footnote [351] refers to objective situations of sin in general, not to the specific case of civilly remarried divorcees. The situation of the latter has peculiar features which distinguishes it from other situations. . . . [it] does not apply to the previous discipline. . . . The standard of FC 84 [Pope St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio] and SC 29 and their application in all cases is still valid. (#237)

[Note: In Sacramentum Caritatis paragraph 29, Benedict XVI states that where “objective circumstances make it impossible to cease cohabitation” [for a divorced and remarried Catholic], that they must “commit themselves to living their relationship in fidelity to the demands of God’s law, as friends, as brother and sister [so that] they will be able to return to the table of the Eucharist, . . .”]

Ironically, Cardinal Burke himself used to say (or so it seems to me, anyway) that Amoris Laetitia was perfectly orthodox. I even included an article about that in my listing (#210). Seven months ago, he stated the following:

[A] document which is the fruit of the Synod of Bishops must always be read in the light of the purpose of the synod itself, namely, to safeguard and foster what the Church has always taught and practiced in accord with her teaching.

In other words, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, by its very nature, does not propose new doctrine and discipline, but applies the perennial doctrine and discipline to the situation of the world at the time.

In February 2014, Cardinal Burke appeared quite sure and content that Pope Francis “affirmed the unchanging and unchangeable truths of the Church’s teaching on these very questions [of the Church’s teachings on sexuality]” and noted that many Catholics “had developed a quite different impression as a result of the popular presentation of Pope Francis and his views.” [my italics]

Now, all of a sudden, like St. Peter walking on the water, Cardinal Burke seems filled with doubts:

We are simply setting forth what the Church has always taught and practiced in asking these five questions that address the Church’s constant teaching and practice. The answers to these questions provide an essential interpretative tool for Amoris Laetitia. They have to be set forth publicly because so many people are saying: “We’re confused, and we don’t understand why the cardinals or someone in authority doesn’t speak up and help us.”

As shown above, general confirmation of the orthodoxy of the document has already been provided by Cardinals Schönborn and Müller, as well as many other high-ranking bishops and theologians. But he continues:

[I]f the Petrine Office does not uphold these fundamental principles of doctrine and discipline, then, practically speaking, division has entered into the Church, which is contrary to our very nature. . . .  This idea, for instance, that the Pope should be some kind of innovator, who is leading a revolution in the Church or something similar, is completely foreign to the Office of Peter. . . .

For us to remain silent about these fundamental doubts, which have arisen as a result of the text of Amoris Laetitia, would, on our part, be a grave lack of charity toward the Pope and a grave lack in fulfilling the duties of our own office in the Church. . . .

It is the duty in such cases, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.

Okay; assuming for a  moment that Cardinal Burke is correct, and the pope is in “fundamental” error, Cardinals Schönborn and Müller and many other bishops and high-ranking theologians have affirmed that Amoris Laetitia is in perfect continuity with previous Church teaching, so whom are we to believe? Cardinal Burke seems to be the “odd man out” here. Why should anyone believe his take, over against that of all the others? It’s almost as if he places himself (in a sense, and from a certain perspective) — along with his three fellow “questioning” cardinals — in the position of Martin Luther: questioning the pope and the Church, with the apparent expectation that his word and his questioning be taken as somehow more authoritative or noteworthy than all the others.

Lastly, Pope Benedict XVI has stated several times that he thinks Pope Francis’ teaching (which includes Amoris Laetitia) is in complete continuity with his own. Catholic News Agency reported this a mere two months ago,  on 12 September 2016:

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has said he is satisfied with the papacy of Pope Francis and sees “no contradictions” between their pontificates. . . .

In Benedict XVI’s own words, he sees “no breach anywhere” between his pontificate and that of his successor.

“New accents yes, but no contradictions,” . . .

That’s good enough for me. But as we have seen so many times before, unwarranted criticism of one pope often spills onto other popes, whom the critics themselves see as supposedly more orthodox than the pope they are lambasting. Hence, in this instance, to suggest that Pope Francis has strayed from orthodoxy or Catholic moral tradition, implicates also Pope Benedict XVI, since he expressly stated that there are  “no contradictions” and “no breach anywhere” between his teaching and that of Pope Francis. It becomes a sort of reductio ad absurdum. Self-described “traditionalists” like Cardinal Burke would not want to contradict Pope Benedict because he was the “darling” of the traditionalists. They loved him. He could do no wrong in their eyes. I think he ought to heed the Pope emeritus’ words, then, and so rest his troubled (and confused?) conscience.

In the meantime, the pope’s refusal to clarify is no different, in my opinion, than the Supreme Court of the United States refusing to consider a case; instead deferring to the judgment of lower courts. Thus, the pope’s non-reply need not be regarded as anything more momentous or “notorious” than that. The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already spoken and has done his job. All is well. Details in particulars and in pastoral application have to be worked out, as always in complex matters, but that is far different from a supposed scenario of “grave” errors and deficiencies in the teachings and actions of Pope Francis.

[see also the very vigorous discussion on my Facebook page about this post. I clarify (usually under fire) many of my own comments and make new ones as well, not covered above]


AddendumApplication of Amoris Laetitia with Regard to Extraordinarily Difficult Domestic Situations [Facebook comments from 9-24-16]

I won’t say that the pope is wrong, because I don’t feel myself qualified to judge the supreme head of the Catholic Church, but I do believe that any “loophole” (I use the word loosely), no matter how sensible and justified, or deemed to be “necessary”, will be exploited by the theological liberals / so-called “progressives” in the Church for their own nefarious ends. I agree with traditionalist concerns to that extent.

Whether that is sufficient reason, however, to disallow any loopholes in any circumstances, I don’t know; since liberals always exploit and distort ANY nuanced understanding of anything (e.g., look what they’ve done with development of doctrine and conscience, not to mention, widespread liturgical corruptions): thinking that nuance is their own sole intellectual domain; hence that anyone who exercises it must be one of their own (non-liberals being, of course, dumb and fundamentally challenged).

Sometimes it is true that complex nuances should still exist, wholly apart from the likelihood or even near-certainty that heterodox factions in the Church will corrupt and exploit them. That is true for development of doctrine and issues of conscience. It’s good and supremely helpful that Blessed Cardinal Newman (my “theological hero” and biggest influence in my conversion) has brilliantly analyzed these things at fabulous length. But his views have been distorted and twisted times without number by liberals, who wrongly “claim” him, just as they have claimed Pope Francis. So should he not have written what he did because of that? No.

But the fine points here are for canon lawyers and theologians and cardinals and popes to work out and through. I don’t judge the Holy Father, and don’t claim to — in effect — know more than canon lawyers and theologians and cardinals and popes. I’m weird that way . . .

I’m probably fated to be “betwixt and between” on this matter. That’s so often how it is, so nothing new there! I see valid concerns of both “sides” of a lot of disputes, and I usually have a “both/and” perspective.

In my opinion, Pope Francis recognizes that extreme complexities can sometimes exist in real-life situations. Jesus was merciful and “pastoral” like that. The woman caught in adultery could absolutely be stoned by existing Mosaic law. But He had pity on her and she wasn’t stoned. And she definitely committed adultery.

As I understand it, the reasoning would pertain to what is determined to be a “de facto” annulment, as opposed to a canonical “de jure” one. It goes beyond mere legalism in certain rare difficult circumstances, which I find to be an outlook quite consistent with Jesus and St. Paul (his numerous arguments regarding law and grace).

For example, Paul writes at length about the non-necessity of circumcision for non-Jewish Christians, then has one of his Greek converts (Timothy) circumcised  because of particular circumstances. There are many other similar examples.

There will always be liberals who twist and pervert nuances in application, and people who don’t have enough theological education or insight to ever understand it in the first place. So these things will indeed happen. They already are. I don’t take those things, however, as arguments against it.


May 4, 2016

Precise Definitions & Accurate Categories are Supremely Important for Cogent Analysis


Image by “PixelAnarchy”: uploaded on 7-26-12 [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


This is a continuation, with Catholic Tom Trinko, of our  prior discussion, entitled,  Dialogue: Amoris Laetitia: Confusing or No? His words will be in blue. This occurred on my (public) Facebook page.


You apparently don’t want to address my points so you wish to slur me by an ad hominum attack linking me to Rad Trads who I spend a great deal of time trying to bring back to the Church.

First most Rad Trads do not admit that VII documents are perfectly orthodox; they claim that they have a veneer of orthodoxy but are intended to be read in a heretical sense. I of course have always defended VII while condemning the “spirit” of VII.

I am at a loss as to how to understand how my saying that the Pope is not being clear, while being fully orthodox in his teaching, is calling the Pope a bogeyman.

Do you think that papal infallibility extends to prudential matters such as how best to communicate with his flock?

What I can’t understand is why you can’t admit the obvious, the Popes communication decisions in this case could have been better.

I do know that your reasoning does turn off the Rad Trad folks because they see it as saying that the Pope is incapable of any mistakes a definitively non-Catholic doctrine.

I didn’t link you to reactionaries. I stated above [in the previous dialogue post]: “you are not necessarily a reactionary. You could also be a traditionalist or a non-traditionalist ‘fellow traveler.’ One of the latter two is what you sound like to me.”

In these debates I often make general statements that don’t necessarily apply to the person I am debating. I have already clarified that.

I agree: reactionaries would tend to read VCII as you say. Trads usually say it is orthodox but ambiguous. Another reason to place you in the trad camp or even non-trad orthodox / sympathetic to much in trad’ism (as I am) . . .

I wasn’t talking about you at the end. I made an analogy (as I often do in argument) between your calling AL [Amoris Laetitia] unclear and “traditionalists and reactionaries say[ing] the same exact thing about the Vatican II documents.” Then I launched off my analogy to talk about other things they believe. I do this all the time in my writing. I often use the same techniques.

But as I just showed, I already had stated that I didn’t put you in the reactionary camp in the first place. These are all sociological generalizations, which is how such analysis must be in the nature of things.

You say it is “obvious” that the pope is unclear in AL. Believe it or not, there are people who disagree with you. If you can’t grasp that, you can’t. We all have opinions. You’re entitled to yours. I disagree with them. Whether you “understand” that or not, is not my problem. It is the fact of the matter.

I couldn’t care less about what reactionaries think of me. They’ve been lying about me for nearly 20 years. They’re worse than even atheists and anti-Catholic Protestants: the rudest, most uncharitable people online. I’ve been stabbed in the back by people with whom I made tremendous efforts at reconciliation. I’m lied about and mocked regularly on reactionary Facebook pages and websites and forums. I’ve been the target of vicious campaigns of slander deliberately designed to discredit me (and even harm my livelihood).

I’ve had papers on my site all that time saying clearly that the pope can be rebuked (albeit rarely and by the right people), can be wrong in a number of things; that I myself disagreed with this pope about climate change and nuclear power, that I disagreed with the past two about capital punishment and the Iraq War, etc.

I say and reiterate these things over and over and over. It never matters. It goes in one ear and out the other of these people. So why should I care about what they think of me when they can’t simply read and comprehend what I say and repeat ad nauseam? I utterly detest these sorts of things (not the people, but what they do and the false things they believe, and the tragic divisions they cause).

For a veteran writer you seem amazingly unclear as to what your words imply.

You wrote “you are not necessarily a reactionary. ” You go on to try and modify that but the fact you wrote that phrase by definition links me to reactionaries. General statements generally don’t start with “you”.

When one compares me and Rad Trads in an analogy one is saying that my approach is like theirs; i.e. grossly flawed. To say that that’s not talking about me is to express a whole new meaning to the concept of an analogy.

One does not need to be a Trad or a reactionary–both pejorative labels by the way–to recognize that the wording of VII documents could have been improved. The whole herumetics of continuity discussion is proof that standing alone VII documents have issues. Sure if one does the logical thing and used the herumetics of continuity the docs are clear but that is a bridge too far for many people.

By definition if many people find the AL unclear it is unclear. One can’t say that because some select few understand it it is clear. I can read a physics paper that you couldn’t understand but that does not mean it’s clearly written. You neglect to take into account the intended audience. If AL were intended only for theologians or experts like yourself then you’d be right in saying that the fact that non-experts can’t understand it doesn’t mean it’s not obvious.

However when Bishops and many members of the laity can’t figure out just what the Pope was saying it’s by definition proof that the document is unclear. You seem to want to blame the reader but as a writer you know it’s your job to make your point clear not the job of the reader to figure out whatever words you slap on the page–not that your books are not well written.

And it’s unclear to me if you’re not lumping me with the folks you call reactionaries why you spend the latter part of your post attacking them and their bad manners. Rather your continual comments about the failures of the reactionaries, comments not germane to our discussion on whether or not the Pope could have communicated better, can not help but be construed as your linking me to them in contradiction to your earlier statements. If you must vent about these people do so when discussing with them not with me.

Finally this is not an instance of disagreeing with what the Pope is saying for I fully agree that a couple living as brother and sister can, under certain circumstances, receive communion. Hence it is not similar to disagreeing with the Popes scientifically incorrect comments on “climate change”.

I tried my best to explain myself. I guess, then, I am as unclear in your eyes as you think Amoris Laetitia is. Join the crowd . . . I’m happy to be lumped in (at least in this respect) with the wonderful Vatican II documents and this fabulous Apostolic Exhortation.

From where I sit you have not yet grasped the reasoning behind my position, and the logical progression of my thinking, that I have taken the greatest pains to explain to you. I’m sure that will go over like a lead balloon, too, but after this comment of yours I can conclude nothing else.

I just clarified that I was not calling you a reactionary, yet you assert over and over that I am in effect doing so, or doing so in a sneaky, equivocal manner. That is a direct rejection of what I plainly stated I was not doing, which is questioning my own report.

As I have always said, “I am the world’s greatest authority on what is in my own head.” Once a person doubts the self-report and explanations of a person about his own thinking, then dialogue is dead and can no longer lead to anything constructive.

“you are not necessarily a reactionary” was strictly a logical expression meaning, “it doesn’t follow necessarily [i.e., logically] from what I am saying, that I believe you are a reactionary.” You have taken that the wrong way, to mean (far as I can tell) something like, “I suspect you are a reactionary, but am playing games and saying that you are not so that we can keep talking.” I explained exactly what I meant, but it wasn’t good enough for you. I’ll say it again, in all caps and bolded: “I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE A REACTIONARY.” Believe what you like. Once again, you have concluded that my words cannot be taken at face value. Because you couldn’t understand what I was saying, you chose to make ad hominem attacks, which is also a deficiency of logic as well as charity.

The correct phrase is “hermeneutic of continuity”, not “herumetics of continuity.” If you’re going to critique it, you’ll at least want to get the spelling right.

“Trad or a reactionary–both pejorative labels by the way”

“Reactionary” is not a term anyone likes to be called. That is granted. But if the shoe fits . . . I coined the term “radical Catholic reactionary” precisely because the group that it describes looks at itself as the quintessence of traditionalism, whereas in fact it is a wholesale distortion of same and a disgraceful scenario of false labeling and co-opting of a good term.

Traditionalists expressed over and over that they didn’t like the term “radtrad.” They interpreted it as saying that “all traditionalists are radical” and so thought it was an intended insult against the entire class of traditionalists. That was made abundantly clear in the huge dust-up over Catholic Answers’ use of “radtrad” in one of its radio shows a few years back, at the same time I was trying to come up with an alternate term. This is not the intended meaning of it at all. Rather, it was defined by those who used it (including CA) as “the small fringe, extreme group of those who call themselves traditionalists but who are in fact not so, and are radical and out of the mainstream.”

I only used “radtrad” for a couple of years. My preferred term before I coined my own was “quasi-schismatic.” But I listened to my traditionalist friends and sought to use an alternate term that didn’t offend them, even going to the great lengths of going through all my papers and changing the terms, and re-editing two of my books.

“Radical Catholic reactionary” works because it doesn’t have “trad” or “traditionalist” in it at all: thus is not subject to being understood in the way I just described. Also, because it includes “Catholic” it can’t be construed as saying that I don’t think reactionaries are Catholic. So it kills two birds with one stone: precisely the two birds it needed to kill to succeed in its intended purpose.

Saying that “trad” is a “pejorative label” is an entirely new (and remarkable) argument that I have not heard before. “Traditionalists” call themselves that. Thus, when non-traditionalists use the term they are being polite in calling traditionalists their own chosen term: what they wish to be called.

Moreover, I virtually call myself a “traditionalist” since I am so close to, and sympathetic to the position in many ways (e.g., having attended Latin Mass for now over 25 years). I wrote a whole post about it.

So to say that I am now using the term as a pejorative is really out there: a truly surreal and bizarre proposition. Perhaps, though (it’s not clear: no pun intended) you are only objecting to the shortened version “trad”. That would at least make some sense, but not much more.

I can assure you or anyone else reading that the only reason I ever do that is because “traditionalist” is such a long word, and one tires of typing that out too many times, in talking about it.

I used “trad” four times in one paragraph of my previous comment simply as an abbreviation: and for no other reason. In the same comment I also used the abbreviations “AL” and “VCII”. If you are objecting to “trad” then I guess you think I am pejoratively viewing the Second Vatican Council and Amoris Laetitia as well, which is ridiculous. I also use “JPII” a lot. Am I putting down Pope John Paul the Great, too? You used “AL” twice in your last comment and “VII” twice.

Lastly, traditionalists themselves use “trad” all the time, too (I assume for the same reason: to avoid typing all those letters over and over; certainly not because they despise themselves). For example, traditionalist Kevin M. Tierney does it five times in one of his many articles on the topic:

“. . . trad circles . . .”

“. . . trad bloggers . . .”

“trads” (three times in two paragraphs near the end)

Traditionalist Taylor Marshall uses “trads” twice in one of his articlesEtc., etc. I could find scores and scores of further examples.

As an apologist, professional author, and sociology major in college, definitions and proper, descriptive, accurate titles are extremely important to me personally and to the work that I do: as seen in the great care I took to avoid offending traditionalists (hence, my cessation of use of the term “radtrad” and urging others to do the same).

I go through the same sort of arguments and wearisome objections made by anti-Catholic Protestants who absolutely hate being described as that. Yet as I have shown many times, this term has long been in use by historians and other scholars, and is perfectly respectable and descriptive. Thus, I use it. These are people who claim you and I are not true Christians, and that Catholicism is not a species of Christianity. To call them “anti-Catholics” is infinitely less insulting than what they are saying about us.

They need to be distinguished from the huge majority of “ecumenical” Protestants who do not reject Catholicism as sub-Christian, exactly as reactionaries (folks who ludicrously call me “neo-Catholic” or “modernist” or “Novusordoist”) need to be distinguished from true traditionalists because they do not represent that honorable and orthodox group.

You say you’re not calling me a reactionary because you interpret the phrase “you are not necessarily a reactionary” in a rather idiosyncratic way.

Yes I did, so that’s the end of that.

I will accept your claim that you didn’t mean that but it’s really hard given that you keep talking about reactionaries when you talk to me. Your reply -2 above has the last 5 paragraphs dedicated to reactionaries for example. But I’ll accept that you just didn’t communicate clearly.

You can accept whatever you like. Most of my readers have no trouble accepting my styles of communication and arguing. I am regularly told that my writings are clear and easy to understand. Once in a while someone doesn’t understand it. This is fully to be expected, so I’m not bothered by it. It’s mostly a subjective thing. If nine people say that one’s writing is “clear” and one says it is “unclear” one obviously has to write for the nine and not the one. A writer can only go by the feedback he gets, and (for Catholic missionaries) the fruits of his work.

I made no ad hominem attacks against you unless of course my pointing out the highly antagonistic way your poorly phrased comments could be interpreted is ad hominem in your mind.

<snark>If you’re going to attack my spelling you are clearly clutching at straws; I leave spelling to my editors. As a writer I’m more concerned about content. </snark>

Hardly. I’m just helping you out. If you go argue about this stuff and use that spelling of a well-known phrase, people will think you don’t know what you are talking about. So it was an act of charity. You can’t see that. Others can.

When a mainstream catholic calls someone who considers themselves a “true” catholic because they reject VII it’s a pejorative; a label for something that is not good. If you don’t intend it that way then I’ll keep that in mind in the future. I’ve never seen the term Trad used in a neutral or approving way but there’s always a first time.

Then you haven’t observed the traditionalist world and its self-terminology very closely. I have for 20 years. I gave you examples; they weren’t good enough for you. I could give many more, as I said, but since these had no impact, it’s unlikely that further ones would. People use abbreviations. This ain’t rocket science.

I too worry about offending people. That’s why I developed the term NONCC–Non-Orthodox Non-Catholic Christian–to avoid upsetting Protestants who objected to the label of Protestant.

But we’ve drifted far from the main point; the Pope’s extremely poor communication technique. No matter how “beautiful” AL is the reality is that the key issue at stake here is whether or not the Pope is endorsing Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The Pope should know that too.

Hence to not clearly state that the Sacrament is only available to those who are in effect not married, i.e. living as brother and sister, is simply inexcusable. You’ve given no reason that withstands scrutiny to justify the Pope not being clear on this very important point.

Because you’re an academic perhaps you think having to go to external sources to understand a document is normal but for the majority of Catholics if the document itself is unclear they’re in trouble.

I’m not an academic; I’m a lay popular-level apologist, who writes for and to the masses. But some of what I do is sort of “academic-lite.” Many academics like reading my writings. I just never claim to be a scholar, because I don’t have those credentials.

Further the Pope was not unclear on something that is intrinsically hard to discuss such as the Trinity but on something that is trivial to clearly state. All he had to do was say “Those divorced and remarried who are willing to live as brother and sister may be able to receive Communion.”

Yet even when given the chance he laughed it off and told people to listen to the Cardinal.

Given that we both agree that the Pope did not intend anything heretical we also both agree that the Pope’s interests are best served if people can clearly and definitively know what he intended. He’s failed at that.

Ah, I see how you view the Holy Father. He has “extremely poor communication technique.” He “should know” stuff that you know. You judge him for not doing what you think is absolutely necessary, and this is “simply inexcusable”. “the document itself is unclear.” He “failed” in this respect.

He was wrong to say that a Cardinal properly clarified his document. He has to do everything. So he screwed up again. He didn’t know that Cardinals couldn’t actually do some things, too. He should have checked with you. Damn! The lost opportunities of life . . . !

All this amounts to “I know better than the pope.” Gotcha. Duly noted. In an alternate universe perhaps you could have attained the office of Vicar of Christ. I have a hunch that in that world you would catch as much hell and receive as much unwarranted criticism as Pope Francis gets.

But it’s just a hunch. I prefer this world where the marvelous Pope Francis is pope. May he have many more years.


Meta Description: As sadly so often, discussion about Pope Francis & Amoris Laetitia, breaks down & becomes “ships passing in the night.”

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, annulments,apostolic exhortation,Catholics & marriage,Catholics & the family,Divorce, fellow travelers, Holy communion, Pope Francis,pope-bashing, public squabbling, Radical Catholic Reactionaries, remarried Catholics, synod on the family,useful idiots, well-intentioned folks

May 3, 2016


Image uploaded by “ClkerFreeVectorImages” on 4-29-14 [Pixabay / public domain / CC0 license]


Catholic Tom Trinko‘s words will be in blue. This occurred on my (public) Facebook page.


Perception is reality. While I have no problem believing that Pope Francis is not a heretic the reality is that liberals in the Church are going to take footnote 351 and run with it.

We also know that lots of good Catholics will be concerned that the only way they can figure out that the Pope is not teaching error is by listening to a talk by some Cardinal. Is it too much to ask that on an issue this contentious which has received so much coverage and so many claims that the Pope will change doctrine that the Pope’s own writing could be more explicit?

That one has to listen to the cardinal’s talk to understand what the Pope wrote is bordering on scandal itself. Catholics are under attack from every direction these days. That they have to do deep research to find out that the Pope isn’t teaching error is an unconscionable burden to levy on them.

How many people leaning toward the SSPX or other “traditional” groups will take a step out of the Church because of this?

I write articles defending the misinterpretation of this Pope but the time has come to condemn him not for heresy but for apparently not understanding the impact of his less than clear writing.

Pope Francis has lead an amazingly holy life for which we can give thanks to God. However releasing this document with footnote 351 without a clear statement that the sacraments are only for those not living sinfully was a huge error given that the media, and liberal Catholics, had been saying for years that the Pope would allow Communion for people living in objective sin.

I sadly suspect that years from now it will be possible to find liberal priests and bishops who will allow divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion and cite the Pope’s document as support.

As I confidently predicted just three hours before writing this (“Will it shut up the reactionaries and their fellow travelers? No. Sadly, nothing will.”), the clarification even from a Cardinal won’t do any good for people who keep wanting to criticize and insist that everything is so muddy and unclear and confused.

Traditionalists and reactionaries used to love Cardinal Ratzinger, didn’t they? His “banal” quote regarding the Novus Ordo Mass is still grossly quoted out of context to this day. They used to love Cardinal Burke until he disagreed with them about Amoris Laetitia.

So we get precisely what was being requested over and over and you dismiss it with the wave of a hand. It was not strictly necessary, but some people are slow learners and lack faith and trust, so it was necessary for them.

Well I’m not entirely alone. Read what this Bishop [Schneider] wrote. [link]

Also note I didn’t communicate well. I specifically said that I didn’t think that the Pope intended anything heretical so I’m not clear why you’re grouping me with reactionaries.

My complaint,and Bishop Schneider’s, is that the Pope’s unclear language will create problems for the Church even though the Pope’s intentions are good.

And by the way I do think one needed to listen to the Cardinal to figure out what the Pope intended. It’s not clear from the context that the Pope was talking about couples who were not living in objective sin because they were being chaste.

I’m not an idiot but I would not have thought of that on reading what the Pope wrote even though I’d assume that there was some legitimate way to reconcile what the Pope wrote with Church teaching.

That’s why your comment about slow learners is not germane. In my case the issue wasn’t was the Pope a heretic but rather how in the world can we reconcile what he wrote with Truth.

I’ve written a number of articles defending the Pope’s earlier comments [links: one / two / three / four / five] . . . [you have an inability] to understand why good people who trust the Pope are concerned when Bishops and priests are claiming the Pope is teaching that it’s okay for sexually active remarried people can get Communion and the Pope does not simply say “No that’s not what I said”.

I dealt with your objections, I believe, in my recent paper: Satan Loves Divisions Re Amoris Laetitia.

Your article on the pope and immigration is included in my resources in defense of the Holy Father.

You are totally wrong and I say that in a very charitable way.

Here’s why:

1) There are many public voices in the Church, including prelates, who are saying that divorced and remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive communion under some conditions.

Of course there are. The liberals / modernists (like the poor) are always with us.

2) The media has been widely relaying the statements of those clerics.

Of course they do, because it furthers their anti-traditional / secularizing agenda. What’s new today is that so many Catholics read that slop and think that the Holy Father is part of it.

3) The average Catholic knows that clerics, including Bishops, have been saying that the divorced and remarried should be able to get Communion.

Probably, since the average Catholic is woefully ignorant of so many things in theology and practice.

4) Hence an unclear statement will leave confusion in the Church.

I don’t agree with you that Amoris Laetitia is unclear. I deny your assumed premise.

5) Confusion in the Church is unacceptable and should be avoided.

I agree. Public infighting and questioning of the competence of the pope is also unacceptable and should be avoided.

6) The only way to avoid those clerics claiming the Pope said X, even though he didn’t, is for the Pope to clearly say he didn’t say X.

The pope did do that by directing the confused to Cdl. Schonborn’s clarifications. There is nothing wrong or improper in that at all. The pope doesn’t have to do everything. What are we, a bunch of children?

Your response would be valid if no one of any stature in the Church was speaking about giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

However in the world as it is we know that the folks who are now speaking for Communion for divorced and remarried have often in the past asked “forgiveness”, actually approval, after the fact on issues like Communion in the hand, altar girls, and most recently women having their feet washed at Easter.

A reasonable person has every reason to assume that some Catholics will not bother to listen to what the Cardinal said and simply run with their interpretation of what the Pope wrote.

Not responding to and correcting that will create severe problems in the Church.

And of course the obvious question is why would it be hard for the Pope to simply say “I meant cases where the couple is living a life of heroic virtue by being chaste.”?

The job of the Church is to teach the Truth. Whenever any of the faithful are confused, for whatever reason, the job of the Church is to be clear even if that requires restating things that “should be obvious”.

I provide 34 articles clarifying Amoris Laetitia. How many have you read of those, if you’re so confused? Wouldn’t you have the highest motivation to read them, so as to become un-confused? [he didn’t answer]

You can’t deny that AL is unclear to some people unless you’re going to say I’m dumb or disingenuous and the same is true of the Bishop I cited.

You might find it clear but the reality is that unless one is steeped in knowledge of the Church, which most Catholics in America at least aren’t these days, it is clearly incorrect to simply declare that writing that has confused so many people is in fact clear.

The Bible has confused tons of people, and whole sects and heresies have been built upon false interpretations of it. Is it sufficiently clear to understand? I say it is, for the most part, though there are clearly complexities in systematic theology and exegesis, to learn with study.

I gave my own opinion. I do not think it is unclear. I didn’t deny that others did not find it to be so. The reasons why they do would be a whole ‘nother discussion. I think a lot of it is because they bring false assumptions and premises as to what was or “must have been” in the pope’s mind when he wrote it, and his overall outlook.

Yes we are children, or more precisely sheep. Referring people to a long talk rather than simply saying he meant chaste couples is an extraordinarily poor communication technique.

The very fact that 30+ articles have been written clarifying AL proves that your assumption that AL is obvious is incorrect. An obvious text does not need to be explained over and over again by third parties.

It does not at all. They are written because, for various reasons, some people find Pope Francis to be so unclear and supposedly heterodox in some fashion or against tradition. So a lot of effort has to be expended to show that he is not those things.

Likewise, much ink has been spilt in trying to persuade reactionaries (and many traditionalists) — mostly in vain — that the Vatican II documents are perfectly orthodox and wonderful, while they continue the canard that they are supposedly unclear and ambiguous.

It’s the same with the Bible. As an apologist, I’ve been explaining the Bible to people who don’t understand it or distort it, for 35 years. The fault lies in them, not in Scripture. I think that is the case here, too, whether they are well-intentioned (most are) or not.

My first major apologetics projects in the early 1980s were collecting evidences for the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Trinity in the Bible, and to refute Jehovah’s Witnesses. They and many others do not see these clear proofs, which number in the hundreds. If the Bible (God’s Word) is massively misunderstood, why wouldn’t a human papal document also be? Of course it will be. All we can do is explain it for the slow learners or those laboring under misconceptions and false presuppositions.

And while I would be motivated to read such articles the person who is at risk because of the lack of clarity in AL, the divorced and remarried Catholic looking for a way out, is unlikely to look a gift horse in the mouth when his priest and his bishop say that the Pope was endorsing communion for the divorced and remarried.

I think a big part of our disagreement is that I believe the Pope should strive to be a better communicator and you think the burden should rest on the people in the pews to figure out what the Pope is really saying.

Yes, I think people should get off their butts and learn much more than they do. They are willing to do so in college or at work. But when it comes to theology and spirituality, they don’t have time, and want to be spoon-fed. Hence, they are easy pickings for the secular media, and its allies and bedmates among reactionaries and liberals.

You agree that many Catholics are woefully ignorant of their faith but then you say that the Pope doesn’t need to be clear that it’s the faithful’s responsibility to figure out what the Pope is really saying even when it requires a lot of knowledge. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Again, I didn’t say that the pope doesn’t need to be clear. I think he is, for the most part (though everyone can improve). He simply has a different style. He’s a pastor, not primarily a theologian or philosopher like the previous two popes. People misunderstand him (generalizing, of course) largely because of what they bring to the table in interpreting him. If they bring false premises, they will misinterpret what he writes and says.

I don’t expect the Pope to write things that can’t be misinterpreted, after all people misinterpret the Bible all the time. But when something of this magnitude comes up a simple direct clarification is necessary.

Once again, he has clarified. He said, in effect, “go read Cdl. Schonborn’s clarifications if you are confused about what I meant.”

I didn’t say I was confused. I said the Pope was unclear and that was a big problem. The Patheos article was clear.

I still disagree. The Popes comments on this in AL were not remotely clear enough given the environment he was writing in–Bishops saying that Communion for divorced and remarried is okay.

It’s one thing if a text is unclear because it’s complex. It’s quite another when it’s unclear because the author eschews clarity.

Given the length of this document the Pope could have added a sentence clarifying the living chastely constraint without exceeding his page limit.

Similarly when directly asked about this he should have been clear and not just point to some Cardinal’s talk.

The Pope is to be our teacher but you act as though it’s the responsibility of the faithful to overcome papal obtuseness.

Christ’s Truth is both simple and clear. He didn’t require them to “get off their butts and learn much more than they do”. Willful misunderstanding, like the SSPX, is far from the situation with AL where detailed research is needed to figure out what the Pope intended.

The writer of Hebrews would appear to disagree:

Hebrews 5:11-14 About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; [13] for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Actually that supports my point:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; “

I’m saying we need a clear teacher, the Pope, who provides simple to understand truth, milk. You’re saying we should be able to eat meat, obscure teaching, before we are fed milk. The reality is that the majority of American Catholics need milk not meat.

You were trying to deny that God (and the Church) requires people to “get off their butts and learn much more than they do”. So I gave a scriptural example where they had to do just that. It was a rebuke: they should have known more than they did. The parable of the talents is very much along the same lines (Matthew 25:14-30). They have to do something with what they have been given.

This isn’t just a Protestant notion. It’s also a Catholic one. Hence, a renewed emphasis on Scripture-reading in the Church, especially over the last 70 years or so. It’s presupposed that people can learn things on their own, without being led like a child at every turn.

But today people choose to remain ignorant in various ways and not study on their own. They’d much rather whine about how ignorant and confused they are, and moan about how supposedly unclear the pope is, and how he must lead them by the hand in everything.

Also, in the questions under consideration (who can and cannot receive Holy Communion), the answers for the average Catholic will be sought out by consulting a priest or at least a DRI or other Catholic teacher, or apologist.

Thus, the responsibility is on them, not just on the pope. Whether they fail in their task, and why they fail if in fact they do, is a completely different discussion, and there are numerous causes for that failure when it occurs (sadly, far too often), and very few — if any — of them have directly to do with how clear Pope Francis writes or expresses ideas and doctrines.

No. You gave me a verse that said that before they are ready for meat people need teachers who will prepare them.

I pointed out that most American Catholics haven’t had those teachers and hence are unready for meat.

You are apparently comfortable with people going astray due to unclear Church teaching because you blame the people. Yet Christ clearly instituted the Church precisely to educate the people. If the Church fails in that, and it clearly has in the US, then it’s unfair to blame the people only.

It’s one thing to defend the intentions of the Pope, something I agree with, but quite another for you to defend his failings and lay the blame for them on the people.

All that matters is that because of the lack of clarity in AL, clarity that could have been added with minimal effort, many will be seduced into believing the lies of those clerics who will tell them that they can go to Communion when they can’t.

The reason we want to convert everyone to the Church even though those outside the Church can be saved is because the odds of people doing the right thing is much better when they know what Christ actually taught. That’s also why we need a Pope who speaks clearly on critical matters not just a Pope who is fully orthodox in his teaching.

Jesus said to be saved we had to be like little children not like scholars. That doesn’t mean that studying the faith is not something we should do but it does mean that it’s a stretch to condemn poorly catechized Catholics for the Pope’s lack of clarity.

I’ve never denied (ever, in 25 years) that the Church is failing at large in her teaching duties. I just referred above to “failure [of priests and teachers in the Church] when it occurs (sadly, far too often) . . .”

We continue to differ on whether the pope was unclear or not. You say that you understand him but that nevertheless he remains too unclear in Amoris Laetitia. I replied with three arguments:

1) The Bible and Vatican II are misinterpreted and thought to be unclear, too. The Bible’s perfect and inspired. Obviously we can’t go and change that. We can only teach people the correct doctrines in it.

2) People need to learn on their own, too (I gave two scriptural arguments).

3) It’s mainly a function of priests and DRIs and apologists and Catholic teachers (in Catholic schools) and catechists to teach these things. Most lay Catholics will never read AL, assuming they have even heard of it.

But, bottom line: you say the pope is fundamentally unclear and I deny that.

You’re blaming him; arguing that he is lax in his duty and incompetent. You think you could do a better job than he did. So it is the same old saw: y’all think you are more Catholic than the pope, and would make better popes than he is. You know better. You are lecturing him on how to be the Holy Father. You would speak more clearly than Pope Francis. He’s a fool in over his head, who doesn’t understand even basic concepts of teaching and pedagogy. That’s what the griping amounts to. You can try to deny it all you want.

One quickly tires of this, no matter how well-intentioned it is.

They said all the same bullcrap about Pope St. John Paul II. How short people’s memories are! The incessant moaning and whining stopped during Benedict’s reign because he was the traditionalists’ and reactionaries’ darling. But as soon as he was gone, it immediately started up again.

Rorate Caeli literally trashed Pope Francis on his first day in office, and their main source was a Holocaust denier, as I have documented. They didn’t know if he’d be “clear” or not on his first day!

You say, “we need a Pope who speaks clearly on critical matters not just a Pope who is fully orthodox in his teaching.”

And of course traditionalists and reactionaries say the same exact thing about the Vatican II documents: they are orthodox, but they ain’t clear enough; they’re “ambiguous”, and so they alone have brought about the almost complete (alleged) collapse of the Church (forget secularism, the sexual revolution, theological liberalism, the massive clerical and academic dissent against Humanae Vitae, etc.). Nope, it must be Vatican II and the New Mass which are the cause of all ills. Couldn’t possibly be anything else.

Now Pope Francis is the third boogeyman. Classic reactionaryism features the “big three”: bashing of the pope, the New Mass, and Vatican II. 


Meta Description: Dialogue with a fellow Catholic who insists that Amoris Laetitia is terribly unclear, while I take the polar opposite view. 

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, annulments, apostolic exhortation, Catholics & marriage, Catholics & the family, Divorce, Holy communion, Pope Francis, pope-bashing, Radical Catholic Reactionaries, remarried Catholics, synod on the family, useful idiots, public squabbling, fellow travelers, well-intentioned folks

May 2, 2016


Geological fault line in Þingvellir National Park, Iceland. Photograph by Jon Connell, 8-5-06 [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


This is an exchange with James Hooper, a Catholic friend, on my Facebook page. His words will be in blue. Words of Catholic friend Margie Prox Sindelar will be in green


You gentleman are heroically defending AL and to some degree the Pope. It really is the only salvageable position for explaining this as an evangelist. But for the sake of argument, wouldn’t it be nice if all this was rendered unnecessary by a clear and unambiguous rejection of the Kasper paradigm? It would just throw a bucket of cold water on all of this controversy. I pray we get that re-statement / clarification soon.

I think it was rejected by not being adopted, just as the Supreme Court rejects a lower ruling by deciding not to deal with (hence not overturn) a higher contrary ruling.

The very fact that the discussion basically centers around a footnote in a non-dogmatic Apostolic Exhortation shows us what we are here dealing with. Nothing has changed, except perhaps in a pastoral sense: an attempt to be more sensitive to difficult marital situations.

Dave the current controversy is solely because people see the Kasper language in Chapter 8. Right or wrong, they see it. Kasper and the German bishops see it. Most people like us can accept the hermeneutic of continuity – however a goodly portion of the Church doesn’t, including quite a few “sane” Catholics with great reputations. Despite all that has transpired it would be helpful to the case of pulling these people in to hear an unambiguous, plainly worded rejection once and for all.

The same stuff is said about Vatican II all the time, as I note more than once in my post. I don’t buy it. Theological liberals will always distort things. That will happen as long as they are around and haven’t died out yet. Give it 15-20 years and they’ll be mostly dead and we’ll be liberated from their sublime wisdom and faith.

Those will be glorious days. However, wouldn’t it have been nice at the time of Vatican II to have really clear directives as to what the documents didn’t mean? Perhaps it wasn’t as clear what was happening back then. Its clear now and I hope not a missed opportunity for the Holy Father to help us to help him. Come Holy Ghost.

Again, I think Vatican II is quite clear and glorious. I think the same about the Bible, which has been distorted by kooks and liberals lo these past 3000+ years. No one knows that better than the apologist. I see how it is done all the time, even by atheists, who ludicrously fancy themselves experts on Holy Writ.

They see it because they are looking for it, many of these people are still bemoaning that Burke is not Pope [see related link], and don’t trust Pope Francis.

Some but not all. Some are sincerely wanting to help the Pope and those souls who will be impacted by these kooks by eliminating the ambiguity. 

That’s why I said “many”, and I stand by my opinion that those “worried” about the Pope will serve the church better by worrying about their own sanctification, and I have the Saints to back up my opinion.

If what was appropriate is worrying about our own souls, then none of us would be apologists or evangelists. We have a de facto problem in that very prominent churchmen, not just raving radical traditionalists, see an ambiguity that has the potential to lead people astray. Assuming that isn’t the Pope’s intention at all, suggesting a clarification only helps him and the Office of Pope. As you know, I don’t think the only two options are acceptance or silence.

That’s why I provide links to 31 articles [as of this writing] that accept and explain Amoris Laetitia. [#198 and after in the list] One can at least read the positive, “pro” articles if they must read the others, too.

I won’t go astray sticking with the Pope, but many can and do go astray questioning him. I have seen it and so have you. We need good apologists like Dave because there are very bad apologists, very bad media, and a lot of Catholics that don’t trust the Holy Spirit. I see nothing but ugly fruit coming from those who question the Pope nonstop, and it starts innocently enough, with good intentions, but its a huge danger. The section lay people are obsessed with is not ever for laypeople. The biggest crisis in the church right now, in my opinion, is that too many think they are apologists and they are not.

Too many think they are popes or Protestants, too.

Dave you’re kind of moving the goal posts. My comment was on people who misinterpret Vatican II. Those people caused trouble in the last 30-40 years. What I was saying is that it would have been nice to have some clearer interdiction on those people sooner. As we both know John Paul II and Benedict XVI introduced the concept of the hermeneutic of continuity to combat that idea.

As I said at the outset, I commend Dave for doing this heavy lifting. It is the job of the apologist to present the voice of the church in the most positive light possible. I have actually reposted Dave’s collection of articles on my wall for the edification of those who follow me.

My quip was tangential I suppose, that given the obvious concern by more than just the usual commentators, but by real and respected theologians and prelates, which comes from a place not of anti Popery or mischief, perhaps a clarification from the Holy Father would be helpful to everyone. In my opinion it’s not enough to lump everyone together into the kook bucket, or to simply suggest everyone should like it or lump it. Perhaps your focus is the 1 Peter 5 crowd, but there is a lot more being said out there that isn’t in “bad media.”

It would be a shame to see all of this become divisive like the waterboarding discussion 20 months ago where all of us were being collectively accused of all sorts of mischief, when we were just defending the right of Catholics to form an opinion on another vague non dogmatic issue.

It already has, and on reactionary pages is far worse than the waterboarding fight ever was. My page is civil because I demand that it be so, but the larger fight is very ugly and divisive and the devil has a huge victory.

I think the charity displayed in the conversation here keeps that danger at bay, but we should remain vigilant that we minister to those people whose opinions may differ or who are so far off the ranch (calling the pope a heretic) that unity seems unlikely. In the spirit of mercy, our rhetoric should always assume the best intentions and not add to the division there already is. Again, no worries here; just laying that out for consumption by all.

I don’t lump everyone together as indistinguishable. What I say is that it is troubling that more and more “respectable” and non-reactionary voices are jumping on the “criticize the pope at every turn” bandwagon.

I predicted this. The [mostly] secular media / liberal / legitimate mainstream traditionalist + radical Catholic reactionary “narrative” regarding Pope Francis is now so entrenched that it will probably not go away till we get another pope.

I think this is a great tragedy and a huge victory for the devil, who loves nothing more than to divide and conquer, and set Catholics against each other and against their own supreme leader: the Vicar of Christ. He is so happy about it that he is dancing with glee and ecstasy.

We will see more and more of this as time goes on. And some who have gone down this road will become traditionalists and some will keep traveling further “right” into radical reactionary land and worse. Mark my words. I’ve watched these trends for 25 years.

I agree with you about the devil. He is assuredly delighted. We should seek unity where we can, assisting the Holy Father where we can.

Hilary White (Lifesite News / The Remnant) already has a position that there are no orthodox bishops and that the entire non-reactionary Church isn’t Catholic at all, but literally another religion that she calls “Novusordoism.”

It’s standard practice among reactionaries to call those of us who disagree with their nonsense “neo-Catholics” and to mock us (as I was at The Remnant [see my reply] and Scott Eric Alt is being mocked currently by Steve Skojec of One Vader Five). [see his reply also]

When I critiqued Chris Ferrara’s trashing of the last document of Pope Francis (Laudato Si) I was roundly mocked and dismissed as a guy who has no readers. Division? There it is.

My point was that we can’t let our defense of the Magisterium or the Pope contribute to more division, not that there isn’t division. Elevating the rancor serves nobody except the aforementioned Devil.

Telling the truth, unfortunately, always ruffles feathers. This is why Jesus was murdered, and why they tried to kill Paul and Peter many times, and eventually did. We know Jesus never sinned, yet they accused Him of being filled with a demon, and of blasphemy.

Folks get angry even if we present truths as perfect saints and all sweetness and light. Division exists because a proportion of any given crowd accepts falsehood and lies. That is the beginning of it.

I have not read these people out of the Church (like Hilary White has done with us). That’s why I call them “radical Catholic reactionaries.” My reasoning in coining that term was to make it clear that I am starkly separating the category from mainstream traditionalism, and also to make it clear that I regard the people as Catholics, albeit both radical and reactionary.

Well Dave, I personally see the ambiguity that others have pointed out in Chapter 8. I think it opens a door to mischief, and there are plenty of people like Cardinal Kasper who are clicking their heels in celebration of the ambiguity they see to. I don’t question the Pope’s motives – and I don’t think its appropriate to blend “hair on fire” criticism with evangelism – and I think that’s probably the difference.

We’ll see where all this criticism and public confusion and lamentation leads, James. It’s nowhere good, in my opinion.

I am curious. What do you think is an appropriate response to an honest concern with this kind of non-magisterial document? Is the only acceptable option just complete acceptance, or is there an appropriate route for one to exercise one’s obligations under Canon 212?

Obviously rants accusing the pope of heresy are not appropriate. What other responses are appropriate in your opinion?

I’d say the appropriate response is to continue on as we always have, accepting it as part of the “hermeneutic of continuity” and to stop interpreting the pope as if he is a liberal and revolutionary: for which there is no evidence.

Thanks. I’d like to propose that there is another position here, that doesn’t fit into that binary model of either you accept it as part of the “hoc” or reject it because you think the Pope is a revolutionary or liberal.

I believe one can simultaneously promote the document through the eyes of the “hoc” and make an observation that many in the church (Cupich, Kasper, Marx, etc.) since the document has been released have announced that they see an opening for communion for divorced and remarried that aren’t living in continence. I believe that one can simply call for clarity from the Vatican in a concern for souls that may be led astray, without indicting the Pope as a revolutionary or liberal.

We have to remember that the synod in part was called to clarify these very issues which are now even more confused. The Pope himself pulled Cardinal Kasper out of retirement to air his proposal, presumably in a spirit of putting the question to rest once and for all. Since the matter has not been put to rest in the eyes of these people by the synod, nor by the exhortation, nor by comments following the release of the synod – it doesn’t seem unreasonable to simultaneously promote the positive hermeneutic and request clarification where it is obviously needed, all without denigrating the Pope.

As I have stated over and over, folks will misinterpret and (I think, dishonestly, or at least erroneously) exploit the document, just as they do the Bible and the Vatican II documents.

Nothing can stop that. All the clarifications in the world can be made and it won’t help. The more nuanced, and (I think) realistic and practical documents are, the more liberals exploit them in this manner.

Moreover, those who are not liberal and anti-pope who think it is so unclear, etc. (with perfectly good intentions), are falling into the hands of liberal goals: and essentially are functioning, under the circumstance, as what Lenin called “useful idiots.”

I just have to respectfully disagree that anyone who is not liberal and who sees shortcomings in this document, while proposing it within the full parameters of canon 212 (respect for the office and speaking their concerns candidly) are in fact “useful idiots.” I think that’s a sad condescension to people who have dedicated themselves to God and the Church. Again I am not speaking about hair on fire reactionaries. The document is not dogmatic, nor does the Pope claim any sort of magisterial voice here. Comparing it to Trent or Vatican II is a mismatch.

That’s what I have to say. Thanks.

As usual, I have to explain “useful idiots.” It is not saying that the people are consciously idiots. From the perspective of those with a far more radical agenda, this is how they are viewedWikipedia gives a good one-sentence definition:

In political jargon, “useful idiot” is a term for people perceived as propagandists for a cause whose goals they are not fully aware of, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

Thus a person can be perfectly sincere and well-meaning, in this instance orthodox Catholic, love and care about the Church, be wonderful people, etc., and still be a useful idiot in specific ways. The devil is an extremely subtle operator. See C. S. Lewis’ classic, The Screwtape Letters . . .

Of course, reactionaries say the same sort of thing about those of us whom they derisively call “neo-Catholics” all the time: that we are in bed with modernism, fundamentally compromised (even consciously so in the worst cases) useful idiots. But they will not say the nice stuff about us that I am saying about those who are critiquing Pope Francis with only good intentions.

I understand the allusion to “useful idiot,” and I still don’t agree. You are basically suggesting that people such as myself who have a track record of defending the pope but see a problem brewing in the church which could be averted by some Papal clarification are in fact unwittingly promoting reactionaries. I find this ironic because you are equally offended by apparently being accused of unwittingly supporting modernists. Personally I think it is uncivil and unfair to paint someone who disagrees with you on a purely prudential matter as an unknowing agent of Satan.

I appreciate your time in conversing with me on this matter. I wish I could say I felt less unsettled. As someone I respect, I am disappointed to see these distinctions being made. Thus it’s probably best I retire from the dialogue here. Peace.

Yes, I believe the devil is extremely clever, and he is exploiting the present divisions to the max.

I think whatever legitimate criticisms that can be made (and I don’t deny that there are possibly some) should be made in private, with fellow Catholics: not broadcast for all the world to see.

But since the criticism is broadcast far and wide, and by increasingly more people and relatively more respectable people, I am duty-bound as an apologist and defender of the pope to speak out against it.

We’re a laughing-stock among anti-Catholic Protestants now. They are having a field day noting and mocking all these internal divisions. They use it as arguments against the One True Church. They say, “see! The nauseating papists are no different than we are, with our own endless divisions, never able to be healed.”

And this includes speaking out against what I believe to be the grand strategy of Satan to once again divide and conquer: one of his favorite and oldest tricks in his large arsenal.

If you disagree, you do. I can only call it as I see it. I’ve always been known as a straight shooter, and with good reason: because I am in fact (right or wrong) a straight shooter.

Public detraction of the Pope is very different from public discussion of a situation that is developing in the church. Shooting the messenger, albeit straight shooting, without distinction probably isn’t helpful to prevent further division.

I have taken an oath as well to defend the magisterium. Requesting a clarification along those lines to aid our errant brethren in understanding the limits of praxis is perfectly in those lines and does not presume an attack on the Holy Father.

You need not worry that I take anything personal. My feelings are the least of my concern. The souls of those being led astray by errant voices are my concern. My opinion is that positive apologetics would be maximally effective with some straight shooting from the Pope, when he realizes there is trouble brewing.

You call for clarification. Cardinal Schonborn has already provided exactly that. The pope expressly stated that what the Cardinal said would clear up the confusion over the “controversial” portions of the document. And Cardinal Schonborn made it perfectly clear that the document does not overturn existing Catholic tradition, teaching, and practice. So your wish has been granted.



Meta Description: Is public massive criticism of a papal document by Catholics a good thing? Is it even necessary? I debate it with a Catholic friend.

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, annulments,apostolic exhortation,Catholics & marriage,Catholics & the family,Divorce, Holy communion,Pope Francis, pope-bashing,Radical Catholic Reactionaries,remarried Catholics, synod on the family

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.

April 9, 2016


Amoris Laetitia repeatedly cites and expands upon the great 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, from Blessed Pope Paul VI [Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication ]


Yesterday I chided the radical Catholic reactionaries for opposing the pope’s Apostolic Exhortation even before it came out, and being wrong, as usual. Then I posted extensive highlights of the document, having to do mostly with all the “hot-button” moral issues that reactionaries pessimistically claimed would be changed, and that liberals hoped would change. Both were misguided. The Church hasn’t changed any of her doctrines, which I have been predicting with yawns for the past two years that this has been bandied about.

Today I’d like to give some of my opinions, that were posted in the Facebook discussion and combox for my previous paper: in defense of the document over against continuing criticisms, or simply in explanation of the same, according to my best lights as an apologist. These are mostly random / spontaneous thoughts. I claim no more than that for them. But for what they are worth . . .

* * * * *

My goal in the article was to show that the document upheld traditional Catholic morality (can’t do everything at once). There will be plenty of time for discussion of how the reactionaries and their comrades-in-arms in goofiness and detraction, the modernists / liberals, exploit and twist a few passages, as they always do.


There are a few passages which will be taken wildly out of context, given the most cynical interpretation, and made the supposedly “ambiguous” roots of a supposed conspiracy against moral tradition. The reactionaries and modernists have done this with Vatican II; they will, sadly, with this document, too (since they have so many profound similarities in their thinking and attitudes).


It’s not hard for me to call it a “Humanae Vitae moment” (especially in light of the very strong reiterations of a strikingly “anti-secular” conjugal openness to life). As I said, the document will be distorted and dishonestly exploited, as reactionaries and modernists always do. They do the same with Scripture, which we know is perfect and infallible and inspired.

The liberals rebelled against Humanae Vitae, despite its great clarity. It’s not the fault of the documents in any of these cases.


What Amoris Laetitia does is continue to develop and expand and elaborate upon the truths and themes of Humanae Vitae by incorporating the wisdom of Pope St. John Paul II: especially his theology of the body. But I meant the “1968” analogy in a larger sense than just the pro-life and contraception issues.


[replies to criticism of the exhortation’s length] The Bible is clear and concise and definitive. 73 books. Or is that too long to be inspired? Indeed, it is often misinterpreted and butchered, and this document will be also (already is in the usual quarters).

1. Length is no “negative quality” in and of itself, of any document. Hence, the Bible . . .

2. If the Bible (very long) is even inspired, why is it that 250 pages somehow detracts from this document, which is far less than inspired? (analogical / logical principle: if the greater thing, how much more so the lesser thing in the same regard).

Length has nothing to do with anything. Yes, the pope gets “lengthy” about supremely important topics, and I’m ecstatic that he does. The more the merrier, because it’s all truth and we get more than enough garbage and lies rammed down our throats every day.

The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas was a treatise for beginners in theology. Five long and enormously “meaty”, thought-provoking volumes! This is how far we’ve sunk over the last 740 years. Now folks complain about one document, the size of an average paperback (that they will devour in a day or two, and go out and buy many more).


The pope referred to admission to some of the sacraments in rare cases, in one footnote:

351 In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

So of course, the reactionaries in their endless pessimism and self-delusions and the liberals in their relentless dishonesty and anti-traditionalism, are latching onto this. Read closely, I don’t even think the last sentence necessarily implies communion for those in irregular situations. It may simply be seen as a sort of related mark, or a footnote within a footnote. These people miss the following much more definitive and clear statement in section 242:

At the same time, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

I was asked in retort: “Why not address the issue more directly, instead of ambiguously, and in a footnote?” I replied:

Well, he did, by consigning it to a footnote! Nothing has changed, in other words . . . It’s like the Supreme Court passing over a case without comment. That means that existing law (civilly and in the Church) stands where it is. I think Fr. José Granados – Vice President of the Pontifical Institute of John Paul II (Rome), explains it quite sufficiently.

Nothing is ever sufficient to quell controversies, for those intent on whipping them up. Humanae Vitae was short and concise. Did that matter? No; there was a wholesale rebellion that almost split the Church. Vatican II is regarded as ambiguous and unclear by the recationaries and many mainstream traditionalists. So is the Catechism.

Vatican I defined papal infallibility. Some folks on the left didn’t like it and left (the Old Catholics, led by Dollinger). Others on the far right weren’t content with it (ultramontanes like Ward and Manning). Nothing is ever good enough for the modernists and their comrades, the reactionaries.


I strongly suggest ignoring reactionary hit-pieces from The Remnant, Hilary White, Rorate Caeli, One Peter Five, Lifesite News, Catholic Family News, and other like-minded reactionary groups, as well as secular sources and venues. Though Breitbart managed to do well, one simply can’t trust the secular media (even conservative or libertarian “alternative” media) to get it right.

Ignore these articles. And of course read the document for yourself and interpret it in line with Catholic tradition, which it is wholly consistent with. If you want to read additional summaries and commentary, read the ones recommended in my long list of defenses of Pope Francis (#198 and after). They respect and understand Pope Francis and the Church.


[referring to the pope’s “pastoral” approach to the divorced and remarried, cohabiting, etc.] The debt is not being forgiven (or overlooked). The person is being treated with charity so that they can come to realize more and more (in an atmosphere of love rather than spurning and personal condemnation) that they have to stop some behavior they are engaged in.

Jesus was charitable to the adulteress (indeed, saved her from stoning, which was quite permissible under the Law), but in doing so He also told her not to sin. This document teaches that certain things are sin, but just in a more subtle way. It’s a different approach, but I contend, in line with St. Paul: “I have become all things to all men, that I may by any means save some of them.” Some people will never grasp this sort of thing, but it is quite biblical, right along with the more strict statements of condemnation (that Paul also makes).

The strict Law was relaxed (letting the adulteress live rather than be stoned to death). And the reason was that we all sin, and so should be slow to judge the heart of someone in objective sin (but not infrequently not also in subjective mortal sin, out of ignorance, etc.).

All of this gets into age-old thorny questions of Law vs. Grace, which was a huge New Testament theme, and is also a question in the Church: how do we balance law / justice and mercy / charity, in order to maintain standards of morality, yet reach the greatest number of souls for salvation and the fullness of grace and faith?

It’s typical Catholic both/and reasoning. The problem is that many of the interpreters we see today think in either/or terms; in false dichotomies. They think that because charity is stressed, therefore, the objective moral law of the Church is simultaneously being rejected, as if it were a zero-sum game. It is not, and the pope makes that clear. But some (many?) critics of the document can’t comprehend that the pope can talk about one thing, without at the same time (in the same act or thought) changing the other.


Section 301 doesn’t mention the Eucharist, and is drawing the distinction between subjective and objective mortal sin. There could be, for example, someone in the “irregular” situation of a reputed marriage after divorce, yet living as brother and sister. That would be regular but not only not mortally sinful, but not sinful at all.

Moreover, when the Eucharist is mentioned in conjunction to “irregular” situations, it is a divorced person who did not “remarry”: not one who did:

At the same time, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. . . .” (242)

Spiritual death is caused by subjective mortal sin as well as objective. This is the distinction drawn by Amoris Laetitia, and is rather basic in Catholic theology: any child ought to be aware of it by First Communion and the age of reason.

Section 299 never mentions the Eucharist, either. It is simply assumed without warrant by some critics of the Exhortation. It says, rather, “Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services . . .” And it says that they should be “able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.”

Folks too often pick and choose and isolate statements out of context to “read in” what they wish. But as with all documents, the entirety of the reasoning and the writing as a whole must be incorporated into interpretation.


Meta Description: Reflections and ruminations on Pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia,” from Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong.

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis, apostolic exhortation, synod on the family, Radical Catholic reactionaries, pope-bashing, Catholics & marriage, annulments, divorce, remarried Catholics, Catholics & the family, Holy communion

April 8, 2016

Heroic Reiteration and Development of Catholic Moral Tradition 


Pope Francis, 27 April 2014, on the day of the canonization of Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II. Photograph by Jeffrey Bruno [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]


Blessed Pope Paul VI heroically resisted overwhelming pressure to change constant, traditional Church teaching regarding the ban on contraception, in his landmark 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. Tragically, many bishops and theologians then simply ignored it and engaged in a disgraceful open dissent. I have compared (in my title) Pope Francis’ latest magisterial proclamation to that great event in Church history. He, too, has resisted the tides of a fashionable secularism: precisely the opposite of what was expected from his legion of detractors.

Pope Francis beatified Paul VI during the closing Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the family on 19 October 2014, stating that “before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom.” Now Pope Francis has done the same, in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love).

I’m not surprised in the slightest. I have said for as long as this document started being discussed, that it would be the Holy Father’s “Humanae Vitae moment.” And so it has come to pass. Looks like I’m far more of a “prophet” than the reactionary naysayers (though I never claimed the power). Rather, I’ll simply say that I looked forward to the document with “hopeful and faithful expectation.” This is how Catholics ought to approach such things. But it is becoming more and more “old-fashioned” and supposedly outmoded, in our cynical and sophisticated age.

Radical Catholic reactionary Chris Ferrara (of “Remnant” infamy) stated for all what the future would hold, in the prognostications of his article from 4 April 2016, four days before the release of Amoris Laetitia. Not given to subtlety, nuance, or qualification in such matters (see my critique of his bashing of the pope’s previous “environmental” encyclical, Laudato si), Ferrara’s ultra-confident jeremiad included the following “infallible” pontifications (my bolding and italics):

The “Joy of Love” is about to explode upon the Catholic world, no doubt overthrowing the teaching of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI, in line with all of Tradition, on the impossibility of  Holy Communion for those living in a state of continual adultery. The overthrow will be veiled in ambiguous references to the “internal forum,” “integration,” and a “path or journey” culminating in admission to Holy Communion according to the “competence” of the local ordinary or the “episcopal conferences” Paul VI invented to begin the process of fragmenting the universal discipline of the Church Universal in the context of the “liturgical reform.”

In short, if what seems likely comes to pass, practice will hollow out the dogma on the indissolubility of marriage, . . .

Well, reactionaries (very much like Democrats) never seem to be held accountable for their words. They constantly say stupid stuff, including virtual pseudo-prophecies or quasi-infallible utterances, such as the above, without being called on it. After they blow it again, they simply move on, assuming that everyone will 1) forget, and 2) not believe that they have seriously undermined their intellectual and theological credibility. This is one time that they are being held accountable.

The reactionaries have been engaged in open warfare against Pope Francis, almost from the beginning. For my part, I have consistently defended the Holy Father against falsehoods, calumnies, and twisting of his teaching and even his very words, with a book on the topic and an ongoing extensive collection of articles in his defense. Thus, my primary purpose at present is to show that the reactionary resistance (as exemplified by Ferrara) was dead-wrong for the umpteenth time, in its cynical denigrations of the pope. Indeed, I’m doing a huge “I told you so.” No one ever deserved it more than these guys. Hopefully, some will learn from their mistakes in this instance.

The present confidently proclaimed (and dramatically incorrect) predictions are only the latest in a long list of same. It takes chutzpah to predict (with premature hand-wringing) what a future document will state, but this is par for the course with the reactionaries, and quite in line with their ultra-pessimistic approach to the affairs of Holy Mother Church. Like the ancient Gnostics and the smug (corrupt number of) Pharisees, they “know” more than all of us ignorant peasants: so much so that they even know what the future will bring! It has to always be bad, right?

And so they felt confident in predicting the doom-and-gloom and apocalyptic despair and alleged Episcopalian-like anti-traditionalism yet to come. Nothing good can ever happen in the Catholic Church, so they think (well, except for Pope Benedict, their darling, but an increasing number even attack him now: blaming him for retiring, etc.).

Now, it was feared in endless speculative discussions that Pope Francis would relax the age-old prohibition of the divorced-and-remarried (minus an annulment, which is essentially different from divorce) from receiving Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Thus, reactionary Patrick Archbold, dusting off his crystal ball and putting on his wizard’s hat, dissented (on 4-5-16):

Crux [see Cdl. Dolan’s remarks below] is already working overtime to spin the document as no biggie. That is likely to be a load of horse hockey. So I thought I would tell you how to read it. First, know this. The document will contain:

2% Actual Catholic teaching on marriage and the rest. This will provide all the cover necessary for the “everything is awesome” toadies to crow about how beautiful and orthodox it is. “I mean, did you read the second paragraph on page 98, that almost sounds like Pope Pius X. All is well.” It will be a load of crap, but there will be those who just eat it up and call it ice cream.

97% Jesuitical blather and pious sounding non-sequiturs. How do I know? 200 pages.

No one could make this up. Catholics, describing a papal document before it is even released as “a load of crap” and “97% Jesuitical blather”?! It’s a strange world, indeed. As a Protestant, I had infinitely more respect for the papal office, than these bloviating bashing boobs do.

The prediction of Cardinal Timothy Dolan (reported on 4-4-16) was much more accurate, and, in fact, “hit the nail on the head”:

The message that I would hope is going to come through in a ringing way in the apostolic exhortation, . . . is that once again the Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is sincerely trying to be faithful to the timeless teaching of Jesus, and yet apply that in a very merciful, understanding, gracious way. . . .

I think what you’re going to find is a classic Catholic approach, of a clear defense of Church teaching and yet a call for creative ways to extend the mercy of God to people.

Moving past all the prognostications, and this preliminary commentary, what did the pope actually state in his exhortation, regarding this issue of reception of Holy Communion in particular, divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, contraception, same-sex unions (falsely described by our secular culture as “marriages”) and related moral aspects (which have been highlighted by reactionaries as areas of likely “change” in Church doctrine)? Let’s examine it (my bolding added; footnotes and footnote numbers in the text in blue):

35. As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.

[ . . . ]

42. Furthermore, “the decline in population, due to a mentality against having children and promoted by the world politics of reproductive health, creates not only a situation in which the relationship between generations is no longer ensured but also the danger that, over time, this decline will lead to economic impoverishment and a loss of hope in the future. . . . The upright consciences of spouses who have been generous in transmitting life may lead them, for sufficiently serious reasons, to limit the number of their children, yet precisely “for the sake of this dignity of conscience, the Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favour of contraception, sterilization and even abortion”.20 Such measures are unacceptable even in places with high birth rates, yet also in countries with disturbingly low birth rates we see politicians encouraging them. . . . 

20 Relatio Finalis 2015, 63.

[ . . . ]

44. . . .  “The Church has always held it part of her mission to promote marriage and the family and to defend them against those who attack them”,25 especially today, when they are given scarce attention in political agendas. . . . 

25 Pontifical Council for the Family, Charter of the Rights of the Family (22 October 1983), Introduction.

[ . . . ]

52. No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries. There is a failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life. We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society. But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?

53. “Some societies still maintain the practice of polygamy; in other places, arranged marriages are an enduring practice… In many places, not only in the West, the practice of living together before marriage is widespread, as well as a type of cohabitation which totally excludes any intention to marry”.40 In various countries, legislation facilitates a growing variety of alternatives to marriage, with the result that marriage, with its characteristics of exclusivity, indissolubility and openness to life, comes to appear as an old-fashioned and outdated option. Many countries are witnessing a legal deconstruction of the family, tending to adopt models based almost exclusively on the autonomy of the individual will. Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal. The strength of the family “lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love. For all a family’s problems, it can always grow, beginning with love”.41

40 Relatio Finalis 2015, 25. 43

41 Ibid., 10

[ . . . ]

55. Men “play an equally decisive role in family life, particularly with regard to the protection and support of their wives and children… Many men are conscious of the importance of their role in the family and live their masculinity accordingly. The absence of a father gravely affects family life and the upbringing of children and their integration into society. This absence, which may be physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual, deprives children of a suitable father figure”.44

44 Relatio Finalis 2015, 28.

56. Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time”.45 It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated”.46 On the other hand, “the technological revolution in the field of human procreation has introduced the ability to manipulate the reproductive act, making it independent of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. In this way, human life and parenthood have become modular and separable realities, subject mainly to the wishes of individuals or couples”.47 It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.

45 Ibid., 8.

46 Ibid., 58.

47 Ibid., 33.

[ . . . ]

68. . . . In a particular way, with the Encyclical Humanae Vitae he brought out the intrinsic bond between conjugal love and the generation of life: . . . 

[ . . . ]

80. Marriage is firstly an “intimate partnership of life and love”80 which is a good for the spouses themselves,81 while sexuality is “ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman”.82 It follows that “spouses to whom God has not granted children can have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms”.83 Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”.84 The child who is born “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfilment”.85 He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself. From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning,86 even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.

80 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 48.

81 Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 1055 § 1: “ad bonum coniugum atque ad prolis generationem et educationem ordinatum”.

82 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2360. 63

83 Ibid., 1654.

84 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 48.

85 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2366.

86 Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968), 11-12: AAS 60 (1968), 488-489.

[ . . . ]

83. Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being. The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last. Consequently, “those who work in healthcare facilities are reminded of the moral duty of conscientious objection. Similarly, the Church not only feels the urgency to assert the right to a natural death, without aggressive treatment and euthanasia”, but likewise “firmly rejects the death penalty”.93

93 Relatio Finalis 2015, 64.

[ . . . ]

166. The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God. Each new life “allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us. It is the beauty of being loved first: children are loved even before they arrive”.177 Here we see a reflection of the primacy of the love of God, who always takes the initiative, for children “are loved before having done anything to deserve it”.178 And yet, “from the first moments of their lives, many children are rejected, abandoned, and robbed of their childhood and future. There are those who dare to say, as if to justify themselves, that it was a mistake to bring these children into the world. This is shameful! … How can we issue solemn declarations on human rights and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?”179 If a child comes into this world in unwanted circumstances, the parents and other members of the family must do everything possible to accept that child as a gift from God and assume the responsibility of accepting him or her with openness and affection.

177 Catechesis (11 February 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 12 February 2015, p. 8.

178 Ibid.

179 Catechesis (8 April 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 9 April 2015, p. 8.

167. Large families are a joy for the Church. They are an expression of the fruitfulness of love. At the same time, Saint John Paul II rightly explained that responsible parenthood does not mean “unlimited procreation or lack of awareness of what is involved in rearing children, but rather the empowerment of couples to use their inviolable liberty wisely and responsibly, taking into account social and demographic realities, as well as their own situation and legitimate desires”.182

182 Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization on Population and Development (18 March 1994): Insegnamenti XVII/1 (1994), 750-751.

[ . . . ]

222. The pastoral care of newly married couples must also involve encouraging them to be generous in bestowing life. “In accord with the personal and fully human character of conjugal love, family planning fittingly takes place as the result a consensual dialogue between the spouses, respect for times and consideration of the dignity of the partner. In this sense, the teaching of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (cf. 1014) and the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (cf. 14; 2835) ought to be taken up anew, in order to counter a mentality that is often hostile to life . . . Moreover, “the use of methods based on the ‘laws of nature and the incidence of fertility’ (Humanae Vitae, 11) are to be promoted, since ‘these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favour the education of an authentic freedom’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370). Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the fact that children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents and the Church. Through them, the Lord renews the world”.250 

250 Relatio Finalis 2015, 63.

[ . . . ]

242. The Synod Fathers noted that “special discernment is indispensable for the pastoral care of those who are separated, divorced or abandoned. Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together. To forgive such an injustice that has been suffered is not easy, but grace makes this journey possible. Pastoral care must necessarily include efforts at reconciliation and mediation, through the establishment of specialized counselling centres in dioceses”.259 At the same time, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life. The local community and pastors should accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when children are involved or when they are in serious financial difficulty”.260 Family breakdown becomes even more traumatic and painful in the case of the poor, since they have far fewer resources at hand for starting a new life. A poor person, once removed from a secure family environment, is doubly vulnerable to abandonment and possible harm.

259 Relatio Synodi 2014, 47.

260 Ibid., 50.

243. It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. “They are not excommunicated” and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community.261 These situations “require careful discernment and respectful accompaniment. Language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided, and they should be encouraged to participate in the life of the community. The Christian community’s care of such persons is not to be considered a weakening of its faith and testimony to the indissolubility of marriage; rather, such care is a particular expression of its charity”.262

261 Catechesis (5 August 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 6 August 2015, p. 7.

262 Relatio Synodi 2014, 51; cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 84.

[ . . . ]

246. The Church, while appreciating the situations of conflict that are part of marriage, cannot fail to speak out on behalf of those who are most vulnerable: the children who often suffer in silence. Today, “despite our seemingly evolved sensibilities and all our refined psychological analyses, I ask myself if we are not becoming numb to the hurt in children’s souls… Do we feel the immense psychological burden borne by children in families where the members mistreat and hurt one another, to the point of breaking the bonds of marital fidelity?”269 Such harmful experiences do not help children to grow in the maturity needed to make definitive commitments. For this reason, Christian communities must not abandon divorced parents who have entered a new union, but should include and support them in their efforts to bring up their children. “How can we encourage those parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of committed and practical faith, if we keep them at arm’s length from the life of the community, as if they were somehow excommunicated? We must keep from acting in a way that adds even more to the burdens that children in these situations already have to bear!”270 Helping heal the wounds of parents and supporting them spiritually is also beneficial for children, who need the familiar face of the Church to see them through this traumatic experience. Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times.

269 Catechesis (24 June 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 25 June 2015, p. 8. 187

270 Catechesis (5 August 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 6 August 2015, p. 7.

[ . . . ]

251. In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”.278

278 Relatio Finalis 2015, 76; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (3 June 2003), 4.

[ . . . ]

283. Frequently, sex education deals primarily with “protection” through the practice of “safe sex”. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance. . . . 

[ . . . ]

293. The Fathers also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage”.315 . . . 

315 Relatio Synodi 2014, 27

294. . . . In some countries, de facto unions are very numerous, not only because of a rejection of values concerning the family and matrimony, but primarily because celebrating a marriage is considered too expensive in the social circumstances. As a result, material poverty drives people into de facto unions”.321 Whatever the case, “all these situations require a constructive response seeking to transform them into opportunities that can lead to the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel. These couples need to be welcomed and guided patiently and discreetly”.322 That is how Jesus treated the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26): he addressed her desire for true love, in order to free her from the darkness in her life and to bring her to the full joy of the Gospel.

321 Relatio Synodi 2014, 42.

322 Ibid., 43.

[ . . . ]

297. . . . 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. Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest.  . . . 

[ . . . ]

300. . . . Priests have the duty to “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. . . . 

[ . . . ]

307. In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur: “Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church”.354 A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves. To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.

354 Relatio Synodi 2014, 26

[ . . . ]

311. . . . it is quite true that concern must be shown for the integrity of the Church’s moral teaching . . . 

Once again, we proclaim in faith with St. Ambrose: 

It is to Peter himself that He says, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church [Mt 16: 18].” Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal. (Commentaries on Twelve of David’s Psalms, 40:30)

We need to follow Peter, not Peter Pan or pied pipers; Rome, rather than the radical Catholic reactionary nattering nabobs of negativism, who lead everyone astray. To paraphrase Mark Twain: “reports of the death of the Church are greatly exaggerated.”

This is a beautiful document and another instance of extraordinary teaching from Pope Francis: especially with regard to the pastoral or merciful dimension of the faith. There is a great deal here that all of us can learn from and be edified by. It’s a magnificent, moving, striking, consistent development and exposition of the Catholic faith and the whole of its theological and moral tradition (as, particularly, the bolded portions above, demonstrate).


Meta Description: Summary of the teaching on “controversial” moral issues, in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia.”

Meta Keywords: Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis,apostolic exhortation, synod on the family, Radical Catholic reactionaries, pope-bashing, Catholics & marriage, annulments, divorce, remarried Catholics, Catholics & the family, Holy communion


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