Amoris Laetitia and the Confusion of those contradicting the Magisterium of John Paul II

November 7, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – The latest salvo from Rome on Amoris Laetitia was fired by Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa in the Vatican Insider [NB: Amusingly, of Vatican Insider, journalist Edward Pentin suggested that a description of it as the “Vatican Pravda” would be an apt one (see Remnant Newspaper: EDWARD PENTIN: Catholic Identity Conference 2017)]. In his article entitled “Müller, Buttiglione and the “confusion” of those criticizing the Pope,” Mr. Tornielli suggests those opposing communion for the divorced and remarried are confused. Noting Cardinal Muller now recognizes an exception, Mr. Tornielli writes (emphasis added):

“After the articles of the philosopher and the preface of the cardinal to his book, now everyone admits that there are cases in which the way to the sacraments is open for remarried divorcees. Demonstrating in this way the absurdity of the accusation of “heresy” addressed to the Pontiff, but also how the dubia need to be radically reformulated

Mr. Tornielli specifically had in mind recent articles written by Sandro Magister (see Settimo Cielo: “The “Dubia” Are More Alive Than Ever. And Cardinal Müller Is Adding Another All His Own“) and Roberto de Mattei (See Rorate Caeli: “De Mattei – Increasing confusion: Cardinal Müller and Professor Buttiglione“). Personally, I believe he has misread their articles, but they are well equipped to answer for themselves against his claim. That said, I would take this opportunity to direct the charge of confusion and error back at Mr. Tornielli and other writers at “Vatican Pravda.” Below, I will address Tornielli’s statement about the “absurdity of the accusation of ‘heresy’ addressed to the Pontiff” and whether the dubia “need to be radically reformulated.”

But, before doing so, we should – once again – first restate the clear teaching of the Church on the question of communion for the divorced and remarried, and what this teaching suggests is the right answer to the first dubia. [NB: I do this because I suspect more Catholic will be researching this issue once the “Formal Correction” is published.] This teaching is clearly set forth by Pope John II in Familiaris Consortio 84 (FC 84) [emphasis added]:

“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.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” (Familiaris Consortio 84)

As one clearly reads above, “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 effect by the Eucharist,” FC 84 admits no exceptions for the divorced and remarried which would allow them to receive communion if they continue to have sexual relations with one another, and do not live as “brother and sister” should they be “unable to satisfy the obligation to separate” for some “serious reason.” This teaching is similarly and clearly repeated in other magisterial documents (e.g., Reconciliato et Paenitentia 34, the Catholic Catechism 1650, Sacramentum Caritatis 29).

Now, those who would propose a change to the teaching found in these documents, suggest variously that either Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia changed the discipline, or that Amoris Laetitia is somehow a further doctrinal development of Familiaris Consortio, but one which now focuses on the subjective conscience and not the objective situation of grave sin. Those who now say there are exceptions point to a footnote in Amoris Laetitia (AL), the infamous n. 351 (305). AL 305 includes a statement about individuals who may be in an unspecified objective situation of sin – though not subjectively culpable or not fully so – “while receiving the Church’s help.” Attached to this sentence is footnote 351 which then adds in part: “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.” While I go into greater detail about this footnote elsewhere (see Honorius Redivivus – Addendum), it suffices to point out here that the footnote proves nothing. It does not say all cases can now receive communion. If it allows communion in “certain cases” but not all, the contrary is also implied – i.e., there are “certain cases” where communion would not be permissible even if an individual is subjectively not culpable while being in an objective situation of sin. That much is obvious.

So, which are the “certain cases” where communion is allowed?  Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia does not say. Thus, if one maintains consistency between the crystal-clear FC 84 and the ambiguous AL n.351 (305), “certain cases” is interpreted as excluding those cases excluded by FC 84.  Thus, there would be no change in the Church’s practice: “no communion, no exceptions.” However, if one maintains there is a change or development in the teaching of FC 84, “certain cases” in the footnote is interpreted to apply to the divorced and remarried, i.e., allowing communion for them in at least in some cases. Thus, there would be a change in the Church’s practice: i.e., “yes to communion in at least some cases.” For those Catholic just tuning into this crisis, this is the dilemma of ambiguity – i.e., which is it? Yes or no? – that led to the first of the dubia being posed to the Pope, which remains unanswered by him.  The first dubia reads:

“It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?” (See Edward Pentin’s article in the National Catholic Register, November 14, 2016)

For the Catholic just tuning in and getting up to speed on this crisis, the Dubia above requires only a simple “yes” or “no” answer from the Pope. If one believes there are “certain cases,” i.e., at least one exception, one must answer the first Dubia with a “yes.” The Pope has not provided an answer, yet. However, that has not stopped others from answering with a “yes” or “yes, but only in a few cases” on his behalf. In a recent article, I briefly surveyed several individuals who have offered a “yes” answer (emphasis added):

…the first of the dubia asks if a person “bound by a valid marital bound” can be granted absolution in the sacrament of penance, and thus be admitted to Holy Communion even though he or she intend to continue a sexual relationship with a different ‘partner,’ i.e., not fulfilling the conditions provided by Familiaris Consortio, 84 to live as ‘brother and sister’ only.

Mr. Walford provided his answer to the first dubia in an article in the Vatican Insider last January (see “Amoris Laetitia: Where Truth and Mercy Embrace“), responding: “yes, but again, only in certain cases.” Another supporter of exceptions to the rule of Familiaris Consortio 84 is Rocco Buttiglione who says “yes” as well (see here) in answer to the first Dubia, giving by way of an exception the case of a woman forced by circumstances to continue her sexual relations with a new partner. Cardinal Coccopalmerio offers a slightly different spin on this case, suggesting an instance not where a woman is forced to have sexual relations with her second “husband”, but where she judges that by leaving him and his children from his prior marriage that they would be left in “great difficulty” without her (see here).  (See RomaLocutaEst: Cardinal Muller, the Dubia and the Formal Correction)

In addition to the “yesses” above, we must also add Cardinal Muller, who recently argued in favor of at least one of the exceptions above (see here).  Thus, to summarize, here are the four cases most often cited:

  1. A case where the woman – outside of an existing valid marital bond – is forced by her circumstance to remain in a new union. (per Buttiglione)
  2. A case where a woman  – outside of an existing valid marital bond – remains in a new union because her departure might negatively impact her partner or his children from a prior marriage or relationship. (per Cardinal Coccopalmerio)
  3. A case where a man or woman, subjectively, in “clear conscience” (per Walford) or “convinced in conscience” (per Cardinal Muller) consider their first marriage never to have existed.
  4. A case where the man or woman – outside of an existing marital bond – “know the situation is not right, yet love the Lord and the Church and desire to grow in a continual conversion.” (per Walford)

There is much one might say as one reviews these rationalizations, not least of which is to remember that “one may not do evil that good may come of it” or that the “end does not justify the means.” But, in this article I will restrict my comments to what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has said on the subject of these exceptions with regard to the divorced and remarried. We have already quoted above the teaching of John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio 84 (FC 84). In 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a response to those querying Rome as to whether there might be any exceptions to the teaching of FC 84. The exceptions the CDF considered were as follows (emphasis added):

“In recent years, in various regions, different pastoral solutions in this area have been suggested according to which, to be sure, a general admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion would not be possible, but the divorced and remarried members of the faithful could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorised according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflexion and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.” (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful. September 14, 1994, 3)

From this excerpt we see that the CDF in its response took into consideration the question of whether there were possible exceptions to FC 84’s discipline prohibiting communion to the divorced and remarried continuing in a sexual relationship with their new partner. The exceptions it considered fell into the following categories: (1) being “authorized according to a judgement of conscience”; (2) cases where the individual is “convinced of the nullity of their marriage” but are unable to demonstrate it in the external forum, and (3) cases where there exists “morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (i.e., they can’t separate, but maintain sexual relations). Now, each of the four specific exceptions suggested by the individuals mentioned earlier (i.e., Buttiglione, Walford, Cardinals Muller and Coccopalmerio), fall into one of the these categories considered by the CDF in 1994.  In this we see all the exceptions proposed today had been reviewed years ago. What did the CDF state about the possibility of approving these exceptions?

Before proceeding to the reply of the CDF, it does well to remember “the documents issued by this Congregation expressly approved by the Pope participate in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter” (Donum Veritatis, 18). The aforementioned letter from the CDF – which we will quote again below – was expressly approved by John Paul II and ordered by him to be published. Now, returning to the question, what did the CDF say about the possibility of these or any exceptions to the communion rule taught in FC 84? After acknowledging the queries about possible exceptions, the CDF notes (emphasis added):

“Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline. It falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei.

With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ(5), the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists(6) [. . .] 

5. The doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter, are amply presented in the post-conciliar period in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The Exhortation, among other things, reminds pastors that out of love for the truth they are obliged to discern carefully the different situations and exhorts them to encourage the participation of the divorced and remarried in the various events in the life of the Church. At the same time it confirms and indicates the reasons for the constant and universal practice, “founded on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion”(9). The structure of the Exhortation and the tenor of its words give clearly to understand that this practice, which is presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations. (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful. September 14, 1994, 4-5)

This CDF letter, “expressly approved” by the Pope John Paul II, participates “in the ordinary magisterium of the successor of Peter” (cf DV 18). The force and meaning of its presentation is quite clear. Even if there are a few examples of permissive pastoral solutions, these do not establish the discipline of the Church; rather it falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei.” That is, the Magisterium, in which the CDF participates in this letter, will now provide in this reply the authentic interpretation of the deposit of faith on the question at hand. There then follows the CDF’s statement of the “authentic interpretation” offered by John Paul II in FC, regarding which the CDF calls the contents of FC 84 a “doctrine and discipline” that is a “constant and universal practice” founded on sacred scripture. The CDF – which participated in the magisterium of John Paul II in this instance – took up the question of potential exceptions and says the teaching of FC 84 “presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.” In sum, no exceptions. No “certain cases.” None.  Zilch.  Nada.  Niente.  This “binding” practice “cannot be modified.” This wording is quite clear, it is irreformable.  Not even the Pope can change this “doctrine and discipline” because of different situations.

Having laid the foundation, I return now to address Mr. Tornielli’s statements about the “absurdity of the accusation of ‘heresy’ addressed to the Pontiff” and whether the dubia “need to be radically reformulated” to account for some exceptions. Regarding the latter point first, here again is the first dubia:

“It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?” (See Edward Pentin’s article in the National Catholic Register, November 14, 2016)

Based on the teaching of the magisterium we’ve just reviewed, whether considered as John Paul II in FC 84, or together with the CDF guidance “expressly approved” by him (cf DV 18); the orthodox answer to this dubia must be and can only be a resounding “no.  This “doctrine and discipline” is founded on scripture, and has been “presented as binding” and thus “cannot be modifed because of different situations” – not even by a Pope.   There are no exceptions according to the Magisterium of the Church, as expressed by John Paul II and his CDF. Thus, in response to the second of Mr. Tornielli’s statements: no reformulation of the dubia is necessary.  Pope Francis should answer it as originally formulated.

Regarding the first of Mr. Tornielli’s statements, i.e., the “absurdity of the accusation of ‘heresy’ addressed to the Pontiff,” there has been no direct accusation made, certainly none official. What we do have is the absurd spectacle of Buttiglione, Walford, Coccopalmerio, the Maltese bishops and others boldly venturing way out on the proverbial tree limb with their interpretations, while Pope Francis – keeping his public silence – hesitates to follow. Many of the individuals above have confidently asserted the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the interpretation they support, but they have not remotely considered the possibility the Holy Spirit may have more to do with the Pope’s silence than their interpretation. Those who have responded to the first Dubia with a “yes” or a “yes, but” have provided an answer which is in fact, heretical. Those out on that limb may one day find Francis sawing it off from behind them. But, even if he maintains his silence till the end of his pontificate, a future Pope will undoubtedly take a chainsaw to that limb.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He lives near Atlanta with his wife Margaret. He has four children. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com.

 

 

 

 


2 thoughts on “Amoris Laetitia and the Confusion of those contradicting the Magisterium of John Paul II

  1. “…teaching of FC 84 “presented as binding, cannot be modified because of different situations.” In sum, no exceptions. No “certain cases.” None. Zilch. Nada. Niente. This “binding” practice, “cannot be modified.” This wording is quite clear, it is irreformable. Not even the Pope can change this “doctrine and discipline” because of different situations.”

    A masterful and faithful trail of logic. Thanks!

    Like

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