Now if Life Site News Could Correct the Record. Again. [Updated]

Now if Life Site News Could Correct the Record. Again. [Updated] May 2, 2016

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

This post is intended as a brief follow-up to yesterday’s (here), in which I noted Card. Schonborn’s clarifying words on the issue of commmunion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

Briefly, Card. Schonborn noted that footnote 351 in Amoris Laetitia—the one that has been getting all the attention and being used to claim that Pope Francis permits a change in this regard—is only meant to be read consistently with Familiaris Consortio 84.

In footnote 351, Pope Francis says that “in certain cases” couples in an irregular union can receive “the help of the sacraments.” He does not specify what those “certain cases are”; but Card. Schonborn takes us to FC 84 and says the pope has in mind couples who must remain married for the good of children, but who agree to practice continence.

Says Card. Schonborn:

Of course being careful not to give scandal. But Pope Francis has a little note on that, where he seems to observe that nonetheless they live a married life—not with sexual union, but they live together; they share their life; and publicly they are a couple. So I see the careful discernment requires, from the pastors and from the people concerned, a very delicate conscience.

In other words, what Card. Schonborn says here is that footnote 351 is not a departure from Familiaris Consortio 84, but an application of it.

Now, this presentation was given on April 9 at the International Theological Institute in Austria. Three days later, on April 12, Edward Pentin published the YouTube video at the National Catholic Register. So anyone, from April 12 on, could have checked this article, listened to the video, and found this out.

The video is here, and you can see for yourself. The relevant part starts just after 59 minutes into the presentation, and lasts about ten minutes.

Then what happened is that, on April 16 the pope was on a plane from Greece to Rome and gave an interview. You know the parsing that takes place after these interviews. It’s a real circus. But this was after Card. Schonborn’s presentation and Mr. Pentin’s article. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal, Frank Rocca, asked the pope about communion for the divorced and remarried. Are there openings? he wanted to know.

The pope replied—and you can check the transcript—that the surest way to get a complete and accurate answer to the question would be to review Card. Schonborn’s presentation of Amoris Laetitia. Now remember: This is posted at the Register. It’s on YouTube. Card. Schonborn, said Pope Francis, is a good theologian. He knows the doctrine of the Church. “In that presentation,” the pope says, “your question will find an answer.”

Read carefully now, because this is where Life Site News comes in. The wery same day—April 16—LSN published an article by Jon-Henry Westen about the interview. The title was: “Pope says Schonborn interpretation on communion for remarried is the final word.” “Final word” not quite accurate; that’s an embellishment; but I won’t quibble here. The key point is that Life Site News, because it was writing about the pope’s interview and what he said about Schonborn, knew full well that the pope directed the reporter to the cardinal’s presentation. And we find the video of the April 9 event at the National Catholic Register four days ahead of this. Life Site News even links to Mr. Pentin’s article; so it knew of the video.

However, Mr. Westen’s article made no mention at all of Schonborn’s ten-minute discussion of footnote 351 and how it was to be understood consistently with Familiaris Consortio 84. Instead, he spent the majority of his article claiming that footnote 351 contradicts FC 84.

So I ask: How did this oversight occur? It may very well have been a totally innocent goof. That happens; been there, done that. But wouldn’t it be proper, at this point, for Life Site News to explain that, according to Schonborn—the man Pope Francis says holds the correct understanding about the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried—AL is actually to be read in harmony with FC 84, not as a departure from it? Wouldn’t it clear up a lot of potential confusion if Life Site News were to say, Okay, Schonborn specifies that the “certain cases” in which “the help of the sacraments” may be given are cases in which the couple has agreed to practice celibacy?

Note: The section of FC 84 that Mr. Westen quoted from to show that Amoris is a departure, was quoted by Cardinal Schonborn to explain how Amoris is consistent. Shouldn’t Life Site News make note of this? Perhaps they will wish to dispute that Card. Schonborn has the correct understanding, even though Pope Francis himself said that he does have the correct understanding. They have every right to do that. But wouldn’t it be right for Life Site News to put all the facts out there, so readers can make a judgment for themselves?

Just a suggestion.


Update 5/3/16. I spoke this morning with Jon-Henry Westen of Life Site News, and he provided some clarification I want to make note of.

One of my concerns about his article—I talk about it here—was the sentence where Mr. Westen writes that footnote 351 “is being seen as” opening communion to the divorced and remarried who lack an annulment (independent of continence). I believed that this phrasing, in the passive voice, could be taken to suggest that such a view is the common consensus rather than what, in fact, it is: a claim that is in dispute.

Mr. Westen clarifies that the reference was to the worldwide media broadly, not the Catholic media in particular.

He also points out that the presentation to which the pope had referred in his interview was Card. Schonborn’s original, Vatican presentation. (The video of the Vatican presentation is here and the written version is here. These links were provided to me by Mr. Westen.)

The presentation in Austria, he says, was to a group of conservatives, and his view is that Card. Schonborn may have been attempting to assuage their worries in his reference to continence as the “certain cases” the pope has in mind. He also said that Card. Schonborn’s reference to the “five attentions” was an important part of the overall context that should not be overlooked in any discussion of the video.

I do want to add, lest there be any confusion, that my point in this article was not to accuse Life Site News of any distortion or deliberate leaving out of the facts. My only point was my own opinion that Card. Schonborn’s clarification at the ITI presentation should be noted for the record, whatever one makes of it, and should factor in to how footnote 351 is understood. That remains my view.


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