The Filial Correction Corrected! Part 4 of a Response to The Correctors.

The Filial Correction Corrected! Part 4 of a Response to The Correctors. October 1, 2017

Filial correction

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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.

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