February 12, 2020 (Steven O’Reilly) – Today, the Holy See issued a much anticipated papal exhortation in the wake of the recent Amazon Synod. The exhortation (Querida Amazonia), many had feared, would — among other things — approve the ordination of respected married men (“viri probati”), as well as the ordination of women as “deaconesses.” Though I haven’t had the opportunity to go through the whole exhortation as of yet, I have no doubt there are landmines aplenty to be found within it.
However, for now, I wanted to focus on the top of mind items that were feared to be in it, and provide some brief comments. The two questions are (1) the ordination of married men, and (2) the ordination of female ‘deaconesses.’ On these, Pope Francis did what I expected him to do. He did not address the questions head on in his exhortation. As expected, and as is his way, he leaves open the possibility through some ambiguous, tortured, and roundabout way. This is what he has done throughout his pontificate, most notably in Amoris Laetitia on the question of communion for divorced & remarried Catholics. The Commentariat on Team Francis seems to agree. Ivereigh tweeted the exhortation closes off nothing, as have others. Catholics should not rest easy.
So, while the exhortation does not affirm that respected married men (viri probati) could or should be ordained as priests, for example, it does not reject the idea. Instead, at the outset of the apostolic exhortation Pope Francis “officially presents” the Amazon Synod’s final document without quoting it in detail. Pope Francis writes (emphasis added):
2. During the Synod, I listened to the presentations and read with interest the reports of the discussion groups. In this Exhortation, I wish to offer my own response to this process of dialogue and discernment. I will not go into all of the issues treated at length in the final document. Nor do I claim to replace that text or to duplicate it. I wish merely to propose a brief framework for reflection that can apply concretely to the life of the Amazon region a synthesis of some of the larger concerns that I have expressed in earlier documents, and that can help guide us to a harmonious, creative and fruitful reception of the entire synodal process.
3. At the same time, I would like to officially present the Final Document, which sets forth the conclusions of the Synod, which profited from the participation of many people who know better than myself or the Roman Curia the problems and issues of the Amazon region, since they live there, they experience its suffering and they love it passionately. I have preferred not to cite the Final Document in this Exhortation, because I would encourage everyone to read it in full.
4. May God grant that the entire Church be enriched and challenged by the work of the synodal assembly. May the pastors, consecrated men and women and lay faithful of the Amazon region strive to apply it, and may it inspire in some way every person of good will. (Querida Amazonia, 2-4)
What does “I would like to officially present the final synod document” really mean? I suspect that it is meaningless or at best uncertain from a magisterial or theological standpoint–but that is probably the point of using it. We are talking about Pope Francis, after all! I don’t recall Pope Francis using similar terminology with regard to any other past synodal document. But, speaking of this final synodal document, Francis does invite pastors, and others, of the Amazon region to “strive to apply it.”
“Strive to apply it?” That is what Francis says. So, if we are to understand what Francis intends in his exhortation and what pastors should “strive to apply,” we must, therefore, read the Synod’s final document alongside of it. As we have noted already. The papal exhortation is silent on the ordination of respected married men (“viri probabi”). However, the final synod document is not silent. Indeed, it speaks quite favorably of such ordinations. The final synod documents reads (emphasis added):
111. Many of the Church communities in the Amazonian territory have enormous difficulties in attending the Eucharist. Sometimes it takes not just months but even several years before a priest can return to a community to celebrate the Eucharist, offer the sacrament of reconciliation or anoint the sick in the community. We appreciate celibacy as a gift of God (SC1967 1) to the extent that this gift enables the missionary disciple, ordained to the priesthood, to dedicate himself fully to the service of the Holy People of God. It stimulates pastoral charity, and we pray that there will be many vocations living the celibate priesthood. We know that this discipline “is not demanded by the very nature of the priesthood” (PO 16) although there are many practical reasons for it. In his encyclical on priestly celibacy, St. Paul VI maintained this law and set out theological, spiritual and pastoral motivations that support it. In 1992, the post-synodal exhortation of St. John Paul II on priestly formation confirmed this tradition in the Latin Church (cf. PDV 29). Considering that legitimate diversity does not harm the communion and unity of the Church, but rather expresses and serves it (cf. LG 13; OE 6), witness the plurality of existing rites and disciplines, we propose that criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community with a legitimately constituted and stable family, who have had a fruitful permanent diaconate and receive an adequate formation for the priesthood, in order to sustain the life of the Christian community through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments in the most remote areas of the Amazon region. In this regard, some were in favour of a more universal approach to the subject. (Source: Amazonian Synod final document, Chapter V, 111).
As seen above, the final synodal document proposed that “criteria and dispositions be established by the competent authority, within the framework of Lumen Gentium 26, to ordain as priests suitable and respected men of the community.” That “competent authority” which the synodal document references is within the “framework” of Lumen Gentium 26, i.e., the competent authority is the local bishop. Thus, the final synod document proposes that the “competent authority”, i.e., the local bishop (not the pope), establish the necessary “criteria and dispositions” to ordain “respected men of the community.” Is this what the pope has invited “pastors” to “strive to apply” (cf Querida Amazonia 4)? Pope Francis does not explicitly say so, but the bread crumbs have been placed down for some enterprising bishop to follow and “strive to apply” himself. Pope Francis’s exhortation certainly invites this reading as a fair one.
So, based on the above, I think we might expect the following. Being “officially presented” along with the Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis will order the final synodal document to be placed into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS). Then, we might expect either one of the following to happen.
(1) A small group of bishops will “strive to apply” the proposal (Chapter V, 111) of the synodal document “officially presented” by Pope Francis. This small group, as a “competent authority,” will establish the “criteria and dispositions” to ordain viri probati. These bishops will then set about ordaining them.
(2) Alternatively, an individual bishop in the Amazon region, will “strive to apply” the proposal (Chapter V, 111) of the synodal document “officially presented” by Pope Francis. This bishop as the “competent authority” will establish the requisite “criteria and dispositions” to ordain viri probati. He will then set about ordaining one or more such priests.
Should one or both of the above occur, I do not expect Pope Francis to say a word. Just as he remained silent on the Dubia, on communion for non-Catholic spouses in Germany, on the Scalfari interviews, and so much more, so too will he remain silent on this question as well. As a consequence, the new practice will spread elsewhere, such as in Germany.
Finally, with regard to ‘deaconesses’ Querida Amazonia is silent. However, if we read the accompanying and “officially presented” final document we will find that in a “large number” of the synod’s consultations that at least some synod fathers requested the ordination of female deacons. However, while the door to the ordination of viri probati seems wide open as noted above–and indeed with an invitation sign to “competent authority,” there does seem to be a speed bump with regard to the deaconess question. The synod fathers in the final document noted:
“The Study Commission on the Diaconate of Women which Pope Francis created in 2016 has already arrived as a Commission at partial findings regarding the reality of the diaconate of women in the early centuries of the Church and its implications for today. We would therefore like to share our experiences and reflections with the Commission and we await its results. (Source: Amazonian Synod final document, Chapter V, 111).
So, at least on the question of deaconesses, the exhortation via the “officially presented” final document suggests further study is necessary, and or at least an explicit papal decision is required.
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 author of the recently published Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms. (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)
12 thoughts on “Initial take on latest papal exhortation (Querida Amazonia)”
Hello, Mr. O’Reilly,
Your suggested strategy for the present unprecedented “two popes” situation is, “In sum, I think it’s best for all of us to await the judgement of the Church, and not declare something so definitively that we have neither the authority nor evidence. In the meantime, I’d suggest maintaining the course of “recognize and resist” and when or if some new evidence is discovered….to ‘re-evaluate’.”
What would the new evidence look like so that one might recognize it once it is discovered?
Islam, thanks for the question.
To start, I see no evidence–as I have outlined in my “Summa Contra BiP”(1) post–for accepting BXVI’s resignation is invalid. While I accept the possibility that he was influenced by folks who fed his desire to resign; I don’t see that this nullifies his free will to resign freely. But…if the argument is to be made such supposed influence did nullify his free will—then specific evidence of malicious influence and intent must be produced, and it must be shown he would not have resigned otherwise. No evidence at all has been produced on any of these scores. So, I don’t see evidence for a forced resignation, and I certainly reject the other theories about ‘substantial error.’ The article I mention summarizes and provides links to my articles on that question. The BiP theories that rely on ‘substantial’ error fail. They are a waste of time in my opinion.
As to new evidence that might lead to “re-evaluation,” here we might consider the possibility outside parties influenced the conclave, even possibly with Bergoglio’s knowledge and approval (see my article on “The Influential Italian Gentleman”). Other info related to the St. Gallen mafia might surface that might require a reconsideration of the conclaves validity. More information may also come to light on the question of Bergoglio’s acceptance of the election (see my article on that question “Curiouser and Curiouser…” ). More information may also come to light on the question of any pre-conclave or post conclave heresies or apostasies.
In sum, there are various topic areas an Imperfect Council could consider. I have suggested one be called that invites all bishops, including Pope Francis. At it, arguments and evidence from all sides, on all issues might be collected, heard, and debated. What course the IC should take would be dictated by its findings. Even if the IC comes to the conclusion it cannot declare the See of Peter vacant, it could at least pass on its findings to the next Pope who could make definitive rulings on the evidence provided to him.
Hope that helps. Thanks for the question.
Links from above:
Catholics are desperate for some relief from this interminable wayward papacy, but to me this does not seem it.
There is a saying, something like, a good predictor of the future is the past. Francis has proven where his heart and intentions are, and they aren’t with Catholicism. In my humble opinion he has deferred responsibility to the final document, perhaps hoping to deflect personal responsibility for the heresy it recommends, but of course it’s all his. The responsibility for all of this falls squarely on his desk and on his soul. The final document is likely to contain recommendations for married priest and lady deaconettes or whatever satisfies the destroyers of the time.
There is only momentary pauses for political purposes with this man, or to build suspense, because he loves nothing more than to be the center of attention, the reason for baited breath all over the world.
He’s an exceedingly sick man, but he’s having a ball.
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Kate, thanks for the comments.
You are right…Catholics are desperate for some relief. I hope it comes soon!
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Is there anything that Pope Francis could ever do that would render him ipso facto no longer Pope? (Set aside, for the moment, the fact that Pope Benedict’s resignation lent Ministerium alone to the next Pope, and not the Papal Office).
Assuming the Church affirms him in his every action, (which they do) can he do pretty much anything he desires to the Catholic Faith? Are there limits, that you can see?
Because, that is the impression I have. There are none. After all Francis has already done, and he has done a lot, I don’t think there are any limits to the destruction he can bring without *any* fear of response from the Bishops and the Faithful.
“The Pope has spoken. We worship Pachamama.”
“Next item?” “Married and female Priests.”
“Well, let’s process the Baals first, perhaps before next Easter we can have another dialogue on celibacy etc.”
And we wring our hands in sorrow, perhaps less and less as we get used to it, and regret our paths. But …. do nothing. The Pope has spoken. Sacred Tradition no longer applies (!) … until some future generation fixes the problem.
It’s unbelievable to me. There are no limits. None. I always thought a Sacred Tradition set the framework, but he is cutting through that like butter. And he’s going big.
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Aqua, thanks for the comments.
I don’t accept the BiP theory. BXVI stated quite clearly in his renunciation letter that the See of Peter would be vacant as of the day in question (Feb 28, 2013). Vacant means vacant. It means no one. No one holding the office. No one exercising a ministry. Vacant. Thus as vexing as the pontificate of Pope Francis is in fact, solutions to what it means or how we explain it must be found elsewhere than in the BiP theory. It gives me no joy to say it…but…I must follow the facts.
Now Bellarmine would say that if a Pope could fall into heresy, he would ipso facto lose his office. However, this fall would need to be declared by an imperfect council. He didn’t say it could be declared by me or by you or by anyone else.
My view, stated many times on this blog, is that an IC should be called to examine *all* the questions and collect and evaluate evidence, such as it may be. There are questions about UDG and the conclave. I think there are questions about the Jesuit vows and Bergoglio’s acceptance. Then, of course, there are the accusations raised by the Open Letter, but also by the Scalfari interviews and the Abu Dhabi document.
I say…the few good cardinals should gather, and invite *all* bishops, cardinals, and even the pope to participate or submit statements, evidence, papers, on the above questions. I think the evidence should dictate what would happen next. Still, some, like Bishop Schneider seem to think nothing could be done, even in the case of a formally heretical pope. Personally, I disagree with that, but even if that opinion held sway, the IC should still take place, and the evidence should be passed along to the next Pope.
Alternatively, the IC should immediately take place upon the death of Bergoglio. The Cardinals could then, theoretically, (1) declare the fact of heresy (if that is their judgment), and then (2) declare Bergoglio’s appointments and acts as pope void (including appointments of cardinals).
The greatest danger in the moment for those upset over the Bergoglio pontificate is to get so attached to one theory that they cannot let it go. I know not all…but it is my impression many BISPers will not give up their opinion not matter what evidence is presented. That to me is dangerous.
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Right Steve, because when the ground underneath your feet gives way, you’ll grab at any clump of grass near you. Catholics are trying to find their footing in a world where what their great-grandparents had, grandparents, and parents had, they no longer have. In fact, it is being dismantled as they gaze. So desperation and theories are bound to happen, as we see. We are being sifted, and hard, this is not a gentle process.
We’re searching for answers and resolution, but we’re not in control of this process, the Cardinals and bishops are.
We’re all trying to learn things way out of our zone of comfort, how many of us are Canon law experts? I don’t believe God expects us to know those things.
I don’t mind saying, I can see the mess, but I really have no idea whatever about how to fix this, or if it can be. All I do know is my job is to stay faithful and work to develop my relationship with Jesus, pass along the faith where I can. I am definitely doing what I can to be part of the Resistance effort. Like many, I’m doing this on my own, not part of an organization. Being a thorn in the shoe of Francis and his men is just part of what I do now, everyday life. It’s ok.
Personally, this Lent I am giving up in good amount, the time I have spent reading blogs about this mess. The infighting and slander in Trad-world has turned me off. It’s gotten juvenile. We’re getting nothing accomplished. Personally I’m done with Novus Ordo anything, it’s Latin Rite only from here on in. No money passes from me to the diocese. Zip. Gift cards for faithful priests, that’s it. I recommend Latin Rite for anyone suffering in Novus Ordo Land. It’s a weekly respite.
Kate, thanks for your comments. You’re right…the trad infighting and slander is very unfortunate.
I hope when you give up a “good amount” of the blogs…that Roma Locuta Est isn’t one of them! 😉
God bless…stay in the fight..as you are!
Steve, your answer to my question is: No. there is nothing “Pope” Francis can do that would make him ipso facto no longer Pope.
Bellarmine’s speculations are thus rendered irrelevant. They have been put to the test and the answer is no. Pope Francis can declare and do anything he pleases and until a privy Council of Clerics declares it heresy, it is the Law of the Church. What was once heresy, is no longer heresy but merciful gospel faith.
And since there are no Clerics to call such a Council, the destruction to Dogmatic Faith in the allotted time before God rains fire and judgement on us for giving in and giving up will be, is, profound. It is amazing, stop and think about it, what we have already given up; what is yet to come. Six years. A blink of an eye. Everything, yes everything, that was De Fide and Dogmatic has collapsed or is in the process of collapse.
I really do not overstate the case. I just saw a video of Cdl Cupich saying Mass with some Wicca witches at the Holy Altar with their Wicca tools and smoke presented liturgically in their chant *over Him* and the presiding Priest (Cupich) – abomination you our Holy Lord. And most people just shrug their shoulders at it all.
Not me. I am utterly appalled at the collapse and the lack of response by anyone. Starting with the five Dubia singers who set the terms of the coming battle: no response to heresy possible or desired. And here we are.
Thank you for letting me post. You are one of the good guys. But I think you have got your premise (Munus / Ministerium resignation words do not ultimately matter) fundamentally, tragically wrong. And it leads you, us, to this. The “Holy Father” is calling for Pachamama Baals on our altars. You kind of need to obey his “Divne” authority and leadership.
Thanks for the feedback, Aqua. There’s lots of evil things going on in the Church. The pachamama incident was horrendous. I saw that ludicrous Cupich video as well…appalling.
We Catholics have had to put up with much these past decades, and during this current pontificate.
I am not to first to suggest it, but we are all being tested. So, we need to stick to the things we know (the Faith), the mass and sacraments, prayers (especially the Rosary), etc. Clearly, it is important to know what is going on….but I’d again advise folks not to get so overly committed to one specific theory. For one…when one has a sense of “ownership” of a theory, ones commitment to it can become difficult to break even if contrary evidence would suggest it.
With regard to the Bellarmine question…I think my response does answer the question, citing Bellarmine’s opinion. If a pope were to fall into formal heresy, he would necessarily cease being pope. The issue is…you and I don’t get to make that call. The Church is hierarchical in nature, and due authority must make that call, So, an IC of some sort would be required–not to despose the heretical pope, but to declare the fact of the fall…which in my understanding would be dated some time in the past.
Personally, I see several ways this might play out. I think the danger for at least some BISPers is that no evidence will suffice. This is unfortunate. Imagine if an IC were to be called, that ended up rejecting Francis but not accept the BiP theory….such BISPers would by the logic of their position need to reject the IC’s conclusion, and any new pope elected coming from it. While we might entertain theories and conjectures as to how to solve some of the evident theological issues raised by this pontificate; we must keep the faith, and keep an open mind to how the Lord will resolve it in the end–for it might be in a way none of us have yet imagined.
Here is a link to an excellent commentary on the precedent words Munus and Ministerium, from one of the world’s foremost Latin scholars, Brother Bugnolo who blogs at FromRome.
He approaches the topic from the context of Canon Law and proper Latin grammar.
A valid resignation really does come down to saying the proper words, in the proper order with nary a mistake – and this resignation letter was chock full of mistakes. The most important being the crucial words – Munus. Ministerium. He is or is not validly resigned based on this.
Thanks Aqua for the comments. However, I find the linked information unconvincing. The canons do not require specific wording—only that it be properly manifested. For example, it must be sufficiently clear what is intended, and it be free.
As I have argued in various parts of the Summa Contra BiP….BXVI did manifest his intent—setting aside the munis/ministerium debate—in stating the See of Peter would be vacant, and a new conclave necessary to elect a successor.
If the chair of Peter is vacant…there is no one in the chair at all, no one holding/exercising the munus or ministerium. QED.
Thanks again for the feedback.