Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cardinals Standing On The Precipice

As I have written before, I don't think any Church document since Humanae Vitae in 1968 has produced as much controversy and outright rebellion in the Catholic Church as we have seen from Amoris Laetitia.

I have been watching the conservative/traditionalist blogosphere tear into Pope Francis over Amoris Laetitia, labeling the Holy Father and the document as heretical and destructive to the Catholic Faith. We now have four Cardinals - four princes of the Church - Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner - who are challenging Pope Francis to a spiritual duel and calling for everyone else to jump on board with them.

There have probably been thousands of articles and blog posts written on this subject of the Cardinals' letter to Pope Francis. A Google search on this subject produces 378,000 results. I have not read anywhere near all of these articles, but of those I have read, I have not seen any that delve very deeply into the specifics of the Cardinals' letter. The articles have mostly been cheering sections, urging the Cardinals on in their battle against the Holy Father.

Not many articles actually quote directly from the Cardinals' letter, and I doubt very much if many people have read the actual letter. If you are interested, you can read the entire letter HERE

Cardinal Burke said he and the others made the decision to go public with their letter when they learned that Pope Francis had decided not to respond to them.  

The burning question is, why did Pope Francis ignore this letter from four princes of the Church?

As I previously wrote, a group of Bishops in Argentina also released a document concerning Amoris Laetitia. However, this was far different from our four Cardinals. The Argentinian bishops stated that they understood the mercy and compassion of the Holy Father in writing AL. These bishops felt Pope Francis was very clear in Amoris Laetitia, and they outlined specifically how they intend to follow the document in dealing with the people in their dioceses. The Holy Father's comment to Argentinian Bishops' document was as follows:
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.
It seems that if the four Cardinals who wrote to Pope Francis were really truly interested in an answer, all they would need to do is read the document from the Argentinian Bishops.  But they do not even seem to be aware that this document exists as it is nowhere mentioned in their letter to the Holy Father.  

As you will see if you take the time to read the Cardinals' letter, it is written like a legal document. The Cardinals are interested in the letter of the law. They want to know exactly what is right and wrong. They want everything in black and white. 

The Cardinals start out by stating that their letter is an act of justice and charity:
Of justice: with our initiative we profess that the Petrine ministry is the ministry of unity, and that to Peter, to the Pope, belongs the service of confirming in the faith.
Of charity: we want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel all ambiguity.
The Cardinals are telling us justice means the acknowledgement that the role of the Pope is to confirm the faith - no argument there.  The Cardinals then say their letter is an act of charity because they "want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel all ambiguity."  I find that statement rather ironic because the release of this letter has resulted in even more and harsher division and conflict in the Church than we had before.  Their letter has given rise to blatant talk of schism and open rebellion against the Pope.

In reading the Cardinals' letter, it seems to hard to believe that they read the same document that I did.

There is no mention in the Cardinals' letter about the great problem of millions of Catholics who are estranged from the Church, unable to receive the Sacraments because of their marital situation.  There is no compassion shown for those who are told they must choose between their families and the Church.  If they choose their families, they are told they are going to hell.  If they choose the Church, then they are being disloyal to the most important people in their lives and those who need them the most.

The Holy Father and the Synod Fathers looked at the divorce and remarried with eyes of compassion and mercy. They realize that this isn't just a a matter of just saying no to disordered passions and lusts. Divorced and remarried Catholics are in an extremely difficult situation in that they can't just walk away from their sin like an alcoholic or someone involved in sexual sin. They are being told they must walk away and turn their backs on the greatest responsibility one can have in life - our families - in order to remain loyal to the Church. Remember the movie, Sophie's Choice? Sophie was a Polish Jew in a concentration camp who was forced to choose which of her two children should die. That is how the divorced and remarried in the Church feel.

Yes, it would have been better if they had not allowed themselves to get into such a situation. But we can't change the past. We must deal with people where they are. And this is exactly what Pope Francis is attempting to do, with mercy and compassion, bringing these lost sheep back to the fold like the good shepherd he is commanded to be.

The Argentinian bishops understood this. Why can't our four cardinals understand?

As we can see in the letter, the four cardinals - like the religious leaders in Jesus' time - are stuck on the letter of the law. They consider that to be of utmost importance, far more important than the people. This can be seen in their questions and statements to the Holy Father:
It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (nn. 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 n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia n. 34 and Sacramentum Caritatis n. 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?
The Argentinian bishops actually answered their question very succinctly in their document:
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 Cardinals see everything in black and white, making no personal discernment but treating everyone on the same level.  They see no reason to take circumstances into account whatsoever.  This is exactly what we see in the Pharisees in Jesus' time.  A woman is caught in the act of adultery, and she must suffer the consequences of being stoned to death.

As far as the Pharisees are concerned, there can be no forgiveness.  The law has been broken and the penalty must be paid.  People don't count.  The real priorities are rules and regulations.

You can see this in all of the questions posed by the Cardinals:
After Amoris Laetitia (n. 301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?
After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (n. 302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 81, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?
For the Cardinals, it is all about judging whether an action is objectively right or wrong. There is no reaching out to individual people, no discernment, no pastoring involved.

This is in stark contrast to the Argentinian bishops:
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).
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).
Unlike the four Cardinals, the Argentinian bishops do not see sinners in need of judgment. They see lost sheep who need to be guided back home to Jesus Christ and the Church.

Pope Francis has not changed one teaching in the Church. The teaching on the family remains as it always has. The change is how we approach those in irregular situations. The Cardinals - and all who support them - seem totally unable to recognize this fact. They truly are following in the footsteps of the Pharisees of Jesus' time, sitting in judgment of the people, and not showing any mercy or compassion for individual situations.

The four Cardinals - and those who support them - seem unable to understand that Pope Francis wants to reach out to people on an individual basis, look carefully at their specific, unique circumstances, and bring them back to Christ in whatever way is possible. As the Argentinian bishops explained:
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).
Pope Francis is not a fan of "hit and run" ministry, that is ministry which involves explaining right and wrong, and then leaving people on their own as we go on our merry way smug in the knowledge of what good people we are.  As the Holy Father has said, he wants his priests to be "shepherds living with the smell of the sheep."

As Pope Francis stated in his response to the Argentinian bishops:
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.
If the four cardinals are really interested, they would know that Pope Francis and others have answered each and every statement and question in their letter.  The answer boils down to this:  we have millions of Catholics who are estranged from the Church.  They need help in finding their way back.  We need to go out to them and guide them back home, however it may be done.  We cannot just give them a pat answer and walk away.  We need to be there, walking with them and guiding them along this very difficult path.

Pope Francis is absolutely right in not answering the cardinals' letter.  These cardinals seem totally uninterested in the spiritual plight of millions of Catholics.   Nowhere in their letter is there any compassion shown towards those in the difficult situation of divorce and remarriage.  They really don't even address the issue.  They are acting as lawyers who have Pope Francis on the witness stand, and they are attempting to paint him in the worst possible light.

It is quite obvious that these princes of the Church are not interested in anything the Holy Father has to say. If they were, they would already have their answers because the answers are already out there. This letter was written to accuse the Holy Father and basically start a war with him.

These cardinals and all who support them are on a very dangerous precipice, looking into a great gulf out of which they may not be able to climb.


  1. Thanks for this post - I was feeling as if I'm the only one in the world who trusts Pope Francis and welcomes his living Gospel. I was writing about some things he suggests regarding priests to be less rigid. I got clobbered.

    I'm so distressed that so many turn on the Holy Father and really are calling him out as a heretic.

    How do you maintain your equilibrium? Your post is wonderful.

    Say a prayer for me. Thanks.


    1. I believe Pope Francis is one of the holiest men to ever sit in the Chair of Peter. His love for God and for people is overflowing. I look at what these other people say and write, and I see no love at all. I see only judgmental, self righteous attitudes. Sad to say, that is what I see in this letter from the four Cardinals.

      I also don't read the blogs like I use to. They all say basically the same thing. It's like they copy each other. I use to feel a kind of connection to them because I felt that some of what they were saying was true. But then I began to see how slanted and out of whack their view points are, how much they distort everything.

      The Beatles were partially right: it isn't true that ALL we need is love, but without love, nothing else matters. These bloggers have no love.

    2. I totally agree. fr. Z is celebrating Castro's funeral with a recipe for a Cuba Libre drink. I write about rigid priests who complain Pope Francis wants them to change and I get hell for it. I do not know what is wrong with these people. Where is their humanity? Is it all revenge and vengeance? I think they would have been scandalized by Christ.

    3. There is no doubt in my mind that they would reject Jesus Christ. They are all about rules and regulations. That is their definition of "love." Just like the Pharisees in Jesus' time.

      I rarely look at Father Z''s blog anymore. He cut me off from it for many months. Now that I am *allowed* to once again view it, I find it holds no interest for me whatsoever. Yours is about the only blog I read anymore, Terry.

    4. You have a sense of irony I see. Christ told the Pharisees that divorce was allowed under the law of Moses because of the hardness of (Pharisaical) hearts. Jesus then said that, "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."

      I guess, according to you, Jesus, is just about the rules and regulations. The words of Christ, Church tradition and two millennia of constant Magisterial teaching are on the side of the four cardinals. You are on the side of the Pharisees.

  2. Catholic in Brooklyn, do you think Michael Voris has put Cardinal Raymond Burke on a pedestal?

    1. have not listened to or read any Michael Voris for a while now. But I think Catholic traditionalists/conservatives in general see Cardinal Burke as their hero. Cdl. Burke has praised such people as Dr. John Rao, a radical trad who denounces Vatican II and the "New Mass.," I think Cdl. Burke is on a very dangerous path and is taking many people with him

  3. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you have to say about Bishop Athanasius Schneider?

    1. I think Bishop Schneider is right up there with Cdll Burke. Schneider once told trads they were the salvation of the Church. Burke and Schneider and those who follow them are on a dangerous path. They are in open rebellion against the Holy Father, and as a result they are rebelling against the Church and Jesus Christ Himself.

    2. Um, has Raymond Arroyo interviewed Bishop Schneider for "The World Over" yet?

  4. I think the laity should not get involved in Church politics. We do not have any authority to. Conservatives are starting to act like radical traditionalists. "If the pope and bishops teach something I can't understand they are wrong." I still. believe that God is protecting His Church. The pope cannot get the Church to teach error or damn souls. Even in non/indallable pronouncements we are bound to obey. Since the Church cannot bind us to sin, it must mean that whatever the pope and bishops implement is morally permissible, whether we understand it or not.

    1. I think this is more than "politics." And while I totally agree that the Church "cannot bind us to sin", people have a right to question things if they do not truly understand.

      My argument is that the Pope and others have explained this matter over and over again, explaining that no doctrine is being changed, but that the Church is taking a different approach with those who are in irregular situations. If people still don't understand despite all of the explanations that have been given, then it is because they don't want to understand.

      And that is a huge problem.

  5. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you have to say about Bishop René Henry Gracida?

    1. I don't know anything about him except that he is a defender of Michael Voris. He also defended Father Corapi.

      Lots of warning signs there.

    2. Bishop Gracida wrote the foreword to Judie Brown's 2012 book "The Broken Path."

  6. Sadly, all of the reasoning from your post and the Argentine bishops letter could be used to justify abortion. Some things are black and white. Jesus' saving of the woman caught in adultery ends with him saying "sin no more", not "go ahead and continue to sin if you think it is ok".

    There is great confusion on the contradictions in Amortis Laetitia vis a vis Familiaris Consortio and other magisterial declarations. We do need the see of Peter to clarify the confusions in this document. If Pope Francis' encyclical can obliterate prior papal encyclicals through footnotes where is the magisterial continuity in that? What is to keep subsequent popes from obliterating Pope Francis "teachings" through footnotes. This is a dangerous path. This time of great confusion in the church is indeed another great crisis in the church. Fidelity to Christ is fidelity to His teaching.

    I will pray for you and the pope, Catholic in Brooklyn, and ask you to pray for me. May Our Holy Mother cover faithful Catholics in her mantle and pray for unfaithful Catholics to return to the true faith.

  7. Yes,

    It all seems like moral relativism to me. Marriage should be taught as a lifelong sacrifice, either chaste, or for procreation.

    The gate is narrow and we all die alone.

    Jesus was against adultery, clearly and often, he elevated marriage to a sacrament.

    This issue literally puts the Eucharist and Marriage in conflict. Symbolically this puts Christ and his Church in conflict.

    The Church is Holy and it is against moral relativism.

  8. The Church teaches that the See of Rome cannot lose the faith under the Pope. So either a Pope Francis is not a Pope, or you're wrong in thinking he is contradicting doctrine. And if he isn't the Pope, who is, and should the Pope disagree with you on doctrine, shall he still remain Pope. We have an obligation to obey the Vicar of Christ, Wh ois the Rock the Church is built on.

    Please read on the spiritual life to see how the Devil uses false zeal, to stir up disobedience.

  9. Your entire column condemns Jesus Christ, who DID give a "rigid," "pat" answer to the question of divorce. He said it is impossible--and those who divorce and then live as if married to another are committing adultery.

    Nothing you quote from the Argentine bishops or from the Pope even comes close to answering the Five Dubia.

    The Argentine bishops and the Pope emit vast clouds of meaningless argle-bargle, whereas the correct answers to the Five Dubia are: No, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes.

    If the opposite answers are given, then, logically, Catholic moral teaching collapses; the teaching of Jesus Christ is denied outright; and the Catholic Church ceases to have any purpose.

    The Pope taught heresy in Amoris Laetitia, and by his refusal to do his job--i.e., promote unity in the Church by answering doubts about the Faith--he is continuing to teach heresy.

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  11. As I have written before, I don't think any Church document since Humanae Vitae in 1968 has produced as much controversy and outright rebellion in the Catholic Church as we have seen from Amoris Laetitia.

    The sturm und drang over A.L. is still not at the level of Humanae Vitae, though this is probably in part due to the fact that academia and secular media are not hostile to it in the way they were to H.V., and so critics of A.L. rarely have access to those bullhorns.

    But part of the problem is that, contra Fr VF, it's hard to say just what A.L. clearly teaches, at least in terms of moral propositions. Attempting to say it does is a bit of an exercise in nailing jello to the wall, however edifying or passionate some observations in the early parts of the exhortation might be. I cannot say with certainty that it teaches error, though there are two footnotes, at least, which might imply it; likewise there are some statements which, as German Grisez has pointed out, seem to suggest that human nature is too weak, even with grace, to follow God's commandments. But there is nothing with the clarity of (say) Humanae Vitae 14.

    That being the case, there's nothing in the way I live that can alter, or or will alter, how I live my life as a Catholic, nor in what direction I will give others, confirmed or catechumens. If you are not a Catholic in a state of grace, you cannot receive communion. And if you are having sexual relations with someone not your lawful spouse, and are unwilling to repent and amend your life in this respect, you cannot be in a state of grace. We must adhere to the perennial teaching and discipline of the Church handed down to us from the Apostles, then, and have our confidence undiminished in so doing, regardless of what some theologians and even bishops might desire to the contrary.

  12. "Divorced and remarried Catholics are in an extremely difficult situation in that they can't just walk away from their sin like an alcoholic or someone involved in sexual sin. They are being told they must walk away and turn their backs on the greatest responsibility one can have in life - our families - in order to remain loyal to the Church."

    My understanding of Church teaching is not that they must walk away from their families, but that they must abstain from sexual relations with a person to whom they are not validly married. Just as single and widowed laity must remain chaste, so must those who are divorced. If they've committed the sin of adultery by remarrying outside the Church, it's not charitable and pastoral to condone the continuance and compounding of that sin by advising them that it's OK for them to receive the Eucharist while not in a state of grace. They must repent, confess and abstain from sexual relations....just as anyone else who commits sexual sin.

    It's not always easy to give up our sins. It requires discipline to resist sexual urges but it's hardly an impossible feat as many single, widowed, and religious can attest to. Christ was very clear in His teaching about adultery. If priests, bishops or even the Pope attempt to mitigate the sin under the guise of being pastoral and drawing people back to the Church by taking the easy path, they are guilty of leading the laity astray.

    1. That is so easy to say - just live like brother and sister, Two people who are obviously so attracted to one another that they got married, have been invovled sexually, probably have kids together, and now they must live like brother and sister while being with each other every day. It's like telling an alcoholic he can't drink while he must work in a tavern.

      The divorced and remarried are in one of the most difficult situations imaginable, Pope Francis understands this and that is why he is trying to work with them with compassion and mercy. It is a lesson we could all try to imitate.

    2. That is so easy to say

      Actually, I don't think anyone imagines that it *would* be easy to undertake. Which is why the normative expectation has long been that the (unlawful) couple should and must separate. Because the temptation to fall into sin would be, for many (most?), quite powerful.

      This is why it is important to recognize that the provision Pope John Paul II permitted in Familiaris Consortio "when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate" is a limited, last resort option, one which had traditionally been frowned upon by the Church. It's a path with its own level of sacrifice involved. These Catholics have made certain (bad) choices, and choices have consequences. Fortunately, the grace of God is available to give us the strength to cope with them, and still cooperate with grace to attain salvation.

      But it's a false and potentially lethal compassion that would indulge such Catholics to engage in what amounts to a very grave sin - actually two very grave sins: to engage in acts of fornication, and then to receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist in an unrepentant state for such sins. And it's why the Church has never admitted this possibility as licit - not in Sacramentum Caritatis, nor in Familiaris Consortio, nor in Cast Connubi, nor in any past canon of the Church going back to the Apostles. "[T]he 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." (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 84) There's no exception in that under any law of gradualism or any other theological praxis. And John Paul II was so adamant on this point that he even had the CDF release a later clarification in 1994 to refute the idea (which had gained purchase in some locales) that FC 84 admitted of any such possibility that divorced and remarried Catholics engaging in sexual relations could under any circumstances be admitted to communion.

    3. It is so easy to make judgments when the situation involves other people. We pass by homeless people on the street and justify not helping them because it's their own fault they are homeless. We look at a drunk and say it's his own fault he can't control his drinking. Etc, etc. etc.

      Did you ever notice in the Gospels that Our Lord never criticizes or condemns anyone EXCEPT the religious? He met the woman caught in adultery, and refused to condemn her. Yes, yes, I know, he told her to sin no more. But please don't overlook the fact that he refuses to condemn her, that is the whole point of the story.

      Telling people that they have to walk away from their families should tear the heart out of all of us. It should not be something that just rolls off the tongue, as I see over and over again. Pope Francis is filled with the same kind of mercy and compassion that is shown by our Lord in the Gospels, and it is that love and mercy that caused him to write Amoris Laetitia. Anyone who reads it without his mind made up and asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit will see that.

      Pope Francis has not and will not change doctrine. What he is attempting to change is the pastoral attitude towards those caught in this terrible situation. He says these are people who need to be guided each step of the way.

      The first thing is not to separate from their families, but to first find Christ. I think it can safely be said that anyone who has gotten him or herself in this situation is someone who has lost or never found Jesus Christ.

      To ask anything of them before they have found Christ is to most certainly put the cart before the horse. To accomplish what they need to do absolutely requires the Grace of God. It cannot be done by human strength alone.

      Pope Francis understands that. I truly hope and pray the four cardinals, you and everyone else who is so quick to condemn will finally begin to understand.

    4. Telling people that they have to walk away from their families should tear the heart out of all of us.

      The Church is telling them they must stop having sex, not that they must walk away from their families. And with the power of grace, that's certainly a bearable burden. Or at least the Church has always taught that it is.

      It is true that separation from the unlawful "spouse" (to avoid both occasions of sin and scandal to others) has generally been normative as the solution; but even this does not necessarily mean separation from your children.

      But if this is an unjust burden, it's an unjust burden which the previous 264 popes have apparently laid on such Catholics. Will you, then, criticize Benedict XVI, St John Paul II, and all of their predecessors for being uncompassionate?

      Whatever Amoris Laetitia says - or however ambiguous it is at various points - it never mounts such an argument against the Church's longstanding teaching as you seem to be presenting here.

    5. This is what you wrote in your previous comment:

      Actually, I don't think anyone imagines that it *would* be easy to undertake. Which is why the normative expectation has long been that the (unlawful) couple should and must separate. Because the temptation to fall into sin would be, for many (most?), quite powerful.

      Now you write:

      The Church is telling them they must stop having sex, not that they must walk away from their families.. And with the power of grace, that is certainly a bearable burden.

      Those two statements seem very contrary to me. Which is it? Is the Church saying leave your family, or stop doing that which comes most naturally to a husband and wife - stop having sex?

      You also write:

      . . . Separation from the unlawful 'spouse' . . . Has generally been normative as the solution (contradicting your first statement]; but even this does not necessarily mean separation fro your children.\

      You are a very intelligent person, so I know that you understand that if you are not living in the same house as your children, that means you are separate from them. Once again, your statement makes no sense.

      Everything taught by former popes is, of course, absolutely correct. Marriage is a life time deal to one person, and we are free to re-marry only if our spouse dies.

      But we live in a world that has completely lost sight of this fact. Serial marriage is completely accepted in our fallen world. And sadly, many, many Catholics have fallen into this trap.

      Pope Francis has looked at this situation, and has decided we can't just leave these poor souls out there to fend for themselves. We need, as Christ talked of the good shepherd, to go after those lost sheep and try to bring them back home. That is the radical step he is taking which was not taken, to as large a degree, by previous popes.

      As the Argentine bishops explained, no one is giving blanket permission for divorced and remarried couples to partake in the sacraments. Pope Francis is calling for one-on-one counseling and journeying with these couples to bring them back to Christ and the Church. If you read the document from the Argentine bishops - which was given the stamp of approval by Pope Francis - that fact becomes abundantly clear.

      Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it, as He said more than once. The purpose of His Church is not to condemn the world but to save it. That is hard, hard work, and it means being with people every step of the way, not just pointing out what is right and wrong, and then leaving people to sink or swim on their own.

      i am sure you and I are never going to agree because we are just not seeing the same thing. You see everything in black and white. You see sinners who must be told they are on the wrong path and then you feel that the job is basically done.

      Pope Francis sees fallen people who are in desperate need of a Savior and those who can bring them to that Savior.

      Which do you think is more Christ like?

    6. Those two statements seem very contrary to me. Which is it? Is the Church saying leave your family, or stop doing that which comes most naturally to a husband and wife - stop having sex?

      In the first place, they are not husband and wife. They're not! Nor can they ever be, so long as the lawful spouse is still alive. That's the whole problem, insn't it? So why would we privilege anything about what "comes naturally" to husbands and wives in regards to two people who barred from beng such?

      In the second place,: Both of my statements are simultaneously true. It *can* be hard to abstain from sex in such a situation - in terms of human nature. But grace *can* supply the deficit (Summa Theologia, I-II, q. 109 a.4). As St Jerome says: "they are anathema who say God has laid impossibilities upon man."

      That said, I'll be honest: The Church's traditional praxis on this seems soundest to me: The unlawful couple really *ought* to separate if that is at all possible. Why subject yourself to the temptation? Why risk the scandal to others - especially to your children? How can such parents have *any* credibility in forming their children as disciples of Christ if they're openly and willingly violating one of the Ten Commandments on a regular basis - or even giving the impression that they might be? Yet John Paul II apparently wanted to keep the option of remaining under the same roof open for the very hard cases.

      But what about the children? As you ask: "I know that you understand that if you are not living in the same house as your children, that means you are separate from them."

      You're correct that the removal of one of the unlawful partners will, in some way, separate one of them from the children in the household (whether they are the natural parent or not). To which I must respond: when it *is* necessary, the Church has considered it to be a lesser price to pay than to risk the temptation of sin, and the consequent leading of others (the children, especiallY) into sin, let alone into hell. The children *should* appreciate that a sacrifice is being made, for the parents' souls as well as their own; that they prize their well-being, and devotion to God's law, over their own sexual satisfaction. And that this is as much for the good of the children as it is themselves.

      I can't speak to what Pope Francis sees or has seen, and I am reluctant to speculate. I think there's an obligation to give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of motivations. I do know what the Church has always taught in this regard, up to the present, and I refuse to believe that that the Church has been acting unjustly and without compassion, as a matter of doctrine and discipline, toward Catholics in these situations for the past 2,000 years! And given that Pope Francis himself declines to ever state in express language that he is overturning these teachings in Amoris Laetitia, I have to believe he supports them, too - and recognizes that he cannot change them. The Pope cannot err in formally teaching on a question of faith and morals. And the teachings on *this* question of faith and morals are clear, and go straight back to the Apostles.

      If we could line up the past 264 popes before us, all the evidence we have is that every single one of them would answer this question in the same way that John Paul II did in Familiaris Consortio 84: these couples are in objectively evil situations, and they cannot receive communion so long as they remain in them. That's the simple reality. And we have no proposition in Amoris Laetitia to overturn that understanding.

      "You see everything in black and white."

      Human beings are not black and white. But the law of Christ is. Fortunately, He supplies the grace needed to conform our wills to it.

    7. Your entire comment here shows just how "black and white" you really do see everything. You see the law and demand strict adherence to it. You admit that it takes the grace of God to fulfill the law, especially in this situation, yet you do not see that those in those situation, by themselves, do not have access to this grace. It is like asking a man with no legs to walk.

      Pope Francis wants to help people gain access to the grace they need to obey the law. You, and the cardinals and all who think like you, feel that just telling people what they need to do is enough.

      Please watch Bishop Barron's video on this subject. My comment is to this video is "what he said."

    8. This is a better link to the video

    9. You see the law and demand strict adherence to it.

      I do. And so did Christ. His stance on the indissolubility of marriage against the Pharisees was unwavering, so much so that it shocked them.

      But He is also there to offer grace, and forgiveness when we stumble and fail. "Go, and sin no more."

    10. One quibble on the video (thanks for the link, I watched it): Bishop Barron says: "[The Church] holds up a very high objective moral ideal."

      I'm hoping he just misspoke here - I don't want to hold a video clip up to the same standard as I would a monograph. But it's not correct to characterize Christ's Law on Marriage as an "ideal." As Pope St. John Paul stated in Veritatis Splendor: "“It would be a very serious error to conclude that the Church's teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question.” But what are the “concrete possibilities of man”? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ's redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence." (VS 103-104)

    11. In your first comment you state:

      He is also there to offer grace, and forgiveness when we stumble and fail.

      Yes, that is absolutely true, but there is a big problem. Many of the people who need this grace the most don't even know they need that grace, or how to obtain it if they do know how they need it.

      Fallen man, of and by himself, cannot fulfill the Law of God. That is where the sacraments come in which supply us with the grace we need to obey the law, starting with baptism. But what do you do when someone who needs grace cannot obtain it because he is denied the sacraments he needs? That is a real Catch-22.

      Those who think like you think it is enough to say "go and sin and no more." If only that were true.

      Pope Francis has said we need to work closely and pastor these people on an individual basis, bringing them to the saving faith of Jesus Christ.

      I truly believe everyone who is fighting against Pope Francis is fighting the Holy Spirit.

      As far as your comment on Bishop Barron - you focus in on one thing and completely ignore the main part of his message? And as long as you are going to focus on semantics, please note that St. JPII wrote that "it would be a very serious error to conclude that the Church's teaching is essentially only an ideal". Bishop Barron is by no means saying the Church's teaching is "only" an ideal. But for those on the outside, saying it is an "ideal" is the best way of describing the teaching.

      The question is, what did you think of the main message of Bishop Barron - that yes, God's law must be obeyed, and we must teach it, but we must show mercy and compassion to those people and realize that they need help, they can't do it on their own.

  13. You know, I've read your blog few times in the past when you were denouncing John Vennari for criticizing Evangelii Gaudium, and I thought you were simply off the mark, and nothing more.
    But I now see where you're attacking the four authors of the Dubia, and defending the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Please let me revise my earlier assessment of you.
    You are, unquestionably, a Modernist of the first order. You are a heretic. may God have mercy on your soul.

    1. Having once been deeply involved in the traditionalist movement, and even once a supporter of Vennari and an admirer of Cardinal Burke, I know exactly what you mean when you call me a heretic. And coming from a traditionalist, I cannot think of a higher compliment, because in your eyes, I am in the same league as Pope St John Paul II, Pope St. John XXIIII /and of course of our current Holy Father, the same Pope for whom the blood of St. Jansrius liquified.

  14. Catholic in Brooklyn, check out the following URL:


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