The Filial Correction Corrected. Part 2 of a Response to The Correctors.

The Filial Correction Corrected. Part 2 of a Response to The Correctors. September 27, 2017

Filial correction

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The “filial correction” of Pope Francis—the work, says the National Catholic Reporter, of “a few dozen Catholics”; a “marginal fringe” of “mainly obscure figures” (like Dr. Cristina Siccardi, a “historian of the Church”)—claims to find seven heresies in Amoris Laetitia. I refuted the first supposed heresy here, and now move on to the second:

Christians who have obtained a civil divorce from the spouse to whom they are validly married and have contracted a civil marriage with some other person during the lifetime of their spouse, who live more uxorio [i.e., engaging in sexual relations] with their civil partner, and who choose to remain in this state with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act, are not necessarily in a state of mortal sin, and can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity.

The passage in Amoris Laetitia in which The Correctors seem to discover this heresy is §301. (They don’t say, specifically, where they find it, so I am left to guess. That, as we shall see, is a common problem.)

It … can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.

Now, the first thing to notice here is that §301 does not say anything about couples who choose to remain an irregular union “with full knowledge of the nature of their act and full consent of the will to that act.” It does not say that those people are not in mortal sin; it does not say that those people have sanctifying grace. None of that is there. These ideas The Correctors superimpose upon the text. They engage in supposition; they do not read the text so much as they read into it.

Second point. The Correctors leave out a great deal of §301 when they quote from it. Take, for example, the sentence which comes immediately before what I quoted above. “The Church,” says Pope Francis, “possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.” This sentence does not appear in the “filial correction.” How very odd that is. Don’t you think?

So the whole context of §301 has to do with situations where “full knowledge” or “full consent of the will” are not present. In those situations, there is no mortal sin. In those situations, there is sanctifying grace.

Well, this is nothing more shocking than what the Church has been telling us lo these many centuries.

One may be, says the pope, “in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.” That’s not “full consent of the will.” Or, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision.” That’s not “full consent of the will.”

The Correctors are wrong; Amoris Laetitia does not say there is sanctifying grace and not mortal sin, even with full knowledge and consent. The text actually says the opposite. Mortal sin is absent and sanctifying grace present when there are factors that impair “full consent of the will.”

The point Pope Francis is making in §301 is simply this: One cannot presume that mortal sin is present in all irregular unions. Perhaps it is in some, but perhaps it is not in others; and if it is not, then, in those cases, there is sanctifying grace. The pope, however, does not say that, even if there be full knowledge and full consent of the will, there is sanctifying grace. That’s just not in the text.

Or, do The Correctors find this heresy in §305?

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.

Oh, no. The pope mentions “mitigating factors,” so he can’t mean “full knowledge” or “full consent of the will” here either. He’s talking about objective sin but not subjective culpability.

The Correctors just don’t read very well, do they?


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