The Flawed Strategy Behind Amoris Laetitia

Cardinal Francisco Coccopalmerio, Pope Francis and his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and Cardinal Gerhard Muller

Catholics continue to be confounded by the mixed signals sent by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Given the high-ranking Church officials who have weighed in (but on opposite sides), and some who have been apparently released by the Holy Father due to their disagreement, it’s clear that a profound and troubling division exists at the highest levels of the Church about this document, and what it appears to be saying about Catholic teaching and the pastoral practice on marriage. Let us try to understand, yet again, what this document is trying to do, and the turmoil surrounding it.

On one side, we have the interpretation of a high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Francisco Coccopalmerio. In his recent book, published by the Vatican, Cardinal Coccopalmerio appeals to Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia as his reference for endorsing the idea that invalidly married Catholics may, in some cases, receive Communion, and continue their full marital/sexual relationship. The only condition that’s necessary, according to the Cardinal, is that these couples wish to change this situation, but cannot realize their desire.” The cardinal, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, represents what is described as “the top Vatican body for the interpretation of canon law.” According to the cardinal, the referenced material in Chapter 8 is in complete accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.1

Then there is the opposite conclusion reached by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. According to Cardinal Muller, Amoris Laetitia requires the invalidly married couple to live in complete sexual continence, as brother and sister, to be able to receive Communion. He implicitly repudiated the view of Cardinal Cocopalmerio by sharply criticizing the bishops from Germany, Malta, Buenos Aires, and San Diego for endorsing a pastoral approach that follows the conclusion reached by the Vatican-based Coccopalmerio.2   

What are we to make of this? Here we have two public and opposite “readings” of Amoris Laetitia, both coming from high-ranking Church officials. Cardinal Raymond Burke, and three other Cardinals, have formally requested from the Pope a clarification of Amoris Laetitia. So far, the Pope has avoided answering these questions.3

But how many hundreds (if not thousands) of clergy and lay people continue to wonder about, and to debate, what the document really means? Ultimately, there is no way of knowing the exact meaning of the statements in Amoris Laetitia. However, “actions do speak louder than words” so maybe we can learn something about the intention of the writer(s) from what they are doing, or from the method or strategy used in Amoris Laetitia. Let’s examine this.

Chapter 8 Uses Deliberate Ambiguity
The “poisoned apple” in this document comes in Chapter 8. That’s where one will find many statements which have Church leaders reeling in contradiction with one another.

These statements in Chapter 8 certainly appear to support the new interpretation of Cardinal Cocopalmerio, et al. However, ultimately the meaning is ambiguous.4 In fact, Chapter 8 is ambiguous throughout.

Is there a reason for this ambiguity? Archbishop Bruno Forte, whom Pope Francis appointed as Special Secretary to the 2014 Synod on the Family, has apparently made the claim—as reported by the Italian website zonalocale (and translated by OnePeterFive)—that the Pope told him: “If we speak explicitly about communion for the divorced and remarried, you do not know what a terrible mess we will make. So, we won’t speak plainly, but do it in a way that the premises are there, then I will draw out the conclusions.”5

Whether or not this conversation happened exactly as reported, we all know one thing — the Pope has been completely silent about Amoris Laetitia even when being asked by Cardinals to clarify it. In fact, it is difficult to conclude anything except that the Pope wants the document to remain ambiguous, and that this ambiguity was deliberately planned.

Who would do this? It’s unclear who was in charge of writing each section of the document, but Chapter 8, at least, was clearly written to extend to invalidly married couples a “welcome” into the full participation in the Church. Indeed, para. 297 calls for treating these invalidly married couples with compassion and tenderness, and show them “unmerited, unconditional, and gratuitous mercy.”

Chapter 8 Conceals and Omits Crucial Parts of Doctrine

The chapter makes the benign observation in par. 295 that people do not all come to a knowledge of good and evil at once (true, of course). It refers to a “gradualness” to their discovery of good and evil as they mature and grow in various circumstances. Therefore, these persons do not all have the same responsibility for their actions.

To bolster its “gradualness” theory, the author(s) of this section cites John Paul II’s statement in Familiaris Consortio (34) in which the late Pope recognizes “the law of gradualness.” The chapter even cites John Paul II’s insistence that this cannot be understood as “gradualness of the law.”

But oddly, the author omits the (absolutely critical) clarifying accompanying statement by John Paul II that it cannot be “as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations” (my emphasis).

In other words, the sixth commandment, “thou shall not commit adultery,” is a moral absolute. It does not oblige differently for different people in various situations no matter what their circumstance or knowledge of the sixth commandment. It obliges the same for married couples as it does for single persons.

But why would this clarifying phrase of John Paul II’s be omitted in Chapter 8?

One suspects that the intention is to keep alive the notion that in some cases, invalidly married couples may not be able to live the sixth commandment, and that God will understand and not require it of them. The clearest indication of this is the following statement in par. 303:

Yet, conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal (my emphasis).

The inescapable conclusion is that, according to the writers of this section of Amoris Laetitia, God does not expect or require certain couples to adhere absolutely to the sixth commandment in certain situations because the commandment is, at times, impossible to keep.

If this were true, there would really be no reason to keep these divorced and remarried couples from receiving Holy Communion.

Chapter 8 Misappropriates Doctrine

While para. 298 most directly raises the issue faced by invalidly married couples who want to receive Communion, it abruptly stops short of adding the critical and necessary clarification: that the invalidly married must practice “complete continence” (living as brother and sister), to receive the sacraments as stated in John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio (84). This critical piece of Catholic teaching is nowhere to be found in 298.

Instead, this all-important clarification is shifted to footnote 329, where it is twisted through misappropriation.

The authors cite in their footnote both John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio (84), referring to the previous discussion in para. 298, and the Second Vatican Council’s teaching in Gaudium et Spes (51), stated in the footnote. But, while John Paul II was speaking previously in para. 298 about helping  divorced and remarried couples, living in adultery, the Second Vatican Council is speaking about helping couples, living in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony, in how to space their children. But the statements, one taken from Gaudium et Spes (51), and the other from Familiaris Consortio, are made to appear to be speaking of the same situation—which they are not. In a serious error, the author(s) of footnote 329 erroneously apply the phrase “in such situations” from Gaudium et Spes (51) to the “situation” of adultery which was previously discussed in Familiaris  Consortio (84). Here is how it is written in the footnote 329:

John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered, and the good of the children suffers” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 51), (my emphasis).

The “situation” expressed in Gaudium et Spes (51) is meant to caution validly married couples to be careful that this abstinence to space births does not harm their relationship, and their children. Gaudium et Spes (51) even cites in its own footnote, 1 Cor. 7:5, where St. Paul cautions married couples: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then, come together again, so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

So, footnote 329 ignores these distinctions, and leads readers to believe that the statement in Gaudium et Spes (51) also applies to divorced and remarried couples living in adultery. The inescapable message is that, if divorced and invalidly remarried couples abstain from sex, it’s possible that their “faithfulness is endangered and the good of children suffers.” Can it be — abstinence from sex can harm an adulterous relationship? This is moral madness! It amounts to a repudiation of the sixth commandment. This implied solution for the divorced and remarried is not only absurd, but if this idea (to defy the 6th commandment) was deliberately inserted in Amoris Lateitia, it is downright dishonest and evil!

However, as it stands now, the door remains open for Church leaders, such as the German and Maltese Bishops, along with Cardinal Cocopalmerio, et al, to interpret “such situations” as including the divorced and civilly remarried. They can do this by ignoring the clear context of Gaudium et Spes (51) which refers only to those in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.6

So, yes, Amoris Laetitia, taken in its entirety today, does open the door for invalidly married Catholics to receive communion while still engaging in sexual relations. While Amoris Laetitia does not directly and explicitly say this, it does lead people to believe this by means of a process which uses ambiguity, concealing key passages of Familiaris Cornsortio (34 & 84), and finally misappropriating a key Church document on marriage, Gaudium et Spes (51), in order to obtain the appearance of legitimacy in order that the divorced and remarried may receive Communion.

Many good Catholic cardinals and bishops would like to interpret Amoris Laetitia as if it did not open the door for the divorced and remarried to receive Communion. They would like Catholics to interpret Amoris Laetitia in an orthodox manner, and to ignore any suggestion in the document that it may be permissible for divorced and invalidly remarried couples to receive Communion while continuing their sexual relationship. But even though Church leaders hope the orthodox interpretation will be emphasized, it is not what is being stealthily insinuated in this document.

  1. catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=30752. Catholic World News, “Vatican launch for Cardinal’s book defending German/Maltese bishops’ reading of Amoris Laetitia,. Feb. 14, 2017
  2. catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=30641. CWN, “Cardinal Mueller, German Bishops clash on interpretation of Amoris Laetitia,” Feb. 1, 2017; lifesitenews.com/news/popes-doctrine-chief-rebukes-bishops-using-amoris-to-justify-situations-aga, John Bentz, “Vatican doctrine chief rebukes bishops using Amoris to justify ‘mortal sin’ of adultery,” Feb. 1, 20017.
  3. catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/11/14/pope-declines-to-answer-four-cardinals-amoris-appeal/ Dan Hitchens, “Pope Francis declines to answer four cardinals’ Amoris appeal,” Catholic Herald, Nov. 14, 2016.
  4. ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-coccopalmerio-explains-his-positions-on-catholics-in-irregular-uni , Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Cocopalmerio Explains His Position on Catholics in Irregular Unions,” Vatican Correspondent, National Catholic Register, Mar. 1, 2017.
  5. lifesitenews.com/news/italian-archbishop-claims-pope-didnt-want-to-address-communion-question-pla, Claire Chretian, “Archbishop: Pope told me we must avoid speaking ‘plainly’ on Communion for the remarried,” LifeSiteNews, May 9, 2016; zonalocale.it/2016/05/03/-nessuno-si-deve-sentire-escluso-dalla-chiesa-/20471?e=vasto, zonalocale, Vasto Editione, Mar. 26, 2017, “Nessuno si deve sentire escluso della chiesa,” Mar. 7, 2016; onepeterfive.com/pope-speaking-plainly-communion-divorced-messy/, Steve Skojec, “Forte: Pope Did Not Want to Speak ‘Plainly’ of Communion for Remarried,” 1P5 (OnePeterFive), May 7, 2016.
  6. ncregister.com/daily-news/maltese-bishops-divorced-and-remarried-at-peace-with-god-may-receive-commun, Elsie Harris, “Maltese Bishops: Divorced and Remarried ‘at Peace with God’ May Receive Communion,” CNA/EWTN: News, Jan. 17, 2017.
Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap About Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap

Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap, was ordained in Aug. 26, 1972. He is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver. He is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008; and in 1997, he was sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made two series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: "Crucial Questions," "Catholic Answers," and "What Did Vatican II Really Teach?"

Comments

  1. Richard Cross says:

    Much thanks must go out to Fr Regis for this forthright article. The “moral madness” that he witnesses is also seen in the fact that throughout the entire text of AL, the term “adultery” is never used in the present tense; the term adultery occurs three times, and always within a reference to the past events in scripture, and never in the context of divorce as it occurs today. Adultery has been morphed into an “irregular situation”. Fr Regis is correct, AL lays the groundwork for repudiating the sixth commandment. Let us pray that we will be able to read more from Fr Regis over the next few years.

  2. Robert L Greene says:

    Each one us must ask ourselves the question: “Am I willing to follow the truth no matter where it leads me?” This requires great courage which only a few possess. Thank you, Fr. Regis Scanlon, and HPR, for your courage.

  3. Elizabeth M. says:

    I find deliberate ambiguity so offensive. It is so deceitful and dishonest. From what I have read, it was employed during VII also.
    I was shocked when I read this in my golden years. I was only in my early 20’s during VII, and was not paying much attention. Now I’m paying close attention to Vatican activities and, to say the least, am shocked at the maneuvers that go on. I must say that I was very naïve, and had a very simplistic view of the Church. I pray daily for Pope Francis as his pontificate has been very difficult for me. I also pray for the Cardinals and Bishops, particularly those whose theology I find lacking in faith.

  4. The Pope hasn’t remained silent, cf. In the Wake of #AmorisLaetitia, will “A Simple Prayer Book” be revised? (A Response to Dr. Edward Peters: “I do not think that Francis changed any doctrines in Amoris”) – https://thewarourtime.com/2017/02/26/in-the-wake-of-amorislaetitia-will-the-simple-prayer-book-be-revised-a-response-to-dr-edward-peters-i-do-not-think-that-francis-changed-any-doctrines-in-amoris/

  5. Wonderful

  6. In my blog post “With #AmorisLaetitia, Pope Francis Expands Kasper’s Proposal” | April 10, 2016 – https://thewarourtime.com/2016/04/10/with-amorislaetitia-pope-francis-expands-kaspers-proposal/

    I concluded:

    “One conclusion that one must therefore draw is that the lack of clarity and therefore the ensuing confusion is a purposeful strategy.”

  7. As far as I know, paragraph 2390 of the Catechism still states:

    “The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion.” That can’t be any clearer. Did you catch he words “always” and “excludes.” Those two words cause progressives to want to scratch their eyes out.

    The Catechism was issued under an Apostolic Constitution by a pope who is now a saint. Woe to any bishop who teaches otherwise based on “ambiguities” that require a reading in rupture with the historic teaching of the Church and the very words of Jesus Christ.

  8. Charles O'Connell says:

    I pass up most articles about Amoris Laetitia, but Father Scanlon’s name is authoritative with me.

  9. Ted Heywood says:

    Frances, in his outpouring of compassion for those that have gone astray, seems to embrace a ‘disordered form of love’ and is attempting to get a ‘buy in’ from the rest of the church. A very protestant form of doctrinal development. Perhaps seated in his experience with the overwhelming success of the Evangelical Churches in South America preaching, love, compassion a form of forgiveness in personal sincerity.

    • I found the statement: ” ‘ thou shall not commit adultery ‘ is a moral absolute” very difficult to comprehend. Is the commandant before that: “thou shall not kill” absolute? — given all the killings that the Church taught justifiable. Can any doctrinal understanding “absolute’? I like to think only God, and his mercy, is absolute. Didn’t Jesus dip bread with Judas at the Last Supper without the pre-condition for Judas denouncing his treason? ……. Will someone enlighten me?

      • Michael Ewbank says:

        As others may confirm, the answer is ‘yes’ to your first question. The proper translation of the Commandment concerning killing is ‘thou shalt not murder’. I presume you would have no problem accepting this injunction.

        As to your second question, again the response is ‘yes.’ For example, each proposition within the great Creeds is absolute. ‘That’ GOD is (‘exists’) is unqualifiedly or absolutely true, along with other truths discernible from experience of creation, as insisted upon by St. Paul.

        As for Judas, there is no reason to presume necessarily that Judas either was permitted to either receive the Eucharist or ordination with the powers granted to the apostles who were present before he departed to do his misdeeds.

        The term ‘absolute’ means removed from any qualification or restriction. So, certain true judgments are said to be absolute in what they concern.

        Of course, GOD, the Divine Being is unqualifiedly Infinite, True, Good, All-Powerful, Tri-Personal, etc., and GOD’s perfections are only distinguished by us in terms of their effects relative to creatures.

        But GOD’s Mercy is absolutely one with His Justice, His Truth, His Goodness, etc.

      • To @Robert Y. C. Hsiung

        Cf. What the Church teaches from the Catechism of the catholic Church:

        – 5th Commandment – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

        – 6th Commandment – http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

      • Tom McGuire says:

        I agree and seek clarity on killing.

  10. Anna Marie says:

    Thank you, Father Scanlon, for shedding more light on this flawed document. We know from your previous writings that you love the Pope and the Church and your goal is to support solid doctrine. Thank you!

  11. Patrick O'Brien says:

    Fr. Regis, thanks for this public defense of the Faith.

  12. Brave for the LORD and The LORD’s Teaching, good Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap. asks:

    “But why would this clarifying phrase of John Paul II’s be omitted in Chapter 8?”

    And notes the misuse of GS, 51 in and by Amoris Laetita (regardless who wrote AL, Pope Francis is ultimately responsible. It is his exhortation).

    Since when did Popes teach by “cutting, copying, and pasting” from Church Magisterium [Teaching]? Cf. #AmorisLaetitia: Finally the Vatican Enters the Modern World into the Digital Age with a New Genre of Papal Documents – https://thewarourtime.com/2016/04/07/amorislaetitia-finally-the-vatican-enters-the-modern-into-the-digital-with-a-new-genre-of-papal-documents/

  13. IT MAKES ME SAD WHEN I SEE HOW OUR HOLY FATHER HAS DISREGARDED THE 4 CARDINALS QUESTIONS RE AMORIS LAT.
    I HOPE AND PRAY THAT HE WILL REMOVE ALL DOUBTS ABOUT THE 6TH COMMANDMENTS AND EXPLAIN WHAT JESUS MEANT
    WHEN HE SAID ..THOUGH SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTRY.

  14. George Baxter says:

    So, does the Coccopalmerio, Malta, German, Buenos Aires, San Diego rationale of Amoris Laetitia apply to all sins, or only to sexual sins. If all sins, then should the church “accompany” (by admitting to communion) domestic abusers, abortionists, or drug dealers who know God’s law but are not yet willing to cease this behavior? If just sexual sins, how about pedophilla, concubinage, necrophilla?

    This evil of this thing is clear to all who have eyes to see.

  15. With spirit – filled men like Fr. Regis we
    can rest easy knowing true Church
    teachings even when the Pope himself
    does NOT ( or worse wants to change it
    by deception and by silencing all those
    who no better than he.)
    The ‘cat is out of the bag.’ Our Pope Francis
    is leading us astray. Button down the hatches.
    Thank you Fr. Regis. You are such a blessing
    in times of confusion.

  16. Debbie Scott says:

    Thank you Fr. Regis for having the courage to speak out on this topic. I’ve been following this discussion on EWTN’s “The. World Over”, but you have brought some new points to light! Scripture is pretty clear to me on this one, and Cardinal Mueller clarified that as well…and now he’s had to step down. Ambiguity leads to confusion about sin…that separates us from the love of God. Satan weaves a clever web…and many prefer to step into it rather than follow God’s will. Ultimately, this will lead to emptiness and sorrow (as one speaking from experience). The only solution seems to be prayer for our Holy Father, and for those being led astray.

  17. Steve Paolucci says:

    For the average Catholic who happens to be paying attention, the silence, ambiguity and refusal to address an obviously valid concern as presented in this document is dumbfounding… True leadership is not silent in the face of confusion and discent. Please be a shepherd and lead us! Thank you padre Regis for stating the obvious.

  18. Joan Bloyd says:

    Thank you!! Fr. Regis, for trying to explain this mess that is going on with the cardinals and Pope Francis. Please continue informing us.

  19. Guy McClung says:

    Confused layman asks Our Lord:
    Jesus, You’ve Got Some Explaining To Do
    1. Hell Not Forever?
    2. Adultery-Sin; Adultery-Virtue?
    3. Go And Sin On More ?
    4. Divine Mercy Nullifies Human Free Will ?
    Guy McClung
    Catholic Stand 17 Aug 2017
    http://www.catholicstand.com/jesus-got-splaining/

  20. Tom McGuire says:

    Pope Francis has the same problem as Jesus had with the doctors of the law. Absolutes stated in law do not meet the human needs of people. When Jesus prevented the stoning of the woman caught in adultry (we do not know what happened to her after that event), when he allowed for his disciples to take grain from the field of others ( Was that stealing?), when he met with the Samaritan woman at the well (we do not know who she lived with after that event) and so many other situations, the doctors of the law objected. So not surprising the doctors of the law object to Francis today.

    What do we expect from marriage today? The reflections of the priest at weddings do not often reflect the reality of real life of married couples. Little is done to down play the unrealistic romantic notions of what it will really be like after the first child is born. Little is said about the expectation of equality of men and women. And God forgive the celebrate priest for not understanding the reality of sexual relations.

    • What Jesus did is give sinners the opportunity to repent. He wanted to save them, and us, convert our hearts. We don’t know what happened to them after Jesus entered their lives, but Jesus never gave consent to sin. He always finished with a “go and sin no more”.

      And Bergoglio never says that. He says “oh poor poor adulterous, so uncomprehended, you can be with Jesus and continue in a sinful situation.” That’s not what Jesus said. Jesus condemned adultery. Do you think married life in the time of Jesus was easier?

  21. Anita Clare Timmons OSF says:

    I agree with Father Regis that we cannot interpret the Commandments as we wish them to be, but as God directed Moses to write them. The Commandments were given to Israel to protect them both spiritually and physically and they continue today to form a strong conscience in His children. Pope Francis as our Roman Bishop, in succession to St. Peter needs to address the concerns his children have with this document. The Church has always taken a firm stand against individuals partaking of the Eucharist when they are married outside of the Church. Marry within the Church, and return to her in the correct manner. There is much truth in the old adage that anything worth having is worth working for. Bless you, Fr. Regis, for you faithfulness to the Catholic truths and to your devotion to help us to understand what can sometimes be confusing documents for the laity.

  22. Orazio Natale Giunta says:

    If I had time (comments by Bishop Barron on Amoris Lætitia): “The Flawed Strategy of MISINTERPRETING Amoris Lætitia” (and the Lord’s Mercy)

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-5ruTwxiLqs#

    • We know now for sure not to look to this bishop Barron for true Church
      teachings. Best to stay with tried and true wiser theologians like
      Fr. Regis ScanlanOFMcap. Choices have to made for the good of the
      deposit of Faith. Two men with opposite views. My money is on Regis.

  23. Foot note 329 is far more sinister than even the infamous foot note 351 which, while speaking about helping the divorced and invalidly married, says “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments.” This could mean that they could receive the Sacrament of Penance and decide not to engage in further sexual relations. The problem is that it could also mean continuing to have sex . So, it is ambiguous.

    But foot note 329 clearly uses deception to indicate a way for couples to continue having sex while going to the sacraments. This more directly leads a couple into adultery. It is more explicit and unambiguous. And, therefore, it is more spiritually deadly. This will sink Amoris Laetitia. It is clearly corrupted and “poisoned.” Thanks Fr. Regis for showing this to us.

  24. Jill Guese says:

    Thank you for caring enough about the salvation of souls to shed some light on this Important and critical issue. Keep being a voice for Christ in this modern world.
    Jill G.

  25. Beautiful article Fr. Regis. Thank you for making it clear to me what is actually happening in this chapter. I Agree, the footnote is basically giving room for unmarried or divorced Catholics to receive communion and continue their sinful acts because “it can harm the family and children” is wrong to say. Therefore possibly promoting contraceptive within those relationships. I do believe however that Pope Francis is being the best Francis he can be, not to say you aren’t, but I think Our Holy Father supports and encourages the pastoral aspect of providing support to these couples and families by discerning the situations, giving them the community that they need and not making them feel abandoned because of their situations, just like JPII did AND has stated in the FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO para 84. I also believe that the Ambiguity is obviously there for a reason, one we don’t quite understand lol. But I think Jesus was Ambiguous in his human life, one, because if He was absolutely clear on some things he would be killed probably sooner then later and two, maybe to allow room for healthy interpretation of his Word and the things he preached. Even the disciples asked themselves [what He meant]…Over all great article on what’s happening in our world, my take away is that we should provide the support these couples need and encourage them to understand better the sacraments that they haven’t received or wish to receive, that they can seek to do the good that they [we] were created to do.

  26. bill bannon says:

    Thank you, Fr. Scanlon. But if the NY Times was correct, a spinoff issue is active gays receivng Communion in the Newark Archdiocese in a Mass for LGBT people held this Summer under a Francis-appointed Bishop Tobin, and in line perhaps with the same erroneous impossible ideal concept…or the concept of a “good faith erroneous conscience.” A California diocese did the same thing. There is such a thing as a sincere but erroneous conscience, but the Church has no place in helping such people to receive the Eucharist while they are doing objectively forbidden acts. How does the Church being One, and the Church being indefectible suffer from these goings on?

  27. Dianne M. says:

    I think the point of Fr. Scanlon’s article is not as much about this doctrine on adultery and mercy which is known to all Women caught in adultery (Jn. 8:1-11) but rather about the graveley dishonest “strategy” the Pope (or his staff member) used trying to get his point accepted by the people of God. In footnote 329 the Pope clearly lied — deceived–or tricked– the faithful into thinking it is O.K. to sometimes commit adultery. In fact by the example of this reprehensible pretense in footnote 329 the Pope is implying that it is also O.K. to lie which may even be worse than adultery (which is a type of lie).
    If you missed this sinister maneuver by the Pope, read footnote 329 very carefully for you missed the main point. Fr. Scanlon’s article which is that: NO MATTER WHAT YOUR THEOLOGICAL CONCLUSION (LIBERAL OR CONSERVATIVE) EVERYONE (ESP. THE POPE) SHOULD AGREE THAT IT IS NEVER JUSTIFIABLE TO DECEIVE OR TRICK THE FAITHFUL WHO TRUST YOU IN THE GRAVE MATTER OF ADULTERY.
    Or do you think it is O.K. to lie?

  28. Is it probable that most bishops are not aware of the insidious maneuver that is made by the author(s) regarding Familiaris Consortio and Gaudium et Spes ? Perhaps the Pope does not even know about ft. nt. 329. If the bishops know this why are they not speaking up? If they do not know this why are they bishops? Every Catholic should visit with their pastor and bishop and plead that this insidious maneuver be brought out in the open for all to see. This is the modern world everyone has internet and can communicate. Catholics are too educated today to not see and do something about this deception

  29. Does it matter if Pope Francis wrote the footnotes, or even any of AL, now that the first anniversary is almost here? He most certainly is aware of the controversy and he signed the document. Is it still legitimate for him to blame someone else for even one word of it, or for him to remain silent?

  30. What is now beyond dispute and what ought to be very concerning for the Church is that no one can no longer doubt how Pope Francis wants Ch. 8. of his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia interpreted.
    ***
    Cf. https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/es/letters/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20160905_regione-pastorale-buenos-aires.html

  31. Carole Conley says:

    Great job Fr. Regis! I have felt this way from the beginning of this controversial article
    Thanks so much for posting this!
    Blessings Carole

  32. I feel that all the attacks on Pope Francis’ “strategy” overlooked his intent — opening our church to sinners — that include all of us. Didn’t Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors? Didn’t he drink water at the well with the Samaritan women who had several husbands? Didn’t he rebuke the Pharisees for tying up heavy burdens hard to cary and laying them on people’s shoulders, but not lifting a finger to help them?

    • bill bannon says:

      No actually….Christ was open to one sinner on the cross and gave him a plenary indulgence. Christ was totally silent to the other thief and promised him nothing….because the bad thief did not come up with the goods…remorse. Christ rebuked nine very poor lepers who did not thank him for his curing them….like the one leper out of ten who thanked him. He told the woman at the well ( who He accompanied nowhere) that she was not with her real husband and that she had been with too many men in general. Christ affirmed a death penalty in Mark 7:10….read it slowly and you’ll see….this Pope has called such an intrinsic evil. Liberalism has a deceptive resemblance to some traits of Christ while it avoids his courage to rebuke the sinner…and it avoids the severity of God which you can see in Jerusalem 70AD…foretold by Christ…600,000 to 1.1 million killed.

  33. Carl Kuss, L.C. says:

    What Cardinal Coccopalmario, Buenos Aires and Malta say (following AL) is not that that divorced and remarried people may continue living in a stable state of life more uxorio and receiving the sacraments. What they “permit” is something punctual in special circumstances. “Permit” however is not quite the right word. It is not about giving or not giving permisssions. To think only in terms of permissions is to think in rigorist/legalist terms. What they are doing is simply observance of the true sense of the Sixth Commandment; that it should not be thought of as forbidding something which it does not forbid, that it does not necessarily apply to the case in question: that there must be discernment. What is in question here is the meaning of the Sixth Commandment, not the creation (or negation) of a positive law which undermines/specifies the Sixth Commandment. There is an illuminating analogy with the Just War Doctrine which tells us that there can be punctually a case for self-defense. It doesn’t tell us at that war, in general is just. War is a scourge and an evil. That the invasions of Anzio and Normandy were justifiable doesn’t mean that the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justifiable. Similarly that someone temporarily has no good option but to live “more uxorio” (but not as a stable state ad infinitum, and so not, in that sense, more uxorio ) but who has shown an authentic desire and will for repentance with regard to adultery (and thus is not interiorly an adulterer and the interior is what counts) but is on the path of repentance from that sin) cannot be excluded from the sacraments as an adulterer. Similarly he who exercizes legitimate self-defense is (interiorly) a peace-maker and not a belligerent..

  34. One can argue over whether the divorced and invalidly remarried can receive the sacraments without living as brother and sister. But one cannot logically or morally appeal to Amoris Laetitia to justify this moral position because Amoris Laetitia is a seriously “flawed” document which had to resort to using a “strategy” on its people. Jesus did not use a “strategy” on his people. He was straight forward. Amoris Laetitia deceived the people into thinking that it might be moral to receive Holy Communion while still practicing adultery. This is a type of lying to the people of God and, therefore, disqualifies it as a morally legitimate Church document. Consequently, the moral position of the Church on this matter is the same as it was before Amoris Laetitia was promulgated. Couples practicing adultery cannot receive the sacraments. And no amount of fancy moral gymnastics confusing the subjective with the objective orders of reality will change the Church’s application of pastoral theology on marriage.

  35. One of the commenters (Carl Kuss, L. C.) seems to defend the maneuver in footnote 329 of Amoris Latitia by saying that the Pope (or his writers) were merely drawing an analogy between the effects on the couple and their children from the abstinence required to receive Holy Communion in an invalid marriage by living as a brother and sister (Familiaris Consorto, 84) and the effects on a couple and their children from the abstinence required to space children in the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony (Gaudium et Spes, 51).
    But the difference between an action in the Sacrament of Matrimony and an act of Adultery is more than superficial or accidental. It is fundamental and substantial. It is like saying that one can draw an analogy between light and darkness or good and evil. But this can never be. St. Paul says: “what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). There is no basis or fundamental similarity for a real analogy because they are not acts which depict the same moral and ethical “situation” as the authors deceptively try to claim. There is only a physical similarity

  36. Anna Marie says:

    Reader Carl Kuss is avoiding the point of Fr Scanlon’s article. The fact is, an act of deception took place in footnote 329, and the phrase, “in such situations” is a deceptive phrase. As the article and other readers like Attalus point out, there is an intrinsic difference between matrimony and adultery. Kuss, and others who also defend AL, avoids the point that Amoris Laetitia relies for its “teaching” on the deception that the earlier, solid document, Gaudeum et Spes, somehow is saying marriage and adultery are equal “situations.” But Gaudium et Spes does not say that! It is referring to Holy Matrimony — NOT relationships formed outside of valid marriage. However, in many talks I’ve had with fellow Catholics since AL’s release, it’s clear that readers of Amoris Laetitia (especially lay people, like young married couples) who have never read Gaudium et Spes would have good reason to think from footnote 329 that Gaudium et Spes is also talking about adultery. That’s because Amoris Laetitia leaves the deceptive impression that the author of footnote 329 is just citing a case where the Church has already approved of couples in invalid marriages to have sex in order to protect their relationship and the emotional life of their children. To not clearly differentiate between valid marriages and adultery, and to lump Gaudium et Spes into that category, is smearing an excellent document (Gaudeum et Spes) with a lie, and it deceives people by failing to tell the whole truth.

  37. Francis Etheredge says:

    Fr. Regis Scanlon’s article raises an important point about the possibility of “ambiguity” in a papal document; and, while it considers the “human dimension” of this ambiguity, there is the following question. What if God, who allowed the suffering of Joseph in view of the good he had planned to bring about (cf. Gn 50: 20), has allowed this ambiguity in view of a good it expresses? Just as God did not move Joseph’s brothers to harm him, yet He drew a great good out of it for His people, so God did not “engineer” an ambiguity in a Church document but yet intends it to be a great good. In other words, if we believe that the Spirit of God is at work in the Church, is there a good that exceeds the human reasons of an ambiguous expression in Church teaching? Could it be, in a sense, like Christ challenging us with an unfamiliar use of language in order, as it were, to scrutinise our attitudes and reactions the better to purge it of an unhelpful perfectionism?
    It is true, then, that the grace of God brings about the fulfilment of the law of love; but, in so doing, perhaps God needs to bring about a greater good of helping us to respond to the sinner He is seeking to save. Perhaps the problem to be faced is not so much the fear of transgressing a moral norm, real though this is, as that people who are living through this transgression need us to have a wisdom that exceeds observing the problem of “their” transgression. In other words, it is not so much that people are “objectively” at fault, as that they need help to recognise the discrepancy between their “subjective” understanding of what they are doing and an objectivity, not just of the moral law in general, but of their real situation. When Christ says to the woman caught in adultery, “go; and sin no more”, it is clear that He has both objectively expressed the truth about adultery and the freedom that that the woman needs from sin (Jn 8: 3-11).
    Perhaps, then, what the Spirit of Truth seeks from us is not so much a grasp of the unchangeable law, as that we need to see the blindness of the blind in order to help them; and, in order to see the blindness of the blind, we need to see the blind spot in our own vision. The blind spot, then, is the whole situation in which, in this day and age, people “wake up” to find themselves, for a whole variety of reasons, in complex situations which exceed their power to resolve. The truth, then, that sets people free (cf. Jn 8: 32) comes with a powerful gentleness (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2-3) that needs, in its human exponents, all the subtlety of understanding and help that grace makes possible. There can never be a truth that contradicts truth – but there can be a lovelessness which contradicts the loving expression of the truth: ‘ St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie’ (6) (Homily of St. John Paul II for the Canonization of Edith Stein, Sunday, 11 October, 1998).

  38. Bernard M Collins says:

    Is it unreasonable to presume that our Pope during his entire priestly life has been giving advice in the confessional and in private that is consistent with the vagueness of AL? If that is so, how can he possibly change his position as Pope? He would be in an an extremely conflicted position. As a result, we are in an incredibly divided position as a supposedly unified “People of God”. Lincoln NE vs Chicago IL, Newark NJ vs Etc. In one long and sloppy Letter the Pope has deliberately tried to draw the entire Church into the Modernist world of error. Somehow, the Holy Spirit will have to straighten out what might be, for all we know, hundreds of Bishops who refused to accept Humanae Vitae and are ambiguous not only about divorce, but perhaps even abortion –

  39. No person is above Jesus’ words. If there was a specific case in which such a couple could receive communion, it could be done discretely with local church authorities. But here’s a document allowing/opening doors to something Jesus and St Paul rejected publicly, adultery is grave matter, enough to be among the top 10 thou must nots. Such a document poses a threat, leads to misunderstandings as we have already seen, and puts many couples in danger.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Source: The Flawed Strategy Behind Amoris Laetitia […]

  2. […] On one side, we have the interpretation of a high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Francisco Coccopalmerio. In his recent book, published by the Vatican, Cardinal Coccopalmerio appeals to Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia as his reference for endorsing the idea that invalidly married Catholics may, in some cases, receive Communion, and continue their full marital/sexual relationship. The only condition that’s necessary, according to the Cardinal, is that these couples “wish to change this situation, but cannot realize their desire.” The cardinal, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, represents what is described as “the top Vatican body for the interpretation of canon law.” According to the cardinal, the referenced material in Chapter 8 is in complete accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church.1 […]

  3. […] a new article in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Capuchin Father Regis Scanlon accused the authors […]

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