May 19, 2019

god's will
Image via Pixabay


There are two senses in which one may speak of “God’s will.” One may speak of God’s perfect will—that is, what God specifically ordains. For example, the fact that the pope has supreme teaching authority in the Church is God’s perfect will. But one may also speak of God’s permissive will—that is, what God does not ordain but permits. The fact that some people would resist the pope’s teaching authority and there would be Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome is part of God’s will in this latter sense. Whatever happens is, therefore, God’s will. God willed this blog post, if only because he did not stop me from writing it. He may have struck me down with a heart attack today in order to prevent me from speaking out against his chosen mouthpiece Fake Site News, but free will matters to him, so I go on writing. God willed the Abu Dhabi text, and God willed the FaithfulCatholic™ freakout about it. God willed the pope to be accused of heresy. Whatever happens, God wills. And this is not Calvinism if you understand the distinction between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will.

Here is the full text of the Abu Dhabi statement, and here is the part that has caused such sweatstorms and couch-fainting among FaithfulCatholics™:

Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept.

“Freedom is a right of every person.” In other words, the very context of the discussion is about free will. We must read the surrounding text, dear reader—not just the parts FaitnhfulCatholics™ cherry pick in order to justify their sweats. God wills (passively) a diversity of religions because he wills (perfectly) human free will first. Thus one may not impose religious belief on others. That’s the sense of what the man said.

No Catholic ought be troubled by this. Even Fr. Z says that we must read the Abu Dhabi statement in light of the distinction I made in my lead:

When we speak of God’s will we make distinctions. God has an “active or positive will” and a “permissive will”. God’s “active will” concerns that which is good, true and beautiful. On the other hand, God has a “permissive will” by which He allows that things will take place that are not in accord with the order He established.

That’s Fr. Z, dear reader. And back on March 8, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, beloved of FaithfulCatholics™, said that Pope Francis had clarified. Let’s listen to what the man said. The man said that the reference was to God’s permissive will. “The bishop told LifeSiteNews that he had a direct exchange with Pope Francis.”

(Oh, he said this to Fake Site, did he? Indeed he did. Fake Site trumpeted it as a “win.”)

“You can say,” the pope said, “that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God.”

That’s what the man said.

But no matter what the man said then, Bishop Schneider tells Fake Site News now that Pope Francis needs to clarify. (Well, he’s not saying “clarify” this time; he’s saying “correct.”) The pope needs to correct the statement, because it represents “another gospel.” And if anyone preaches to you another gospel, let him be accursed! Schneider says this about the pope.

But wait. I thought Pope Francis had clarified. If the pope has clarified, if he has said the reference is to God’s permissive will, what does he need to correct? Can someone explain? Can someone clarify this? Anyone? Buehler?

And Fake Site, in this article by heresy accuser Paolo Pasqualucci, says that the bishop’s new words “lend weight to heresy accusations.” According to this article, the pope’s clarification actually contradicts the Abu Dhabi statement.

So let me see if I understand all this. Schneider asks Francis to clarify the words at Abu Dhabi about God’s will. The pope says: Sure thing, Athanasius. I’m always here to clarify. This document means God’s permissive will. Athanasius says this to Fake Site, and they in turn characterize it as a “win.” But now, the clarification is not enough, because it somehow contradicts Abu Dhabi, and we’re back to Pope Francis preaching another gospel. We need a correction now!

So what we have here—do I understand this right?—is a case where no clarification could possibly be enough because Schneider has already decided before any of it that the document is heretical. If Pope Francis says, “No, I meant this,” Schneider just says, “Oh, then it’s a contradiction.” [Edited to add: A reader points out that Pope Francis has already clarified all this publicly.]

This is why, dear reader, I insist that the dubia are a ruse. If Pope Francis were to answer the dubia, if he were to clarify, Burke and company could just say, “Oh, then you’re contradicting yourself.” Because they’ve already decided Amoris Laetitia is heresy, and no clarification, not even from the pope himself, could possibly change their mind on that.

So when it comes to schism, people will find a way to go, no matter what the man says.

November 5, 2018

Milo Yiannopoulos, via Creative Commons.

Adebate has broken out online following Catholic radio host Patrick Coffin’s decision to invite pederasty apologist Milo Yiannopoulos on his radio show. Coffin used to be at Catholic Answers; Milo is in a same-sex marriage but presents himself as a critic of Pope Francis and “homosexualist leaders” in the Church. There’s your dose of irony, or hypocrisy (what you will), for today. When he was Cardinal Bergoglio, Pope Francis said that same-sex marriage is a “machination of the father of lies.” Milo, who is in a same-sex marriage, says Pope Francis is not tough enough on homosexuality, and FaithfulCatholics™ swoon. Perhaps you can fathom this, dear reader.

In any case, I want to say a few words about the following apologia for Milo, on a public Facebook thread:

It goes without saying—I hope it goes without saying—that we all must have compassion for Milo given the unspeakable abuse that he experienced. You can’t go through something like that and not have permanent wounds, and Milo deserves the prayers of all Catholics.

But this idea—that Milo “can’t get out of” homosexuality “due to his own weaknesses”—is a heresy. It is a denial of grace. It is condemned by the Council of Trent. Here is Canon 18 on Justification:

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.

Trent elaborates:

[N]o one ought to make use of that rash saying, one prohibited by the Fathers under an anathema,-that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God commands not impossibilities.

None of this, “Milo can’t get out of it; he’s weak.” This is a denial of grace. It is a heresy. It is condemned by the Council of Trent. More than that, it is an excommunicable heresy.

But there is an irony behind this that I can not help but point out. The very same FaithfulCatholics™ who fall all over themselves to defend Milo in these heretical terms were also among the biggest promoters of the Filial Correction of Pope Francis. And what do you think is the very first heresy The Correctors said the pope promotes in Amoris Laetitia?

Right you are! From the FC:

A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.

Oh, but Milo has not the strength to carry out the objective demands of the divine law! say his FaithfulCatholic™ apologists. He’s weak! They advance the very heresy, in defense of Milo, that they condemn the pope for (purportedly) advocating.

But indeed—and I have pointed this out myself—the pope expressly denies that the justified are incapable of following the divine law. It’s in Amoris Laetitia 295:

For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace.

So think of this. FaithfulCatholics™ charge the pope with a heresy. The pope, in fact, expressly denies that heresy. FaithfulCatholics™ go on to employ that very heresy themselves in defense of Milo.

I just couldn’t resist pointing that out.

But wait, bear with me yet a little while longer, for there is a second heresy in that screenshot from Facebook above. It is the idea that Milo is excused by virtue of his professing what the Church teaches, independent of whether he actually lives it. Trent also condemns this idea. You can find that, too, in the Canons on Justification:

If anyone says that the man who is justified is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe; as if the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of observing the commandments, let him be anathema.

But you see, according to the FaithfulCatholics™ Milo professes the ortho-conservative shibboleths; so he’s pure, regardless of what he does. Fr. James Martin is actually obedient to the Church’s teaching and professes that teaching; but he stands condemned (by the FaithfulCatholics™) because he fails to profess the ortho-conservative shibboleths.

I find this kind of thinking shameful.

August 30, 2018

Image via Creative Commons.

At The Federalist, you can find this long and rambling article by Paul Rahe. Mr. Rahe goes on for almost 2500 words, attempting to tie together a bunch of disparate events scattered over a sixty-year period in order to prove that the Lavender Mafia “controls the papacy and the Vatican overall.” I can’t refute it all in one blog article. But I want to call your attention, dear reader, to this one sentence: “Since his election, Pope Francis has done everything within his power to soften and subvert the church’s teaching concerning human sexuality.”

The pope’s so-called softening and subverting is evidence, for Mr. Rahe, of the LM’s grasp upon the Chair of St. Peter. Problem is, Mr. Rahe gives not one example of it. We’re supposed to take it at face value that the pope has softened and subverted every chance he has gotten; for, after all, that’s what puppets of the LM do. But I’m a skeptic. I go through the record and I find many, many examples of just the opposite. So an example or two from Mr. Rahe would have helped me out, but I search his article in vain. Not one example in 2500 words. Sloppy work by Mr. Rahe. Sloppy, sloppy.


So how does Mr. Rahe know? Well, he cites an article at Vanity Fair by one Michael Joseph Gross. “The Vatican’s Secret Life”: that’s the title. Mr. Gross “interviewed a great many clerics in Rome,” presumably all members of the Lavender Mafia, though we’re supposed to accept Mr. Rahe at his word on this. And all these clerics were “delighted with the choice of Bergoglio.”

Well, yes, that is very fishy.

And, says Mr. Rahe, the St. Gallen Group—which we are told, upon Mr. Rahe’s solemn word and his solemn word alone, is lavender through and through—promoted Cardinal Bergoglio for the papacy. We know they did because Cardinal Gottfried Daneels said so in his memoirs. And Daneels said the opening prayer at the announcement of Bergoglio’s election. So what do you have to say about that, huh?

Well, curiouser and curiouser. We’re connecting the dots and all that.

But wait, but wait, Mr. Rahe has more:

All of this—including the machinations of the St. Gallen Group and the role Daneels played—is laid out in detail by an English Catholic, who was in Rome during the early year of this papacy, and who writes under the pseudonym Marcantonio Colonna. The title is The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy.


Oh, dear God, Mr. Rahe is promoting The Dictator Pope? Really? I mean, sources tell me that the blog Where Peter Is, whose sole purpose is defending Pope Francis against attacks from the PFDS-besotted, took the time to bother with Phil Lawler’s nonsense, and Ross Douthat’s nonsense, but would not take the time to deal with the Dictator garbage. It’s Alex Jones-level caca; it promotes the long-discredited “Francis is a Peronist” narrative, and things like that. If you believe it, you would probably also believe there’s a lavender mafia at Area 51 and that the Beatles really wanted the White Album to be the Lavender Album but George Martin talked them out of it.

Among the top promoters of that book were the usual reactionary suspects—Fake Site News; Church Petulant; 1 Luther 5; The Remnut. The cream of the kook.

The author’s real name is H.J.A. Sire; he was suspended from the Order of Malta after writing the book, and that’s really saying something if you know anything about the Order of Malta. Let’s just say Cardinal Burke was their patron, and the word is, it suited him.

Dave Armstrong actually bothered to do some background research on Sire, and what he found is quite eye-opening.

Sire is anti-Vatican II. He says that the Council was “a betrayal of the Church’s faith.” It should be “reversed,” according to Sire. Gaudium et Spes, he says, is a “deplorable document.”

Sire backs the SSPX, which is not in communion with the Church.

Sire rejects the Novus Ordo. He even goes so far as to say that many ordinations that occurred under the Pauline rite may not be valid.

Sire rejects ecumenism. He calls it a “perversion.” He dimisses it as “indifferentism.”

So. What I gather from all this is that Sire is a kook and he is promoted by kooks. If he’s rejecting Vatican II and backing the schismatic SSPX, I immediately hold anything he has to say about the pope suspect.


But you’d certainly think there’d be evidence if the pope were softening and subverting Church teaching on sexual ethics. And if the Lavender Mafia is behind it, you’d really expect to see this softening and subverting when it comes to LGBT issues dear to their own heart. Wouldn’t you? But do we find this, if we go searching?

Well, Cardinal Bergoglio strikes me as a very odd person for the Lavender Mafia to have set its heart upon as their man for the papacy. Bergoglio, after all, was the man who called the push for same-sex marriage in Argentina “a machination of the father of lies.” I mean, my goodness, even Fake Site News reported this news. E’en they.

Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, is known to LifeSiteNews readers as a valiant defender of life and family. In terms of homosexual “marriage,” Cardinal Bergoglio fought valiantly to have the law in Argentina continue to protect the traditional family.

Well, dear heavens, why would the lavender mafia have wanted this guy? Fake Site reports: “To the clergy of the parishes, Bergoglio requested that all of them read from the pulpits a declaration defending the true definition and understanding of marriage.”

Well, maybe the lavender mafia knew that Pope Francis could be turned to the gay side of the Church after his election to the papacy. He’d be like Anakin. The problem with that is, LGBT groups have been quite unhappy with Pope Francis. In Amoris Laetitia 56 the pope criticized an “ideology of gender” which “denies the reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman.” Gender ideology, the pope said, “envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.” To combat this, the pope went on in AL 285, “the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created. … 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.”

Oh, LGBT groups were not happy with any of that. “No joy!” cried Dignity USA. “When it comes to same-sex relationships and gender identity questions,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, “Francis simply reiterates the long-standing teachings of the Church. There is no flexibility.”

Well, horrors, the pope is Catholic. But where is this softening and subverting that Mr. Rahe of The Federalist is so drop-dead sure we can find in the pope’s teaching? Ms. Duddy-Burke is a leader of LGBT Catholics; she finds the pope inflexible. How now?

And please explain to me. If, as Mr. Rahe insists, the pope stacked the pre-synod meetings with Lavender Mafia stooges, how is it that Amoris Laetitia came out beating up on gender ideology with great hammers of orthodoxy and Ms. Duddy-Burke found no joy? How did this happen?

And I must point out that the pope has a habit of calling gender ideology “indoctrination” and comparing it to the Hitler Youth. Remember this? (Probably not; probably you were wailing in your soup about the rabbits. But he compared gender ideology to the Hitler Youth in the same interview.) LGBT apologists at the Daily Screech were shocked, shocked.

I’m sorry, but I’ve been writing about this for five years now. I have binders full of quotes. Remember when Pope Francis was supposed to be conspiring to undermine Humanae Vitae? I do, for I wrote about it. I cited Amoris Laetitia 80:

Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature.” 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 fulfillment. 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.

I tell you, there’s some real softening and subverting going on there.

Remember when Fake Site News and Crisis!!! said that Pope Francis accepts same-sex civil unions? I do, for I wrote about it. It was a lie. Here’s what the pope actually said:

What can we think of marriage between people of the same sex? “Matrimony” is a historical word. Always, in humanity, and not just in the Church, it was a man and a woman. It’s not possible to change it just like that. … It’s not possible to change it. It is part of nature. That’s how it is. Let us call it, then, “civil unions.” Let us not play with truths.

It’s true that behind all this we find gender ideology. In books, kids learn that it’s possible to change one’s sex. Could gender, to be a woman or to be a man, be an option and not a fact of nature? This leads to this error.

Let us call things by their names. Matrimony is between a man and a woman. This is the precise term. Let us call the same-sex union a “civil union.”

Now, the pope does not mean civil unions are good or acceptable; what he does mean is, okay, since they exist, we have to call them something, let’s just not say “marriage.” Because it’s not marriage. “Let’s not play with truths,” he says.

Boy, I tell you, that lavender mafia sure found just the guy in Pope Francis to go softening and subverting, didn’t they? They really got the papacy in their gay hands. I could go on and on with this all day; I’ve got binders full of quotes; but I’ll stop there.

August 28, 2018

Pope francis resigns

Image via Creative Commons

Canon 332 tells us why. “If it happens,” the canon says, “that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested.” If the pope resigns under the pressure of a public campaign in the media, he does not act freely. Consequently the resignation is not valid. Consequently any one elected by a conclave is an antipope.

Remember when a number of reactionaries claimed that Benedict XVI’s resignation was not valid because of private pressure? I do. Fake Site News was eager to promote such claims. Benedict, Fake Site reported, resigned because of “tremendous pressure.” 1 Luther 5 also theorized in this vein; and Donald R. McClarey at Americanist Catholic even posited that the so-called “lavender mafia” was behind it. The gays were behind it. But this all took place in private.

So think about that. According to these sources—Fake Site News, 1 Vader 5, Americanist Catholic—Benedict’s resignation was invalid because of presumed pressure on him to resign in private.

But now reactionary Catholics—in the wake of Abp. Viganó’s long accusation that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick and covered it up, complete with his own demand that the Holy Father resign—are pressuring Pope Francis, quite out in the open. And Fake Site News and its reactionary compeers are busy at work promoting it all. Laura Ingraham calls for the pope to resign on Twitter, and Fake Site is instantly on it.

Fake Site had already posted a whack-job of an article by the wild reactionary Peter Kwasniewski; in it PK hissed venom at Pope Francis in practically every other sentence. The very balanced Kwasniewski bewails the pope’s “depravity and mendacity.” The pope is “full of disrespect” for “the limits of his office.” His homilies are “tortuous” and “doctrinally suspect.” He has an “uncatholic mind.” He gives “sloppy interviews.” (PK is just getting started.) The pope has “an agenda of secularization.” The synods were “papally rigged,” and Amoris Laetitia was their “spawn.” The pope “muddied the waters of Humanae Vitae. He is “ambivalent” in condemning homosexuality. He has a “flaccid commitment to justice.” Oh, and he’s “neither holy nor a father.” But Fake Site constantly insists that it is a very neutral and stable publication.

Meanwhile Church Petulant openly calls for Pope Francis to resign. (Note how the ad below its video is an open plea for financial help as Church Petulant “prepares for war.”)


Well, you must be consistent. If you think Pope Benedict’s resignation was invalid due to hypothetical pressure some cabal exerted on him in private, then manifest pressure upon Pope Francis in public would certainly make his invalid. It is at the least hypocritical that the very people who, once upon a time, speculated that B16’s resignation was invalid due to private pressure, would now turn around and promote public pressure for Pope Francis’s resignation.


I don’t know if Viganó’s accusations are true or not. I have many reasons to be skeptical, but that is not the point of this post. We should know the truth, whatever it is. And for that reason, I have a very low view of Bishop Morlino’s effort to poison the well against the press by denying their “professional maturity.” It is as though he means to say: Now, the press, you can’t believe anything that they’re going to tell you. They’re fake news. You must believe us, we have the “canonical procedures” to investigate these things internally, and so on. And all at the very time when nothing has been more surely proven than that the Church has tried to sweep this under the rug for decades and has not been handling it properly. Even Viganó is guilty of it, and he wants to deflect attention to Pope Francis? I’m not buying it, Morlino.

If Viganó is not telling the truth, then this is obviously a coup against the pope. He is using the victims—not seeking justice for them, but using them—in an attempt to replace the pope with someone more to his own liking. Possibly himself. I tell you, we must really be sure we know the facts here. This is dangerous business.

But if Viganó is telling the truth, then putting canonically invalid pressure on the pope to resign achieves a schism. It achieves a sede vacante. That solves…what? If you’re going to put pressure on the pope, put pressure on him to finally do something about this crisis. After all, the pope has already forced Cardinal McCarrick to resign. He has already accepted resignations from bishops in Chile. He has shown he is willing to take action; and if pressuring him to go much further is necessary, then do that. But don’t pressure the pope alone. Pressure all the other many other bishops and cardinals who have covered up this evil, including Viganó himself.

But I can’t see how an invalid resignation—a schism, a sede vacante, the election of an antipope—solves the problem. It only creates a huge one on top of the one we already have.

October 8, 2017

Filial correction

Image via Pixabay

Give The Correctors credit for consistency. Thus far, as I have examined their seven charges of heresy aimed at Amoris Laetitia (they style it a “filial correction”), they have been batting a consistent .000. My review of this hitless streak begins here, and continues apace. (Part 2 is here, and part 3, part 4, and part 5.) But perhaps the filial ones can achieve a bunt single with their sixth effort? Maybe ye olde Texas leaguer, or Baltimore chop? Let us check.

Here is the sixth heresy The Correctors claim to find in the text:

Moral principles and moral truths contained in divine revelation and in the natural law do not include negative prohibitions that absolutely forbid particular kinds of action, inasmuch as these are always gravely unlawful on account of their object.

Hmm. Now, as I noted earlier in this series, it is a continual problem to try to figure out where, in the text of Amoris Laetitia, The Correctors think we are to find any one particular heresy. The Correctio—or Incorrectio, if you prefer—lacks this necessary precision. Now, The Correctors do quote a series of passages, as a man hungry to find heresy might pick cherries, but they never draw a connection between, say, section x and heresy y. It’s very sloppy work they do, I am here to tell you. So one must scroll back and read the entire set of excerpts and ask: Where are they getting this? It’s all guesswork. Who has time for it? And the credulous will hardly bother.

For example, do The Correctors find this denial of negative prohibitions, which are always gravely sinful, in §300? There, the pope says that subjective culpability is not always the same from case to case. But this is a commonplace of Catholic moral thinking; it has nothing to do with whether or not some actions are always gravely sinful, or whether the moral law contains negative prohibitions.

Or do they find it in §304? There the pope quotes St. Thomas Aquinas to the effect that “defects” are found in all “general principles” when we “descend to matters of detail.” “It is true,” the pope says, “that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.”

Well, let us look at this. In the first part of that sentence, the pope in fact affirms that “general rules … can never be disregarded or neglected.” If we assume that by “general rules,” the pope means “the moral law,” and if we assume further that he means “negative prohibitions,” he says that they can “never” be neglected. So that would preclude, would it not, The Correctors’ charge that the pope denies these are always gravely sinful. Indeed, he affirms that they are always gravely sinful. Oops.

But in the larger context, the pope observes (and this part of §304 is left out by The Correctors):

It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.

“To simply consider”; by this, the pope means that, even if we know that such and such an individual has remarried without an annulment, we don’t know everything we need to know. We can’t simply say, “mortal sin.” More is involved in discernment than in turning the moral law into a checklist of rules.

To observe this does not imply the pope thinks negative prohibitions don’t exist, or that he thinks there’s no such thing as actions that always constitute grave matter. In §297 he speaks of the existence of “objective sin.” In §303 he says that irregular unions are “objectively” contrary to Catholic teaching on marriage. In §305 he speaks of the existence of “an objective situation of sin.” Why do The Correctors not note this? (Don’t answer that.)

The pope must believe some things constitute “objective” sin. And indeed he does; but here he reflects on subjective degrees of culpability that mitigate guilt. One must not confuse the two.

So I can’t find this supposed heresy in the passages The Correctors quote; but I did a little due diligence and searched the whole text of Amoris Laetitia for the words “negative” and “prohibition.” And what I found—well, let me tell you what I did not find. Far from the pope denying that “negative prohibitions” exist, I found that the pope does not discuss the subject one way or the other, unless you count the phrase “objective sin”; and if you count that phrase, you run smack into numerous passages in which the pope says that objective sin most certainly does exist. This is most inconvenient for The Correctors.

And I also found, in my search, that in §302–in a passage not quoted by The Correctors, which hardly surprises me—the pope says:

[A] negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved.”

And this too is most inconvenient for The Correctors; for we find two things here. First, we find that the pope once again states that “objective situation[s of sin]” do exist; we can render a judgment on that much. And second, we find that the context in which the pope brings up these observations, in this section of Amoris Laetitia, is to reflect upon the question of subjective culpability, not the question of objectively grave acts that are always wrong. Such poor reading comprehension. Such sloppy exegesis.

It is certainly true that the moral law is not a mere list of negative prohibitions. If you think that way, your moral understanding is gravely impaired. The moral law, in its essence, is a positive good to which God calls everyone. It is not just a series of “don’ts.” If the pope is found to have said something like that, he spoke truly.

That is not the same thing as denying that negative prohibitions exist at all. And I do not find, anywhere in the text, where the pope said anything approaching this. Please point it out to be, if I be wrong. You’ll have gone much further than The Correctors even attempted.

The Correctors are 0 for 6.

And then there was one.

October 2, 2017

Image via Pixabay.

Given its unbroken record, thus far, for inaccuracy, I suggest we refer to it, henceforth, as Not Correctio. Or perhaps we can punch a hole in the top corner and call it the Farmer’s Almanac. If you are new to this refutatio of the not correctio, you may start with Part 1 here. But let us, by all means, continue. Here is the fifth heresy The Correctors claim to find in Amoris Laetitia:

Conscience can truly and rightly judge that sexual acts between persons who have contracted a civil marriage with each other, although one or both of them is sacramentally married to another person, can sometimes be morally right or requested or even commanded by God.

So let’s parse this. According to The Correctors, the text says that sometimes, God can ask people in an irregular union to keep on having sex. Is that really so?

The Correctors are referring to §303:

[C]onscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.

So The Correctors read “not yet fully the objective ideal” and “what is for now”; and they say: Aha! Oho! So! The pope is saying that continued sexual activity is the will of God in some cases!


Dr. Robert Fastiggi and Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein, writing at Vatican Insider, suggest a different interpretation. (Dr. Fastiggi teaches systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. Dr. Goldstein teaches dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.) Their article argues that the English translation of §303 is flawed. They propose an alternate translation from the Latin. (It is worth noting that even Dr. E. Christian Brugger, a critic of Amoris Laetitia, concedes that this translation is “much more precise.”)

This conscience, however, can not only recognize a given situation to be objectively at variance with the general mandate of the Gospel; it can also recognize sincerely and honestly what may be the generous response owed to God in the present circumstances; and this same firm conscience can come to understand with a certain moral certitude that this is the offering that God himself is asking amid the mass of impediments, although it may not yet be the perfect objective model.

The word Drs. Fastiggi & Goldstein translate “offering” is “oblationem,” literally oblation. They explain:

We believe the key to understanding what Pope Francis is saying in Amoris Laetitia 303 [two paragraphs later in] 305, where he quotes section 44 of his 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium: “Let us re­member that ‘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.’ [The Correctors, to my lack of surprise, do not mention §305 apart from its appearance in a long quotation from Cardinal Schönborn.]

It is very clear from the Latin text of Amoris Laetitia 303 that Pope Francis is describing how conscience can discern that God himself is asking for a small step in the right direction in the midst of a mass of impediments and limitations. The Holy Father is not saying that God himself is asking certain people “to continue to commit intrinsically wrong acts such as adultery or active homosexuality.” This is a most unfortunate reading of the text by [Dr. Josef] Seifert. Instead Pope Francis is saying that in certain difficult situations God is asking for a “generous response” (liberale responsum), an offering (oblationem)—that is, a step in the right direction.

This seems right to me. If I am an alcoholic, it is not likely that I am going to be able to renounce drink overnight. I may require a lot of visits to the Confessional. But surely it is not wrong to say that God wants me to make a step in the direction of an alcohol-free life, even if it may be a while before I can achieve that. It is not that God is asking me to go on drinking; he is asking me to begin the process of giving it up. Things like this are normally a process. They take time.

The same is true with any addiction. It takes time. And it is true in many cases for a couple in an irregular marriage, who can’t separate for the sake of the children, who are committed to continence, but find it a trial and, for one reason or another, an impossibility all at once, overnight.

God is not telling them it’s okay if they keep having sex. He is asking them to move toward a life of continence; even if they have to do so in small steps; even if they stumble from time to time.

That’s the sense of §303.

October 1, 2017

Filial correction

Image via Pixabay

Before I take up the fourth charge of heresy against Amoris Laetitia, as fantasized by the so-called “filial correction,” you may be saying: “But Alt! Is there anywhere in Amoris Laetitia in which Pope Francis does address the situation of couples, in an irregular marriage, who do have “full knowledge” and do “voluntarily choose” to break the Church’s moral teaching? I’m so glad you asked; for, in fact, there is. It is in §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.”

Now, these are strong words. Far from saying that those who “voluntarly choose” to break the moral law are not in mortal sin and may even grow in sanctifying grace (which The Correctors falsely claim), Pope Francis says that such people are “separate[d] from the community.” He says they must “listen … to the Gospel message.” He says they are “call[ed] to conversion.”

Now, when The Correctors quote from §297, do they mention any of this? They do not. Instead, they quote a single sentence, about how the “logic of the Gospel” is that no one can be “condemned forever.” But they neglect to mention the very sentence that refutes at least two of their charges of heresy. The Correctors cherry-pick from the text; they read into the text; but they do not deal honestly with what the text actually says.

I am most unimpressed.

“But Alt!” you will say. “Pope Francis goes on to say that even such people who do “voluntarily choose” may still ‘take part in the life of the community.’ If you’re going to charge The Correctors with leaving important things out, don’t you leave important things out!”

I’m glad you mentioned it. The pope does say this. But let us be careful to specify the ways in which he proposes they may “take part.” They can engage in “social service.” They can go to “prayer meetings.” The pope says nothing about them receiving Holy Communion.

I’m glad you mentioned it.

And now I move on to the fourth charge of heresy:

A person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.

The part in bold is important. The Correctors are saying that, according to Amoris Laetitia, obedience to the divine prohibition is itself a sin against God.

Now, it so happens that in this case I know exactly what part of AL The Correctors are referring to. In §298 the pope speaks of those in a second union, “consolidated over time,” with “new children.” And they have “great difficulty … going back without feeling in conscience that [they] would fall into new sins.”

Now, what this does not say is that the “going back” itself would be a sin. (N.B., I understand “going back” to mean leaving the marriage, not specifically ceasing sexual relations.) In this case, one could be guilty of the sin of abandoning one’s children. By doing the one, you must do the other. It is not the one that is the sin, but the other.

So §298 simply does not say that one sins by the very act of obeying a divine prohibition. It is not abandoning an irregular marriage that is the sin, but abandoning one’s children.

St. John Paul II had already recognized that as a legitimate reason to not abandon an irregular marriage. That’s in Familiaris Consortio 84. (Remember?)

Now, in footnote 329, Pope Francis also adds that some couples, aware of the possibility of living together continently, object that “if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.”

I suppose it’s open to interpretation what the pope means by “certain expressions of intimacy.” But let us assume he means continence. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to suppose that, cut off from sexual relations with one’s spouse, one may engage in some masturbation, or sexual relations with another person. Both of those things are sins. In these cases, it is not the continence within the irregular marriage that is itself sinful, but the masturbation, or the fornication.

Now, this does not mean that continence ought not to be an option. Here I mean only to point out that the pope does not say, as The Correctors allege, that obedience to a prohibition is itself sinful.

The Correctors have much work to do if they want to discover a heresy that Amoris Laetitia really does teach. So far they are 0 for 4.

September 24, 2017

Filial correction

Image via Pixabay

The “filial correction” of Pope Francis—but let us, dear reader, pause over this descriptor. Edward Pentin at the Register breathlessly says that this is the first “filial correction” since 1333! I mean, wow. Let us cry over Jerusalem. But what canonical standing, may I ask, do any of the signators have to be correcting Peter? Can anyone correct Peter, other than, you know, Christ? Bp. Fellay is the highest-ranking individual among them. St. John Paul II excommunicated him; later, Benedict XVI lifted it. But the SSPX has no canonical standing in the Church. The rest are a bunch of “lay scholars” and a few clergy. There is Fr. Claude Barthe, a “diocesan priest.” There is Fr Isio Cecchini, a “parish priest in Tuscany.” There is Fr. Linus F Clovis, the director of the Secretariat for Family and Life in the Archdiocese of Castries. Fr. Paul Cocard is a “religious.” Then there’s Martin Mosebach, a “writer and essayist.” (I looked him up; he writes novels, opera, theatre.) There’s Prof. Robert Hickson, a “retired professor of Literature and of Strategic-Cultural Studies.” Dr. Philip Blosser is a philosophy professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary; I suppose that’s something. Christopher Ferrara, contributor to The Remnant, is among them. Mainly, it reads like a who’s who of Who?

Anyway, The “filial correction” claims to find seven heresies in Amoris Laetitia. But, the Correctors add, there may be more than that:

In listing these seven propositions we do not intend to give an exhaustive list of all the heresies and errors which an unbiased reader, attempting to read Amoris laetitia in its natural and obvious sense, would plausibly take to be affirmed, suggested or favoured by this document: a letter sent to all the cardinals of the Church and to the Eastern Catholic patriarchs lists 19 such propositions.

See, if you find no heresies in Amoris Laetitia, it must be because you’re biased. The Correctors entertain no other possibility. But if you are unbiased, who knows how many heresies you may find? There might be 19, or 47, or 95, or 476, or three gajillion and twenty.

The Correctors list the heresies in Latin—in order to give the appearance of true Catholic gravitas, I imagine. Fortunately, for those of us in the Novus Ordo sect, they graciously translate them in the footnotes.

Here is the first:

A justified person has not the strength with God’s grace to carry out the objective demands of the divine law, as though any of the commandments of God are impossible for the justified; or as meaning that God’s grace, when it produces justification in an individual, does not invariably and of its nature produce conversion from all serious sin, or is not sufficient for conversion from all serious sin.

Now, I am sorry to have to point this out to The Correctors, but Amoris Laetitia not only does not endorse this heretical view, but it expressly denies it. Go to §295. There you will read:

For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace.

Imagine that. The Correctors say that the pope denies the justified can follow the law with the help of grace. Amoris Laetitia asserts that the justified can follow the law with the help of grace. Not only that, but the law is “a gift for everyone without exception.” No one is excluded.

Now, perhaps The Correctors will say that the pope is being devious. He is including this sentence in Amoris Laetitia, but wink wink, we know he doesn’t really mean it. Perhaps they will say that the sentence was not in the original text, but Modernist conspirators full of malice and deception went in and added it later as part of a cover up. Perhaps they will say that anyone who sees such a sentence in §295 is hallucinating and needs a prescription for Risperdal, or Zyprexa.

Who knows what The Correctors will say, but they leave that part out when they quote from §295. As a result, they present an incomplete picture of what the pope is saying there. This is the full paragraph:

Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth.” This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life.”

The Correctors latch on to the part where the pope says that some people “are not in a position to … carry out the objective demands of the law.” The text goes on, however, to say that everyone can follow the law with the help of grace. Since the context here is the Law of Gradualness espoused by St. John Paul II, the pope is initially referring to people who can not yet carry out the objective demands of the law, due to a malformed conscience or some other mitigating factor. They can, however, with the help of grace, be led in that direction. Thus “each person advances gradually.” That’s what the pope is getting at. But he is not asserting that grace is insufficient.

So I need to correct The Correctors. They are just wrong.

September 13, 2017

Pope Paul VI, via Creative Commons

Can we read what Pope Francis has actually said about Humanae Vitae? Is this too hard? Come, let us go together to Amoris Laetitia, that evil and heretical text that is going to overthrow the Church and rain down devastation, and look. (more…)

April 4, 2017

Jacques Louis-David, "Pius VII and Cardinal Caprara, ca. 1805

Jacques Louis-David, “Pius VII and Cardinal Caprara, ca. 1805

Our friends at Church Dilettante were all jittery last month (not with coffee but anticipation) at the news that there would be a conference in Paris on how to depose a pope. Canon lawyers, the article by Christine Niles gushed, would be there! You know, actual canon lawyers, who might advise on how to get rid of that pesky Bergoglio. Two people scheduled to speak at the conference even signed a letter critiquing Amoris Laetitia! Another supported the dubia! (As if we don’t know what Church Dilettante had in mind by connecting the dots this way for us.)

LSD News tried to make the same connection:

The conference comes after four years of Francis at the helm of the Barque of Peter. [Four long, long, long years. Will it ever end?] During this time the Pope, and the people he has put into key positions, have steered the Church in a direction that would have been unthinkable to faithful Catholics under the two previous pontiffs of John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. [Virtue signaling noted.]

Turns out, it was nothing of the kind, so you can put another check in the overstuffed “wrong again” column for LSD and Dilettante. Tom Heneghan reports:

Holding a colloquium to discuss dethroning an erring Roman Catholic pontiff sounds like a call to battle at a time when prominent cardinals say Pope Francis is leading the faithful astray.

But no. “The crowd seemed to be mostly lay academics.” Not that even cardinals could depose Pope Francis, but not even LSD or Dilettante would have such delusions about “lay academics.”

Speakers on Thursday and Friday (March 30 and 31) went back to the New Testament and church crises down through the centuries looking for any legal precedents that might show possible ways to square the circle of papal authority.

The pope is the supreme authority in the Catholic Church but can be judged if he deviates from the faith. There is no agreement on who could be that judge.

And that would be because there is no such judge. Poor Church Dilettante was reduced to quoting Gratian’s Decretal as though it were canon law: “The pope is not judged by anyone—unless he deviates from the Faith.” Yes, but who judges whether the pope has deviated from the faith? Let me stop the Dilettante in its hasty effort to cut off the branch it sits on by going to Canon 1404, which says: “The first see is judged by no one.” And that’s period—not comma or semicolon. There is no “unless.”

And the lay academics at the conference figured this out.

After two days of discussions at the center in a southern Paris suburb, law professor Cyrille Dounot told the concluding session it was impossible to find a solution to the problem in the church’s long legal tradition.

“We’ve asked a question but we can’t answer it,” said Dounot, one of the three organizers of the colloquium. “Maybe we will be able in the future, but that’s improbable.”

Uh, yeah—I’d say it’s “improbable” at best. Would that LSD and Dilettante could figure that one out. There is no deposing a pope.

Oh, and Dounot said one more thing, about this idea that the conference was some prelude to creating a path to deposing Pope Francis. That was not at all the point of the conference, he told RNS. “This is just an academic examination of a disputed question.” Because that’s what academics do.

And LSD and Dilettante do what they do.


Browse Our Archives