April 11, 2016

Amoris laetitia

Photo credit: Russell Lee, 1946. public domain image

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout communion, confusion, disunion, second union, this union, that union, revolution, evolution Let’s take a look at what else the pope is saying. (My emphasis in bold.)


  • Marriage is between one man and one woman. Same-sex unions are not marriage.

29. The word of God tells us that the family is entrusted to a man, a woman and their children, so that they may become a communion of persons in the image of the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

52. 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.

71. Jesus, who reconciled all things in himself and redeemed us from sin, not only returned marriage and the family to their original form, but also raised marriage to the sacramental sign of his love for the Church.

251. 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.”

  • Marriage requires openness to life.

11. The ability of human couples to beget life is the path along which the history of salvation progresses. Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.

42. Consumerism may also deter people from having children, simply so they can maintain a certain freedom and lifestyle.” 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.” 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. As the bishops of Korea have said, this is “to act in a way that is self-contradictory and to neglect one’s duty.”

43. The negative impact on the social order is clear, as seen in the demographic crisis, in the difficulty of raising children, in a hesitancy to welcome new life, in a tendency to see older persons as a burden, and in an increase of emotional problems and outbreaks of violence.

47. Families who lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are greatly to be admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of faithfulness to the gift of life. In these situations, the family can discover, together with the Christian community, new approaches, new ways of acting, a different way of understanding and identifying with others, by welcoming and caring for the mystery of the frailty of human life. People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity. … If the family, in the light of the faith, accepts the presence of persons with special needs, they will be able to recognize and ensure the quality and value of every human life, with its proper needs, rights and opportunities.

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.”

  • Marriage is indissoluble.

62. The Synod Fathers noted that Jesus, “in speaking of God’s original plan for man and woman, reaffirmed the indissoluble union between them, even stating that ‘it was for your hardness of heart that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so’ (Mt 19:8). The indissolubility of marriage – ‘what God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6) – should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.

123. it is in the very nature of conjugal love to be definitive. The lasting union expressed by the marriage vows is more than a formality or a traditional formula; it is rooted in the natural inclinations of the human person. For believers, it is also a covenant before God that calls for fidelity: “The Lord was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant… Let none be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord” (Mal 2:14-16).

218. Another great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all. Their union is real and irrevocable, confirmed and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony. Yet in joining their lives, the spouses assume an active and creative role in a lifelong project. Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God’s grace, they are daily called to build. For this very reason, neither spouse can expect the other to be perfect. Each must set aside all illusions and accept the other as he or she actually is: an unfinished product, needing to grow, a work in progress.

  • The Church must support discernment and give its members reasons to choose marriage over a single life.

12. In speaking of marriage, Jesus refers us to yet another page of Genesis, which, in its second chapter, paints a splendid and detailed portrait of the couple. First, we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit for him” (vv. 18, 20), capable of alleviating the solitude which he feels amid the animals and the world around him. The original Hebrew suggests a direct encounter, face to face, eye to eye, in a kind of silent dialogue, for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words. It is an encounter with a face, a “thou,” who reflects God’s own love and is man’s “best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support,” in the words of the biblical sage (Sir 36:24).

33. Freedom of choice makes it possible to plan our lives and to make the most of ourselves. Yet if this freedom lacks noble goals or personal discipline, it degenerates into an inability to give oneself generously to others. Indeed, in many countries where the number of marriages is decreasing, more and more people are choosing to live alone or simply to spend time together without cohabiting.

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. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.

39. We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye. Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs. Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mindset. It is also worth noting that breakups often occur among older adults who seek a kind of “independence” and reject the ideal of growing old together, looking after and supporting one another.

  • The Church must assist those discerning marriage learn how to love so that fewer divorces occur.

72. The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment. The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since “their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church. The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses of the salvation in which they share through the sacrament.” Marriage is a vocation, inasmuch as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church. Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment.

205. The Synod Fathers stated in a number of ways that we need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage. They should be helped to perceive the attraction of a complete union that elevates and perfects the social dimension of existence, gives sexuality its deepest meaning, and benefits children by offering them the best context for their growth and development.

  • People rebel against God when they do not accept the gender they were born with.

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.”

285. Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves.

There is much more, too. It would hardly be possible to be exhaustive. The pope says that the absence of a father is a detriment to the family life (55); that marriage requires total self-giving (73); that educating children is a right of the parents, not the state (84); that preparation for marriage should include training in chastity (206); that separation is always a last resort (241); that the Church has a right, in its educational institutions, to proclaim its own teaching, as well as the right of conscientious objection (279), that the divorced and remarried can only participate in the Church “in an incomplete manner” (291); that those in a sinful second union must be called to repentance and conversion (297); and that the Church has the responsibility to proclaim the truth of marriage as taught by Christ (307).

Any discussion of the “controversial” passages in Amoris Laetitia must reflect the whole of what Pope Francis said, including in these other passages. The exhortation needs to be read slowly and as a whole, not reading one passage in isolation from others. I cite these sections here for the sake of reference, for those who will be involved in writing about and discussing this document with those acquaintances, and those in the media, who will insist on misreading it.

April 11, 2016

Jules Arsene Garnier, "Les supplice des adulteres"

Jules Arsene Garnier, “Les supplice des adulteres”

People send me links (“Did you see this??”); I don’t seek out these things anymore. But Steve Skojec at 1 Vader 5, who has now resorted to posting screenshots from Facebook for the general ridicule, claims that Pope Francis actually condones adultery in Amoris Laetitia. (You can find it here if you are free from GERD.)”He does!” Mr. Skojec says with the incorrectible confidence he alone possesses. “Paragraph 298!” (Okay, the exclamation points are my own.)

Let us check, then. Here is what AL 298 says:

The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.”

There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”. Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family. It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family. The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place “by adequately distinguishing,” with an approach which “carefully discerns situations”. We know that no “easy recipes” exist.

That is the full text; I did not leave anything out. Now, the first bold passage is where (I think) Mr. Skojec gets the idea that Pope Francis condones adultery. I can think of no other, in any case. The pope says there are situations in which a couple in a second, “irregular” marriage are not able to separate. They show “Christian commitment” and “fidelity.” This must be what Mr. Skojec has in mind; for the rest of the paragraph does nothing more than set out a few examples of why a second marriage may have occurred, affirm that it is not “what the Gospel proposes,” and insist that pastors must discern cases.

And what is interesting, at least to me—I make no claim as to how interesting it will be to those who get all their information about Amoris Laetitia secondhand on social media, or from Fox and CNN, or the New York Times—is that Pope Francis includes a footnote to the text I put in boldface. Mr. Skojec does not mention this. He is sloppy like that. The footnote (it is #329) directs us to Familiaris Consortio. 84. Pope St. John Paul II called together a synod on the family too. FC is also an apostolic exhortation on the family; it is also, like AL, long. Interesting: I thought only Pope Francis called together these crazy synods to examine settled teaching; I thought only he wrote long documents to baffle us with an ocean of words. Are the malcontents wrong?

But I digress. If you go to §84, this is what you will read:

Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

St. John Paul II said this. Did you know that? And here, for two years, the malcontents have said that these are Bergoglian and Kasperite novelties; they will bring on the Remnant Church.

Back to Familiaris.

Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church [“They are not excommunicated,” said Pope Francis in another dangerous novelty of his], for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.


Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”

So Amoris Laetitia 298 does nothing more than quote Familiaris Consortio 84. If Mr. Skojec wants to tell us that Pope Francis condones adultery, then he will have to tell us that Pope St. John Paul II condoned it as well. Is he prepared to do that? We all sit by our screens and wait.

”But Alt!” someone will say to me. “St. John Paul II expressly said that such couples must practice celibacy!

Oh? But so does Pope Francis. Here is the pope in footnote 329, which Mr. Skojec does not mention:

In such situations [i.e., irregular marriages], many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.”

Yes, Mr. Skojec, Pope Francis says that those in an irregular marriage must live together celibately if, for the sake of their children, they cannot separate.

It is a matter of wonder to me that those who put a great deal of weight on footnote 351 somehow miss footnote 329.

April 8, 2016

Amoris laetitia

Shining a light on Amoris Laetitia. Image via Pixabay

…is paragraph 7:


Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully.

And that is what I intend to do. I feel no special urge to join the instant commentary that will, inevitably, miss a great deal and get the rest wrong. The most important thing you can do is read the document yourself, slowly, deliberately, and ignore the headlines and believe none of them. Read them later. Take the pope’s advice. I will have a great deal to say about Amoris Laetitia, but I am going to read all of it first.

That is why, dear reader, you can trust the commentary this blog offers. I will report back next week.


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April 7, 2016

Amoris laetitia

Photo credit: Richard Corner, Creative Commons

At the New York Times, there is an article today optimistically titled “How Pope Francis’ ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Could Affect Families and the Church.” From the article:

In the document, known as an apostolic exhortation, the pope could change church practice on thorny subjects like whether divorced Catholics who remarry without having obtained annulments can receive holy communion.

I think not. Did the New York Times not read the pope’s interview in-flight from Mexico to Rome? He was asked about this wery thing. The pope said:

Inte­grat­ing in the Church doesn’t mean receiv­ing Com­mu­nion. I know mar­ried Catholics in a sec­ond union who go to church, who go to church once or twice a year and say I want Com­mu­nion, as if join­ing in Com­mu­nion were an award. It’s a work towards inte­gra­tion, all doors are open, but we can­not say, “from here on they can have Com­mu­nion.” This would be an injury also to mar­riage, to the cou­ple, because it wouldn’t allow them to pro­ceed on this path of inte­gra­tion.

So I don’t expect that. The Times, undaunted, continues:

He might address debates over same-sex relationships, cohabitation and polygamy, an issue in Africa. [Meh.] Or, he could sidestep such divisive topics and stick to broader philosophical statements.

Much more likely.

For the past two years, Francis has guided the church through a sweeping exercise of self-examination that some scholars have compared to the Second Vatican Council.

Really? Methinks “some scholars” doth exaggerate too much. Perhaps it is the result of their own private fantasies of hope and change.

Having led Catholics into such delicate terrain, Francis has stirred hope and fear. Some religious conservatives warn he could destabilize the church and undermine Catholic doctrine. [The sky is falling.] Some liberals, though, are hoping Francis will directly address same-sex marriage and contraception in a way that would make the church more responsive to today’s realities.

By “responsive,” read “obeisant.” That is what the Times hopes. But the conservatives and the liberals are both wrong. (That will not stop either of them, after tomorrow, from claiming vindication; but wrong they are.)

Some who study Francis predict the apostolic exhortation will be a broad statement on universal problems affecting families, like poverty, migration, domestic violence, health care, youth unemployment and the neglect of children and the elderly. Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” released in June, was an enormous study in connecting the dots, and experts are expecting a similar sweep in “Amoris Laetitia.”

That is probably right.

One of the major issues debated was the church policy that bars divorced Catholics who have remarried without seeking a church annulment of their first union from receiving the sacrament of holy communion, a centerpiece of Mass.

Well, I am not sure this question got quite so much attention during the synod as it did in the ventilating media. But I must point out here, to the New York Times, that this is not properly described as a Church “policy”; as though it were something that might be changed. It is Church doctrine that a second union, without annulment of the first, is adultery. The Church has received this teaching from Christ Himself, in Mark 10:11. It is divine revelation; no pope has the authority to change this.

It is likewise Church doctrine that to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin (and adultery is a mortal sin, being a violation of the sixth commandment) is itself a mortal sin. This too is divine revelation, taught by St. Paul in 1 Cor. 11:27. The Church cannot just say: This is no longer a mortal sin; go ahead. No pope has the authority to do so.

This is not “policy”; it is prohibition of mortal sin. The pope can not just wake up one morning and say “Meh!” to mortal sin. He can’t; he won’t.

We can be certain there will be no change in this regard. Ever. Get used to it now, liberals. It will save your frenzied hearts from disappointment after disappointment for generation after generation. It has been 2000 years, you know.

At the synods, many bishops insisted that giving communion to divorced Catholics would undermine a core church doctrine that marriage is indissoluble. But other bishops were intent on finding a way to welcome back the divorced.

Well, it is the divorced and remarried; and that “way” of return has long existed; it is called an annulment. I have one myself. Or adultery can be repented of; yes, in a marriage such repentance does requires sacrifice and the support of the Church, but God gives us the all the grace we need to obey him.

It must also be said that communion for the divorced and remarried does not undermine the indissolubility of marriage so much as it undermines church doctrine about adultery. One can be divorced, without an annulment, and still receive the Eucharist as long as there is no second union.

What the pope can do, as the supreme legislator of the Church, is to make annulments quicker and easier to obtain, in recognition of the peculiar realities of the time we live in. (There may, for example, be more invalid marriages now than at earlier times.) The pope has already made such changes, in a motu proprio entitled Mitis Iudex (here). I suspect that Amoris Laetitia at most will supplement what Pope Francis had already done in that earlier document.

I would not be surprised if the pope laid out steps the Church can take to reaquaint the culture with the proper understanding of marriage, and to help Catholics in the pre-Cana process, so that fewer invalid marriages occur in the future.

Now, everyone is looking to Francis to settle the matter. But he may sidestep it, some experts said, by reaffirming church teaching that marriage is permanent, while encouraging flexibility in pastoral practice toward the remarried.

Well, sure, but any such “flexibility” will need to come with prescribed limits, which can be set forth in this or future documents from this or future popes. The point is not just that marriage is indissoluble as much as that remarriage (assuming validity of the first marriage) is adultery.

Apostolic exhortations are not as authoritative as papal encyclicals, and they do not normally change church doctrine.

This is when you have to wonder what the Times understands. Church doctrine does not change. It never has. Name for me the last Church doctrine that changed. Look long and hard and report back to me.

Francis may want to be a bold reformer, but he knows the church can be pushed only so far, so quickly, especially given differing opinions among church leaders. He needs the world’s bishops to be unified behind him if he wants changes to filter to the parish level.

Church doctrine can only change so fast, you know, it hasn’t in 2000 years, but it is at the very door.

April 6, 2016

Amoris laetitia

Text of Amoris Laetitia as yet unknown. Image via Pixabay

The Vatican is publishing a papal exhortation on Friday.


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April 24, 2017

Nikolai Ge, "What is Truth?" (1890)

Nikolai Ge, “What is Truth?” (1890)

True it is that I have said myself: Pope Francis should answer the dubia on Amoris Laetitia. I have also said, consistently, time and again, on this wery blog, that AL is orthodox, is entirely consistent with Familiaris Consortio, and that anyone who reads it otherwise is in error. I just wish the pope would say that himself, rather than leave it to Schonborn and Müller.

That said, I find most of those who rally, circulate petitions, ventilate in the media, and otherwise make a spectacle of themselves, to be incoherent in their demand that the pope give clarity and answers. On the one hand, they say, “The pope should answer the dubia. He should clarify.” On the other hand, they have already made up their minds that AL is heretical. But if it is, why do they need the pope to answer any questions? The text must be pretty clear if they are that certain.

It makes me question their motive. Are they seeking a clarification, or a conviction? Are these Catholics, or Pharisees? Do they want to take instruction from the pope, or trap him in his words?

This was brought home to me by this article in America. A “dissenters’ conference,” we are told, “call[s] for an answer to the dubia.” But who needs the pope to “answer the dubia,” if one has already made up his mind that AL is heretical?

An Italian professor, Claudio Pierantoni, says that the pope is “defending heretical points.” He compares the Holy Father to Honorius and Liberius—two popes who, Pierantoni is certain, were heretics, even though the Church has never said that about either of them. Pierantoni knows better.

Since Pierantoni has already made up his mind, what could the pope possibly say in answer the dubia? The pope, in his view, “defend[s] heretical points.” These are not the words of someone who still has questions.

According to the article:

The Italian professor was the most outspoken of the six speakers at a day-long conference titled “Seeking clarity to Amoris Laetitia, one year later,” held at the Hotel Columbus in Rome, a stone’s throw from the Vatican. The conference, which challenged Pope Francis’ teaching in Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia,” was organized by two Italian news outlets with distinctly traditionalist leanings: Il Timone, a monthly review, and La Bussola Quotidiano, an online daily, edited by Riccardo Cascioli, a member of the Communion and Liberation movement. Both publications were supportive of the teachings of St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI but have distanced themselves from that of Pope Francis.

So the conference “challenged Pope Francis’ teaching,” and yet it still says that “clarity” is needed and he must answer the dubia? If those at the conference are unclear, what is there to challenge? The pope hasn’t answered the dubia, so how do they know whether they should challenge Chapter 8 or accept chapter 8? They have “distanced themselves from” the pope? Why? Because they have already made up their minds. They judge him guilty first, then say, “well, we just want answers to honest questions.”

I am afraid that is not how it works. It is not dubia, but duplicity. But all this sheds light, too, on Cardinal Burke’s refrain that, without answers to dubia, he will have no choice but to “formally correct” Pope Francis? On what? If Amoris Laetitia is heretical, why do you submit dubia? For a clarification or a conviction? If Amoris Laetitia is not heretical, what are you correcting? If you don’t know, why do you presume guilt?

Perhaps Pope Francis does not answer the dubia, not because he thinks clarity is bad, but because he can discern when a questioner has malicious intent and is seeking, not clarity, but entrapment. The Pharisees had already judged Jesus guilty; they just wanted grounds to convict him. Even an orthodox answer they would interpet as heresy and guilt. Which—you know the story—is exactly what they did.

Nothing new under the sun.

November 26, 2017

Image via Pixabay.

Our Lord Jesus Christ wills”—The Correctors boldly claim this final and seventh heresy is to be found in Amoris Laetitia—“that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.”

Hmm. Now, I have refuted all the other charges of heresy the filial ones have made against the Holy Father. And you will recall, dear reader, I often had the difficulty in finding out exactly where in the text of Amoris Laetitia they think they find those notions. This is because they do sloppy work. They never say, “Well, heresy 3 is to be found in paragraph 297 in these words.” No. And thus I find the same trouble with supposed heresy 7. I find no passage in Amoris Laetitia—certainly not the passages quoted by the filial ones as smoking guns of some sort—where Pope Francis invokes the will of Christ or says anything about the Church “abandoning its perennial discipline” with regard to the Eucharist. Search for yourself.

Is it in §295? Here the pope discusses the Law of Gradualness, which in fact was taught by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio 34. The filial ones have no problem with FC.

“Oh, but Alt!” you will say. “St. John Paul II denies that this is a “gradualness of the law” as though there is a different law for different people!” Sure. And Pope Francis says the very same thing; and The Correctors include that wery part. “This is not a ‘gradualness of law,'” the pope says.

Is it in §296? Here Pope Francis says that the way of the Church has always been the way of reinstatement and not casting off forever. You would have to do a very labored job of reading into in order to presume that the pope somehow means that there are no conditions for reinstatement and former disciplines are defunct.

On the other hand, reading into, as opposed to reading, is a huge problem, I find.

Is it in §297? “No one can be condemned forever,” the pope says. “That is not the logic of the Gospel.” Again, watch out for reading into.

Is it in §298? The pope begins by noting that the divorced and remarried find themselves in a variety of situations, which can not all be rigidly classified as though all such persons are in mortal sin.

Now, that seems to me to be self-evident. Or at least, it ought to be. There are obstinate legalists in the Church these days, I know. Be that as it may, you have to do a good deal of reading into to conclude that §298 tells us anything about what Christ wills, or about sacramental discipline. That discussion is not there. The pope only goes as far as saying that pastors must “carefully discern situations.”

Well, what about §299? There, the pope says that he agrees with many of the Synod fathers, who believed that the baptized who are in irregular unions ought to participate in the Church “in the variety of ways possible.” They are not “excommunicated,” says the pope.

Well, now, “excommunicated” and “barred from the Eucharist” are not in fact the same thing. Dr. Ed Peters tells us as much when he points out that there has never been an excommunication against the divorced and remarried. That’s “fake canon law,” says Dr. Peters. So we are talking about two separate things here; and when Pope Francis says, “They are not excommunicated,” he is pointing out what has always been the case. He changes nothing about Eucharistic discipline.

A second point here is that the pope says that the divorced and remarried should take part in the life of the Church “in the varieties of ways possible.” By pointing that out, isn’t he implying that some ways are not possible?

Do the filial ones find this heresy in §300? The pope says here that, through discernment, one could realize no grave fault exists; and footnote 336 adds: “This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.”

It’s very difficult to know what can be read into this. (This is one reason I have said the pope should answer the dubia, but I hardly go so far as to identify heresies in Amoris Laetitia.) For one thing, the pope does not invoke “the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ” or any such words; and according to the wording from the filial ones, the heresy is that the pope claims sacramental changes to be Christ’s will. So that’s one problem.

Second, the pope is talking about “particular situations” in a context that would imply exceptions, not a change in normative practice. Nor is a change in practice being mandated here. Odd indeed would it be for a pope to do any such thing in a footnote in an exhortation.

Third, to find this particular heresy here, the filial ones would have to assume that the “particular situations” the pope has in mind involve people who express no contrition or purpose of amendment. But here the “reading into” problem arises again. Pope Francis does not say that. In fact, let’s go back again to §297 and recall to our minds a passage the filial ones do not mention:

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.

This is where the pope seems to be addressing people who show no contrition or purpose of amendment; and in their case, he says they are “separated from the community” and need to “listen … to the Gospel” and its “call to conversion.” It sure does not sound like the pope is suggesting handing out the Eucharist to the obstinate and unrepentant.

Or is the heresy in §301? The pope notes here that not everyone in an irregular union is necessarily in a state of mortal sin. And we’ve visited this before. It’s a reiteration of §298. Been there, refuted that. This is just an observation, a premise. You can’t conclude from it that the pope believes some wild thing unless the pope, you know, says that wild thing. Reading into, remember?

Is it in §303? Probably not, since The Correctors already seem to have taken up this passage with one of their earlier charges of heresy, and I addressed it here.

Is it in §304? I sure can’t find it there. In this paragraph, the pope is exegeting St. Thomas Aquinas’s view that there are always exceptions to general principles the more one “descends to matters of detail.” And unless you are a legalist, this is common sense. If your sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, you would get it out. Nothing herein about changing Church disciplines, about people who have no contrition, or what Christ wills.

Is it in §305? Again, no. This is of a piece with §303, in which the pope observes that not everyone who is in an objectively sinful state is guilty of mortal sin. Catechism 101, dear reader; it’s in CCC 1857—and those who are not may indeed grow in grace and in charity.

Now, here of course we have footnote 351, which Raymond Arroyo once called the “smoking footnote” permitting communion for the divorced and remarried: “In some cases this can include the help of the sacraments.”

“In some cases”—which? It “can include”—must it? The pope does not say. It’s natural to say, “Your Holiness, can you clarify?” It’s impertinent to say, “Heretic!” And the pope does not say here, “The will of Christ is,” which the filial ones claim. He does not say, “I even mean for those who are not contrite,” which the filial ones claim. He does not say, “I even mean those who express no purpose of amendment,” which the filial ones claim. The pope simply does not give us enough information in order to make those judgments. That may be cause to ask for clarity, but it is not cause to make a charge of heresy.

But is it in §308? Here the pope does make a claim about what he thinks Jesus wants. But note that he does not say that Jesus wants the Church to abandon former disciplines for those who express no contrition. What does the pope say Jesus wants? He

wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”

Well, of course the Holy Spirit “sows good in the midst of human weakness.” That’s what grace is. And note that the pope affirms that the Church must always “express her objective teaching.” And that the Church “does what good she can.” To say that at all implies the Church can’t do all things. The pope speaks generally here and one can’t say (for again it would be reading into, not reading) that Christ’s desire for the Church to be attentive to good in the midst of weakness implies abandoning “perennial disciplines,” as the filial ones claim. It’s just not there.

So where does the pope say that it is the will of Christ that the Church “abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it.”

He doesn’t. The filial ones read it into the text. Their whole “correction,” in fact, is one massive exercise in reading into. But it’s not there.

And then there were none.

September 27, 2017

filial correction

Image via Pixabay

This is the third part of a response to the optimistically-titled “filial cor­rection” of Amoris Laetitia. In part 1 I showed that The Correctors claim the text supports an idea that the text expressly denies. Then, in part 2, I showed that The Correctors read a a heresy into the text at the very place the text says the opposite. I now move on to the third heresy The Correctors claim to find:

A Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action.

This is very similar to Claimed Heresy # 2. And these are very specific conditions: “full knowledge”; “voluntarily choose.” Where does the text of Amoris Laetitia say this? I have searched through the passages quoted by The Correctors. Here is what I find:

§295 speaks of the Law of Gradualness and notes that, often, one attains the ability to act freely with time, and not all at once;

§296-297 speaks of the importance of mercy and not casting off forever;

§298 gives examples of some of the reasons Catholics may have entered a second union and explains that their “situations” must not be “pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications;

§299 speaks of the need to try to reintegrate the divorced and remarried into the life of the Church;

§300 notes, as a generic point, that the degree of culpability is not the same in all cases;

§301, as I noted in part 2, speaks of situations in which there is diminished knowledge and diminished freedom of the will;

§303 speaks of the role of conscience and discernment of the will of God;

§304, citing St. Thomas Aquinas, notes that particulars make moral judgments impossible to make in absolutist terms;

§305, as I also noted in part 2, speaks of situations of “objective sin” but not “subjective culpability”; that is to say, situations where there is not either “full knowledge” or “voluntary choice”;

§308 contrasts the desire of some for one-size-fits-all approaches with the reality of human weakness and the realization that the details and particulars of people’s real lives are messy;

§311 notes that moral theology ought to take account of such factors as the pope mentions.

Once again, the actual text of Amoris Laetitia simply does not say what The Correctors claim it does. Nowhere—nowhere—does Pope Francis say that those who have “full knowledge” and “voluntarily choose” to commit adultery within an irregular marriage are not in mortal sin. No such idea is there. Search as long as you like; you won’t find it.

At best, The Correctors read into the text. At worst, they make it up. Nor do The Correctors tell us where they find this idea. They quote a number of passages, but they don’t say which particular ones, or which particular words, support any of the particular heresies they list.

They don’t do very impressive work at all.

September 27, 2017

Filial correction

Image via Pixabay.

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?

August 17, 2019

Once upon a time Patrick Coffin was a decent Catholic apologist with Catholic Answers Live. But since those days he has gone freelance and embraced the alt right and now uses expressions like “red-pilled” and gives credence to stains like Milo Yiannopoulos and E. Michael Jones. (Mr. Coffin has blocked me on Twitter, by the way. We had never interacted once. That’s neither here nor there; I mention it by way of parenthesis.) This time, he’s not trying to give Milo or Jones credence; he’s hosting Cardinal Burke to try to lend himself credence. Specifically, he asks Burke what he has to say about theories that the conclave was invalid. Pope Francis may not really be the pope, you see. Perhaps Benedict is still pope; perhaps there’s been a sede vacante since 2013; perhaps the conclave really elected Burke, or the resurrected Siri. Who knows what we’re supposed to make of this.

Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein has transcripts. (For which I am immeasurably grateful to her; since I am still trying to recover from listening to Coffin’s full interview with Milo and Taylor Marshall’s full podcast on the credibility of demons, I had no desire to lose untold minutes of my day in another fetid swamp.)

Mr. Coffin, because accusation is confession, begins by describing Francis’s papacy as a “wincefest.” He recites a long list of the pope’s supposed outrages. Under Francis, he says, we “got the ‘who am I to judge’ with respect to homosexuality.”

I stop here, right from the start. I shall have to stop often, for the errors are legion. The object of Pope Francis’s question “Who am I to judge?” was not “homosexuality.” I have pointed that out many a time and oft on this here wery blog. Rather, he said those words specifically about gay priests “who are of good will and seek the Lord.” Presumably these are priests who are obedient to their vows. The pope did not say “Who am I to judge?” about Elton John or Andrew Sullivan or Pete Buttigieg. Homosexual persons are called to chastity, the Catechism says; and if a priest is obedient to that call, who are you to judge indeed? For homosexuality is not sinful; homosexual acts are. Pope Francis was quite right.

But Burke did not bother to correct Mr. Coffin on this point.

Another supposed outrage, says Mr. Coffin, is “Laudato Si teaching that global warming and climate change is a thing, even though it’s not [sic].”

And I pause again. How does Mr. Coffin know that climate change is fiction? Is he a scientist? Does he have information that the question’s been settled? But let that go; the more important point here is that Laudato Si does not “teach” global warming and climate change. Get your encyclical out, dear reader, and turn with me to §188. There you will read these words:

There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.

The Church does not presume; Pope Francis does not presume; but Mr. Coffin does presume. I suspect he was too busy at the moment swallowing red pills and missed that part of the encyclical. But I am sober, dear reader, and I caught it. Now, Pope Francis clearly believes in global warming. That’s not in doubt. But so does the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI. In 2008, for the World Day of Peace, he called climate change an “urgent issue.” (Find the text here.) And two years later, in 2010, Pope Benedict titled his address “If you want to promote peace, protect creation.” What a radical leftist he was! I mean, the whole thing was a wincefest. Maybe Mr. Coffin was otherwise engaged at the time and did not notice. Maybe his insurance did not cover the red pills before Obamacare. But read with me and see for yourself; here’s Benedict:

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? (4)

Benedict calls climate change a “reality”; saints preserve us! I mean, there’s no consensus on this; Coffin locuta est. But because of the dangerous heretic Benedict XVI we now have Laudato Si, in which “Nature seemed to have been exalted as a person.”

Seemed? Mr. Coffin is not sure? But he’s red-pilled now; how can he not be sure? He’ll have to instruct us where he finds this exaltation in Laudato Si. Peradventure he has in mind expressions like “Our Sister Mother Earth” in §1. But the pope is quoting St. Francis of Assisi. Maybe Mr. Coffin will tell us that St. Francis was an ecofascist. He doesn’t say.

Neither does Burke bother to correct Coffin on any of these points.



All this has been set-up for the question Mr. Coffin wants to pose to Burke:

Some Catholics are wondering if it’s permissible to investigate whether or not the 1995 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis by St. John Paul II [Actually, UDG came out in 1996.], who laid down the norms for future papal conclaves, whether those rules were violated and whether or not the whole election of Pope Francis might be invalid. Is there any foundation to that speculation?

No. End stop.



But you see, those FaithfulCatholics™ who have been swallowing whole pharmacies of red pills over Pope Francis have a real problem. They want to reject his Magisterium, but deep down they know that’s not really consistent with their chest-thumping insistence on their own faithfulness. But if the conclave was illicit, if it broke the rules, if the pope’s not really the pope, then we have a license to throw all that out. We can get rid of Evangelii Gaudium, we can get rid of Laudato Si, we can get rid of Amoris Laetitia. And we can get rid of that pesky Bergoglio, call another conclave, and elect someone else. Possibly even Burke himself, if all goes according to our schemes the Holy Spirit’s direction.

And at this point, what Cardinal Burke—indeed any Prince of the Church—should have done was shut down the whole idea of any such speculation. Shame on you, Mr. Coffin. Unless your evidence has all its i’s dotted and all its t’s crossed we don’t speculate that the pope’s not the pope. That encourages dissent, that encourages faction, that encourages schism, we will have none of that, and you, Mr. Coffin, are not going to use me or my position in the Church to lend credence to these rebel yells of yours. Get thee to a confessional; why wouldst thou be a breeder of schismatics?

Of course, that’s not what Burke did do.



But before we get to that, let’s back up for a moment, because Cardinal Burke has been banging war drums against Pope Francis for some time now. In 2016, he was one of four signers of the “dubia” about Amoris Laetitia; and the next year he was talking about the grave necessity of “correcting” the pope if answers were not forthcoming. (As though Canon 1404 said “the first see is judged by any cardinal who sees fit.”) He even granted an interview to Catholic World Report, and speculated that a heretical pope would cease to be pope:

CWR: Some people are saying that the pope could separate himself from communion with the Church. Can the pope legitimately be declared in schism or heresy?

Burke: If a Pope would formally profess heresy he would cease, by that act, to be the Pope. It’s automatic. And so, that could happen.

CWR: That could happen.

Burke: Yes.

I noted at the time why Burke was wrong. In the first place, the Church has dogmatically taught that a pope can not “formally profess” heresy. (To hold that such a thing is possible is itself a heresy, if we’re to believe Vatican I.)

But apart from that, the speculations of Bellarmine that a heretical pope would cease to be pope are not canon law; they’re theological speculation. And even if a pope were a heretic, without professing it formally, no one has the authority to depose him. To say that he would cease to be pope because he would—it would be an existential deposition—is no solution either.

But no, no, no, said Burke to Catholic World Report, I’m not saying Pope Francis is a heretic. For shame, for shame. I’m just playing a little parlor game here, apropos of nothing, for amusement, because Pope Francis took away my situation and I have nothing better to do than give interviews and ask “What if?” Pope Francis is responsible for the boredom that leads me to gad about and speak to the fake news.

But now here we are in 2019 and Cardinal Burke signs on to a “correction” of the pope accusing him of heresy! Well, what do you know? I thought Burke said he wasn’t doing that. The document that Burke signed borrows verbatim from the “Filial Correction” of 2017, which I wrote seven articles refuting: one / two / three / four / five / six / seven. In every case, the supposed heresy was either nowhere to be found in Amoris Laetitia, or the text expressly denied the heresy The Correctors said it promoted. It was an embarrasing piece of work, but Burke signs on to its language.

Dr. Goldstein on her Twitter thread calls attention to this passage from the recent “Declaration of Truths”:

Before the eyes of the Divine Judge and in his own conscience, each bishop, priest, and lay faithful has the moral duty to give witness unambiguously to those truths that in our days are obfuscated, undermined, and denied. Private and public acts of a declaration of these truths could initiate a movement of a confession of the truth, of its defense, and of reparation for the widespread sins against the Faith, for the sins of hidden and open apostasy from Catholic Faith of a not small number both of the clergy and of the lay people. One has to bear in mind, however, that such a movement will not judge itself according to numbers, but according to the truth, as Saint Gregory of Nazianzus said, amidst the general doctrinal confusion of the Arian crisis, that ‘God does not delight in numbers.'”

So all this needs to be unpacked and parsed. Burke and his rebel mates begin by appealing to conscience. But it is important to note here that conscience must be rightly formed; and conscience is formed through the Magisterium, not in defiance of it. The CDF explains all this in Donum Veritatis:

“[A]rgumentation appealing to the obligation to follow one’s own conscience cannot legitimate dissent. … [W]hile … every believer must follow his conscience, he is also obliged to form it. Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty.

You say: But Alt! Burke doesn’t talk about consciences formed independently from the Church. See, he talks about giving witness to specifically Catholic truths against those who would undermine and deny them!

Sure, sure. But note that these words come in a document presuming to correct the teaching of the Holy Father. The Holy Father’s teaching is the Magisterium that Burke is appealing to conscience against. You can’t insist that you’ve formed your conscience through the Magisterium and then turn around and use that conscience against the Magisterium. You can’t cut off the branch you’re sitting on.

This document, signed by Burke, specifically sets out to “correct” the pope’s Magisterial teaching in Amoris Laetitia. It is in that context that Burke speaks of “widepread sins against the Faith.” It’s the Holy Father he thinks has sinned against the Faith.

It is in that context that Burke speaks of “open apostasy.” He’s accusing the pope of being an apostate.

So Dr. Goldstein is quite right, in her thread on Twitter, when she says that Burke “is waging an active campaign—complete with press secretary—to position himself as a teacher of the faith against the pope.” That’s exactly what he’s doing: He’s setting himself up as a rival pope. The only thing he hasn’t done is chosen a papal name.



So now we come to Burke’s reply to the question from Mr. Coffin. And rather than being full of rebuke, it’s full of chin-scratching: Well, we don’t know, you know, it’s hard to say, but if there were more, more, more evidence, you know. But here are Burke’s precise words, from Dr. Goldstein’s transcript:

The only grounds that I think could be adduced for calling into question the validity of the election would be if the the election were organized by a campaign beforehand, which is strictly forbidden. And that is very difficult to demonstrate. [You know, can someone go out and dig up some evidence? It’s been tough, but someone, anyone?] … People talk about this extra ballot that was taken, but I do not see—I have studied that question—and I don’t see there that it would in any way call into question the validity of the election.

Now, stop. Let’s pause here. Burke says he’s actually studied the question; he’s not just responding to a casual inquiry from a red-pilled host. He’s spent some time and looked into this. Who gave him that assignment? Who thought that this was a worthy way for a prince of the Church to spend his time? Did Burke wake up one morning and say, “Gee, I wonder if that election was really valid, because you know someone else might be the real pope”—pausing to look at himself in the mirror—“I wonder who that could be.” Another pause. “Maybe I should put on cross-gartered yellow stockings beneath my cappa magna.” Burke sure has a lot of time on his hands if he can go researching conspiracy theories like this. I mean, idle hands do Satan’s work. Perhaps Pope Francis should find something for Burke to do that will keep him busy but not dangerous.

Burke went on: “There are indications that were made by the late Cardinal Gotfried Danneels … who talks about this St. Gallen Group—“

Stop again. Burke has really done some detailed research into this conspiracy theory. It’s like listening to the volumes and volumes of excruciating detail in a book by someone who thinks the CIA killed Kennedy, or 9/11 was an inside job, or the moon landing was faked, or Paul VI was replaced by an imposter.

And now Cardinal Burke practically begs for someone to give him the evidence he’s looking for. “But I think,” he says, “if it could be demonstrated that these persons engaged in an active campaign, first to undermine Pope Benedict XVI, and then at the same time to engineer the election of someone who was radically different, that could be an argument.”

Can someone, anyone, find this evidence for us? We got nothing, and we need more, more, more. Here is the kind of evidence we need. Here is what we’re peering across the horizon for. Surely one of you can go out and find it for us? Please and thank you.

Apart from that, however, we should note here that Burke accepts the premise that Pope Francis is “radically different” than Pope Benedict. If Burke did not believe Francis were “radically different,” that would amount to conceding there was no conspiracy. It would have been an inept conspiracy indeed that got us the election of a carbon copy of poor Benedict.

And I must point out at this juncture that I have been writing about Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome for six years now. And in every case—and I do mean “every”—whenever there’s been some panic over something wild Francis has said, I have discovered that the very same thing was also said by:

  • Pope Benedict XVI
  • Pope John Paul II
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • Vatican II
  • The Church Fathers
  • The Bible

It’s uncanny. The St. Gallen Group engineered the election of someone who’s perfectly in line with two thousand years of Church teaching! Maybe someone will say: But Alt! It shows how subtle they really were to make so many people think that Pope Francis is such a radical departure. That’s the genius of it! He’s not, but everyone thinks he is. How wily!



At this point Coffin says, “I see the problem. It’s how to prove it with a fact that’s demonstrable.”

No, sir, the problem is you’re speculating at all. The problem is, you’re encouraging dissent and schism. That’s the problem. The problem is not, “How do we get rid of this troublesome pope?” The problem is, “How do we fulfill Christ’s prayer that they may be one as he and the Father are one?” Even Dr. Edward Peters, on his canon law blog, says that this kind of speculation about an invalid papacy is “inexcusable ignorance”; but Coffin & Burke go on being gleefully ignorant. Burke agrees with Coffin that surely something is there. “There are indications!” he cries. “There are indications!”

(But we need more of them. We need more, more, more.)

“There’s a great suspicion!” Burke says. But we need evidence, if only someone could come forward with evidence, does no one have any evidence?

Then Mr. Coffin raises another possibility. Maybe the conclave can’t be proven irregular. But what if Benedict’s resignation was irregular? I mean, Antonio Socci wrote a whole book about that. What say you, Your Eminence?

Socci, says Burke, is an “outstanding man.” He’s a “saintly man.” But, Burke continues in a dirge, “that simply won’t float.” I hear no tone from Burke of, “And it’s a good thing it won’t float, because what a catastrophe that would be for the Church!” No, it’s sad, rather, because we’re still stuck with this troublesome apostate Francis. But “the whole matter is a bit confused.”

Why is it that the people reputed the smartest in the Church are the ones most often confused? Pope Benedict resigned. The conclave elected Bergoglio. Pope Francis teaches with the authority of Peter. His teachings are the authentic Magisterium. To reject them is to reject Christ. This is not confusing at all.

“Burke is too close to the schismatic rails,” says Dr. Goldstein. Indeed. He’s dangling his toe in the waters of schism while comrades like Mr. Coffin shout: “Just dive! Just swim! The water feels warm more quickly that way!” The waters of schism lead to the other side of the Tiber.

Some will say: But Alt! Cardinal Burke says there’s no evidence. He’s just being kindly in how he engages Coffin. He’s not one to call people on the carpet over errors by a grand rebuke.

Oh really? This is the same person who signed a letter accusing Peter of heresy. But he doesn’t do grand rebukes? Burke is gentle? That’s what you’re saying?

I don’t buy it. By treating Mr. Coffin’s speculations as though they rise to the level of public discussion, Burke is not reassuring Catholics about the pope; rather, he is encouraging the very adulterous schism into which he himself is plunging headlong. With a rebel yell, he cries: More, more, more!

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