July 22, 2019 (Steven O’Reilly) – A few weeks back, the “Where Peter Is” website (perhaps it might more aptly be named “Where Francis Is“) posted an article by Stephen Walford, entitled “A Warning from History: St Paul VI, the Magisterium, and Theology.”
Mr. Walford is well known to regular readers of Roma Locuta Est, which has rebutted many of articles and even his book (see Summa Contra Stephen Walford). His recent article goes back to June. I have long intended to return and comment upon it, but other writing projects have distracted me. Aside from my comments below, I intend to write an additional article on another aspect of the article in question.
Here, here I simply wanted to make a few comments on one specific assertion made by Mr. Walford that the to-do over various Pope Francis-related doctrinal issues, such as Amoris Laetitia, is “manufactured confusion.”
The curious thing about this assertion of “manufactured confusion” regarding Catholics who are concerned over Francis-things is that the assertion really isn’t unique to Mr. Walford. Other Francis-apologists, like Mr. Walford, either cannot believe or refuse to believe that these Catholics — those who claim to be confused and who want clarification regarding Pope Francis’s action/inaction, words, or silences — are really, truly and actually confused.
How they can read minds and hearts, I do not know. Why such apologists will not simply take the word of such confused Catholics — and provide better proofs for their position (the charitable things to do), I also do not know. Mark Shea, for example, has written such things as “I don’t really believe they find him (i.e., Pope Francis) “confusing”. I think they just don’t want to listen to him” (see Mark Shea – aka he who exudes the “Odor of Sanctimony” – and other apologetic hacks). We’ve already noted Mr. Walford’s reference to a “manufactured confusion.”
Mike Lewis of Where Peter Is also has “trouble believing” there might be Catholics who might be confused and in good faith. Mr. Lewis writes — in an article, of all things, entitled “Is it really confusion?” writes:
“Still, I have trouble believing that a group of Catholics as well-educated as many of those who have long claimed to be confused about Amoris Laetitia suddenly and collectively lost their reading comprehension skills.”
Mr. Lewis’s comment is an interesting one. Two Francis-apologists that both he and his site have deemed to be “notable defenders of the papacy” (see here), i.e., Mr. Walford and Dr. Fastiggi, have — with their reading comprehension skills — reached contradictory conclusions on important aspects of Amoris Laetitia. Curiously, Vatican Insider will trot each of them out from time to time to attack the resistance to Francis, but they seem to have failed to notice the inherent contradictions in their midst. I addressed these in a prior article (see Confusion at Vatican Insider?) from which I summarize at least a few of the main contradictions below:
- With regard to the First Dubia which asks about the possibility of exceptions to the ban on communion for civilly divorced and remarried Catholics, Mr. Walford answered this Dubia with a “yes,” while Dr. Fastiggi said “no.”
- With regard to Amoris Laetitia and doctrinal development, Mr. Walford has argued AL involves a development of doctrine. However, Dr. Fastiggi has said AL must be interpreted within a “hermeneutic of continuity.” In that discussion, Dr. Fastiggi linked to an article by Fr. Matthew P. Schnedier, LC in the February 12, 2019 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review (see “Does the Text of Amoris Laetitia Allow Communion for the Divorced and Remarried?” by Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC). Fr. Schneider concluded his article, touching on continuity, by writing: “The text of Amoris Laetitia does not allow absolution or Communion for the divorced and remarried who intend to have sexual relations with their “second spouse.””
- With regard to Pope Francis placing the Buenos Aires guidelines in the AAS, Mr. Walford states that this action elevates the practice of allowing communion for the D&R’s in certain cases to “authentic magisterium.” However, Dr. Fastiggi denies this is what it means, i.e., there is no change to the ban on communion for D&Rs as taught by Familiaris Consortio 84 Again see my article for a fuller discussion of their views (see Confusion at Vatican Insider?).
- It appears Professor Fastiggi and Mr. Walford would also disagree on whether “a firm purpose of amendment” to remain sexually continent is required of D&Rs for absolution and for reception of communion. It seems from Professor Fastiggi’s comments, he would argue that one is required for D&Rs bound by a valid marital bond. However, Mr. Walford in his book (see page 104) argues this is not the case. I offer a rebuttal to Mr.Walford’s argument here.
Unless Dr. Fastiggi has since modified his opinions, they contradict those expressed by Mr. Walford. Yet, strangely, Mr. Walford in his book “The Pope, The Family and Divorce” (see Note 1) thanks Dr. Fastiggi for his “advice, encouragement and prayers” (p. X). What is that about? Confusing…yes?
A founder (Mike Lewis) of Where Peter Is, which had previously informed us Dr. Fastiggi is a “notable defender of the papacy” in the battle over Amoris Laetitia has stated with regard to Fastiggi’s views on Amoris Laetitia that “His interpretation of the eighth chapter of Amoris seems to leave a little to be desired” (see here). Mr. Lewis is of this opinion, no doubt, because Dr. Fastiggi doesn’t share Mr. Lewis’s opinions on Amoris Laetitia. But, then, does Dr. Fastiggi in Mr. Lewis’s opinion lack “reading comprehension skills” — something he suggested of the not-really-confused Catholics who do not accept Mr. Lewis’s or Mr. Walford’s views?
Granted, Mr. Lewis did add to the Twitter quote above: “That said, there is no doubt that he (i.e., Fastiggi) embraces the primacy of the pope and would grant religious assent if corrected. That’s the key” (see here). But, here we come to it. The “key” is precisely that Francis hasn’t said anything yet that can command religious assent if, for one, what he has said to date on Amoris Laetitia is ambiguous. This brings us back to the “manufactured confusion” the Francis-apologists deny. There is real confusion, because there is real ambiguity, as evidenced by the Walford-Fastiggi contradictions noted above. These from “notable” Francis-apologists. Which one of them is not granting “religious assent” at this moment?
The funny but sad thing is, while these Francis-apologists cannot really say for certain what Francis is saying, they can muster the certainty to say we really are not confused! But, we might not be at this juncture if Pope Francis had answered the five Dubia, nor would Catholics find it necessary to write, read and support Open Letters, Filial Appeals, Manifestos, Declaration of Truths, etc., had he done so. The Francis-apologists do Pope Francis a great disservice by denying there is confusion, thus supporting his silence — the same silence that continues to contribute to the confusion and crisis in the Catholic Church.
In the meantime, let us pray for Pope Francis that he remembers the Lord’s words to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former Intelligence Officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta with their family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, entitled Pia Fidelis, set during the time of the Arian crisis. The first book of the Pia Fidelis trilogy. The Two Kingdoms, should be out later this summer or by early fall 2019 (Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).
- I have written a lengthy three part rebuttal of Mr. Walford’s book “The Pope, The Family and Divorce.” The rebuttals are entitled The Errors of Mr. Walford’s ‘Pope Francis, The Family and Divorce’, Part II: The Development of Mr. Walford’s Errors and Part III: Mr. Walford and the Magisterium. Another article dealing with Mr. Walford’s book is entitled What You Gotta Believe…if you believe Mr. Walford. Also, I have provided some thoughts on Pope Francis’s preface to Mr. Walford’s book in light of the Open Letter which accused the Pope of the delict of heresy. These comments may be found here: Pope Francis, the Open Letter and the Pesky Preface.