Wednesday, September 21, 2016

EWTN Again Attacks and Distorts the Message of Pope Francis

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Matthew 9

A few weeks ago, I did a blog post in which I showed that Raymond Arroyo of EWTN led the "Papal Posse", consisting of Robert Royal and Father Gerald Murray, in a discussion about Pope Francis's attitude towards marriage. I clearly showed how they manipulated and outright lied regarding Pope Francis's statements, totally changing the true meaning of Pope Francis's message regarding the marriage crisis in the 21st Century.

Well, Arroyo and the "Papal Posse" (better referred to as the "Papal Hanging Mob") were at it again on the World Over broadcast of September 15, 2016. This time they went after the Holy Father for his response to guidelines written by the Bishops of Argentina. The subject of these guidelines was implementation of the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Once again, Arroyo and his "Papal Posse" gave us half quotes and poor translations, never allowing us to see anything in context, and they once again slandered Pope Francis and misrepresented his message of hope to the world.

The video for this papal attack is below:

Also, the links to the entire guidelines from the Argentine bishops and Pope Francis's response can be found HERE.

A very alarmed and fearful Raymond Arroyo starts out by declaring that the final text of Amoris Laetitia, "though vague, seemed to open the possibility [of divorced and remarried couples receiving communion without an annulment].  Now in a letter to the bishops in Buenos Aires, the Pope suggests that communion for the divorce and remarried might be possible in exceptional cases.  How much weight does this papal communication hold and what does it mean."

An "alarmed and fearful" Raymond Arroyo
Let the spin begin.

Arroyo starts by quoting from the bishops' guidelines, but he starts halfway into the guidelines, giving us no context and giving only partial quotes at that.  There are actually a total of ten guidelines.  The quote given to us by Arroyo are the fifth and sixth of these guidelines.  What are the first four, and why did Arroyo leave them out?

The first question to ask is, why did the bishops write these guidelines?  They tell us in the very first sentence:
We have received with joy the exhortation Amoris laetitia, which invites us, above all, to encourage the growth of love between spouses and to motivate the youth to opt for marriage and a family.
The Buenos Aires bishops, unlike Arroyo and the "Papal Posse" and most of the Catholic blogosphere, understand that Pope Francis' exhortation was not designed to diminish the importance and sacredness of the marriage sacrament but, very much to the contrary, to PROMOTE marriage. Amoris Laetita was written to "encourage the growth of love between spouses and to motivate the youth to opt for marriage and a family." 

What could be more important than encouraging and strengthening marriages?  

The bishops go on to explain:
These are important issues that should never be disregarded or overshadowed by other matters. Francis has opened several doors in pastoral care for families and we are invited to leverage this time of mercy with a view to endorsing, as a pilgrim Church, the richness offered by the different chapters of this Apostolic Exhortation.
So the bishops are telling us that they see the apostolic exhortation as a way of guiding them in their "pastoral care for families."  That is the purpose of the exhortation and that is the purpose of their guidelines.

Further, the bishops tell us that their guidelines are specifically for Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia since this chapter refers to 
"guidelines of the bishop” (300) in order to discern on the potential access to sacraments of the “divorced who have entered a new union.”
The bishops then agree to "basic criteria" which constitute the guidelines given by them.

The first guideline:
1) Firstly, we should remember that it is not advisable to speak of “permissions” to have access to sacraments, but of a discernment process in the company of a pastor. It is a “personal and pastoral discernment” (300).
The bishops are telling us here that they have no intention of giving blanket permission to divorce and remarried persons to have access to the sacraments.  Rather, it is a matter of discernment on a case-by-case basis.  There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to permission.

Second guideline:
2) In this path, the pastor should emphasize the fundamental proclamation, the kerygma, so as to foster or renew a personal encounter with the living Christ (cf. 58).
Kerygma is a Greek word that means "preaching", or as as defined here "fundamental proclamation." The idea is to "foster or renew" the couple's relationship with Jesus Christ. This is not just a matter of saying go ahead and receive the sacraments. In essence, this involves evangelization, bringing people to Jesus Christ, which is the fundamental purpose of the Church.

Third guideline:
3) Pastoral accompaniment is an exercise of the “via caritas.” It is an invitation to follow “the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement” (296). This itinerary requires the pastoral charity of the priest who receives the penitent, listens to him/her attentively and shows him/her the maternal face of the Church, while also accepting his/her righteous intention and good purpose to devote his/her whole life to the light of the Gospel and to practise charity (cf. 306).
Truly, this is the message of the Gospel in action. The bishops here are proposing personal interaction with each and every couple, teaching them the love and mercy of Jesus Christ through the "pastoral charity of the priest who receives the penitent, listens to him/her attentively."  This is the Good Shepherd going out into the wilderness after the lost sheep and lovingly and gently bringing that lost sheep back into the fold.  

Fourth Guideline:
4) This path does not necessarily finish in the sacraments; it may also lead to other ways of achieving further integration into the life of the Church: greater presence in the community, participation in prayer or reflection groups, engagement in ecclesial services, etc. (cf. 299)
This isn't "just" about being able to walk up during Mass and receive communion.  It is about bringing people into the fold and helping them realize they are an integral part of the Church. It is about leading them to share in the preaching of the Gospel and in all of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

So we see that these first four guidelines tell us that this is not about giving "permission" to divorce and remarried to receive the sacraments, but meeting with them and discerning their unique situations.  It is about helping them renew or even foster for the first time their relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is about bringing them in as active members of the Church.  In other words, this is all about evangelization.

We now come to the guidelines as quoted by Arroyo.  We see that Arroyo gave us only partial quotes and, just as bad, out of context quotes.

Here is the first "quote" from the Bishops' guidelines given to us by Arroyo,  This quote is actually from the fifth and sixth guidelines:
When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, it is possible to propose that they make the effort of living in continence. . . . In other more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment. If one arrives at the recognition that in their particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability particularly to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
What are the full quotes from the bishop?  What did Arroyo leave out?  Let's see:

Fifth Guideline:
5) Whenever feasible depending on the specific circumstances of a couple, especially when both partners are Christians walking the path of faith, a proposal may be made to resolve to live in continence. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties arising from this option (cf. footnote 329) and offers the possibility of having access to the sacrament of Reconciliation if the partners fail in this purpose (cf. footnote 364, recalling the teaching that Saint John Paul II sent to Cardinal W. Baum, dated 22 March, 1996).
We see that Arroyo basically quotes the first sentence correctly, that the couple should attempt to live in continence. But there is an ellipsis after the first sentence. Why? Because Arroyo completely omits the rest of the fifth guideline! He never tell us about making the sacrament of Reconciliation available to the married couple, and he does not mention St. John Paul II's communication to Cardinal Baum. That was a letter entitled, "CONFESSION MUST BE HUMBLE, COMPLETE AND ACCOMPANIED BY FIRM PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT", which can be found HERE. Here is just one quote from that letter:
It is also self-evident that the accusation of sins must include the serious intention not to commit them again in the future. If this disposition of soul is lacking, there really is no repentance: this is in fact a question of moral evil as such, and so not taking a stance opposed to a possible moral evil would mean not detesting evil, not repenting. But as this must stem above all from sorrow for having offended God, so the intention of not sinning must be based on divine grace, which the Lord never fails to give anyone who does what he can to act honestly.
By citing to this document, the bishops are making it very clear that confession of sins must involve a firm resolve not to continue sinning, or it cannot be considered a valid confession.   This once more points to discerning the entire spiritual health of those involved, and not just the fact that they are remarried and divorced.

The sixth COMPLETE guideline from the bishops:
6) In more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained, the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. If it is acknowledged that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351).
These sacraments, in turn, prepare the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.
I think it is important to notice the subtle changes Arroyo makes to this quote.  Arroyo's quote is as follows:
If one arrives at the recognition that in their particular case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability particularly to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. 
Is it just an accident that Arroyo left out the phrase "especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union" when explaining the limitations in particular cases? Doesn't Arroyo want us to know that the children of the divorce and remarried play a big part in deciding the fate of these marriages?
Notice also that Arroyo completely omitted the last sentence, that the sacraments "prepare the person to continue maturing and growing." Further, the quote by Arroyo just makes no sense: "there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability particularly to the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist." That is just gibberish. Arroyo is trying to make it seem that the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist are diminished by the situation of the couple. That is not AT ALL the meaning of this guideline. The true quote is:
If it is acknowledged that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351).
These sacraments, in turn, prepare the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.
As you can see, there is nothing in here saying that the sacraments are diminished. The bishops are telling us that the Pope is trying to make these sacraments available to the divorce and remarried so that the couples involved can be made right with God and the Church.

After giving us the out-of-context, garbled quote, Arroyo then asks Robert Royal, "OK, what does that mean?" Robert Royal's response: "Well, I wish I knew, Raymond." And don't we all! Maybe if Arroyo had quoted correctly and in context, we would all know!

Royal goes on to state that "In one way we finally do have an explicit statement on the part of the Holy Father that there are - maybe very few - but there are some cases where people are divorced and remarried involving active sexual lives - what use to be called 'living in adulterous relationship - that they can receive communion." As we can see, this is most definitely NOT the message of Pope Francis or the Argentine bishops. The message of Pope Francis and the bishops is that of bringing people back into a healthy and full relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church, and walking with them every step of the way. If Arroyo had given us everything leading up to this quote, and then had actually correctly quoted the bishops, we would know what a canard this interview with Royal is.

Arroyo does not give us any more quotes from the bishops' guidelines, so in service to those who are reading this, I will give you those guidelines.

Seventh Guideline:
7) However, it should not be understood that this possibility implies unlimited access to sacraments, or that all situations warrant such unlimited access. The proposal is to properly discern each case. For example, special care should be taken of “a new union arising from a recent divorce” or “the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family” (298). Also, when there is a sort of apology or ostentation of the person’s situation “as if it were part of the Christian ideal” (297). In these difficult cases, we should be patient companions, and seek a path of reinstatement (cf. 297, 299).
Again, the bishops make it very clear that there is no blanket permission given in any way, but that each couple will be personally and individually assessed.  The entire situation will be taken into account, including the length of the marriage and the personal history of the people involved.

Eighth Guideline:
8) It is always important to guide people to stand before God with their conscience. A useful tool to do this is the “examination of con­science” proposed by Amoris laetitia 300, specifically in relation to “how did they act towards their children” or the abandoned partner. Where there have been unresolved injustices, providing access to sacraments is particularly outrageous.
Once again, this shows the personal and individual attention that is to be paid to each couple.  I see over and over again the Good Shepherd going out into the wilds seeking the lost sheep.  Truly nothing could more reflect the love and mercy of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Ninth Guideline:
9) It may be convenient for an eventual access to sacraments to take place in a discreet manner, especially if troublesome situations can be anticipated. At the same time, however, the community should be accompanied so that it may grow in its spirit of understanding and acceptance, without letting this situation create confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissoluble marriage. The community is an instrument of mercy, which is “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (297).
This guideline is to protect the rest of the community from scandal.  Because others will not and should not know all the intimate details of these situations, they could easily become scandalized, so these situations will not be broadcast to the public at large.  The Pope and the bishops want the community to be "an instrument of mercy", not of judgment and condemnation.

Tenth Guideline:
10) Discernment is not closed, because it “is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can ena­ble the ideal to be more fully realized” (303), according to the “law of gradualness” (295) and with confidence in the help of grace.
The  bishops are telling us that this is not a one time deal, that a judgment is made and the couple are left on their own.  The Church will continue to walk with them and help them to grow and reach new stages of development, self awareness and repentance, bringing them ever closer to their Savior.

The bishops end their guidelines with a quote from the apostolic exhortation:
Above all, we are pastors. This is why we would like to welcome the following words of the pope: “I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen [to the faithful] with sensitivity and seren­ity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church” (312).
Going after the lost sheep and bringing them back into the fold - this is the work of the Holy Spirit and it is the work of Pope Francis, as it should be for each one of us.

Back to Arroyo and the "Papal Posse." Arroyo now goes on to the response from Pope Francis. Again, Arroyo gives us an out-of-context quote from the middle of the document. Before I give you Arroyo's quote, here is what leads up to it from Pope Francis:
I received the document of the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region entitled “Basic criteria for the implementation of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia.” Thank you very much for sending it, and let me congratulate you on the work that you have undertaken: a true example of accompaniment of priests…and we all know how necessary it is for a bishop to stay close to his priests and for priests to stay close to their bishop.
The bishop’s “neighboring” neighbor is the priest, and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself begins, for us bishops, precisely with our priests.
Pope Francis sees in the guidelines a true love for the people of God, which is the message he wished to give us, and he is very happy for that.

Arroyo then gives us his version of the next statement by Pope Francis:
The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.
And that is all we get from Arroyo on the Pope's response.

What did Arroyo leave out?
The document is very good and thoroughly specifies the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris laetitia. There are no further interpretations. I am confident that it will do much good.
May the Lord reward this effort of pastoral charity. And it is precisely pastoral charity that drives us to go out to meet the strayed, and, once they are found, to initiate a path of acceptance, discernment and reinstatement in the ecclesial community.
We know this is tiring, it is “hand-to-hand” pastoral care which cannot be fully addressed with programmatic, organizational or legal measures, even if these are also necessary. It simply entails accepting, accompanying, discerning, reinstating.

Out of these four pastoral attitudes the least refined and practised is discernment; and I deem it urgent to include training in personal and community discernment in our Seminaries and Presbyteries. Finally, I would like to recall that Amoris laetitia resulted from the work and prayers of the whole Church, with the mediation of two Synods and the Pope.

For this reason, I recommend a full catechesis of the exhortation, which will, most certainly, contribute towards the growth, consolidation and holiness of the family.

Once again, thank you for your work and let me encourage you to carry on studying and teaching Amoris laetitia in the different communities of the dioceses. Please, do not forget to pray and to remind others to pray for me.
As you can see, Pope Francis is congratulating the Argentine bishops on their insight into the fact that everyone is an individual, and we cannot make blanket judgments regarding individuals.  It is hard work, as the Pope writes.  But whoever said that saving souls was easy?  Our Lord had to pour out his Precious Blood on the cross.  We must, spiritually, do no less.

But what do Arroyo and the Papal Posse say?

Arroyo asks Father Gerald Murray:  "What does that mean?  Does that settle it?"  Again, this question is a canard because of the misleading and out-of-context quotes given to us by Arroyo.  How do we know anything is settled when we don't even know what was said?

Father Murray answers thus:
It means that what the Pope said in the footnote, 353, in Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, it means precisely what was said then, and now the Pope has made it absolutely clear that in his opinion and his way of looking at things, that there are circumstances that people might find themselves in in which they can continue to live in an adulterous relationship and at the same time receive communion. Now the reason he says that is they have diminished culpability for their adulterous behavior. And frankly, I am not convinced by that argument at all, and there are many theologians and canonists, bishops who have said that this is not satisfactory because I think is now much clearer, this is a direct contradiction to what St. John Paul II said in Famliaris Consortio.

So we are basically at a loggerheads here. One pope says you have to live continence if you are in an invalid marriage, if you want to receive the sacraments, and now Pope Francis is saying in some circumstances that is not necessary. This is a very unsatisfactory situation to be in.
I truly hope that all who read this can now see that St. John Paul II and Pope Francis are not in the least "at loggerheads." St. John Paul II made a blanket statement in which he said all who live in adultery cannot receive the sacraments. And Pope Francis agrees with that statement.

But Pope Francis goes one gigantic step further than St. John Paul II did. The big difference is Pope Francis says we cannot just leave those people out on their own to fend for themselves and hope they find their way home to Christ and His Church. The priests and bishops appointed by the Holy Spirit have a duty to search them out and bring them back. As Pope Francis said in his response to the Argentine bishops, it is hard work. But it is work that must be done for the sake of these souls and their families.

Arroyo complains to Robert Royal that the way of Pope Francis essentially makes the priest into the "local pope." Yes, Raymond, the local priest is responsible for the souls in his parish, and yes, it is his responsibility to bring them to Christ. That involves more than just saying, "This is right and that is wrong, and you either do the right or burn in hell. There, my job is done."

Pope Francis is one of the most orthodox popes in Church history. He loves our Lord and he loves the people of the Church. The Holy Father wants all to receive the loving grace and salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ, and he will go to the ends of the earth if that will make it happen. Jesus Christ said he did not come to condemn but to save the world. That is the message of Pope Francis, and for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, it should be our message too.

I can only hope that someday Raymond Arroyo, the "Papal Posse" and all others who judge and condemn will instead learn the lesson of love that Jesus Christ offers to each one of us. In this year of mercy, I believe that the sheep are being separated from the goats. We must either learn Christ's message of love and mercy and extend it to others, or we will find ourselves like the foolish virgins in Matthew 25, asking our Lord to let us in, and He will respond "Truly I tell you, I don't know you."


  1. Would not be surprised if the third secret pope is Pope Francis, who will be martyred by reactionaries, both religious and political, just like Our Lord. Already many denounce him as a traitor for encouraging Europeans to act Christian and help non-Christian refugees. I think many Christians get confused between being a fan of Jesus and following Him. It's easy to admire Jesus, feel fuzzy emotions, perform rituals and study His life and teachings. It's quite another to pick up your cross and follow Him to Cavalry. His way is a way full of suffering, obstacles and sadness--and when we die we can be with Him forever in heaven and share in His Resurrection.


  2. After a little while, Jacinta called out to me: “Didn’t you see the Holy Father?” “No.” “I don’t know how it happened, but I saw the Holy Father in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray very much for him.”

    1. It truly is amazing that the most vociferous critics of Pope Francis are not opponents of the Church but those who pride themselves on being the "best Catholics." And why do they reject Pope Francis? Because the Holy Father, like Jesus Christ, shows love and compassion to sinners.

      Jacinta's vision is very applicable to Pope Francis. But if the Holy Father is weeping, be assured that his tears are not for himself but for those who seem so incapable of love towards their neighbors.

    2. Dear CiB,

      Once again, you have challenged us to read things in context, and (as a former traditionalist as well as EWTN devotee) I truly thank you!

      One of my concerns about the Church in the US is that many Catholics watch the televangelists and adopt the fundamentalist Protestant practise of taking a single passage (biblical or otherwise) in isolation and applying it generally or in a twisted manner. Reading through the guidelines from the Argentinian bishops, it is clear to see this is what happened at ETWN regarding the matter of possible Communion for those who are divorced and civilly remarried.

      The bottom line is that NONE of us is worthy to receive Communion - and that is the point. We receive BECAUSE we are unworthy sinners, desperately in need of healing. I think it would be worthwhile for some to remember that, at the Last Supper, Christ offered His Body and Blood to everyone present; not only to Peter but also to Judas!

    3. Thank you. It is so frustrating to see Catholics attacking the Holy Father with spurious arguments fabricated out of misquotes taken out of context. It seems that they all just listen to each other and repeat what they hear. No one ever takes time to actually listen to or read anything.

      It is especially alarming, though, when an organization like EWTN, which so many of us have looked to as "all things Catholic", attacks the Pope in such a devious way. It really makes me understand such verses as I Thes 5:21 - " Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." and I John 4:1 - "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

      We live in very troubling times indeed.

  3. No offense, Catholic in Brooklyn, but when you get a chance, check out the following link:

    1. Thanks for showing this to me. I find it amusing. Certainly it would seem that canonists would know more than me, and they most assuredly do. But that doesn't give them a right to misquote and mischaracterize statements made by the Holy Father, especially when they are misleading the faithful.

  4. One has heard, that due to her extensive acumen in matters sundry and canonical, Catholic In Brooklyn has been appointed by Bishop DiMarzio as Judicial Vicar.

    1. The main people I see commenting on things they know not of are "traditionalists". What is the point of a teaching authority if everyone can interpret authentic church teaching for themselves. The more logical ones become sedevacantists, but then Satan has won if it's true, because it has become the Orthodox Church, since every individual bishop decides for himself what is in accord with traditions.

      Isn't it because traditionalists have decided for themselves that VII taught error or that the New Mass is evil that they stopped believing in the Church's indefectability? Not even an ecumenical council can convince them differently, and if it is part of the universal, ordinary magisterium (which it is) it must mean that the Church disappeared.

      And to prove their point they'll cite conspiracy theories and private revelations similar to Luther's Popish antichrist. I think the next heresy to be condemned is private interpretation of tradition.

  5. Catholic in Brooklyn, you might want to hold your nose and check out the following link:


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