Amoris Laetitia: A Deceptive Joy

Amoris Laetitia A Deceptive Joy

Pope Francis Blessing Newly Married Couples

The recent publication of Pope Francis’ document on the family and married life, Amoris Laetitia (“Joy of Love”) has caused consternation, confusion, and deep anguish among Catholics. They wonder: Are the Church’s timeless teachings on marriage being overturned? Is the Pope saying that formerly illicit marriages are now okay? The ambiguities and apparent contradictions in the document have raised more questions than they have answered, which is certainly an odd and puzzling result for such an eagerly awaited papal document.1

While there are certainly valuable directives for the family and married couples in Amoris Laetitia, a careful reading of the Exhortation suggests that a number of statements in Amoris Laetitia contradict St. John Paul II’s moral decisions on marriage which are based on solid Church doctrine.2

For Catholics in all walks of life, this confusion is painful, and may even challenge their faith. It is especially relevant for Catholics who find themselves in the agonizing situation of having been married “outside the Church,” and persons who are struggling, in courage and loneliness, to remain faithful to their Catholic marriage vows (that is, not to remarry) even though their spouses have left them.

How did Amoris Laetitia create such confusion about marriage? I believe the answer to that question is in the footnotes. Whoever added footnotes, and prepared the final document for publication, inserted two completely separate papal documents for reference. In doing so, they altered and/or conflated their meanings to make it appear that the Church was opening the door to permitting invalidly married couples who are “living as brothers and sisters” to express certain acts of marital intimacy (as distinct from brotherly and sisterly intimacy). This would appear to be the first step to allowing all invalidly married couples to receive the sacraments.

Let’s be clear: The Church’s message is not to “bar the door” to persons who are living in the pain and loneliness of an invalid marriage. What a terrible thing that must be, to be aware of the pull of their conscience to “make things right,” but to know that it cannot be done at this time. One of the most terrible side effects of Amoris Laetitia is that its ambiguities make it impossible to know for certain what the right thing is!

Who created these ambiguities and confusions in this 200-plus page document? Surely not the Pope. This torturously long document has had many fingerprints on it. It is reasonable to assume that the confusion was added by the final preparers, whether they were prominent cardinals, or activist bishops, or theologians, or editors. It is not clear which individuals were among the contributors.

In any case, while we may not know who inserted this deceptive conclusion, we know where it is located. It was created by conflating these two documents: John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (“On the Family in the Modern World”), written in 1981, and a 1965 document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, (“On the Church in the Modern World”).

In his 1981 document, John Paul II is clear and unambiguous when he writes that couples living in invalid marriages, who want to receive the sacraments, must live in “complete continence” (i.e., abstain from all sexual relations). Here’s what he wrote in no. 84 of Familiaris Consortio on the subject of invalidly married couples who want to receive the sacraments: “when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples. ‘” This means that they must live together as a brother and a sister.

Curiously, however, when John Paul II’s statement is quoted in Amoris Laetitia, the last part— and the key part!—of his statement is dropped: that the couple must live together in “perfect continence” if they want to receive the sacraments.

Note that John Paul II’s teaching, when quoted in full, speaks directly to those invalidly married couples who are willing to “live as brother and sister” in order to receive sacraments. These couples need the encouragement and support of the Church in their difficult journey, and John Paul II gave it to them by clearly and unambiguously stating the true teachings of the Church regarding marriage.

However, by dropping John Paul II’s key and final phrase, “in perfect continence,” the preparers of Amoris Laetitia left these couples in a state of horrible confusion and abandonment by the Church. They could well ask, “So is the Church saying now it’s okay to have a loving marital relationship (i.e., intimate and sexual), even though we’re not married in the Church?”

That’s why the omission of John Paul II’s complete statement is so serious and deceptive. But it gets worse.

The preparers of Amoris Laetitia muddy the waters even further by introducing no. 51 of the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. They want readers to believe that the Second Vatican Council said that “perfect continence” is harmful to invalid marriages. But this is absolutely untrue! Put in its proper context, no. 51 is talking about the problems facing validly married Catholics when they abstain from sexual relations for the sake of spacing children. Paragraph no. 51 is discussing the fact that “perfect continence” may be harmful to a marriage because it eliminates “certain expressions of intimacy” of married life: “But where the intimacy of married life is broken, it often happens that faithfulness is imperiled, and the good of the children suffers.”

Again, the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes, is talking about valid Catholic marriages. To link this with what John Paul II said about invalid marriages, is outrageous. If it were done deliberately, it is a deeply disturbing example of the grave dissension that is presently at work deep within the Church. If it were inadvertent, it is of course equally serious.

Thus, Amoris Laetitia deceives people, and leads them to believe that the current Pope Francis approves of invalidly married couples continuing to share “certain expressions of intimacy” of married life while receiving the sacraments so as not to endanger faithfulness, and the good of children. This is, in effect, permitting all invalidly married Catholics to receive the sacraments.

In order to fully appreciate this erroneous juxtaposition of documents, one must examine par. 298 and footnote 329 of Amoris Laetitia in their context:

298. The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self-giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity, and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.”(footnote 329) (My emphasis.)

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).

So, this editorial “sleight of hand” all began when the preparers of Amoris Laetitia diminished John Paul II’s teaching which required “perfect continence” for all invalidly married couples wanting to receive the sacraments. You could even surmise that they tried to “bury” John Paul II’s teaching by shifting it from the text proper (in par. 298) to a mere footnote 329 in Amoris Laetitia.

It is critical to note that in footnote 329, the preface of this disapproval of “living as brother and sister” starts out by saying: “In such situations…” The use of this phrase says something important: the likely interpretation is that the writer(s) are aware of the differences between John Paul II’s teaching, and Gaudium et Spes—but they have deliberately chosen to link them together.

The misleading phrase “in such situations” seems so deliberate, that it is easy to conclude that a great “sleight of hand” deception went into preparing this document. Whether it was deliberate or not, the result is that many Catholics are confused about whether Amoris Laetitia can be trusted.

We must be honest with the divorced and invalidly remarried couples who are trying to live in “perfect continence” so they can receive the sacraments. They deserve to know the truth about sharing romance or “certain actions of intimacy” connected to married life. Simply put: this is adultery.

While in the short term, this lack of honesty may appear to be “merciful” to adulterers, in the long-run it will only create more chaos—not only in the family—but in the entire Church. For the ultimate goal of Amoris Laetitia appears to be doing away with Canon 915, and the refusal of communion to “those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” The preparers want “open communion” to all, regardless of their spiritual condition. This appears to be the ultimate goal, if the ambiguities of this document are allowed to stand.

This cannot be so. Someone who is divorced and invalidly remarried in a “second union” must be told the truth. These are not valid sacramental marriages. However, now, perhaps encouraged by the false reasoning in Amoris Laetitia, many people will feel justified to stay in their second union, and still express marital intimacy, while receiving the sacraments, or believe they can begin such a relationship without benefit of the Catholic sacrament of marriage.

Some will undoubtedly respond: “But what about God’s Mercy?” The answer is this: true Mercy and true Justice are never in conflict, which means that all authentic happy relationships are based on the Truth. It is deceptive and dishonest to try to lead people to believe that they can begin or continue the intimacies of marriage, when they are divorced and not validly remarried.

The preparers of Amoris Laetitia seem to have forgotten a fundamental teaching of Christianity found in St. Paul’s Gal. 6: 14: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” We must never forget that without the cross, you do not have true Christianity. The “Joy of Love” is not the “joy of the flesh” but rather “the joy of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What is so very troubling is that a document, professed to be a help for suffering, invalidly married couples, does just the opposite. Instead of helping them to find their way back to living according to the sixth commandment in a second union, Amoris Laetitia leads them not to a recovery of their chastity, but to a reaffirmation of their adultery. This is done stealthily, concealed in a footnote.

I do not believe that Pope Francis would write such a deceptive and immoral footnote. Pope Francis himself seemed to indicate, in paragraph 3 of Amoris Laetitia, that he did not intend to exercise his magisterial authority over any new faith and moral opinions that he expressed in Amoris Laetitia. It is beginning to look more and more like Amoris Laetitia is the work of persons with a politically inspired agenda. The hope and prayer of so many faithful Catholics around the world is that Pope Francis will take another look at this deceptive document. Please, Holy Father, pull it back, and have it rewritten, but this time put it in the hands of persons who will prepare it with honesty and accuracy.

  1.  E. Christian Brugger, “Five Serious Problems with Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia,” The Catholic World Report, April 22, 2016.
  2.  Anian Christoph Wimmer, “Full text; Interview with Robert Spaemann on Amoris Laetitia,” CNA Stuttgart Germany, April 29, 2016.
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?"


  1. Avatar Dave Jamieson says:

    This pope brings confusion and division to every subject and mercy to all except the most faithful of his flock whom he seems to hold in contempt. I pray for this very flawed man to receive the graces necessary to become a good shepherd. After the pontificates of two towering intellects and holy men, we now have Francis – may God have mercy on all of us.

    • Avatar Denis jackson says:

      Dear David Jamieson
      Many good Christians who have made the radical paradigm shift that Pope Francis seems to have made are fully supportive of his teachings as the successor of St Peter. He is bringing Gods love and mercy to a Church that in many ways has lost its way in rigid dogmatism . We are all flawed and broken , but in my view, Francis is showing the way to a more God-centred church.

      • Avatar Dave Jamieson says:

        Paradigm shift? By that do you mean teaching false mercy? To say that Francis is showing the way to a more “God centered church” is to imply that the past popes did not. God will preserve the Church even from weak and very flawed shepherds such as Francis

  2. Avatar bill bannon says:

    In normal life, the person who signs the document is totally responsible for the document in its entirety including footnotes. Apparently not with us.
    I fear Fr. Scanlon is doing what we always do…blame someone lower than the Pope….in this case the “preparers” of the document. Father has a paradigm…a model…apparently in which Popes are all the same and all are saying the same thing. It’s a myth. Pope Leo X in 1520 condemned Luther’s condemnation of burning heretics in Exsurge Domine. St. John Paul II called “coercion of spirit” an intrinsic evil in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth”…and he apologized for the Inquisition deaths. In 1455, Pope Nicholas V repeated his permission from “Dum Diversas” in “Romanus Pontifex” ( mid 4th large par.) for Portugal to perpetually enslave new natives who resisted the gospel. In 1537 Pope Paul III explicitly corrected it to its opposite. The hermeneutic of continuity in the ordinary magisterium is only true sometimes between Popes but we keep pretending its true all the time. Because intensive historical reading by Catholcs is rare, the myth continues….but this Pope is oddly helping to destroy the myth. Two weeks ago he admitted that refugees from Islamic countries can be dangerous in some cases. Yesterday he told children in Italy they are not a danger. Tell that to the hundreds of German women who were molested on New Years Eve in Cologne. If Fr. Scanlon is going to try to cover for this Pope constantly, he has got a lot of acrobatics to perform going forward.

  3. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. says:

    Congratulations to Fr. Regis for this honest and timely critique of a very flawed and confusing papal document! He is being very charitable in postulating that somebody else (perhaps Pope Francis’ ‘ghost-writer’ Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez?) added the footnotes without the Holy Father’s knowledge. In any case, it is worth recalling that we have a magisterial precedent for regarding the significant omissions from ‘Familiaris Consortio’ as being enough to render the document unorthodox, even without it spelling out any unambiguously heterodox proposition. When in 1896 Pope Leo XIII declared null and void all priestly ordinations carried out with the Anglican ordinal, this was not because the ordinal spelled out a heretical definition of the priesthood. Rather, it was because Cranmer and his cohorts had systematically removed from the Catholic ordinal every text that taught or implied the Catholic doctrine that the priest is one who is empowered to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Likewise, Amoris Laetitia systematically removes from FC 84, and other documents it cites, every trace of the Church’s insistence that only if they live as ‘brother and sister’ may civilly remarried divorcees receive Holy Communion. Indeed, AL goes further than mere omission: as Fr. Regis points out, it criticizes that kind of commitment to continence in footnote 329, with a deceptive quotation from Vatican II.

    • Thank you Father Harrison for always standing for the Truth. We need your voice and those as well who know and proclaim the tenets of the Catholic Faith . Father Regis has truly written a superb article that I hope will be spread far and wide. May God bless you both.
      Elizabeth S. Forshaw

    • Excellent comment Father Harrison! God bless you and yours and his work at your hands.

  4. Avatar Harvey B. says:

    While the pope may not be blamed for the original confusion (as this article notes, the trouble spots may have been added by other writers/editors), we are left to wonder why the pope hasn’t come out and issued a correction!
    Obviously Pope Francis knows about the aftermath, so he should tell his flock that those footnotes are not correct — otherwise we can only surmise that he agrees with what his underlings added.

  5. Avatar Deacon Steve Minninger says:

    Many thanks, Fr. Scanlon!
    May the Spirit of Truth prevail!

    God bless you and protect you!

    In Christ
    Deacon Steve

  6. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    As a sinful, married man, with family experience of divorced and remarried members of my family, I found the “Joy of Love” a remarkable encouraging document. The day it was published, I read the whole document, excluding the footnotes. I suspect most common folk did not read the footnotes, so little danger of confusion.

    In my view Francis, Bishop of Rome, is moving the Catholic Church from a exaggerated legalistic morality to the way of Jesus in the Gospels. That is a way for those of us who are sinners to find the way to God’s mercy.

    Today, Zenit quoted the homily of Francis’, Bishop of Rome, which points to one of the great barriers to the mercy of God.

    “The Pope used this passage to reflect on the threefold theme of the dynamic unity in Christian life, the signs of which are memory, prophecy, and hope.

    Stressing that those who killed in today’s reading were without these three elements, the Pope lamented that the leaders of the people, in particular, were interested in erecting a wall of laws, a “closed juridical system,” and nothing else.

    “Memory is no concern…This is the system through which they legitimate: the lawyers, theologians who always go the way of casuistry and do not allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit; they do not recognize God’s gift, the gift of the Spirit; and they cage the Spirit, because they do not allow prophecy in hope.”

    The Pontiff pointed out how Jesus criticized this religious system, which was marked by corruption, worldliness and concupiscence.”

    Is there a danger of putting emphasis on an academic question of the use of footnotes? In my experience, most people use the footnotes to emphasize their arguments and avoid anything that woulds distract from their argument for a particular position. Is there not a greater need to find ways to in vote people and point the way to the open doors of God’s mercy?

  7. Avatar David Kehoe says:

    Many commentators, including the faithful orthodox, refer to the possibility of the illicitly divorced and so-called re-‘married’ living as ‘brother and sister’ as a way for them to take Communion after confessing the adulterous part of their relationship. However, living as ‘brother and sister’ does not solve the problem as the couple still have the objective mortal sin of having divorced in the first place, many for no good reason, especially the one of ‘I was not happy’. Many know it is not licit and thus are also in subjective mortal sin. Continuing to live in the invalid relationship – it is not a ‘marriage’ – is still mortally sinful as at least one of the couple has not reconciled with their unjustly abandoned spouse. Consequently they cannot receive Communion after attempted Confession as they have not returned to the spouse they have abandoned. This is, of course, a horror as they will live for years, if not till death, in a state of mortal sin.
    The only way those who have divorced and re-‘married’ to escape this sin is to return to their real spouse, or leave the second so-called ‘marriage’ and live as many widows or widowers with children do. Yes, the children of any second relationship will be hurt, but so were the children of the real marriage. Yes, the second breakup is also a horror, for which the second pairing is responsible.
    Yet any children of the second pairing need a witness to the truth of the first marriage, no matter the shock of the revelation – and God will give them the grace to survive just as the children of the real marriage have grace offered to them to survive the personal devastation imposed on them when one parent abandoned the other. And in case any reader thinks this commentator is a heartless ignoramus on this matter then I refer them to the fact that I continue to experience unjust abandonment and the horrors of divorce and its effect on my children.

  8. Avatar RW Cross says:

    Our default position should be to give the benefit of the doubt to Pope Francis when assigning blame for the confusion of AL. However, our default position becomes less tenable if Francis never issues a correction (as noted by Harvey B. above.) Also, our default position is less tenable if we find that Bishop Bergoglio had never taken exception to a statement of his principal advisor, Victor Manuel “Tucho” Fernández, who was hand-picked by Francis as a writer for AL, and who for years has suggested that second married Catholics should be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Further, our default position becomes completely untenable if we find that Bishop Bergoglio in Argentina encouraged—directly or indirectly— that the second-married receive Holy Communion. Look to Argentina, and we will know if our default position should be sustained.

  9. Avatar ANGEL HUGO says:

    The author studies only the doctrine of Familiaris Consortio, but not the Amoris Laetitia’s philosophy and theology. He says that Amoris Laetitia “caused consternation, confusion and deep anguish”, “is ambiguity”, “deceptive and dishonest”, “permits adultery”, in some note “is deceptive ad immoral”, and he asks to the Pope: ”pull it back and have it rewritten, but this time put it in the hands of persons who will prepare it with honesty and accuracy” (nothing els…!). I think that papal document has many philosophical, theological and juridical principles, and into those we must go deeply. In a few words: 1) Mercy is part of justice. If God would not be merciful with the man, He would not be just, since we are badly “inclined”, as a consequence of the original sin. 2) According with the Jews and Christians conception, the law (lex) is part of the right (di-rectum, from di-rigere), and the just (jus) is a result of applying the law in a concrete case, but consulting his spirit (spiritus, i.e. his purpose, the persons to whom is destined, the time, the places the circumstances, etc.); on the contrary, the solution will not be just (littera enim occidit, spiritus autem vivificat. 2. Cor.,3,6). 3) Amoris Laetitia does not change the law of marriage’s indissolubility; it only has to do with especial situations that have to be studied by the shepherds, to whom we may require especial knowledge of doctrine and the facts, for arriving at one just and equitable solution (jus est ars boni et aequi). 4) The Pope Francis’ document requires to behaving properly with a documented, clear and shapely conscience; always, remoto scandalo, without thinking that one individual solution could be a universal rule. And last, but not least, I think that the gospel is a unity. We can’t interpret one sentence separated from the totality of his message. According with it, we can judge the signs of the times (Mat. 16,4) and not to be one of them who tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them (Mat. 23,4). It’s not the time of rewriting the Amoris Laetitia (the joy of loving), it’s of renewing in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4,23).

    • Avatar Tom McGuire says:

      Thank you Angel Hugo. You said much of what was on my mind but with much greater precision than I.

    • Avatar David P says:

      1. God does not teach us to accept sin, arguing for “gray areas” is false mercy outside of justice. Marriage is completely indissoluble or it is not. True or not true.
      2. This argument is simply asking the faithful to accept relativism. Relativism is the only renewal of mind being put forth here. There are no special situations in Marriage that allow adultery.
      3. St. John Paul’s FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO is not referenced. There is also the issue of modernism in that we do not build on the wisdom given by the Holy Ghost over the ages in Holy Church, but we just make something that we like now that is not based on doctrine but the same “spirit of” spin that conforms to a worldly agenda.

    • Avatar Tom O'Neil says:

      God shows mercy to those who repent of their sins. The problem here is If a person does not repent of their sins God cannot show them mercy. Because impenitence, if persisted in, is a permanent rejection of God.

      Catechism of the Catholic Church: #1847 “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.”116 To receive his mercy, we must admit our faults. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”117

      • Avatar David Pringle says:

        Thank you for the good posting Tom with the teaching of Holy Church on willful persistence in sin. Based on Fr. Scanlon’s article and the discussion here is the article “The tears of Jesus over Amoris Laetitia” posted on from Prof. Josef Seifert correct?

        A summary of Prof Seifert’s article:
        Conversion or Not? The famous Austrian born philosopher Josef Seifert, a friend of John Paul II, wrote on an article entitled “The tears of Jesus over Amoris Laetitia”. In it he notices that Jesus tells the adulteress not to sin anymore. But- quote, “His successor Francis, citing the Synod, says to the adulteress, although if she will continue to sin gravely, she should not feel excommunicated nor is it necessary that she converts from her sin of adultery.”

        15 Times: Seifert points out that Christ in all his mercy warns us 15 times explicitly that there is a danger of eternal condemnation if we remain in grave sin. Seifert continues: “His successor tells as that – quote – “nobody can be condemned for ever because this is not the logic of the Gospel.”

        Grace Without Conversion? Seifert points out that Saint Paul says in Corinthians (1 Cor 6,9) that no unrepentant adulterer enters the kingdom of God but will be condemned forever. Then he adds: “Pope Francis says to the adulterers that it is possible for them to live in the grace of God and, through the Holy Eucharist, to grow in grace, also without conversion.”

        Omission: Seifert points out that Francis does not once mention the danger for those who receive Holy Communion unworthily, although Saint Paul warns of this in 1 Cor 11.

        Let Us Cry: Seifert concludes: “How can Jesus and His Most Holy Mother read and compare these words of the Pope with those of Jesus and his Church without crying? Let us therefore cry with Jesus, with deep respect and affection for the Pope, and with profound grief that arises from the obligation to criticize his mistakes!”

      • Avatar David Pringle says:
      • In reply to David Pringle’s post: I cannot personally check Prof. Seifert’s article (in Italian), but I am very troubled by the allegation of false teaching in the Pope’s quoted sentence: “Nobody can be condemned for ever because this is not the logic of the Gospel.” (AL #297) Yes, taken out of context the sentence is startling and false. However, in context, it is not. Granted, the Pope ought not write in such a way as to allow – or even worse invite – or worse still encourage “sound bites” to be pulled out of his writings and used against him and against the Church.

        I urge readers to download the encyclical from the Vatican website, read it, or at least read #297, and see that Pope Francis is being misrepresented in this attack. Yes he is imprecise and unclear. I am sorry. But the Pope is making the point that everyone in sin – not only the divorced and remarried, but everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves, ought to find the possibility of God’s help and saving grace in the parishes of the Catholic Church. They ought not be excluded from the community, or feel “condemned forever” and locked out of any possible path to redemption.

        There ought to be ways they can interact with the people of God, and somehow find God’s way of return to Him! They ought not feel “condemned for ever,” or be “condemned for ever” within the local parish or diocese. That is “not the logic of the Gospel,” as the Pope wrote. Read the context! I cannot see how Prof Seifert could actually conclude that the Pope intended to write of eternal condemnation in LA#297, in writing “”Nobody can be condemned for ever because this is not the logic of the Gospel.” That interpretation does not fit the context.

      • Avatar Tom O'Neil says:

        A number of things need to be reiterated here:
        (DS here refers to Denziger -Schonmetzer Enchiridion Symbolorum)

        -Matrimony is a sacrament instituted by Christ. (Council of Trent DS 1801)
        -A christian is forbidden by divine law to have several wives at the same time. (Counsel of Trent DS 1804)
        -The marriage bond cannot be broken by adultery. (Council of Trent DS 1807)
        -The Church has the power to grant a separation of husband and wife, i.e. permission to live apart, but not to contract a new marriage while both parties are still living. (Council of Trent DS 1808)

        Marriage is indissoluble or unbreakable by the contracting parties themselves or by any merely human power. And for one spouse or the other to seek to form a union with a new person is for them to commit adultery which is a mortal sin. (Matt 19:3-9)

        The state has no power to dissolve the marriage bond. After a separation of husband and wife, the parties may apply to a civil court, and go through a form of so called divorce, but merely to secure the protection or aid of the civil law in regard to property, maintenance and the custody of the children. However a separated or divorced person is morally bound to avoid dating or company keeping that would be a temptation to seek entrance into a new, invalid union. Such conduct is a source of both temptation and scandal. A separated or divorce spouse who remains faithful is a very important witness to Christ and christian marriage.

        On an existing marriage as an impediment to Matrimony The catechism of the catholic law states Number 1650: Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ – “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery”158 The Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.

        The Church cannot change this. A decree of nullity can be granted stating that what appeared to be a valid marriage actually wasn’t and the parties involved would be free to marry again. But as long as the second union exits while a valid marriage exists the person may not receive communion and is in an objective state of mortal sin. They must repent of their sin and must refrain from sexual intimacies with the new partner.

        This is why so many people are troubled by the footnote 329 of Amoris Laetitia because it appears to say that if the couple subjectively thinks that the faithfulness of one or the other may be called into question that they can have sexual intimacies. At at paragraph 298 it says: those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”. And the footnote implies they may continue to have sexual intimacies. Moral theology states you can never act on a doubtful conscience but Francis seems to imply that personal subjective feelings in conscience about the possible invalidity of the previous marriage can allow current sexual intimacies to continue.

        If the previous marriage was invalid or dissolved, this must be established in law before a new marriage can take place. It is not enough to be personally convinced that one’s previous marriage was invalid.. The so called “internal forum solution”, by-passing the process of ascertaining nullity, is not accepted by the church and is not allowed as a reason for the resumption of receiving communion.


        (Apologetics and catholic doctrine-Sheehan-Chapter 18 marriage)

  10. Good for you Fr. Regis,
    Let’s find out what’s really going on here
    with this mess of a document.
    Clearly the enemies of Pope Francis
    in the Vatican have little respect for him,
    to pull a stunt like this – reminiscent of the
    Pharisees with Christ.
    Good Pope Benedict warned
    us of the
    out to get him.

  11. Avatar Sir George Michael says:

    It is rather clear, to even a beginning student of Christianity, that the Christian Religion has always taught that no sexual activity is licit without the Sacrament of Matrimony–always between one man and one woman, as Christ clearly teaches in the Gospels. Even the Church of England–in spite of its schism from the Catholic Church, and subsequent theological problems–has in its Litany a mention of ‘fornication, and all other deadly sin’ as things from which we must beg God’s deliverance. An invalid Marriage is not a Marriage. And, it is for the Church to determine whether a Sacrament is valid, or invalid. And, clearly, every Christian is duty-bound to avoid all sexual immorality. If not, he had best head ‘back to the Confession Box’ in double quick time!

  12. Avatar Attalus says:

    People can argue for or against allowing the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion. But I believe Fr. Scanlon’s main point is that the “process” was corrupt. In other words the Vatican lied to the people of God (dealing from the bottom of the deck) to convince them that it will be O.K. for divorced and remarried couples to continue having a Romantic relationship and receive Holy Communion. I have never heard of a papal document that tried to deceive the people in any matter, let alone chastity and purity. This deceitful action infects the entire document especially no. 8. It must be tossed out or it will be condemned by the next Pope.

    • Avatar Richard says:

      Attlus—-yes, my sentiments exactly. Once more, it appears to have been collusion between those who did the text and those who did the footnotes in Chapter 8, par. 298 and footnote 329 to pull off this deception. This says that the entire document , especially Chapter 8, is affected by this fraud. The big question in my mind is: Why have no bishops commented on this? Why have they not warned the people of God about this unethical move by the Vatican? Where are those who are supposed to defend the faith and morals of the people?

  13. Avatar Tom O'Neil says:

    If anybody has the money and wherewithal to get a Copy of “Apologetics and Catholic doctrine by Archbishop Sheehan” published by Baronius press, into the hands of Pope Francis please do so. I remember a quote of Pope Francis in an article in which he supposedly said he was weak on doctrine or doctrine wasn’t his strong suit; clearly he needs this book so He can distinguish the clear teaching of the Church from the false and deceptive teachings of men.

  14. Avatar Bob Greene says:

    The dynamics of the sacred are unity, order, and understanding. The dynamics of the profane are division, chaos, and confusion. Does this document bring understanding or confusion?

  15. Avatar Carl Kuss, L.C. says:

    The use of Gaudium et Spes and Familiaris Consortio together does not imply error, or sloppiness. The Holy Father (I still dare to call the author of a document signed by the Holy Father a document of the Holy Father) is not saying that his conclusion follows (directly) from either of the cited sources. He clearly is taking a further step, and a daring one, but not an unorthodox one. He is not saying that Gaudium et spes is speaking of the divorced and remarried (anyone can read it and will find that it is not: intelligentibus pauca); he is saying that there is an analogy and relation between what Gaudium et spes says and the conclusion he will make. Pope Francis is not saying that sometimes adultery is good and necessary. He speaks of some expressions of intimacy (which are not in conflict with the couple in question consisting of persons knowing and accepting the possibility of living as brother and sister). He does not spell anything more out. Father Scanlon assumes that expressions of intimacy has to be read as sexual acts constituting adultery. But Pope Francis is responsible for what he writes, not for what Father Scanlon assumes his words mean. The fundamental difference here is that Pope Francis fully takes into account the principle of conscience, whereas Father Scanlon has not disentangled his thought from the presupposition that the Church should be a sort of police force enforcing what they deem to be Christian morality (read sexual morality) . For me the critics of Pope Francis (among whom I include Father Scanlon) are doing a faulty hermeneutics of John Paul II. What John Paul II has to say about the divorced and remarried is pastoral in spirit. It is turned into a rigorism. Pope Francis does a magnificent job of unmasking this rigorist interpretation. The dust he has raised shows the great service he has done to the Church.

    • Avatar Dave Jamieson says:

      Pope Francis is responsible for what he writes which is precisely the point: he invites confusion and alternative interpretations. Either he is very sloppy or he is incrementally advancing his personal agenda in a not so veiled way.

      • Avatar Carl Kuss, L.C. says:

        The rigorist in the confessional (he who uses it as a torture chamber, to use the very strong but very precise expression of Pope Francis) is the one who abuses a Sacrament to advance a personal agenda in a veiled and dishonest way. The Pope by insisting that the pastor imitating the Good Shepherd does not behave in such a way is defending the teaching of the Good Shepherd.

      • Avatar Carl Kuss, L.C. says:

        It does not “invite confusion”; it shows respect for people who have taken a brave and honest step in a difficult situation. It respects their intimacy. (Once again these are the divorced and remarried who have come to know and accept the possibility of living together as brother and sister.)

  16. Thank you Fr. Scanlon! God bless you and yours and his Work at your hands.

  17. Avatar Brian Robertson says:

    The Synod Bishops are remaining very quiet and I wonder why. .Perhaps they and your many corres[pondents are struggling with Pope Francis’s drift from law and doctrine to love and mercy. Not just a paradigm shift but a seismic one; difficult for those who spent years swotting Canon Law to accept.

    • Avatar Dave Jamieson says:

      The supporters of this pope have a common theme: push the false dichotomy between law/doctrine and love/mercy. This is sheer nonsense and is most contemptible. So, yes, we struggle greatly with a pope who seems inexplicably determined to substitute law and doctrine based on love and mercy with law and doctrine based on false mercy.

  18. “Who created these ambiguities and confusions in this 200-plus page document? Surely not the Pope. This torturously long document has had many fingerprints on it. It is reasonable to assume that the confusion was added by the final preparers, whether they were prominent cardinals, or activist bishops, or theologians, or editors. It is not clear which individuals were among the contributors.”
    It is Pope Francis’ signature on the exhortation. It is his exhortation. He bears the full responsibility for it. Anything in the exhortation that is there that you say perhaps he did not intend it to be there, there is nothing stopping the pope from correcting it.


  1. […] stuff is often found (Cf. Regis Scanlon, OFM Cap, “Amoris Laetitia: A Deceptive Joy,”  I’ll be saying more about the exhortation in the comings days and […]