Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Musings on the Dubia Regarding Amoris Laetitia

There's been a lot of rumblings not only on the interwebs lately regarding Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, but also in print and on TV. I'm really scared that something disastrous might happen, but I trust in the Holy Spirit, and I know the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. But still, souls are hanging in the balance, and hopefully none will be lost in all this confusion. 

I had posted some thoughts in regards to an essay written by apologist Scott Eric Alt on what's been going on with the five Dubia submitted by the Cardinals, and had also gotten into a little back and forth with some people on his Facebook wall. Below is a few excerpts from Alt's essay:
"So the question becomes: Are the “some cases” to which Pope Francis refers in footnote 351 the same that John Paul II mentions in Familiaris Consortio. Or are there other cases, unspecified in the text, in which couples can return to the sacrament? In one public address, Cardinal Schonborn seemed to say that 351 was merely an allusion to FC 84... 
"Well and good. Pope Francis even said that any questions about footnote 351 should make note of what Schonborn has to say, because Schonborn is a good theologian, and he gives great detail, so find what Schonborn says, what do I know, I can’t even remember footnote 351. 
"Problem is, it turns out that His Eminence Cardinal Schonborn has been a tad inconsistent about this footnote. His words above were in April. Three months later, in July, he gave an interview to Fr. Antonio Spadaro. In that interview, Schonborn says there has been “an evolution”—a “clear” one—in our understanding of factors that mitigate culpability for sin. 
"Okay, maybe so. But what are these new mitigating factors? Schonborn goes on to quote from Amoris, but that does not answer the question. The closest the text comes is this:
'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 decide differently and act otherwise without further sin.' 
"That lacks—how shall I say?—precision. 
"...This is why there is a problem with Amoris Laetitia–because there are sections of it, important sections, that are vague, and which scream out for clarification; but attempts to clarify have led to further vagueness (as in Schonborn’s interview with Spadaro) and inconsistent opinions about what it was that the pope wants pastors to do, and not do, with couples in an irregular union seeking to return to the Eucharist. We have had assurances that Amoris is utterly consistent with Familiaris and yet there are two problems: 
-Schonborn’s words have been inconsistent and themselves not at all precise;
-None of these clarifications carry Magisterial weight. 
"And because they do not carry Magisterial weight, different bishops are interpreting Pope Francis to pretty much be saying what they want him to say, and doing what they want to do, and there is no uniformity or correction where there has been folly. 
"So four cardinals intervene with a series of questions asking the pope for clarification on footnote 351. 
"These strike me as fair questions. The cardinals are seeking a definitive, Magisterial answer to some people’s doubts—not answers in interviews, not private lectures, not “go listen to so-and-so.” The reason a definitive answer is needed is precisely to prevent bishops in some places from running wild and doing whatever they want to the potential harm of souls. If someone in a state of mortal sin, not disposed to receive the Eucharist, receives the Eucharist anyway, that compounds the problem. It is a harm to both the individual who receives and the priest who knowingly distributes. A definitive clarification would, potentially, forestall this."
The entire essay is worth a read, and is well written and really mirrors, I think, the feelings of many faithful Catholics. Below is my response to him, followed by another comment made by Scott on his page that set off someone who seems to not be a fan of Cardinal Burke. My comments will be in blue, with everyone else in varying colors:Great article, Scott. I think we're totally on the same page here, and you've articulated exactly what I've been feeling. I love Pope Francis, and I don't think what he's written in AL can be consistently read with Familiaris Consortio 84. But the confusion is there, and we can already see that just in dioceses in the US.
Pope Francis

There was a conversation a priest, you, and I had sometime back this past spring. I'm too lazy to search all your posts, but I saved what was said in a blog post. In response to the clarifications (or lack thereof, as some have said) given for AL, the pastor said:

"What in the heck am I supposed to do with this as a parish priest? What is a situation in which a person in a non-celibate irregular union can be admitted to communion?"

A fair question. You later answered in what I thought was a nice summation, and it made a lot of sense to me (and still does):

"The clear (and full answer) is this: (1) Under no circumstances can Communion be given to those remarried individuals who lack either an annulment or continence in their present union; (2) nevertheless, there are avenues to restore those whose marriages are in an irregular status.

"Amoris Laetitia says 2 pretty plainly, and it says 1 in a very indirect sort of way that you have to decipher. For example, it talks about the importance of "not giving scandal" and says that priests can not just "make exceptions." That's saying #1, but it's not saying #1 in as direct away as it says #2."

Archbishop Sample of Portland agrees in his Pastoral Letter "A True and Living Icon". I don't doubt that pastors and parish priests must accompany the divorced and remarried persons on their way back to the Sacraments (i.e., the Eucharist), but Archbishop Sample makes clear that negative commandments or prohibitions (i.e., adultery) are universally binding in every circumstance with no exception:

"But it remains the case that certain actions are absolutely prohibited, for in no instance is it possible to choose them with a good will. As St. John Paul II explains, certain positive commandments, while unchanging and universal, admit of widely varying means to accomplish them. Moreover, at times external circumstances can impede a person’s ability to perform such good acts. There are negative commandments, or prohibitions, on the other hand, which are universally binding in each and every circumstance.

"They admit of no exceptions whatsoever and can never be chosen, in any way or for any reason, in “conformity with the dignity of the person” or with the “goodness of the will.”35 Further, unlike positive commandments, external circumstances can never hinder a person “from not doing certain actions,” especially if one is prepared “to die rather than to do evil.”36 Doing good, thus, admits of more flexibility and context than avoiding evil, which is why the “Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behavior prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments.… Jesus himself reaffirms that these prohibitions allow no exceptions: ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.…You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery.…’”37

35 John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 52.
36 Ibid.
37 Ibid

St. John Paul II
So I don't think it's the Pope that has done anything wrong, and I don't think it's the 4 Cardinals who have done anything wrong, but that theologians, bishops, priests, et. al are confused on how to interpret that infamous footnote and as we see, are reaching different conclusions. Already, it seems that the recent Diocesan Synod “Embracing the Joy of Love” held in the Diocese of San Francisco has come to a different interpretation of AL than Archbishop Sample and others (such as Bishop Chaput) have:

"The Synod pointed to the need to invite young couples lovingly, non-judgmentally and energetically into Catholic marriage and to provide mentors for them. The delegates spoke movingly to the need for the Church to reach out to divorced men and women at every moment of their journey, to support them spiritually and pastorally, to help them move through the annulment process, *and to assist those who are divorced and remarried and cannot receive an annulment to utilize the internal forum of conscience in order to discern if God is calling them to return to the Eucharist*."

Like you Scott, I'm under the impression that what St. John Paul said in Familiaris Consortio 84 is the only way sych divorced and remarried persons can return to the Eucharist. If that is not the case, then the first question of the Cardinals' dubia is certainly fair and needs to be clarified. Otherwise, it looks like the Diocese of San Diego's (and presumably Bishop McElroy's) interpretation of the footonote runs in direct opposition to what the Archdiocese of Portland and Archbishop Sample is saying. As far as I understand, Jesus' Truth is unchanging; it doesn't differ from diocese to diocese.

Harriet: Oh, Scott. Now I have Scott Eric Alt Disappointment Syndrome. :(

Scott: I think AL can be understood in an entirely orthodox way. There are some who are having difficulty doing so, and it cannot be said they have [Pope Francis Disappointment Syndrome]PFDS. Why the pope can't answer their questions is baffling to me.

Harriet: They don't have PFDS. They have whatever disease is characterized by I Am Smarter Than This Dumb Pope and By Damn I Will Save Us from Him. He answered the questions a year ago. Now these folks have set him a scribe-like trap to get him to answer whether or not he's a heretic. I think they're damn lucky to still have their heads, never mind their red hats.

Scott: Pope Francis himself did? Where?

Nick LaBanca: "They have whatever disease is characterized by I Am Smarter Than This Dumb Pope and By Damn I Will Save Us from Him."

This is a ridiculous, hyperbolic caricature of the four cardinals that presented the dubia, and you know it. You really think they believe Pope Francis to be "dumb" and a "heretic"? I sure don't, and I think the Cardinals' dubia was made in good faith.

And to compare them to the "scribes"? Highly uncharitable, and seeing as you can't read their hearts, they should be given the benefit of the doubt, especially upon seeing what they wrote in their introduction to the dubia, which completely contradicts your assessment of them:

"We hope that no one will judge us unjustly, as adversaries of the Holy Father and people devoid of mercy. What we have done and are doing derives from the deep collegial affection that unites us to the Pope, and from an impassioned concern for the good of the faithful.

"Ours is, therefore, an act of justice and charity... Of charity: We want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church..."

Are you ready to call these men liars? I'm not.

Harriet: Kinda yeah, I am.

It was at this point I gave up on the "conversation". Going off of other belligerent posts in the thread, it was obvious Harriet didn't want to have a conversation, and instead resorted to calumny.

Cardinal Raymond Burke
And just to show how ridiculous many are in the way they despise certain prelates in the Church, here's how one person decided to weigh in on everything. This folks, is how to not make a point:

Tom: In this instance, Burke is Peter, and Francis is Paul. Fortunately, Burke hasn't sullied himself and his pretty garments by eating with the wrong people...but now he must question Paul for not being as strident.

Jo:  Actually, Pope Francis is St. Peter by virtue of his office. And Cardinal Burke, as a fellow bishop, is within his rights to ask for answers. Every Catholic has a right to petition the bishop of Rome for redress.

Nicholas Gotta love the ad hominem attacks about Cdl. Burke's vestments, as they have no bearing on the dubia whatsoever. Obviously, wearing vestments that have traditionally been worn in the Latin Rite, he must think he's greater than Pope Francis. 


Harry: Why is it that whenever Cardinal Burke's name comes up, the issue always turns into attacks against the man rather than discussion of the issues? Many people seem to have no problem making assumptions and assigning evil motives to him.

Let's all pray for unity in the Church and that this situation gets straightened out soon.

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