Amoris Laetitia

Discussion in 'General discussion' started by David, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. David

    David Well-Known Member

    There is so much false commentary going around with regard to Pope Francis' encyclical on joy, marriage, and the family, Amoris Laetitiae, that I just feel I have to include in full, here on this forum, a new, excellent response to all the criticisms. The actual encyclical can be downloaded HERE

    Amoris Laetitia: Where Truth and Mercy Embrace
    An editorial on apostolic exhortation

    Pubblicato il 22/01/2017

    It cannot be denied that Pope Francis leaves each one of us uncomfortable; for some it is a feeling that the barque of Peter is now sailing off course, tossed about by modernism and the lures of the world. For others, it is a feeling deep within that he presents a form of evangelical Christianity that upsets the monotony and routine that has become rooted even within the good willed hearts of many of the faithful. It is uncomfortable to be confronted by a Pope who constantly pierces the conscience, and sweeps away the dust that has settled quietly over time, dirtying our baptismal garments. For Pope Francis, the Church often acts like a tired and lethargic woman; a mother who has nurtured her children but now looks back nostalgically to better days. In his view, the Church must arise from her slumber and show once more it is a Mother ever young, able to come to the aid of her children in the trials and complexities of life that confront them in this post-Christian age.

    Sometimes, Popes are called to show great courage in their love of the Church, acting in ways that may not be fully understood or appreciated at the time, but are nevertheless guided by the Holy Spirit. I propose to show this is exactly what our present Holy Father has done in the case of Amoris Laetitia and the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried.

    A Rupture from Tradition?
    It seems important to me to address this question at the outset because without answers to it, we leave an open goal to those who oppose vigorously the present magisterium. In a July 2016 interview between Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Cardinal Schornborn concerning this issue, the cardinal referred to a question he asked Cardinal Ratzinger in 1994 concerning the use of the internal forum for discerning the possibility of the divorced and remarried receiving the sacraments: "Is it possible that the old praxis that was taken for granted, and that I knew before the [Second Vatican] Council, is still valid?” The then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith replied that there is no general norm that can cover all the particular cases. The general norm is very clear; and it is equally clear that it cannot cover all the cases exhaustively (note 1).

    In reality, this practice had already been approved by a previous head of the CDF, Cardinal Franjo Seper, who on April 11, 1973 issued a letter concerning the indissolubility of marriage. In closing the document he wrote: “Regarding the administration of the Sacraments, local Ordinaries should strive, on one hand, to encourage the observance of the discipline in force in the Church, and on the other hand, to act so that pastors of souls show particular solicitude toward those who live in an irregular union, seeking to resolve these cases through the use of the approved practices of the Church in the internal forum, as well as other just means.” (note 2) Two years later on March 25, 1975, the Secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Jerome Hamer, upon a request for clarification, stated that the divorced and remarried could be admitted to the Sacraments if: “they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal.” (note 3)

    These facts should actually come as no surprise because the internal forum has been used very carefully in previous generations in discerning the culpability of guilt in sexual matters. For instance in the Diocese of Padua in the first half of the twentieth century, the pastoral guidelines given to priests were based on the theory of “good faith" taught by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. Thus in confession, when a penitent was suspected of committing contraceptive sin but appeared unaware of the gravity of that sin, and in practice incapable of correcting his behavior, it was best to remain silent and take his good faith into account, absolving him without posing any further questions. This pastoral application was even given from the highest levels of the Church, as we discover in the 1917 Code of Canon Law: “The priest who hears confessions should be very careful not to pose curious and useless questions, especially concerning the sixth commandment, to anyone with whom he deals, and particularly not to ask younger persons about things of which they are unaware” (Canon 888).

    Although a more rigorist position for confessors began to be taken during the reign of Pius XI in the aftermath of the encyclical Casti Connubii, we find perhaps surprisingly, a softer pastoral approach during the pontificate of St. John Paul II. A document entitled “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life” dated 12 February 1997, and issued by Cardinal Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family states:

    The principle according to which it is preferable to let penitents remain in good faith in cases of error due to subjectively invincible ignorance, is certainly to be considered always valid, even in matters of conjugal chastity. And this applies whenever it is foreseen that the penitent, although oriented towards living within the bounds of a life of faith, would not be prepared to change his own conduct, but rather would begin formally to sin.

    Furthermore the document states:

    Sacramental absolution is not to be denied to those who, repentant after having gravely sinned against conjugal chastity, demonstrate the desire to strive to abstain from sinning again, notwithstanding relapses. In accordance with the approved doctrine and practice followed by the holy Doctors and confessors with regard to habitual penitents, the confessor is to avoid demonstrating lack of trust either in the grace of God or in the dispositions of the penitent, by exacting humanly impossible absolute guarantees of an irreproachable future conduct.” (note 4)

    The Question of Conscience, Grave Matter and Mortal Sin
    Without doubt, the question that troubles the critics of Pope Francis the most concerns the subject of conscience. It is at the heart of the “four cardinals’ dubia” and most certainly requires analysis. The crux of the issue is: has Pope Francis given the green light to people in adulterous relationships to utilise their own “creative interpretation of the role of conscience”? A careful reading of Amoris Laetitia certainly rejects this assertion: “Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor” (no.303).
    The entire issue of conscience is complex because many factors can influence decision making-even for those who consider themselves “good” Catholics. On the one hand is the natural law engraved upon the heart which demands obedience to the commandments of God, and on the other, especially in relation to chastity, the urge of concupiscence as a terrible fruit of Adam’s Sin. This has been made all the worse because of the perverse generation in which we live. What were perhaps very clear moral choices even just fifty years ago may no longer appear so, such is the devastation of a sexualized world. What Pope Francis has done is bring to the fore the truth of subjective culpability. This makes some nervous; as if somehow the sin is more important than the sinner, and that any leniency in judgment betrays God’s law.
    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke of conscience before a gathering of bishops in Dallas, Texas in 1991. He talked of two levels: anamnesis – the memory of goodness and truth within our being, and conscientia – judgment and decisions then formulated. He states clearly that conscience is always binding-even if it is erroneous:

    On this level, the level of judgment (conscientia in the narrower sense), it can be said that even the erroneous conscience binds… But the fact that the conviction a person has come to certainly binds in the moment of acting, does not signify a canonization of subjectivity. It is never wrong to follow the convictions one has arrived at — in fact, one must do so. But it can very well be wrong to have come to such askew convictions in the first place, by having stifled the protest of the anamnesis of being. The guilt lies then in a different place, much deeper… in the neglect of my being which made me deaf to the internal promptings of truth. (note 5)

    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
  2. David

    David Well-Known Member


    Of course, for the guilt to lie not in the decision to act, but in the formulation of one’s moral and spiritual character, opens up many possibilities as to how and why the person arrived at the judgment they did, and because of that, the necessity for the pastor to discern exactly how much guilt a person has. The Church is well aware of this fact; even if many traditionalists especially, would rather focus just on the objective grave matter. The late former Theologian of the Papal Household, Cardinal Georges Cottier expressed it forcefully when he stated: “In rigorism there is an innate brutality that goes against the gentle way God has of guiding each person.” (note 6) Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed this point in a letter concerning the pastoral care of homosexual persons from 1986:

    It has been argued that the homosexual orientation in certain cases is not the result of deliberate choice; and so the homosexual person would then have no choice but to behave in a homosexual fashion. Lacking freedom, such a person, even if engaged in homosexual activity, would not be culpable. Here, the Church's wise moral tradition is necessary since it warns against generalizations in judging individual cases. In fact, circumstances may exist, or may have existed in the past, which would reduce or remove the culpability of the individual in a given instance; or other circumstances may increase it. (note 7)

    Hopefully we see now why the rigorist position of judgment is fraught with such danger, as Sacred Scripture reminds us: “Man looks at appearances but God looks at the heart.” (Sam 16:7).This takes us to the central issue: are all these souls involved in the sin of adultery guilty of mortal sin? The answer is quite obviously no. For a sin to be mortal, not only does it have to consist of grave matter, but full knowledge and full consent must be given. Undoubtedly some will fall easily into the terrible category of mortal sin; but others certainly will not. St. John Paul II said as much on 24 January 1997:

    Dear brothers and sisters, my heartfelt recommendation today is to have confidence in all those who are living in such tragic and painful situations. We must not cease “to hope against all hope” (Rom 4:18) that even those who are living in a situation that does not conform to the Lord’s will may obtain salvation from God, if they are able to persevere in prayer, penance and true love. (note 8)

    Pope Francis follows exactly this understanding of the great Polish Pontiff in Amoris Laetitia: “The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule” (no. 301).

    Pope Benedict XVI also shared this continuity of theological approach, in fact going further by stating on June 2, 2012: “I am convinced that their suffering [those in adulterous relationships], if truly accepted from within, is a gift to the Church. They need to know this, to realize that this is their way of serving the Church, that they are in the heart of the Church.” (note 9) Perhaps those critics of Pope Francis would do well to ponder exactly why Pope Benedict XVI could ever suggest their suffering is a “gift”. Certainly if they are all in mortal sin, they are spiritually dead: Charity is dead. So we need to realize that theologically speaking, the magisterium of successive popes are in agreement-as traditional moral theology has always taught - sin of objective grave matter is one thing, the personal freedom to transform that into mortal sin is quite another. We should not be afraid to speak that truth. Justice demands that penitents know that, especially if they are struggling in one way or another, and even if that involves a situation where they remain sexually active in a new relationship. I am reminded of a wonderful phrase of St. Jose Maria Escriva: “As long as there is struggle, ascetical struggle, there is interior life.” (note 10)

    Doctrinal error or legitimate alteration of pastoral practice?
    In a way, we have just answered the question of doctrine previously. Did Pope Francis promote a heretical or erroneous stance concerning reception of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried persons? The answer is no because he has not changed in the slightest the teaching on mortal sin; he makes clear that those flaunting their objective state, as if they were promoting the irregular situation as a “blessed” alternative to the indissolubility of marriage are placing themselves in the dangerous position of separating themselves from the community (cf. AL no.297). In fact it can be seen that actually the Holy Father, far from weakening the teaching on conscience actually does the opposite by continually referring to the need for formation and discernment of conscience with the pastor. Sadly there are those who view this with suspicion, as if priests are waiting in the confessional, eager to dismiss the awakening of conscience to the natural law. I do not deny that there may be abuses, but that should not stop truth, justice and mercy being applied to those who love Jesus and desire to serve him in spite of a very serious situation.

    It should be noted at this point that Cardinal Burke has not accused Pope Francis of heresy, and he hasn’t because there is none; as Cardinal Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has stated recently “I do not see any opposition: On one side we have the clear doctrine on matrimony, and on the other the obligation of the church to care for these people in difficulty.” (note 11) So if doctrine has not been tampered with, we are left with one possible alternative: that Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, with the power to bind and loose (cf. Matt 18:18) has made an adjustment to pastoral practice of which he has authority to do. In fact, we have seen popes do this in the past; John Paul II felt the need to change the practice accepted in the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI (cf. the letter of Cardinal Seper) by banning Holy Communion for those in irregular relationships in virtually all situations; while further back, in other areas of sacramental discipline, plenty of changes had occurred: for instance the way the sacrament of confession had been administered, or the changes to the age of reception of the Blessed Sacrament (St. Pius X), and within marriage, the old law banning a godparent from marrying their godson or goddaughter which is no longer in force. The point is Pope Francis is perfectly within his right to make this change. It is not heresy and it is not an error. In fact Cardinal Ratzinger showed exactly the same nuanced approach in his book interview Salt of the Earth. He was asked: “Is discussion of this question [possible reception of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried] still open, or is it settled once and for all? The Cardinal replied: “The principles have been decided, but factual questions, individual questions, are of course always possible.” (note 12) Thus for one of the great theologians of our time; one chosen to be a future great yet humble Pope, the issue was not black and white, just as it isn’t for Pope Francis.

    The complexities of real situations
    If there is one major criticism of those who oppose the Holy Father –and this includes some priests and bishops unfortunately - it is an apparent lack of interest in trying to understand the situations of real people. It probably explains why the practice of discernment is so widely ridiculed. To get to the heart of these situations is to open oneself to the possibility that maybe there is more to the story than a legal answer will allow. Personally, I have a suspicion this is why the devotion to the Divine Mercy in the form presented by the Lord to St. Faustina seems to be frowned upon among many traditionalists-certainly in English speaking countries. The justice of God is easier to accept - we have the rules, if we fail we know the consequences; in essence, safety from the awful anger of almighty God. But of course, that is not the way to form a deep friendship with Jesus. Mercy on the other hand implies a God who desires to reach out and lift up; to not ask many questions, rather just see the joy of reconciliation.

    St. Therese of Lisieux understood this more than most. On one occasion, while debating theological matters with another much older Carmelite, Sister Fabronie of the Holy Infancy – who had taken issue with the notion that God’s justice could be lessened with his divine mercy - the Little Flower replied: “You want God’s justice? You will get God’s justice. The soul receives exactly what it expects from God”. A few weeks later, Sr Fabronie died in a flu epidemic and appeared to St. Therese in a dream saying: “If I had believed you I would have gone straight to heaven.” (note 13) The saint was also known to say God has two infirmities: he is blind and cannot add up!

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
  3. David

    David Well-Known Member


    The complexities of these irregular situations were pondered greatly by Pope Benedict XVI before and after his election; in fact he admitted he thought some marriages were invalid; just as Pope Francis has said: “I invited various Bishops’ Conferences and experts to study this problem: a sacrament celebrated without faith. Whether, in fact, a moment of invalidity could be discovered here because the Sacrament was found to be lacking a fundamental dimension, I do not dare to say. I personally thought so, but from the discussions we had I realized that it is a highly-complex problem and ought to be studied further.” (note 14) In one of his last speeches as Pope, he explained in detail this problem:

    The indissoluble pact between a man and a woman does not, for the purposes of the sacrament, require of those engaged to be married, their personal faith; what it does require, as a necessary minimal condition, is the intention to do what the Church does… As the International Theological Commission observed in a Document of 1977: ‘Where there is no trace of faith (in the sense of the term ‘belief’ — being disposed to believe), and no desire for grace or salvation is found, then a real doubt arises as to whether there is the above-mentioned and truly sacramental intention and whether in fact the contracted marriage is validly contracted or not’” (La dottrina cattolica sul sacramento del matrimonio [Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage] [1977], 2.3: Documenti 1969-2004, Vol. 13, Bologna 2006, p. 145).

    This leads us to accept that there will be cases of people who left these marriages at some stage, then found faith and a new spouse. They may not be able to prove canonically (although hopefully Mitis Iudex will help) that the previous marriage was invalid, but in their subjective conscience they are convinced it was. As we have seen, and as the Catechism teaches, decisions of the conscience are binding, so are we to leave these souls deprived of the precious wonder of the Lord’s sacramental presence?

    That would not be truth and justice at work even if the law suggests it is. God is greater than the law and is able to see the entire truth of a situation that the general law cannot. This would be one scenario in which a couple continue to live in a sexual relationship while also able to participate fully in the sacramental life in the Church.

    At this point, I would like to address points raised by the distinguished American canonist Ed Peters, who had expressed dismay at the pastoral applications contained in Amoris Laetitia. Dr Peters has written: “In administering holy Communion to a member of the faithful, Roman Catholic ministers are bound not by ‘guidelines’ supposedly fashioned from a single, ambiguous, and highly controverted papal document, but instead by the plain and dispositive text of another papal document, one called the Code of Canon Law, and by the common and constant interpretation accorded such norms over many centuries.” (note 15)

    Dr Peters of course here places his own subjective stance on the merit (or lack of) of the magisterial document of Pope Francis in a way that is designed to dismiss the possibility of theological nuance in the face of canon law. I would draw his attention to a warning from St. John Paul II concerning this attitude: “A more dangerous reductionism is that which claims to interpret and apply the laws of the Church in a manner that is detached from the teaching of the Magisterium [that includes Pope Francis]. According to this view, only formal legislative acts and not doctrinal pronouncements would have disciplinary value.” (note 16) Also on another occasion the Pope said

    Among these particularities is the pastoral character of law and of the exercise of justice in the Church. In fact, the pastoral character of canon law is the key to the correct understanding of canonical equity, that attitude of mind and spirit which tempers the rigor of the law in order to foster a higher good. In the Church, equity is an expression of charity in the truth, aiming at a higher justice which coincides with the supernatural good of the individual and of the community. (note 17)

    I would humbly suggest to Dr Peters that throwing the law book at all these situations as if pastoral application is not possible is not the way of Jesus. In the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery, we know Jesus addressed the Pharisees first. He didn’t dismiss the Law of Moses at all; he simply invited whoever was without sin to throw the first stone. (In fact we could say that he applied a “new” canon to that law with that question). As the Pharisees left the scene one by one, only one was left; the Lawgiver himself-that is a law of love and mercy. Jesus himself was now the only one who had a right (with his new pastoral application!) to stone her to death. But of course he didn’t because the law would have condemned her immediately, and possibly to eternal damnation if no repentance had been shown and no other mitigating factors had rendered her less guilty. No, Jesus wasn’t interested in that outcome, he didn’t even ask if she was sorry; and if she was not repentant, he being God, knew that also. Still the fact remains he ignored the rule and penalty of the law in order for a higher good to possibly come about. He told her to go and sin no more because that was fundamentally more important for her soul than the correct application of the law which would have ended any chance of spiritual ascent.

    In my opinion it is dangerous for a canonist to be rebuking a pope and especially his magisterial teaching, and warning priests what they can and cannot do in the internal forum. I accept that canon 915 may need adjusting if the Holy Father sees fit, but what is essential for a canonist and confessor to realize is that:

    a) A priest who discerns and guides a penitent can discern the situation and amount of subjective guilt, thus they are aware if mortal sin is present or not.
    b) The issue of obstinate persistence would fall under the category of those who are perfectly happy in their new relationship with a carefree conscience, content to be in error. Pope Francis is certainly not talking of these people, as he made clear in AL 297
    c) If the priest feels the “manifest” nature of the relationship is likely to cause scandal, he could suggest the person receive Holy Communion in another parish. ​

    I firmly believe that canon 915 and 916 can be respected by priest and penitent even if Holy Communion is received by those in certain irregular relationships. I emphasize we are not talking of those in a state of mortal sin but those who either have a clear conscience (guided by the confessor) that their first marriage never existed, or those who know the situation is not right, yet love the Lord and the Church and desire to grow in a continual conversion. For some, with the grace of God it may well lead to the ending of the second relationship, or a possible ending of the sexual element of it; for others in particularly difficult circumstances with children, or a spouse who doesn’t share the same faith and penitential attitude, we must leave the judging to the Lord Jesus trusting that his divine mercy will prevail in the manner he sees fit.

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
  4. David

    David Well-Known Member


    The dubia and final conclusions

    At the conclusion of this essay, I would like to answer the questions put by the four cardinals in the way in which I firmly believe Amoris Laetitia answers them. I do this not because I think the Holy Father should, but because it seems clear to me that the answers are there for those who truly want to see them. I should also point out that dubia do not necessarily have to have only yes/no answers; several dubia presented to the Pontifical Biblical Commission from the early twentieth century have clarifications alongside the yes/no answers:

    1) It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (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, 84, and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in Note 351 (305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio? Yes, but again, only in certain cases.

    2) After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 79, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions? Yes.

    3) After Amoris Laetitia (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 (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)? Yes, but as the Catechism teaches, guilt can be significantly lessened, thus mortal sin is not present. “Man judges appearances, God judges the Heart.”

    4) After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (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, 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”? Yes

    5) After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 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? Yes

    It is clear from the evidence of traditional moral theology that Pope Francis is not guilty of any heresy or error. As I said at the beginning, he has shown great courage in taking the steps he has in order to bring truth, justice and mercy to all Catholics in whatever situation they find themselves. In no way has he abandoned any doctrine on marriage, confession, the Holy Eucharist or mortal sin. No Catholic has the right to place themselves above the supreme authority of the Pope whether that is John Paul II, Benedict XVI or Francis; the way of the saints is the way of unity and obedience to the Pope. Humility is the key to accepting what may be for some a genuine difficulty in understanding Amoris Laetitia, or indeed the entire charism of Pope Francis. We live in apocalyptic times, that cannot be denied, but it was precisely for these times that Jesus reinforced the teaching of divine mercy. It is therefore no surprise the Holy Spirit has given us a Pope with this charism shining brightly.

    As I conclude, I am reminded that we are in the one hundredth anniversary of the Fatima apparitions. Blessed Jacinta Marto had a vision of a Pope on his knees in a house while people threw stones and cursed him (note 18). I would ask us all to look within our own consciences and to consider whether in some way we are part of that vision. Jesus demands that we as Catholics love, respect and obey our pope; therefore, it seems apt to quote from the traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli who in 2012 urged its readers to do this very thing while quoting these words from Pope St. Pius X:
    Therefore, when we love the Pope, there are no discussions regarding what he orders or demands, or up to what point obedience must go, and in what things he is to be obeyed; when we love the Pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough, almost as if he were forced to repeat to the ear of each one the will clearly expressed so many times not only in person, but with letters and other public documents; we do not place his orders in doubt, adding the facile pretext of those unwilling to obey - that it is not the Pope who commands, but those who surround him; we do not limit the field in which he might and must exercise his authority; we do not set above the authority of the Pope that of other persons, however learned, who dissent from the Pope, who, even though learned, are not holy, because whoever is holy cannot dissent from the Pope. (note 19)

    Note 1 -
    Note 2 - Letter regarding the indissolubility of marriage, 11 April, 1973
    Note 3 -
    Note 4 - Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life , 12 February, 1997,
    Note 5 -
    Note 6 -
    Note 7 - Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral care of Homosexual Persons, 1 October 1986,
    Note 8 - John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Council for the Family, 24 January, 1997,
    Note 9 - Pope Benedict XVI, Address at the Evening of Witness, World Meeting of Families, 2 June 2012,
    Note 10 - St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Way of the Cross, (London, Scepter, 1995,) 39
    Note 11 -
    Note 12 - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, (San Francisco, Ignatius, 1997), 207
    Note 13 - Sister Marie of the Angels, Annales de Sainte Therese de Lisieux, February 1983
    Note 14 - Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Clergy of Aosta Diocese, 25 July, 2005,
    Note 15 -
    Note 16 - Pope John Paul II, Address to the Participants in the day of study on the theme “Twenty Years of Canonical Experience”, 24 January, 2003,
    Note 17 - Pope John Paul II, Ad limina address to Bishops from Wyoming and Colorado, 17 October, 1998,
    Note 18 - Sr Lucia of Fatima, Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, Fatima, Secretariado Dos Pastorinhos , 2007), 128
    Note 19 - Pope St. Pius X, Allocution Vi ringrazio to priests on the 50th anniversary of the Apostolic Union,
  5. David

    David Well-Known Member

  6. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Vatican's top legal aide says divorced-and-remarried may receive Communion


    By Elise Harris

    Vatican City, Feb 14, 2017 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The head of the Vatican office charged with interpreting Church law has said that divorced-and-remarried persons who want to change their situation but cannot, may be admitted to Communion without living in continence.

    “The Church could admit to Penance and to the Eucharist faithful who find themselves in an illegitimate union when two essential conditions occur: they want to change the situation, but they are unable to fulfill their desire,” Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, 78, wrote in his booklet Chapter Eight of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhoration Amoris laetitia, published last week.

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio is president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. His booklet, published by the Vatican Publishing House and presented Feb. 14 at a Vatican press confence, offers his own interpretation of Amoris laetitia. He said it is aimed at “grasping the rich doctrinal and pastoral message” of Pope Francis' 2016 apostolic exhortation.

    Part of the reason for writing it, he said, is because the exhortation's eighth chapter has “been judged with either negativity or with a certain reservation.”

    In the text, Cardinal Coccopalmerio extensively quotes Amoris laetitia, saying Chapter 8 illustrates both the clear doctrine of the Church on marriage, as well as the conditions in which, due to “serious” repercussions, couples living in irregular unions might be able to receive Communion.

    He reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and stressed that the Church must in no way “renounce to proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its greatness.”

    “Any form of relativism, or an excessive respect in the moment of proposing it, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also a lack of love of the Church,” he said.

    However, he noted that, as said in Amoris laetitia, there are many complex factors contributing to why marriages fail and irregular unions are so common, such as abandonment by a spouse, cultural stigmas, or other “mitigating factors.”

    The cardinal pointed to paragraph 301 of Amoris laetitia, which reads: “it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”

    By referring to “any irregular situation,” the exhortation, in his opinion, “intends to refer to all those who are married only civilly or only living in a de facto union or are bound by a previous canonical marriage,” the cardinal said.

    Further quoting that paragraph, the cardinal said, “a subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding ‘its inherent values,’ or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin … factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision.”

    Offering an example of a situation in which a person might be fully aware of the irregularity of their situation yet faces great difficulty in changing it for fear of falling into greater sin, Cardinal Coccopalmerio pointed to couples in a new union who can’t separate due to “serious reasons” such as the education of their children.

    He also used the example of a woman cohabiting with a man and his three children, after they had been abandoned by his first wife.

    In the book, the cardinal said the woman had saved the man “from a state of deep despair, probably from the temptation of suicide.” The couple had been together for 10 years, adding another child to the mix, with the woman making considerable sacrifices to help raise the other three.

    While the woman in the hypothetical situation “is fully aware of being in an irregular situation” and would “honestly like to change her life, but evidently, she can't,” the cardinal said, explaining that if she left, “the man would turn back to the previous situation and the children would be left without a mother.”

    To leave, then, would mean the woman would fail to carry out her duties toward innocent people, namely, the children. Because of this, Cardinal Coccopalmerio said, “it's then evident that she couldn’t leave without new sin” occurring.

    Speaking on the point of continence, the cardinal pointed to St. John Paul II’s 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.

    In the document, St. John Paul II taught that the divorced-and-remarried who for serious reasons cannot satisfy the obligation to separate may receive absolution which would open the way to Communion only if they take on the duty to live in complete continence – to live as brother and sister.

    However, for Cardinal Coccopalmerio, while the couples who are able to do this should, for others the temptation of infidelity increases the longer a couple refrains from sexual intimacy, potentially causing greater harm to the children.

    He referred to footnote 329 of Amoris laetitia. The footnote is a reference to the quoting of St. John Paul II's words in Familiaris consortio acknowledging that some of the divorced-and-remarried cannot, for serious reasons, separate. The footnote applies the words of Gaudium et spes that “where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined” – in its context, speaking about married couples – to “the divorced who have entered a new union.”

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio stressed that while for him the desire to change one’s situation despite the inability to do so is enough to receive Communion, the conditions must be “carefully and authoritatively discerned” on the part of ecclesial authority, which would typically be the couple’s parish priest, who knows the couple “more directly” and can therefore offer adequate guidance.

    For the cardinal, the only instance in which a couple in an irregular situation could be barred from Communion is when, “knowing they are in grave sin and being able to change, they have no sincere desire” to do so.

    He also suggested that a diocesan office charged with advising on difficult marital situations could be “necessary, or at least useful.”

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio was absent from his book presentation, and it was presented instead by Orazio La Rocca; Fr. Maurizio Gronchi; Fr. Giuseppe Costa, SDB; and Alfonso Cuateruccio.

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio is the latest prelate to speak out on the question of Amoris laetitia and admission to Communion for the divorced-and-remarried. The exhortation has been met with a varied reception and intepretation within the Church.
  7. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Coccopalmerio says there’s no doctrinal confusion over ‘Amoris’
    Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts

    Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who heads a Vatican office for the interpretation of Church law, says that as far as he's concerned, there's no legal confusion about the meaning of Pope Francis's document 'Amoris Laetitia' and its implications for access to Communion.

    ROME- Since the release of Amoris Laetitia, bishops and cardinals around the world have offered their own guidelines and interpretations of Chapter Eight, which deals with what the Catholic Church calls “irregular” situations, particularly divorced and civilly remarried believers who want to access the sacraments of Confession and Communion.

    One of the latest voices to join the ongoing debate is Italian Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, head of a Vatican office that interprets Church law, who released a short book, in Italian only, called The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Amoris Laetitia’.

    Speaking to Crux on February 17, Coccopalmerio, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 as President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the book was his idea, written last July and abandoned in a desk drawer until recently, when he decided to publish it because he thought “it could be useful as a reflection.”

    “Many speak about this argument, in favor or against [Communion for the divorced and remarried], and I thought it could be useful for common reflection,” he said.

    According to Coccopalmerio, the summary of the doctrine and pastoral praxis when it comes to Amoris Laetitia is the following: “A member of the faithful finds herself [or himself] in a non-legitimate situation, and the first marriage is valid and indissoluble. Yet the person is conscious of the wrongness of the situation, has the desire to change it but can’t because it would hurt innocent people, such as the children. It’s my belief that this situation, with these elements, allows access to the sacraments.”

    The presence of those elements has to be confirmed by a Church authority, he said, meaning a priest, “who knows well the life of these people.” Consulting with the local bishop, he added, is desirable, even if not strictly necessary, because the two should dialogue and have a “common solution.”

    Asked if this interpretation applies also to gay couples who live together, some civilly married too, Coccopalmerio said that it’s “clearly” not the same situation because for Church teaching and doctrine, “it’s not a natural condition. We can accept them, welcome them, accept their decision, but it’s not [the same].”

    Regarding the many interpretations Amoris has generated, the cardinal said that there’s no doctrinal confusion in the apostolic exhortation. If anything, the document is “too long,” which makes it hard for people to “want to read it.”

    The eight chapter, Coccopalmerio continued, has created “some confusion” because it includes many elements. “If you want to have every element present in the text, it necessarily becomes, I wouldn’t say confusing, but at least not so simple, not so clear.”

    With his 51-page long book, the cardinal wanted to offer “a simplification.”

    “Some people have spoken about doctrinal confusion, but no,” he insisted. “If we can speak of confusion, it’s due to the abundance of issues present.”

    Despite the fact that American Cardinal Raymond Burke, who like Coccopalmerio is an expert in Church law, is among those who have said Amoris is confusing and has threatened to “formally correct” the pope if he didn’t answer a set of yes or no questions he and three other cardinals presented, Coccopalmerio doesn’t believe there’s widespread confusion among Church law experts.

    “Cardinal [Lluís] Martínez Sistach has the same conclusions that I do. It’s a spiritual, psychological matter, a desire for more clarity. It’s not in the doctrine … it’s hard to explain. It’s a matter of a person’s structure, not scientific, legal preparation,” he said.

    Spaniard Martínez Sistach is the archbishop emeritus of Barcelona, Spain. He too has a short book on the papal document, How to Apply Amoris Laetitia, available in Spanish and Catalan.

    In his book, the Spaniard wrote that discernment in the cases of divorced and civilly remarried couples must consider aspects of the previous marriage and the new union.

    According to Martínez Sistach “if at some point, the interested, in conscience and before God,” finds that there is some circumstance that makes subjective imputability not applicable to the objective situation of sin, one can access the sacraments.

    Coccopalmerio and Martínez Sistach are in line with what the bishops of Malta, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego, the German bishops and the bishops of Pope Francis’s Buenos Aires region have written in their guidelines for the pastoral application of Amoris Laetitia.

    Their reading is at odds with what Bishop Steven Lopes, head of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, and the bishops of Canada’s Alberta and the Northwest Territory, have written.

    In his interview with Crux, Coccopalmerio also spoke about the criticism of Pope Francis, which is getting more visible with posters plastered throughout Rome and spoof versions of the Vatican’s newspaper being distributed.

    “There’s always opposition … when there’s something new, those who think one way have a negative reaction,” he said. “If you live in a room with stuffy air and you open the window, some will appreciate the freshness of the new air, others will want the window closed because the air is cold.”

    Yet when it comes to Francis, Coccopalmerio said, “the air, his doctrine, is pure, without a doubt very good.”

    For those who are faithful to an archaic way of thinking or doing pastoral work, he said, “these novelties generate a reaction like the one to cold air.”
  8. David

    David Well-Known Member

    'Amoris Laetitia' Chap. 8
    explained by Cardinal Coccopalmerio

    14/02/2017 15:55

    (Vatican Radio) A newly published book dedicated to Chapter 8 of Pope Francis’s Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” was presented on Tuesday in the Vatican. Written by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the 30-page booklet, is published by LEV, the Vatican publishing house.

    Presenting the book, Father Maurizio Gronchi, theologian, professor at Rome’s Pontifical Urbaniana University and consultant at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and veteran journalist Orazio La Rocca, expert in Vatican affairs.

    La Rocca explained the publication aims to provide clear and simple guidelines for all readers who are interested in better understanding the Apostolic Exhortation’s chapter dedicated to the Church’s ministry of those who find themselves living outside the traditional boundaries of marriage.

    “I had asked myself whether the doubts that had been raised regarding a possible violation of the Church’s doctrine could be founded; after reading this book it is clear that this is not so” he said.

    La Rocca pointed out that Chapter 8 offers us a new perspective on how the Church views society that changes, and that it is imbued in the Pope’s call for mercy and his appeal to reach out to those who are most wounded, most excluded, most in need of God’s message of love and salvation.

    He recalled some of the points of the original Papal document saying that Saint Pope John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth”.

    La Rocca highlighted the document’s admonition to men of the Church not to condemn anyone forever, but to consider a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together but who are seeking to have their situation transformed into the full reality of marriage and family in conformity with the Gospel.

    And he quoted the Pope’s words “never to forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital”.

    All this, he said, is part of Pope Francis’ reiterated call to enter into dialogue with the other and to enter into other people’s lives with the power of tenderness.

    Coccopalmiero does this, La Rocca said, using a simple and direct language which is accessible to all, “so much so, he continued, I will personally give copies of it to two ‘good Catholic’ friends of mine who are suffering the consequences of “irregular” situations but would like to feel more included in the life of the Church.

    Father Gronchi observed that the backbone of Cardinal Coccopalmiero’s book is provided by excerpts from the Apostolic Exhortation itself that have been selected, introduced and eventually elaborated upon by the author himself.

    He pointed out that Coccopalmiero, who is a top Vatican canonist, has used a pastoral approach in the writing of this book, effectively breaking down any barriers that may exist between doctrine and pastoral ministry.
  9. David

    David Well-Known Member

  10. David

    David Well-Known Member

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio has now given an interview to the journalist, Edward Pentin, who can be viewed as quite often critical of the approach of Pope Francis. So the Cardinal is presented with some tough questions on the matter of Holy Communion for the remarried. I believe the Cardinal's answers help to clarify the matter.

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio Explains His Positions on Catholics in Irregular Unions

    The senior Vatican official last month published a booklet supporting reception of Communion by some divorced-remarried Catholics and advocating support for positive aspects of cohabiting Catholics’ relationships.

    VATICAN | MAR. 1, 2017
    Edward Pentin

    Rather than admonish cohabiting Catholics as “public sinners,” the head of the Vatican department for interpreting Church law has said it’s more important to look “beneficently upon” the couple in the hope that through encouragement they will eventually marry.

    And in a Feb. 21 interview with the Register, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio also insisted his interpretation, published in a recent booklet, of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, does not breach canon law or Church doctrine.

    He said allowing some remarried divorcees to receive the sacraments if they desire to change their sinful situation but cannot amend it because doing so would lead to further sin was fully in line with Church teaching.

    Cardinal Coccopalmerio, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, also spoke about a recent Vatican talk he gave in which he advocated for a “less rigid” understanding of the priesthood, one that essentially rejects an objective and metaphysical notion of priesthood in order to draw nearer to Protestants.

    Your Eminence, would you please help our readers understand your intention in writing this booklet?

    I wanted to understand exactly what the eighth chapter [on “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness”] meant and then explain it to others. So I read these parts of the eighth chapter, reading but [also] to lead people to understand the sense and the logic of all the points, according to certain subjects which seemed to me more important. The most difficult is to see what the document says of the faithful who find themselves in irregular conditions — to see how is it possible, if it is possible, to admit these faithful to the sacraments, both confession and the Eucharist, and for what motives.

    So it interested me to see what the document says and then explain it to others — to make just a reading of the steps [this requires] to be a little clearer than the document. The document is very rich and puts together many things, which it is important to keep apart, to examine with more analysis, more analytically.

    Did the Pope review the publication before it was published?

    No, no, no. I gave the book to the Pope after its publication. But I spoke with the Pope at other times about these questions, and we always thought the same; also during the synods. I gave the Pope the book after its publication, as a gift.

    As you know, there has been a vast chasm in interpretations. We have the German and Maltese bishops in agreement on one side. On the other side, there is Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and also Bishop Steven Lopes of the Anglican ordinariate, among many others. How does your book clarify things in the face of these interpretations?

    We have to distinguish the cases quite precisely, those unions that are not legitimate, are not regularized, because marriage is indissoluble. There are faithful who find themselves in this situation. They are aware that this situation is not good. They want to change, but they cannot do it. Because if they did, if they were to leave these unions, innocent people would be hurt.

    Think of a woman who lives with a married man. She has three little children. She has already been with this man for 10 years. Now the children think of her as a mother. He, the partner, is very much anchored to this woman, as a lover, as a woman. If this woman were to say: “I am leaving this mistaken union because I want to correct my life, but if I did this, I would harm the children and the partner,” then she might say: “I would like to, but I cannot.” In precisely these cases, based on one’s intention to change and the impossibility of changing, I can give that person the sacraments, in the expectation that the situation is definitively clarified.

    But in such cases, in which you say it is better for a woman to continue in her sinful situation, how is that coherent with St. Paul and the Catechism? Both say it is never permissible to deliberately do evil for the sake of a greater good. How do you reconcile these things?

    Let us say, if you agree, that if she leaves this situation, it will harm people. And then to avoid this evil, I continue in this union in which I already find myself.

    But this union is a situation of sin.

    Yes, however …

    Isn’t it better to try to stop the situation of sin completely?

    How can you stop the whole thing if that will harm people? It is important that this person doesn’t want to be in this union, wants to leave this union, wants to leave, but cannot do it. There are two things to put together: I want to, but I cannot. And I cannot — not for my own sake, but for the sake of other people. I cannot for the sake of other people.

    If the two can live together as brother and sister, that’s great. But if they cannot because this would break up the union, which ought to be conserved for the good of these people, then they manage as best they can. Do you see? That’s it. And it seems this whole complicated thing has a logical explanation, motivation. If others depart from other points of view, they can also arrive at other conclusions. But I would say there would be something missing of the human person. I can’t damage a person to avoid a sin in a situation that I haven’t put myself into; I already find myself in it, one in which I, if I am this woman, have put myself into without a bad intention. On the contrary, I’m trying to do good, and, at that moment, I believed myself to be doing good, and certainly I did do good. But maybe if, already at the beginning I had known, if I knew with moral certitude that this is a sin, maybe I would not have put myself in that condition. But now I already find myself there: How can I go back? It is one thing to begin, another to interrupt. These are also different things, no?

    What is the situation with regard to the first marriage, which remains valid? Have you also thought about the situation of the other person and the validity of their first marriage, as it seems that is ignored in this discussion?

    He was abandoned by the wife, no? I use this example. He was abandoned by the wife, and then this woman came to his aid.

    Regarding cohabitating couples, do you believe they should be given Communion in some cases?

    No, I only say what is said in the document of the apostolic exhortation. We see this couple that is cohabitating or only civilly married — cohabitating, let’s say. It’s not the Christian ideal. Let’s admit that it’s not the ideal, a good thing, not a legitimate union. But let’s see also that there is good. They really love each other. They are not yet married because they don’t have sufficient means for the future. They are people who do good in the community in which they find themselves. All these things are positive.

    We have to recognize that and have a pastoral dialogue with these persons and say: Let’s reflect on this together. Wouldn’t it be better to marry? What are the obstacles? Can we help you as an ecclesial community? All this to bring them, step by step, to a canonical marriage. We can’t say: “You are public sinners. Shame on you.” Let’s begin by saying: “You love each other. You have reasons for not marrying; at least you feel these reasons are important for you. You are also good people, respected by everyone.” These things are important. Let’s say it. Let’s underline these things. Let’s have a discussion, in order to arrive at the maturation of a marriage in the Church.

    Isn’t it better to simply say this situation is sinful, that it is better to be married and not to continue living together?

    If these two love each other, they want to be married. They don’t do it now for reasons that, for them, seem important. Why do you have to tell them to separate? Rather, you should say: “Let’s go together toward a canonical marriage. It will be in a year? Okay. Let’s go.”

    Should they be able to receive the sacraments before they marry, in your view?

    I don’t necessarily have to give Communion to them. There may be particular cases. It’s not a case of permitting Communion. It’s only a case of looking beneficently upon them. The people who find themselves in these unions have positive elements.

  11. David

    David Well-Known Member


    You say Communion can be given, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, if they express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment. But your pontifical council explained in a 2000 declaration why Canons 915 and 916 prevent the admission of such couples to holy Communion and makes the point, in legal language, that it can’t be changed because Jesus said so.

    I know the canons by heart. I know them very well. Who is in serious sin cannot receive the Eucharist without first going to confession or having the desire to confess if he is now unable to confess.

    But let me read part of this, because it is important. It says: “Any interpretation of Canon 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (Canon 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance.”
    Is this declaration still in force, and, if not, why not declare it no longer in force?

    It is always in force. Who is in grave sin and says I have no intention to change: These are the Canons 915 and 916. But if someone says: “I want to change, but in this moment I cannot, because if I do it, I will kill people,” I can say to them, “Stop there. When you can, I will give you absolution and Communion.” Or also, I can insist on this intention of yours and say you are not in sin because you have the serious intention to change but at this moment you cannot do it. There are two things to put together. Understand? This person is already converted, is already detached from evil, but materially cannot do it. It’s a matter of caring for these situations. You rush to say it, but if a light doesn’t turn on, then you can understand the other interpretations. Don’t worry.

    Canonists say these rules, 915 and 916, were changed in certain interpretations of Amoris Laetitia.

    They haven’t changed. It hasn’t changed absolutely anything. I say this in the book to whom you cannot give absolution and Eucharist. Those are the canons. To the one who says, “I’m in grave sin, but I don’t want to change” [absolution is not possible]. When someone comes to confess and says to you, “I committed this sin. I want to change, but I know that I am not capable of changing, but I want to change,” what do you do? Do you send him away? No, you absolve him.

    So they can receive the sacraments?

    The sacraments are absolution and the Eucharist. The person does the same things, but he sincerely wants to change. Do you see there is an impossibility in this case? One cannot change immediately.

    Do they have to change their style of life before receiving Communion?

    No, they have to change their intention, not their style of life. If you wait until someone changes their style of life, you wouldn’t absolve anymore anyone at all. It’s the intention. I want to change even if I know I am not able. But I began to walk. I’ll take little steps. I will pray five minutes more so that I can. The important thing is take a step. If someone does nothing, I can’t absolve them. If someone says, “Yes, I want to. I will do what I can, the least thing,” then he is already on the road to conversion.

    The discipline is coherent with the doctrine, according to you?

    Perfectly. The doctrine says who is converted can receive the absolution of sins and the Eucharist. Absolution of sin means the Eucharist; the two go together. Who is truly penitent? Who undertakes to do all that they can? If someone does just one thing out of a hundred, that is already something important. This is the thing to understand.

    How do you recognize a true penitent?

    You have to pay attention to what the penitent says. If you know — you can tell if he is misleading you. But someone who comes to confession, already by the fact that he comes to confess, means he has the intention to change. In this moment, in this world, where confession is absolutely of one’s free will, if someone comes to confess, it doesn’t make any sense that he comes and doesn’t want to change — I come but I don’t want to change. If I come to confess, it’s because I have a positive intention, even a small one, but serious, to change. You have to put all your attention on this intention. I’ll do all that I can.

    For the divorced and remarried, their status and receiving Communion is very public, a possible source of scandal for others. What do you say to this point?

    I say in the book, it’s necessary to instruct the faithful that when they see two divorced and remarried that go to the Eucharist, they ought not to say the Church now says that condition is good, therefore marriage is no longer indissoluble. They ought to say these people will have reasons examined by the ecclesial authorities on account of which they cannot change their condition, and in the expectation that they change, the Church has placed importance on their desire, their intention to change with the impossibility of doing so. Therefore, it’s one of those cases in which it is possible that the Church says go to the Eucharist. Do you see? There it’s necessary to instruct the faithful. There ought not to be the possibility of, as is said, of scandal, of false judgment. It’s necessary to instruct the faithful. Do you see? I wrote all this.

    In these sinful situations, they can in certain cases receive the sacraments, but won’t the public read this as the Church condoning their adulterous situation?

    Not if you instruct the faithful and say it is not like that. Someone can think what they want. But if you stand by what the Church says, which explains it to you, you can’t anymore think differently. If you are a person who doesn’t understand, or sees only certain things and not others, okay.

    With regard to the indissolubility of marriage, to you, this remains the same?

    The same, even more so.

    Some divorced and remarried continue to live in sinful situations if they desire to do it, but some have given their lives for the indissolubility of marriage as Christ taught, like St. Thomas More. Was their martyrdom in vain?

    Let’s stop, because I know I won’t be able to explain it to you well. These people — take the women I spoke about in the book — say to everyone that marriage is indissoluble: “I am in a bad situation. But I would like to change it precisely because marriage is indissoluble. But at this moment I can’t do it.”

    If you continue to say that marriage is not indissoluble, it means we haven’t understood each other; but this woman continues to say that marriage is indissoluble. But how can she leave the union? He [her civilly married spouse] will kill himself. The children, who will take care of them? They will be without a mother. Therefore, she has to stay there.

    But these cases are very rare.

    That is great if they are rare, but they do exist. I have experienced them personally.

    But if they are so rare, why didn’t the Pope simply write a note to all the bishops saying in these cases to apply the Church’s doctrine differently?

    He’s written [about this].

    But there wouldn’t have been a need for the two synods.

    If I read the document to you, I would show you the various passages. I didn’t write all of this; it’s in the document. I have to go now. More than this, I can’t tell you. Don’t be anxious. Marriage is indissoluble. These persons are in irregular situations. They want to change, but they can’t.

    One last topic: At a recent plenary meeting with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, you reportedly encouraged the members to push for a less rigid understanding of the priesthood, essentially telling them to give up on an objective and metaphysical notion of priesthood. Your notion was that as we have an understanding of different levels of communion with the Church among the baptized, we should have different degrees of the fullness of priesthood, so as to permit Protestants to minister without being fully ordained. What exactly did you say, and why did you say it?

    I was saying we have to reflect on questions. We say, everything is valid; nothing is valid. Maybe we have to reflect on this concept of validity or invalidity. The Second Vatican Council said there is a true communion even if it is not yet definitive or full. You see, they made a concept not so decisive, either all or nothing. There’s a communion that is already good, but some elements are missing. But, if you say some things are missing and that therefore there is nothing, you err. There are pieces missing, but there is already a communion, but it is not full communion. The same thing can be said, or something similar, of the validity or invalidity of ordination. I said let’s think about it. It’s a hypothesis. Maybe there is something, or maybe there’s nothing — a study, a reflection.

    Is the goal intercommunion?

    No, it’s just a reflection that one might make. The consequences are not taken into consideration. It’s only a reflection.
  12. David

    David Well-Known Member

    I posted Stephen Walford's defence of Amoris Laetitia at the start of this thread. Below is a new interview with Mr Walford which includes his comments on his meeting with Pope Francis:

    Theologian: ‘Huge dose of hypocrisy’ behind objections to ‘Amoris Laetitia’
    Pope Francis is pictured with author Stephen Walford and family at the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican in July 2017. Walford is the author of a new book, "Pope Francis, the Family and Divorce," which examines Pope Francis's provisions that would allow some divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion in certain circumstances.

    ROME - When British author Stephen Walford released a book in August defending the pope’s 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he scored what few Catholic authors could only dream of: A personal preface by Francis himself.

    Walford, the author of two previous works on the papacy and saints, is an unconventional theologian. By day, he’s a piano teacher - yet that hasn’t stopped him from penning some of the most well-cited essays defending the pope’s cautious opening to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

    While his fellow conservatives have previously heralded his theological work, he’s now become the subject of their criticism. In an interview with Crux, he discusses why he believes it’s incumbent for his fellow Catholics to accept Amoris as Magisterial teaching and chronicles the backstory of how a single letter to the pope became the preface for his book Pope Francis, the Family, and Divorce: In Defense of Truth and Mercy.

    Crux: Few people get a pope to write a preface for their book. How did you get this letter from the pope that later became the preface for your book?

    Walford: Originally, I’d written several articles for La Stampa on Amoris Laetitia and how it was being received. I’d booked a holiday to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary, and I decided to take my five kids. I’d actually booked it a year before with no real knowledge that I’d be writing anything that had to do with Amoris.

    The reason I got involved in the whole debate is I’d seen Catholics similar to myself - conservative Catholics, not traditionalists, but those who would accept Vatican II, love the pope, have a devotion to Our Lady, and so forth. When I started seeing some of these people being swayed by the traditionalists’ rhetoric on the back end of 2016, that’s when I decided to write an essay defending the pope’s teaching and how it’s compatible with the Catholic understanding of tradition.

    I wrote to Andrea Tornielli [editor of Vatican Insider], not expecting to receive a reply, but when I showed him the essay he seemed to really like it and wanted to use it as an editorial on the subject.

    How the thing really came about, well I’m sworn to secrecy as to how it happened, but the actual reasoning was to present him with a copy of a book that had just been published on the Communion of Saints. Fortunately, I was able to have a private audience, and I said to my children “let’s expect 5 minutes,” and it turned out to be 45-minutes.

    RELATED: Pope: No ‘rupture’ in ‘Amoris,’ which is rooted in ‘classical doctrine’ of Aquinas

    In terms of the preface, I actually had a letter translated into Spanish, which I gave him. He didn’t open it then, he opened it later, but I asked him if he’d possibly contribute in some way and I’d posed some questions to him. Within a few days of coming back from holiday, this large envelope came through the door and that was the pope’s contribution.

    Describe what those 45 minutes were like for you and your family.

    It was obviously a massive blessing to grow up loving the popes, whoever they are, I’d seen Saint John Paul II in a General Audience on our honeymoon here 21 years ago, but to be in that situation was incredible.

    He’s very humble, very laid back, and he said, “let’s just try and get by without a translator. Just talk slowly.” So we did that for about 10 minutes and talked about Laudato si’ and what life was like here in Rome compared to Argentina. Then he said he’d go and get a translator, so he went off on his own and came back with one. We didn’t really talk about Amoris Laetitia very much, partly because I was aware of the delicate nature of the whole subject, and my wife and children were there. I actually kind of avoided it, and I told him I’d written this book and he seemed genuinely very pleased. He joked with the children and was happy to have selfies with them.

    We had a lovely photograph with him in one part of the room, and then he said, “let’s go to the other part, it might have better lighting.” He’s very, very down to earth. I had a hug with him, and told him it was a real honor to defend his Magisterium. I think he understood what I was trying to do, because at that stage I’d written several articles, including an open letter to the Dubia cardinals, which got a lot of publicity.

    You’ve approached your defense of Amoris as someone who is identified as a conservative. Has it surprised you then that the pope’s biggest critics are often conservatives who have traditionally long criticized those that questioned past popes?

    It’s a huge dose of hypocrisy, and it’s disgraceful as far as I’m concerned. Because people know my other books, for instance, Father Thomas Weinandy blurbed my book on the communion of saints. I think some critics can’t understand why I’m on the side of the pope.

    For me, it’s a very, very simple issue. Amoris Laetitia was always a magisterial document. Anyone who was trying to claim that it wasn’t is just ridiculous. You can’t have one sort of rule for how other popes up until Francis have taught, and then suddenly say Francis is different.

    For me, it’s always been about accepting the ordinary magisterium, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and previous popes. The pope speaks with the authority of Christ, and it doesn’t have to be some infallible dogma for that to be the situation.

    I can accept people struggling to understand certain aspects of it, but what they need to do in humility is say “we need to understand that if the holy spirit is guiding the pope in this era of history to have a more merciful and maternal attitude to people who are struggling - we’re not talking about those who could not care less about Catholic morality and want to live their lives as they please and disregard Church teaching - but we’re talking about people who are generally struggling. If people can’t understand that, they need to try to say to themselves we need to obey the pope, whoever the pope is. I got involved in this debate because I saw people like myself starting to be swayed by the rhetoric, and I wanted to bring the debate back to the fact that we accept the Magisterium whether it’s ordinary or extraordinary, and it’s as simple as that.

    One of the major questions of the past two synods, of course, was over the question of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, but Amoris is much larger than that one issue. To what extent do you think Amoris has played into the discussions of this synod?

    It’s hard to tell. Probably for the dissenters, there’s a worry about what’s going to happen, but it’s all a lot of hysterical melodrama, really. What will come out of this synod? Hopefully, there’ll be talk about how young people can be better integrated into the Church and the need to listen to them. For me, it’s sad that a lot of traditionalists seem to have taken a Protestant route of picking and choosing what they want to accept now, and if they’re not careful, they’ll be in danger of being left behind. We have to accept that the Church has to go out and meet people, certainly in this post-Christian culture in the West.

    The Church has to have answers as to how it can reach people. I have some family members that have left the Church, and they will never come back through a pope pointing a finger at them. Somehow, they’ll come back through witness. And I think that’s one of the great things about the canonization of Pope Paul VI. Again, a lot of traditionalists don’t like him, but Pope Paul VI, similar to Pope Francis, he was a realist and he accepted that we have to reach out. The Church is a mother, and if the Church can be a mother, it cannot disregard its children, it’s got to reach out for them and try to bring them back and realize whatever ways the Holy Spirit guides to do that. Hopefully, this synod now will do something similar to what the previous two synods have done for the family, and invite young people to look at the Church again and say, “the Church has something to offer you.”

    Do you think because Amoris hasn’t been heavily discussed during this synod that means there’s been greater acceptance or that those that don’t like it are resolute in that and are just ignoring it?

    I think it has been gradually accepted. I think the Polish bishops when they family came out with their proper guidelines, I think they were much more accepting of the pope’s teachings. I think once the pope made it clear through the Buenos Aires guidelines that this was authentic Magisterium - which I’d argued all along - I think the other bishops’ conferences have to accept it. I never understood that any of the conferences could come up with their own guidelines where they’d actually reject the idea that in certain cases Holy Communion could be granted.

    I’ve always taken it as the pope saying in Amoris that this is the framework that you can work within and obviously tailor it to certain needs. I think the Church has rallied around the pope much more now. Maybe in some parts of America and elsewhere, some of the bishops might still be dubious about it, but I’ll go back to what I said early on: all of the bishops have to be in unity with Peter, not the other way around.


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