March 28, 2017

Image via Creative Commons

Image via Creative Commons

Lysergic Acid News is blaring trumpets again about the so-called “correction” of the pope by Cardinal Burke, et al. If Pope Francis won’t answer the dubia, “we simply will have to correct the situation.” Ahem.

Sometimes people will ask me, “Alt! Do you still stand by that article you wrote, you know, the one where you said you changed your mind about Pope Francis? Skojec declared that you had seen the light.”

Well, Skojec.

I do stand by my article. Recall I said the pope should answer the dubia, that the questions were fair enough, and that not answering them encouraged confusion (and the leaping of miles on the authority of inches) when the pope could clarify and reign in.

Recall I also said it was “ill-advised” for Burke, et al., to make them public. And any talk of Burke or anyone else “formally correcting” the Holy Father is just impertinent madness. That would be a schismatic act, in my view.

Go with me once more, dear reader, to Donum Veritatis. Let us look at §30.

If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. [So far so good. This is what dubia are.] He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments.

And you know, this is exactly the spirit in which Burke claims, many a time and oft, that he has acted. The dubia are “honest questions,” he says (as quoted by LSD). “We proposed them very seriously,” he says. It was all done “with great respect,” he says. So Burke has, according to his own careful insistence, acted “with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties.”

And yet Donum Veritatis adds this:

In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the “mass media”, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.

But you know, that is exactly what has happened—that Burke has “turned to the mass media,” and that the media (all the usual suspects) are using the dubia as a weapon to stir up further strife and dissension against Pope Francis. That sort of atmosphere, according to the CDF, does not achieve the “clarification of doctrinal issues.” It does not “render service to the truth.”

Rather it achieves the opposite—because the discussion has now shifted from clarification to correction. If you say, “I don’t understand, can you clarify?” that is one thing. But when you say, “This papal document is in error, so I will take it upon myself to correct the situation,” that is very different.

There certainly is a tradition in the Church of seeking clarification of the pope through dubia. That the pope has not answered these involving Amoris Laetitia bothers me. I don’t think that was best.

But there is not a tradition in the Church of a “formal correction” of the pope. And don’t talk to me about “Paul corrected Peter.” Paul rebuked Peter for having sinned, for having acted contrary to what Peter had taught to be true. Paul did not correct Peter’s teaching. The pope is, Vatican I points out, the Church’s supreme teacher and supreme legislator. “The sentence of the Apostolic See,” the Council says, is the “highe[st] authority [and] is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon.” Those who say otherwise” “stray from the genine path of truth.”

So no, Cardinal Burke can’t “correct” the pope.

The pope, however, can correct him. I don’t say he should or he should not. But if you want to talk about “formal correction,” the pope is the only one with the authority to do that. If Burke were to try to issue some “formal correction,” the pope could say, “This has no authority in the Church.” He could say, “This constitutes a schismatic act.” He could discipline Burke in any way he felt appropriate.

I don’t say he should or he should not.

“But Alt!” you say. “Isn’t Cardinal Burke right that “there are some acts that are always and everywhere wrong?”

Indeed there are. And how do I know that? Because Pope Francis said so in Amoris Laetitia:

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. (295)

Oh, so Pope Francis means there are no exceptions? Well, why do I need Burke to tell me this, and pretend it’s some sort of necessary “correction”? It’s right there in Amoris Laetitia

“Oh, but Alt! What about the internal forum? What about footnote 351? What about personal discernment?”

Yes. These are all about determining degree of personal culpability as it relates to sacramental discipline. The pope understands some people are not fully culpable for the situation in which they find themselves, can’t extricate themselves, and then pastors have to decide case by case what to do in moving forward. There is no one-size-fits-all solution here.

To recognize that does not entail denying that some acts are always wrong, or that the law can be followed by everyone with the help of grace. Pope Francis himself says that.

How the one relates to the other certainly can be clarified for those who have difficulty, or so as not to encourage bishops to make miles out of inches. I really, really wish the pope would.

But “formal correction”? Stop it with that loose and dangerous talk. That’s more divisive and schism-encouraging than anything the pope has done. Take care the pope does not correct you.

March 20, 2017

Matthias Stom, "Christ Before Caiaphas"

Matthias Stom, “Christ Before Caiaphas”

Edward Pentin tweets on March 16 that the threatened “correction” of Pope Francis over Amoris Laetitia is still a threat. “Informed sources” tell him this. Oh goody. Cardinal Burke was the first to threaten this queer thing, and Lysergic Acid News could barely wait. “How soon? How soon?” it asked with insufferable impatience. How very inconvenient, then, when Cardinal Muller, the prefect of the CDF, rejected any such thought as Burke’s. It “harms the Church,” said Muller, to speak thus.

Well, yeah, and there’s no such thing in Catholic tradition as a “formal correction” of a pope. The pope is the Church’s supreme teacher and supreme legislator. As Vatican I puts it, the pope has “supreme power … in governing the whole Church.” He is “the supreme judge of the faithful.” He is “not subject to revision by anyone.” “They stray from the genuine path of truth,” says the Council, “who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs.” The pope has “supreme power of teaching.”

Who, then, can “correct” the supreme judge and the supreme teacher? According to Vatican I, no one:

Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. … This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it without endangering his faith and salvation.

Strong words.

Then, in response to Mr. Pentin’s tweet, a canon lawyer, Fr. Manuel J. Rodriguez, got involved.


Naturally, the venomous interloper 1 Luther 5 was not slow in interjecting its own false dichotomies that might have come from the wery mouth of Luther himself at the Diet of Worms. Mr. Skojec’s conscience is captive to the word of God, and all that yada yada.

But no. Allegiance to the pope is allegiance to Christ. To posit a conflict between the two is to do what the Protestants did.

In Luke 10:16, Christ says to the apostles—but before I go there: You do realize, do you not, that Catholic bishops are the successors of the apostles? If you have any doubt about that at all, let us get that resolved before we go any further. Catechism 101, dear reader:

In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” (77)

The Catechism there is quoting from Dei Verbum. So the teaching authority of the apostles is passed on to bishops for all time. Bishops teach with the same authority as the apostles. This we must know.

And we must know that the pope is the successor of Peter, and Peter has primacy over the rest. Catechism 101 again:

881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the “rock” of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.” This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church’s very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.

882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”

Here the Catechism quotes from Lumen Gentium. The biblical basis for this teaching is Matt. 16:18 and John 21:17. So all bishops are successors to the apostles and teach with the same authority; and the pope is the successor to Peter and teaches with supreme authority among bishops. This is standard Catholic thinking.

Now we can go to Luke 10:16. There, Christ says to the apostles: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Christ is sending them out to teach when he says this. And their teaching authority still exists today in the bishops of the Church. And the pope is the supreme teacher of them all.

When the bishops teach, when the pope teaches, it is Christ who teaches. Don’t say you are being obedient to Christ when you reject the pope; that option is not open to you. Rejecting the pope is disobedience to Christ.

“But Alt! Cardinal Burke is a successor of the apostles too!”

Yes. He is. And his teaching is only authoritative to the extent that he teaches in union with the pope.

Lumen Gentium 25:

The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter.

A bishop can not stand apart from Peter and “correct” him.

“But Alt! Paul corrected Peter!”

No. Paul did not correct anything that Peter taught. Peter knew that the Gospel needed to be preached to the Gentiles; Peter taught this. But Paul did not correct this teaching. Instead, he rebuked Peter when Peter acted contrary to his own teaching by refusing to eat with the Gentiles. He rebuked him for sin; he rebuked him for being a hypocrite. This is very different.

“But Alt! Do we know from the Church that Luke 10:16 has this meaning you assign it?”

Yes we do. I’m glad you asked.

Lumen Gentium 20:

[T]he Sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church, and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and Him who sent Christ.

Let us have none of this facile nonsense from 1 Luther 5 about how allegiance to the pope is something different from allegiance to Christ. By no means. They are one and the same. When the pope teaches, it is Christ who teaches. Any other claim is not Catholic.

Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis 20:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

The Fourth Council of Constantinople:

We believe that the saying of the Lord that Christ addressed to his holy apostles and disciples, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever despises you despises me, was also addressed to all who were likewise made supreme pontiffs and chief pastors in succession to them in the Catholic Church.

“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Who rejects the pope rejects God. Christ’s words in Luke 10:16 are duly noted.

November 30, 2016

Pope Francis Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Imean, I do like Pope Francis. I’ve defended Pope Francis. I want to believe—I really want to believe—that footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia can (and should) be read consistently with Familiaris Consortio 84. I have argued as much multiple times on this wery blog.

The pope, in footnote 351, says that “in some cases” couples who are in an irregular marital union but unable to separate for the sake of children can “receive the help of the sacraments.” In the main text (par. 305), he says that such couples are in “an objective situation of sin,” even if “not subjectively culpable.”

Now, it is standard Catholic teaching that, if grave matter is present, mortal sin nevertheless may not be. If a person has a cocaine addiction, for example, the presence of addiction impairs freedom of the will sufficiently that there is no “subjective culpability.”

Of course, once such a person acknowledges this problem, he needs to get help to break the addiction.

Similarly, a couple who contracted an irregular marriage (divorce and remarriage without annulment, for example) may not be “subjectively culpable” if their conscience had not been fully formed at the time of the wedding. Or perhaps they were not Catholic at the time, and their church permitted such a marriage.

Again, once the couple become aware of the “objective situation of sin,” it is their responsibility to correct it. They can no longer appeal to their lack of “subjective culpability.”

That said, Pope St. John Paul II recognized the possibility that some couples in such a situation may be unable to separate for the good of their children. In Familiaris Consortio, he said that, were such couples to agree to abstain from sexual union, there would no longer be an “objective situation of sin,” and they would then be free to receive the Eucharist at Mass.

So the question becomes: Are the “some cases” to which Pope Francis refers in footnote 351 the same that John Paul II mentions in Familiaris Consortio. Or are there other cases, unspecified in the text, in which couples can return to the sacrament?

In one public address, Cardinal Schonborn seemed to say that 351 was merely an allusion to FC 84. I wrote about that here and here.

According to Schonborn, a couple who cannot separate, for the good of the kids, must be “careful not to give scandal.”

[N]onetheless they live a married life—not with sexual union, but they live together; they share their life; and publicly they are a couple. So I see the careful discernment requires, from the pastors and from the people concerned, a very delicate conscience.

Well and good. Pope Francis even said that any questions about footnote 351 should make note of what Schonborn has to say, because Schonborn is a good theologian, and he gives great detail, so find what Schonborn says, what do I know, I can’t even remember footnote 351.

Problem is, it turns out that His Eminence Cardinal Schonborn has been a tad inconsistent about this footnote. His words above were in April. Three months later, in July, he gave an interview to Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In that interview, Schonborn says there has been “an evolution”—a “clear” one—in our understanding of factors that mitigate culpability for sin.

Okay, maybe so. But what are these new mitigating factors? Schonborn goes on to quote from Amoris, but that does not answer the question. The closest the text comes is this:

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 decide differently and act otherwise without further sin.

That lacks—how shall I say?—precision. And Fr. Spadaro presses Schonborn.

But this orientation was already contained in some way in the famous paragraph 84 of Familiaris Consortio, to which Francis has recourse several times, as when he writes: “Pastors must … exercise careful discernment of situations.

Yes. “John Paul II,” Schonborn says,

already presupposes implicitly that one cannot simply say that every situation of a divorced and remarried person is the equivalent of a life in mortal sin.

Yes. But under which conditions may such a couple return to the sacrament? The pope says the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but nourishment for the weak. How, asks Fr. Spadaro, can the Church “integrate” all this into its “classical doctrine”? “Is there a rupture here with what [the Church] affirmed in the past?”

Well, says Schonborn, what those “some cases” are, that has to be left to “individual discernment.” There is no “general discourse” that can answer that. We now have a “different hermeneutic.”

Spadaro will not let it go. “What does ‘some cases’ mean?” he asks Schonborn. Can we be given an “inventory”?

No! says Schonborn. There is no “inventory.” An “inventory” would be tantamount to “abstract casuistry.” But one thing is for sure, says Schonborn, and that is that the pope “does not stop short at the kind of cases” mentioned by Familiaris.

Oh. So it’s not just those who agree to live together without sexual union who can return to the Eucharist; there are other cases in which one may do so, but we don’t say what those cases are, because that would be casuistry, we can’t have an inventory, but we must have discernment and conscience.

Got it.


This is why there is a problem with Amoris Laetitia–because there are sections of it, important sections, that are vague, and which scream out for clarification; but attempts to clarify have led to further vagueness (as in Schonborn’s interview with Spadaro) and inconsistent opinions about what it was that the pope wants pastors to do, and not do, with couples in an irregular union seeking to return to the Eucharist. We have had assurances that Amoris is utterly consistent with Familiaris and yet there are two problems:

  • Schonborn’s words have been inconsistent and themselves not at all precise;
  • None of these clarifications carry Magisterial weight.

And because they do not carry Magisterial weight, different bishops are interpreting Pope Francis to pretty much be saying what they want him to say, and doing what they want to do, and there is no uniformity or correction where there has been folly.

So four cardinals intervene with a series of questions asking the pope for clarification on footnote 351. The full text is here.

These strike me as fair questions. The cardinals are seeking a definitive, Magisterial answer to some people’s doubts—not answers in interviews, not private lectures, not “go listen to so-and-so.” The reason the Church needs a definitive answer is to prevent bishops in some places from running wild and doing whatever they want to the potential harm of souls. If someone in a state of mortal sin, not disposed to receive the Eucharist, receives the Eucharist anyway, that compounds the problem. It is a harm to both the individual who receives and the priest who knowingly distributes. A definitive clarification would, potentially, forestall this.

Moreover, if there has been genuine and legitimate doctrinal development, then the pope needs to spell it out out in fairly precise terms. What is this development? How are we to understand it?

Only the pope has the authority to answer such questions. This is why the Church has a pope.

That Pope Francis has refused to answer these questions is a problem. It is tantamount to the pope saying, “I know there is confusion, I know people want it cleared up, but too bad. Figure it out yourself.”

Perhaps that is not an accurate representation of the pope’s thinking, but that’s what comes across. Confusion? Pshaw! Confusion upon your confusion!

And then, when the pope gives an interview attributing concerns to “legalism,” he comes across as condescending.

And now Fr. Spadaro has written another reminder that the questions have already been answered.

Really? By whom? The pope? In what context? Are these answers definitive? Are they magisterial?

Only the pope can speak with authority in answering these questions—not cardinals in interviews, not cardinals in private lectures, not theologians writing in journals, not bloggers on Patheos or One Vader Five.

And also, the Dean of the Rota gives a warning that the pope could strip Cardinal Burke and the other three of the cardinalate for their impertinence in making all this public and causing scandal.

Well, okay, perhaps the cardinals should not have made it public. Perhaps that was ill-advised. But stripping them of their red hats would be “most childish and unbecoming a successor of St. Peter,” to quote one individual commenting on the story on my Facebook page.

And because of all this, many believe that the pope wants confusion, likes confusion, does not wish to clear up confusion, and if there is confusion he must scoff at confusion.

No. We have a pope, in part, so that he can answer questions such as these, which arise from time to time in the Church. They have arisen now. For the good of the body, for the unity of the Church, the pope must answer them. He alone can do so with authority. That is why we have a pope.

I want to believe Amoris Laetitia is consistent with Church teaching, but if it is, why does the pope have such a difficult time clarifying that consistency?

Roma, loquere.


August 6, 2016

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

On August 2, Pope Francis said a few words about gender identity—words that are not at all new with him. In a meeting with bishops that day, he observed:

In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these—I will call it clearly by its name—is [the ideology of] “gender.”

[Which is, in fact, an artificial construct. The academics and ideologues have co-opted a word that, in its normative meaning, refers to grammar. I find I always need to point that out.]

Today children—children!—are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!

[The pope is not winning friends on the left by saying any of this.]

In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator.” [That is, people are in rebellion against the design of human creation, man and woman.] He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way … and we are doing the exact opposite.

[Note how Pope Francis announces his consistency with, not his departure from, Pope Benedict XVI.]


Should Have Seen Just What Was There

Now, the pope has said this kind of thing so often in the past that I marvel that people marvel. Dear heavens, the pope is Catholic. What ever shall I do? How can this be? How can I go on? I have, dear reader, documented such papal statements on this wery blog.

  • I documented it here, on February 23, 2015, when the pope said the same thing in a papal interview in flight from Manila to Rome. (All anyone talked about was breeding like rabbits.)

Ideological colonization: I’ll give just one example that I saw myself. Twenty years ago, in 1995, a minister of education asked for a large loan to build schools for the poor. They gave it to her on the condition that in the schools there would be a book for the children of a certain level. It was a school book, a book prepared well, didactically, in which gender theory was taught.

This woman needed the money, but that was the condition. Clever woman, she said yes and did it again and again; and it went ahead, and that’s how it was achieved. This is ideological colonization. They introduce to the people an idea that has nothing to do with the nation; yes, with groups of people, but not with the nation. And they colonize the people with an idea that changes, or wants to change, a mentality or a structure.

During the synod, the African bishops complained about this, which was the same story, certain loans in exchange for certain conditions. I say only these things that I have seen.

Why do I say ideological colonization? Because they take, they really take the need of a people to seize an opportunity to enter and grow strong—with the children. But it is not new. The same was done by the dictatorships of the last century. They entered with their own doctrine. … Think of the Hitler Youth.

Oh, the leftists did not like that Hitler Youth comparison! At the Daily Screech, Dr. Candida Moss was shocked that the pope did not agree with liberal academics like Dr. Moss! The pope was “recycling centuries of misogyny” and “dissing women”!

  • I documented it again, here, on June 25, 2015, when the pope said the same thing in Laudato Si 155. (All anyone talked about was the pope’s belief in global warming and his castigation of air conditioners.)

It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. … It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

The Washington Post did not miss any of that. Sarah Pulliam Bailey documented it all and predicted that such passages would be “read closely.”

  • And I documented it here, on April 11, 2016, when the pope said the same thing in Amoris Laetitia 56 & 285. (All anyone talked about was communion for the divorced and remarried.)

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.

A site called “Dignity USA” found “no joy” in any of that. “We had hoped for much more,” it lamented balefully. “Francis simply reiterates the long-standing teachings of the Church. There is no flexibility.”

Pope upholds teachings of the Church. When will these horrors end?


You Couldn’t Be That Man I Adored

And yet in spite of all that papal consistency—documented here on this wery blog—the New York Times reports that “leaders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups expressed dismay” at the pope’s words.

They did? Why? What had they expected? Why do they continue to delude themselves? They’ve noted this very kind of thing before. They have no excuse to claim shock or dashed hopes. But they do; again and again, every time, they do.

“It is very troubling that the pope would say this,” cried Marianne Duddy-Burke. She is the executive director of Dignity USA—the wery same Dignity USA that had no joy last April. Do they have amnesia? Whence this expectation of some imminent departure? Surely it can not come from the actual record of history, available to anyone with a computer and a search engine and access to the Vatican and Catholic publications. (Or to the few, fewer every day, that lack an ax and a grindstone.) Dignity USA could have looked through its wery own archives, and the previous shocked words of Ms. Duddy-Burke herself.

But according to the troubled Ms. Duddy-Burke, the pope’s statement

also shows that he doesn’t understand the danger that his words can mean for gender-nonconforming people, particularly those who live in countries with laws or cultural pressures that put these people at risk for violence.

That is, I am afraid to say, incoherent. Does Ms. Duddy-Burke really think that the pope is advocating violence? Does she really think that there are people sitting around waiting for the pope to say something about gender identity that they can then use as an excuse to go on a rampage in clubs or bathrooms? That, if only the pope would make a bold departure on these points, such people would suddenly experience a wave of brotherly love, hold hands, and sing Jackie DeShannon? LGBT individuals will not be safe unless the pope changes Church teaching? Is that what Ms. Duddy-Burke is asking me to believe? This is strange.

“Francis, who is Argentine,” the Times goes on, “also did not offer examples of classrooms using such a curriculum.”

What does him being Argentine have to do with any of this? And the Times wants examples? They doubt this? Well, the pope in fact gave one during his flight from Manila to Rome, if anyone had been paying attention to more than just bunny rabbits. But here’s another: Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. According to a plan for updating the schools’ seventh- through twelfth-grade mandatory health curriculum:

Emphasis will be placed on an understanding that there is a broader, boundless, and fluid spectrum of sexuality that is developed throughout a lifetime. Sexual orientation and gender identity terms will be discussed with focus on appreciation for individual differences.

I mean, Google’s a handy, handy thing. Perhaps the pope means for us to use it. Perhaps he expects the media to have access to such things right at their wery fingertips. I know Dignity USA lost its archives and suffered tragic memory loss. But has the New York Times been robbed of all its resources for fact-checking? It must demand that the pope’s audiences come complete with citations and a bibliography?

“But church analysts,” the Times continues,

say [the pope] has long harbored resentment over so-called ideological colonialism, the notion that international groups offer aid to developing nations contingent upon the adoption of Western values.

This is true, but I would hardly call gender ideology “Western values.” In fact, it is opposed to “Western values.” If I be wrong about this, can I ask the Times to explain for us where the notion of gender fluidity has its origin in Western culture and thought? The last I checked, it is a novelty. Call me crazy.

“It’s not all that clear who he’s mad at and what’s upsetting him,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter. [Fr. Reese is himself a touch mystified by all this odd and unexpected consistency from the pope. Nothing like this has ever been.] “But there’s something underlying there. And I think it’s primarily that he feels that this kind of stuff is being pushed down their throats.”

Well, yes, some people do have a strange objection to being told what they must think, particularly on contentious issues like this one. It’s not like teaching people their times tables.


Illusion Never Changed Into Something Real

“The pontiff’s latest remarks,” the Times continues,

represented a letdown for gay rights groups that were encouraged by the pope’s conciliatory remarks in June after the massacre of gay patrons at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Francis said at the time that gays were owed an apology for past mistreatment by Christians.

Sure; I don’t doubt that there’s been a “letdown.” But there are two separate issues going on here. Of course no one should gun down those who are LGBT. We should love them and treat them well. Christians should repent and apologize every time they fail in this regard.

But that is not at all the same as saying that their behavior, or their thinking, is good and correct.

That the Times, and LGBT leaders, can confuse the two, helps to explain their muddled thinking, and their tendency to indulge in illusion with regard to Pope Francis.

One naturally wonders, however, why such wild hopes were never placed in Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote these words in his letter to bishops “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”.

It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

And in the very next paragraph, Ratzinger added:

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground. [That would include gender ideology.]

That Pope Francis can say both, just as Ratzinger said both, is a mark of coherence and consistency with his predecessor in the Chair of Peter. Where the illusion of imminent departure comes from, in the specific case of Pope Francis, I confess I have no idea.

And likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says of homosexual persons, “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” And that wery same paragraph (2358) also describes same-sex attraction as “objectively disordered.”

But for some reason, every time Pope Francis says the one, the secular media and certain advocacy groups get all hot and bothered that he is about to deny the other. The Times article includes an example of this.

Sarah McBride, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, said the words sent a ripple of hope through the LGBT community that the Vatican might be embracing a broader stance on inclusion.

She added, however, “I think what’s clear in this last statement is that maybe those sentiments weren’t universally applied—that for transgender people, the pontiff is applying a different standard.”

Well, no, Ms. McBride, there is no “different standard” for homosexual people than for transgender people. The very same principle applies to both: Treat them with dignity and respect, and love them. Say you are sorry when you are cruel or dismissive of them. But none of that implies acceptance of everything they think or everything they do. That’s a separate matter.

But “LGBT leaders,” according to the Times, “said Wednesday that the pope had failed to grasp that one’s gender identity is discovered, often at a very young age, not chosen.”

In fact, it’s not so much that the pope does not “grasp” this—if by “grasp” you mean understand the argument—it’s that the pope does not agree with it. It is a contentious argument, not one that has been in any way proven. But one would think that, by denying this, the pope is denying that the sun rises in the east, or that Halley’s Comet comes once every 76 years.

“There have been times,” Ms. McBride concluded, “where [the pope has] demonstrated compassion. Then there have been other times where his words have been not only hurtful, and frankly harmful, but really demonstrating a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.”

A larger problem here is not the pope’s understanding “of what it means to be transgender” (or lack thereof), but Ms. McBride’s understanding of what it means to have compassion. That compassion, for her, seems to mean both “don’t kill people,” “be kind to people,” and “accept every false and wreckless and destructive idea and lifestyle that occurs to them” helps to explain why Pope Francis is the cause of repeated dashed hopes on the left.

People like Ms. McBride work themselves up into a pitch of nervous excitement, and then wail in a jilted rage when reality sets in. Only to do it all over again next month.

This is Pope Francis Derangement Syndrome of the left.

May 2, 2016

Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

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

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

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

Says Card. Schonborn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a suggestion.


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

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

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

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

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

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

May 1, 2016

Cardinal Schonborn, via Creative Commons

Cardinal Schonborn, via Creative Commons

I became aware of the video embedded at the bottom of this post by a reader who posted it in the comments here. The video was uploaded to YouTube on April 20. My reader posted it because he seemed to think that Schonborn’s discussion of Amoris Laetitia 305 supports the view of Prof. Spaemann and others: namely, that the pope permits communion for Catholics in an irregular marriage. That is to say, the pope permits adultery.

So always willing to check out the truth of what is claimed, I watched the video myself. I learned that Cardinal Schonborn says the very opposite. You can take a look at it yourself; the relevant section starts just past the 59 minute mark and runs for about ten minutes.

Now, all this is important because for a very long and tedious April we have been told, on all the Chicken Little blogs and across the social media Webosphere, that footnote 351 is the “smoking gun” that permits communion for those in an irregular union without requiring them to abandon their sin.

But Pope Francis, in his latest interview while flying back to Rome from Greece, was asked about that very point, and he referred the reporter to Cardinal Schonborn’s presentation on Amoris Laetitia. Schonborn is a very good theologian, the pope said, he knows the doctrine of the Church, and you will find your answer with him. So Pope Francis gives a great deal of weight to what Schonborn has to say.

Let us then, turn to the video and see what Schonborn says. Turn there, and not to One Vader Five.

The integration of people in irregular situations is a pastoral duty, because they are baptized and they are called to live as they can in the limits of what they can—their life of faith. You know, at the very end—the question of this little footnote. Let me show you the text in English.

By “this little footnote,” Schonborn is referring to footnote 351, which is where some claim to find a license for priests to admit those in irregular marriages to communion. Schonborn begins by quoting from the text in AL 305 that comes right before:

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin [Schonborn quotes this phrase twice, as if to emphasize the reality of what we are talking about]—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.

And now he directs us to The Dreaded Footnote:

In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.

There it is, the smoking gun! Public adulterers and all manner of filthy whores are going to line up to defile the Eucharist, all with the pope’s approval.

But now listen carefully as Schonborn turns to attention to what the pope really had in mind.

What does he mean with that? Why isn’t he more explicit about it? Why has he put it into the footnote? I was asked this: Why a footnote about such an important question? Why only a footnote? Is it to hide? Is it to prevent critique from those nervous about such words? I don’t know; I haven’t asked him why he has placed it in a footnote.

Yes, these are the questions everyone is asking. My Facebook posts are full of cross-examination and a demand for answers. But keep listening, because Schonborn is about to clarify:

There is one point, very clear already. John Paul II has known, in certain cases, explicitly. And this is important for the understanding. You all know the famous exception John Paul has explicitly said.

So, according to Schonborn, Familiaris Consortio 84 is where we must go to learn what Pope Francis had in mind when he said that “in certain cases” couples in irregular unions can receive “the help of the sacraments.” Schonborn quotes from John Paul II:

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about 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.”

Now this is strange indeed. I thought, from reading Life Site News, that this section of FC is at odds with footnote 351. Jon-Henry Westen quotes it to object to 351. But according to Schonborn, far from FC being at odds with 351, it is the very sense in which 351 must be understood. Why, that’s the very thing I said, in my response to Mr. Westen’s article. Will we get a correction from Lysergic?

Schonborn goes on:

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

The note Schonborn seems to have in mind here is footnote 329, which is in §298. I mention this because Steve Skojec at One Vader Five insists that 298 condones adultery. And yet to listen to Schonborn tell it, Pope Francis means the very thing I argued he did, in my rebuttal to Mr. Skojec. For the good of the children, the couple “live a married life” and “publicly they are a couple,” but—Schonborn’s words—“not with sexual union.” That’s what I said, and Mr. Skojec spent days on Twitter scoffing and dismissing it out of hand, with his accustomed storm of ad hominem.

Now some might ask: Why listen to Schonborn? He’s not the pope! But remember: Pope Francis himself said that we must listen to Schonborn if we have questions on this matter.

Well, now we have listened to Schonborn. I eagerly await for One Vader Five and Life Site News and all the others to say, “Mea maxima culpa. Guess I was wrong.”


You can watch the video yourself here:

April 19, 2016

Life Site News

Image via Pixabay

And it’s by Jon-Henry Westen again; wonders! Been there, done that. In this latest example of errant reportage, which you can read here, Life Site News proclaims: “Pope Says Schonborn Interpretation on Communion is the Final Word”! (That’s the title.)

Hmm. Don’t recall reading that. I looked at the pope’s interview; Zenit has the transcript here; can’t recall the pope saying anything that can fairly be summarized as deferring to Schonborn the “final word.” Nor was Schonborn’s presentation of Amoris Laetitia, quite exactly, an “interpretation” of any sort. It was, rather, a summary of the pope’s exhortation. You can find it here and take a look at it; I find it to be very profuse with direct quotations.

So we shall have to discern very carefully to figure out whether Westen has it right and I have it wrong.

Now, the context of all this is an exchange between Pope Francis and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, which took place during the pope’s flight from Greece to Rome. The reporter, Francis Rocca, asked the pope whether, after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, there are “new concrete possibilities” for Catholics in an irregular marriage to have “access to the sacraments.” (Mr. Rocca does not specify which sacraments; there are, you may recall, seven of them.) The pope responded this way, in the translation provided by Zenit:

I could say “yes,” and that’s it, but it would be too small an answer. I recommend to you all that you read the presentation made by Cardinal Shoenborn [sic], who is a great theologian. He is a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and knows well the Doctrine of the Church. Your question will have an answer in that presentation.

Life Site News uses a different translation, but the substance of the pope’s response is the same. Funny thing is, I do not see, in that response, where the pope says that Cardinal Schonborn’s interpretation is the final word. Do you see it? I don’t see it. Where is it? The pope says Schonborn’s presentation “will have an answer” for the reporter’s question; it says nothing about Schonborn having “the final word” on the discipline of the sacraments.

Perhaps this is a quibble, but if Schonborn’s presentation was no more than a summary of the contents of Amoris Laetitia, then wouldn’t it be Pope Francis who had the final word? Was anyone disputing that he did? Where’s the story here? Why does Life Site News bother? Perhaps this is a quibble.

More concerning to me is the following passage from Mr. Westen’s article:

Schonborn’s presentation boiled down Pope Francis’ more than 60,000 words in the exhortation to 3000, but in that short space made sure to include the “smoking footnote” being seen as [Oh, so this is just an interpretation? And whose?—there’s a passive voice construction going on here. Is this a general consensus, or the fears of a few cranks?] the opening of the door to Holy Communion to Catholics living in second unions where annulment from the first union was not possible. The position contradicts Pope St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Wait, now. Schonborn’s presentation “contradicts” Familiaris Consortio? Oh, I have to see this. Fortunately, Mr. Westen provides a quotation from Schonborn’s presentation, where we all may plainly see the contradiction of FC. For your convenience, dear reader, I will put that part in bold. Here it is (as quoted by Mr. Westen):

Naturally this poses the question: what does the Pope say in relation to access to the sacraments for people who live in “irregular” situations? Pope Benedict had already said that “easy recipes” do not exist (AL 298, note 333). Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation, in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (84) (AL 298).

Wait, now. Mr. Westen tells us that Schonborn’s presentation “contradicts Pope St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio,” then immediately quotes Schonborn as saying that discernment of situations must be “in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio”? How does this work, exactly? Did an editor not catch this? Did someone not sidle up to Mr. Westen and say, “You know, sir, there seems to be a conflict here”? What is going on at Life Site News? (Don’t answer that.)

If Cardinal Schonborn meant to “contradict” Familiaris Consortio, it seems a funny way to do it, for him to go out and say, “Hey, discern situations, but remain faithful to St. John Paul II, you know.”

Mr. Westen goes on to quote Familiaris Consortio—you know, the document that Cardinal Schonborn just told us that pastoral practice must be “in keeping with”:

[T]he Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried.

And Cardinal Schonborn says, “Stay in keeping with this”; and that, according to Mr. Westen, adds up to to “contradiction” and a license for profaning the body and blood of Christ. I am at a loss, I do confess.

I would only suggest that, if Cardinal Schonborn says, “Remain in keeping with Familiaris,” and Familiaris says that those in irregular unions (barring a commitment to continence) are not to be admitted to Communion, then perhaps the idea that Amoris Laetitia permits Communion for such individuals needs to be re-examined.

April 16, 2016

Image via Creative Commons

Image via Creative Commons

Mr. Steve Skojec, of 1 Vader 5 infamy (he calls it 1 Peter 5; he’s allowed), was quick to pounce, claws unsheathed, on the latest papal interview. He did so in order to make the self-affirming claim that Pope Francis gave an unambiguous, full-throated “Yes!” to communion for the divorced and remarried. Shazaam. The pope, says Mr. Skojec, gave “a very straightforward affirmation” in response to a “very direct question” from a reporter.

“Straightforward,” you say? “Very direct,” you say?

Then let us hie ourselves to the text of that interview and take a look at this “very direct question.” It comes from Frank Rocca of the Wall Street Journal.

If you permit me, I’d like to ask you another question about an event of recent days, which was your apostolic exhortation. As you well know, there has been much discussion about on one of the many, I know that we’ve focused on this a lot…there has been much discussion after the publication. Some sustain that nothing has changed with respect to the discipline that regulates access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried, that the Law, the pastoral praxis and obviously the doctrine remain the same. Others sustain that much has changed and that there are new openings and possibilities. For a Catholic who wants to know: are there new, concrete possibilities that didn’t exist before the publication of the exhortation or not?

Are there possibilities? Mr. Rocca asks. Well, surely—surely!—you can’t get more “direct” than the nebulous word “possibilities.” Can you?

And in response to this question about the vague presence of unspecified “possibilities,” Pope Francis says: “I can say yes, many.”

Now, it is in the very nature of things for Mr. Skojec to end the quotation with the word “yes.” He does concede that the pope’s “answer went on longer”; but he says nothing about what else the pope added. Naughts and crosses from Mr. Skojec.

I, however, will tell you. Here is the pope’s full answer:

I can say yes, many. [UPDATE 4/17/16: The correct translation is probably “Yes, period.” See my Facebook post here for a fuller explanation.] But it would be an answer that is too small. I recommend that you read the presentation of Cardinal Schonborn, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will find an answer.

So yes, Mr. Rocca, you know, there are “possibilities”—I don’t discuss what they are and what they aren’t—but there’s more to it than that, this requires a fuller answer, and I direct you to Cardinal Schonborn’s presentation, where such an answer is to be found.

Sounds very “straightforward” to me.

If truth be told, dear reader—as it must and shall—that is the most unspecific “yes” I can recall reading in a month of 1 Vader 5 posts. It is a vague and fuzzy, kinda-sorta non-answer. Sure, yeah, you know, there are possibilities, in an incomplete kind of way, there are always possibilities, but go and read Schonborn, Mr. Rocca, what’s wrong with you, can’t you do your own homework?

So doing our homework (which Mr. Skojec, who stops at “yes,” does not do), let us hie ourselves, one more time, over to Cardinal Schonborn’s presentation, to which the pope referred the reporter. It is easy to find—lo, I make it easier—ever hear of Google, Messrs. Rocca & Skojec? Here is the relevant text:

What we are speaking of [i.e., with reference to the divorced and remarried] is a process of accompaniment and discernment which “guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God.” But Pope Francis also recalls that “this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.

Oh, yeah, that part is important. Discernment “can never prescind” from the truth about a couple’s “situation before God.” It can never prescind from what the Church teaches. One can not just go around saying, Oh, you’re good, and you’re good, and you over there, you’re good too; it’s all good. No. Pope Francis says: Discernment, right, but do not presume that discernment means that.

(I know: People are going to presume that anyway, because they want to. There’s a narrative to consider. So it goes.)

Cardinal Schonborn continues:

Naturally this poses the question: what does the Pope say in relation to access to the sacraments for people who live in “irregular situations.” Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio.

Oh, this discernment must remain consistent with Familiaris Consortio, must it? Yes, and you know, it’s funny that footnote 329 of Amoris Laetitia would refer us to §84 of Familiaris. Just like Cardinal Schonborn said; you’d almost think he actually read the exhortation.

And what does St. John Paul II say there? I’m glad you asked. Let us take a look, shall we? (FC is here, for I have in mind your convenience, dear reader, and link everything. Please check me out.)

[T]he Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Oh, that’s what Familiaris Consortio says, does it? And pastoral discernment must be “in keeping with” FC, according to Cardinal Schonborn. Well now. Interesting what you’ll find when you follow the trail of breadcrumbs Pope Francis throws down before a reporter.

Cardinal Schonborn continues:

Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. [Oh, there are limits? Schonborn, to whom the pope refers us, says there are limits. It’s not come one come all? Fascinating.] By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God’. … In the sense of this “via caritatis,” the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note that the help of the sacraments may also be given in “certain cases.”

Okay, but which sacraments? Which cases? Well, that’s where things get tricky, and as Cardinal Schonborn says: “For this purpose [the pope] does not offer us case studies or recipes.”

No, and he doesn’t give “case studies” to Mr. Rocca at the Wall Street Journal either. He certainly sends no case studies off to the inbox of One Vader Five. Much as Mr. Skojec wants to tell us that the pope gave a “straightforward affirmation” that the divorced and remarried may just line up to receive the Eucharist, the pope says nothing of the sort. What he does say is that each case is its own and local pastors must discern the best way to bring this couple or that couple into fuller participation in the Church.

But the pope, in his exhortation, is at pains to point out that it would be a “grave misunderstanding” (AL 300) to think that priests can just go around “making exceptions” to Church law. He says this. §300. Seek and ye shall find.

So what, then, are these “possibilities,” which did not exist before but do now, for access to “the sacraments”? The pope said possibilities exist. Here a possibility, there a possibility, everywhere a possibility possibility. (Do you notice, by the way, how in the minds of some the word “possibility” gets transmogrified into “absolute immediate certainty”?)

The pope does not say. I can think of one: The annulment process has been made easier now, ever since the motu proprio he issued last year. Remember Mitis Iudex? The pope reformed the process. Annulments are now easier and quicker to grant. So there’s one “possibility.”

In truth, the pope can not answer the question any more specifically than he does, because the whole point is that each case is its own. There is no such thing as a flowchart into which you can plug all the data and watch it come back “communion” or “damnation.” So a couple in an irregular union needs to get into that dirty business of talking to their priest, explaining their situation, and discerning what hinders them from the Eucharist and what they need to do if they want to return. At no point, not one, does the pope say that Church law can just be disregarded as part of this discernment. In fact, the pope says that any such notion is—I will say it again—“a grave misunderstanding.” (§300. Check it out.)

Pastors who deal with couples in irregular unions all the time know that each case is its own and requires its own individual response and discernment. Absolutists like Mr. Skojec are scandalized by the real world.


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