Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reflecting on the Different Interpretations Given for Amoris Laetitia

I had refrained from posting this long exchange I had had regarding Amoris Latetia for a while, but it seems that the controversy surrounding it just won't go away. I decided it was time for me to post this lengthy discussion so that others can see what is at stake here. We have several bishops contradicting several other bishops on the interpretation of AL. That in itself is scandalous, and even more so are some of the interpretations we've gotten, namely from the Bishops of Malta.

This exchange is mostly with a person I had already talked a bit with on the subject. Unfortunately, this time around it didn't end so well, as my interlocutor, who is a 50-something with a degree in theology, didn't think I was worth the time as I was simply an "autodidact". The thing is, my sources all came from saints, popes, and bishops... as well as our Lord! At the outset, he would interact with my arguments, by the end, he refused to. How my questions were continually dodged will be obvious. Please note, that I don't claim to be a know-it-all. I don't. But the Church does. I asked more than once, that if I was wrong, then show me my error! It didn't happen; my arguments were instead ignored. Perhaps I could've been more pithy, but as I'm a student, I learned a lot through this exchange, and citing as many sources as possible helps me keep things straight. I can only hope that in this excessively large post, someone is able to understand the point I'm trying to make, and can see the evidence I have from the Tradition of the Church to back it up. That is, AL has not changed Church teaching on the reception of Communion for the divorced and remarried that continue to live together more uxorio. My words will be in blue, my interlocutor's in red, and eventually, my words will turn back to black to interject towards the end.
The Apparition of Christ to the People- Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Tom: It is interesting how different Bishop Conferences or Dioceses around the world implement AL.
There is the Argentinian one which we know accords very well with the intent of AL. Then there is Philadelphia, very quick to get out Guidelines which pay lip service to AL but is really just business as usual. Now Malta, which does seem a little hairy but maybe that's the translation.

I find it unfortunate that the US was unable to wait and reflect as a whole and come out with a single set of Guidelines.

Nicholas: I don't find it unfortunate at all that certain dioceses in North America published their guidelines last year. Why would it be unfortunate? That includes the dioceses and archdioceses of Philadelphia, Portland, Calgary, Edmonton, and the others from Alberta. In addition, Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln pointed his clergy, in a letter he wrote them, to three specific interpretations of Amoris laetitea, saying, "I have provided these particular documents because they reflect the most faithful interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, and covey the interpretation that is to be considered normative in the Diocese of Lincoln."

The three documents Bishop Conley cited were the guidelines from Philadelphia, the guidelines from the (arch)dioceses in Alberta, and the guidelines from the Diocese of Phoenix. Phoenix's bishop, Thomas Olmsted, agrees with the interpretation given by Archbishops Chaput, Sample, and the others, emphasis mine:
As a good shepherd, Pope Francis focuses special attention on those who walk on the edge of despair because of personal failures and problems they have suffered in their families, and because of the complex and contradictory situations in which they find themselves now. He calls for deeper and sustained pastoral accompaniment of these suffering families, assuring them that they are welcome in the Church family, and that we are eager to seek ways to integrate them more fully into our local communities. This situation does not, it is important to note, mean that the Catholic persons are excommunicated from the Church. They should be encouraged to pray, attend Mass, and rectify the situation in communication with their pastor, who remains their pastor despite the case of objective sin. Accompaniment is possible and should be the case in our parishes. 
This does not, however, include receiving Holy Communion for those who are divorced and remarried. Pope Francis specifically calls those in this situation “to seek the grace of conversion” (#78). Throughout Amoris Laetitia we see a continuity with the Church’s Magisterium especially that of Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI which reaffirm the constant tradition of the Church.
So while I agree with you that it's "interesting how different Bishop Conferences or Dioceses around the world implement AL", I think that your comments about Archbishop Chaput paying "lip service" and being too quick to publish his archdiocese's guidelines are ridiculous for two reasons.

First, you can see that at least nine different (arch)dioceses in North America agree with Archbishop Chaput's guidelines. Are men like Bishop Olmsted also paying simply "lip service" to AL, or are they simply reiterating constant Church teaching when referring to AL?

Second, you seem to hold an odd position similar to that of Cardinal Kevin Farrell who said just prior to receiving his red hat, "[The implementation of AL]has to be done in communion with our bishops. I think that it would have been wiser to wait for the gathering of the conference of bishops where all the bishops of the United States or all the bishops of a country would sit down and discuss these things.”

At the end of September, the former head of the USCCB, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, said that a report had been sent to Rome on the “reception and implementation [of AL]. As noted in the report, the church in the United States has already eagerly begun to implement the teaching [of AL]". Who exactly produced the report that Archbishop Kurtz speaks of? The US bishops’ ad hoc committee for implementing AL. Who headed that committee? Archbishop Charles Chaput. He also attended the synods in 2014 and 2015.

The Archbishop has done nothing wrong or misguided, and for anyone to suggest as much is pretty sad. All Archbishop Chaput did was reiterate the definitive teaching of the Church, as articulated by St. John Paul II: any divorced and civilly remarried couples who have not received an annulment cannot be admitted to Holy Communion unless they live in continence as "brother and sister". Did you happen to see Archbishop Chaput's statements regarding the Cardinal's comments that mirror your own? When asked why he felt it was important to issue guidelines on AL back in July of 2016, the archbishop answered, emphases mine:
Because both the final synod document and Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia encouraged local bishops to do so. Actually you ask a rather odd question. It’s more sensible to ask: Why would a bishop delay interpreting and applying Amoris Laetitia for the benefit of his people? On a matter as vital as sacramental marriage, hesitation and ambiguity are neither wise nor charitable. 
You’ll recall, I’m sure, that I was a delegate to the 2015 synod and then elected and appointed to the synod’s permanent council. So I’m familiar with the material and its context in a way that Cardinal-designate Farrell may not be. Amoris Laetitia was issued on April 8.  Our guidelines were actually ready by June 1, after consulting our Priests’ Council, Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, auxiliary bishops, seminary faculty, and a variety of liturgical, canonical and theological experts, both lay and clergy — all of whom made excellent suggestions... 
I think every bishop in the United States feels a special fidelity to Pope Francis as Holy Father.  We live that fidelity by doing the work we were ordained to do as bishops.  Under canon law — not to mention common sense — governance of a diocese belongs to the local bishop as a successor of the apostles, not to a conference, though bishops’ conferences can often provide a valuable forum for discussion.  As a former resident bishop, the cardinal-designate surely knows this, which makes his comments all the more puzzling in the light of our commitment to fraternal collegiality.
Four Apostles
In addition, Archbishop Chaput, in this same interview, gives solid reasoning as to why he and the other 9 bishops I mentioned interpret AL the way they do, showing that he's not just paying "lip service" to AL in his guidelines; he and the other bishops are reiterating constant and orthodox Church teaching on this issue concerning divorced and civilly remarried Catholics:
I wonder if Cardinal Farrell actually read and understood the Philadelphia guidelines he seems to be questioning.  The guidelines have a clear emphasis on mercy and compassion.  This makes sense because individual circumstances are often complex. Life is messy.  But mercy and compassion cannot be separated from truth and remain legitimate virtues.  The Church cannot contradict or circumvent Scripture and her own magisterium without invalidating her mission.  This should be obvious.  The words of Jesus himself are very direct and radical on the matter of divorce.
Tom: Surely it is lip service to AL if the Philly Guidelines do not allow any possibility of access to the sacraments for some active irregulars as AL and the Arg Draft [the letter Pope Francis sent to the Argentine bishops] allow?

Nicholas: Well that's the thing, what do you mean by "any possibility of the sacraments"? Obviously any divorced and civilly remarried couple may have access to the Sacrament of reconciliation if they are sorry for their sins and resolve to amend their life by remaining continent. That opens the door to Communion, and if they mess up, they can go to Reconciliation again if they are contrite. If that's what you mean, I'm totally behind this and always have been, as that what the Church teaches. AL hasn't changed anything, as Cardinal Müller said, right?

But if you believe AL has changed Church practice, and if by "any possibility of access to the sacraments" you mean that unrepentant couples engaging in adultery/fornication can possibly be absolved without firm purpose of amendment and then receive the Eucharist... I completely reject that and reject the validity of your comment that the guidelines by Chaput are "lip service". I agree with these bishops that I've listed: AL does not allow for any new permissions or give new possibilities for the divorced and civilly remarried to receive the sacraments outside of what was already made apparent by St. John Paul II in Familiaris consortio 84. So in that reading of the Exhortation, AL is in line with the constant teaching of the Church, Chaput and the others have quoted it correctly, and are not engaging in lip service in any way.

Tom: Nicholas said: "I don't find it unfortunate at all that certain dioceses in North America published their guidelines last year."

If you are referring to my contribution you may have misunderstood. I was lamenting that the US Bishops Conference did not come out with unified Guidelines for the USA as a whole.

Nicholas: I apologize for misunderstanding then.

Tom: Many contributors find it difficult that couples can be treated one way in this town and completely different in the next.

Nicholas: I do too. I think between the interpretations given by Archbishops Chaput and Sample, Bishop Conley and the others, compared to those given by Bishop McElroy, Bishop Elbs, the Bishops of Malta, and others... we are seeing a lot of confusion. If the issue of the divorced and civilly remarried and the Eucharist is analogous to how different dioceses legislate abstinence and fasting norms, then there should be no problem with the latter group's interpretation. But if the issue is much more substantial and deals with negative commandments which allow for no exceptions whatsoever (and the issue certainly is such), then having so many different interpretations by our world's bishops is certainly scandalous. I think this alone makes it apparent that the first question of the four cardinals' dubia really does necessitate an answer, "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?"

I think it'd be great if bishops' conferences (like the US) could make a unified statement, but it appears that the US bishops are not unified in a way that the Albertan bishops were, which allowed them to make a unified statement. But even more so, it should be apparent that on this issue, the entire Church should be unified, and no matter how we look at it, it's sad to start seeing divisions happening already. That's why I keep praying for unity, and that Truth will prevail.

I think this whole issue of "personal conscience" is leading us down a road that may be hard to turn back from if divorced and civilly remarried can do what the Maltese bishops are pointing towards when they say:
If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with 'humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it', a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship[/B] manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”
Look at the bolded part of the quote. I ask honestly, not facetiously, what holds anyone back from taking the bolded portion out and replacing it with another group? "A person living in multiple, polygamous relationships" for example? "A person cohabiting with a long-time partner", for another example? Fr. Mark Pilon explored this more in depth in a commentary he wrote [recently]:
I think it is obvious that such moral confusion... is likely caused by (1) the effective ignoring of the grave intrinsic evil of such moral acts, and (2) a rather facile recourse to the shelter of subjective conscience and moral relativism. Such an approach to serious moral issues and pastoral problems is about to unleash a torrent of “internal forum of conscience” solutions to all contested moral issues. 
For instance, how about these cases of conscience being settled in the internal forum of private conscience? 
***  
2. Max works for the local mob as an accountant and covers up from the government their illegal gains from prostitution, gambling, drugs, and loan sharking. He recognizes this is illegal, and is genuinely sorry for having to do it. However, his conscience tells him it is morally acceptable because his defection from the mob would almost certainly cause harm and maybe death to his family. Does the priest accompany him by simply telling him to follow his conscience and to receive Communion if he thinks he is not guilty of any serious sinning?
Joe: Some interpretations of AL seem to posit that sex outside of marriage remains "mortally sinful", but that there are circumstances under which one can continue to repeatedly and deliberately carry on regardless. In the same way, the "liberal" interpretation of AL does not propose that the first valid marriage can be dissolved, but that one could in good conscience ignore that fact and carry on regardless as though the present civil marriage, in effect, "overrides" the valid sacramental marriage. They never come out and say they, but that seems to be the essential substance of what's being proposed.

I know those who support the traditional interpretation of the Church's teaching on divorce and remarriage are often accused of being "legalistic". But from my perspective, saying that something hasn't changed, but then coming up with a justification for changing and ignoring the actual objective situation sounds more like a lawyer's way of arguing than anything the traditional teaching would put forward.

If we need a theology degree to understand what God is apparently asking us to do, and understand why it doesn't contradict the past teaching of the Church, then one might well ask why Christ thought it best to start sharing His word by walking around the Holy Land sharing such an esoteric, complicated philosophy with illiterate Judean peasants.
The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek- Peter Paul Rubens

Nicholas: I agree Joe, I think you made a really good point here. You've made some thought provoking comments elsewhere too, so thanks for that. 


I've also read Remaining in the Truth of Christ, and Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J. made some really good points on how the way Orthodox Christians view remarriage isn't compatible with Catholic teaching. It was very thorough and in-depth, and gave a good rebuttal to what Cardinal Kasper had proposed in his book.

Tom: Nicholas said, "But if you believe AL has changed Church practice..."

Absolutely, I do not see how anyone can read AL now in the light of the endorsed ArgDraft and objectively see anything otherwise.

Nicholas: ...that's unfortunate that you don't see how someone can read AL in a light that says nothing has changed. Several bishops say doctrine and the practice of the Church has not changed. Archbishops Chaput and Sample are among them. In fact, you may or may not have forgotten that the head of the CDF himself, said the same thing. In a couple interviews back in May, Cardinal Müller affirmed that the Magisterium on remarried divorcees was unchanged by AL. Some translations from the German:
Tagespost: There have been different claims that Amoris Laetitia has rescinded this (prior) discipline [FC 84, Sacramentum caritatis 29], because it allows, at least in certain cases, the reception of the Eucharist by remarried divorcees without requiring that they change their way of life in accord with Familiaris Consortio 84 – namely, by giving up their new bond or by living as brothers and sisters. 
Müller: If Amoris Laetitia intended to rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, it would have expressed itself in a clear manner and it would have given the reasons for it. However, such a statement with such a meaning is not to be found in it [Amoris Laetitia]. Nowhere does the pope put into question the arguments of his predecessors. They [the arguments] are not based upon the subjective guilt of these our brothers and sisters, but, rather, upon the visible, objective way of life which is in opposition to the words of Christ. 
***
The principle is that no one can really want to receive a Sacrament – the Eucharist – without having at the same time the will to live according to the other Sacraments, among them the Sacrament of Marriage. Whoever lives in a way that contradicts the marital bond opposes the visible sign of the Sacrament of Marriage. With regard to his existence in the flesh, he turns himself into a “counter-sign” of the indissolubility, even if he subjectively is not guilty. Exactly because his life in the flesh is in opposition to the sign, he cannot be part of the higher Eucharistic sign – in which the incarnate Love of Christ is manifest – by receiving Holy Communion. If the Church were to admit such a person to Holy Communion, she would be then committing that act which Thomas Aquinas calls “a falseness in the sacred sacramental signs.”
*** 
...where Amoris Laetitia speaks in general about situations, without concentrating on the very concrete circumstances – for example, in the cases of a civil remarriage after a first sacramental marriage – the previous statements of the Church’s Magisterium are still valid with regard to these concrete cases.
Tom: Nicholas said, "... and if by 'any possibility of access to the sacraments' you mean that unrepentant couples engaging in adultery/fornication can possibly be absolved without firm purpose of amendment and then receive the Eucharist..."

Quite a few unproven assumptions here:
(a) yes I believe it is possible for some active irregulars to be truly repentant yet unable to change their behaviour/situation in the medium term;

Nicholas: I do too. If one is being coerced to do something and can't change the behavior immediately, their culpability may be reduced or even completely mitigated. 

Tom: (b) yes I believe Jesus forgave sin without first eliciting an explicit firm purpose of amendment;

Nicholas: Are you implying one can go to the Sacrament of Confession without having a firm purpose of amendment, and expect absolution? I've seen you quote from the Baltimore Catechism on a few occasions. Allow me to quote from Baltimore Catechism No. 2 as well:
410. How do these words of Christ (Jn. 20: 21-23) oblige us to confess our sins? 
These words of Christ oblige us to confess our sins because the priest cannot know whether he should forgive or retain our sins unless we tell them to him. 
Christ never asked men to confess their sins to Him as He could read their hearts. He could see both their sins and their sorrow. However, He rarely gives the power of reading hearts to priests. However, He rarely gives the power of reading hearts to priests.
384. What must we do to receive the sacrament of Penance worthily? 
To receive the sacrament of Penance worthily, we must:
1. examine our conscience;2. be sorry for our sins;3. have the firm purpose of not sinning again;4. confess our sins to the priest;5. be willing to perform the penance the priest gives us. 
388. What is contrition? 
Contrition is sincere sorrow for having offended God, and hatred for the sins we have committed, with a firm purpose of sinning no more. 
[I]406. What is the firm purpose of sinning no more?[/I]The firm purpose of sinning no more is the sincere resolve not only to avoid sin but to avoid as far as possible the near occasions of sin. 
Suppose someone says, "God, I am sorry I have offended You, but I intend to do it again." Is he really sorry? Of course not. Suppose someone says, "I promise not to steal again, but I will not stay away from my companions who steal." Is he really sorry? Of course not. He is fooling himself if he thinks he can keep out of sin without giving up the occasions of sin."
From the Council of Trent Session 14, Chapter 4:
Contrition, which holds the first place amongst the aforesaid acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future. This movement of contrition was at all times necessary for obtaining the pardon of sins; and, in one who has fallen after baptism, it then at length prepares for the remissions of sins, when it is united with confidence in the divine mercy, and with the desire of performing the other things which are required for rightly receiving this sacrament. Wherefore the holy Synod declares, that this contrition contains not only a cessation from sin, and the purpose and the beginning of a new life, but also a hatred of the old...
In your (b), you seem to be pitting the actions of Christ against the commands and doctrine of the Church. It's as if you're saying "Jesus didn't ask for a firm purpose of amendment; the Church today does." But there's no way one could pit the words of Christ against the Church, and that's because Jesus IS the Church; He is the Head of the Church. Anything the Church commands or teaches through the authentic magisterium comes directly from Christ our God. "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. ...the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn. 14: 18, 25).

Tom: (c) yes, I believe that there very different classes of both "adultery" and "adulterers"...as does Jesus, many Cardinals, many Bishops and certainly Pope Francis. Not all of them are the "adulterers" condemned by Jesus.

Nicholas: As I and others on this forum have mentioned, I believe you are wrong. Any sexual activity outside the marital embrace is fornication. Any sexual activity with someone who is not one's spouse is a form of fornication known as adultery. The divine command reads "You shall not commit adultery". Negative commandments admit of no exceptions. Therefore, there is no such thing as "permissible" adultery. "The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. ...[Man]can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil. ...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..." (Veritatis Splendor, 52).

Tom: (d) it is even possible that some active irregulars may not strictly speaking require ongoing Confession re their ongoing evil activitities - for the same reason that killers (an evil activity) on active duty overseas don't when going to Communion...though I think it always a very good thing to confess even venial sins of grave matter regardless.

Nicholas: You are still making a false equivalence between adultery and the killing that happens during combat. So you admit the activities of these irregulars are evil? CCC 1756 says the following about evil activities: "It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it."

Tom: (e) yes, I believe some such active "adulterers" are in a state of grace and in fact are daily growing closer to Jesus and the local parish precisely because of the longed for stability of their second marriage. As does Pope Francis and most pastors I suggest. Canon lawyers maybe not so much.

Nicholas: Perhaps. Only God knows who is in a state of grace. That doesn't invalidate the teaching of the Church that, in the words of St. John Paul, "one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments".

Tom: (f) yes, I believe there is little actual scandal these days in such graced persons being provided access to Communion...who on earth would know whether someone suddenly receiving Communion has access through a recent positive Tribunal/Convalidation decision or a positive Accompaniment decision? For most these are very personal and private matters that fellow parishioners would know nothing about. So really the only one who needs to know is the PP.

Nicholas: Because there is little scandal does not mean there is no scandal. Besides, this isn't especially pertinent to the point I was trying to make [previously].

Tom: Nicholas said, "Are you implying one can go to the Sacrament of Confession without having a firm purpose of amendment, and expect absolution?"
I observe Jesus forgave people without Jesus asking or them expressing any firm purpose.

Nicholas said, "As I and others on this forum have mentioned, I believe you are wrong."
You do not believe in passive adultery versus active adultery? Jesus did.

Nicholas said, "The divine command reads 'You shall not commit adultery'. Negative commandments admit of no exceptions."
And yet exceptions existed for 100s of years up until the time of Jesus. It doesn't say "thou shall not also Communicate". Exceptions obviously seem to exist to "You shall not kill."

Nicholas said, "Therefore, there is no such thing as 'permissible' adultery."
Correct, but there may be tolerable technical adultery when it comes to Communion.

Nicholas said, "So you admit the activities of these irregulars are evil?"
Of course. Just like killing, taking the property of another, being intoxicated etc etc.

Nicholas said, "CCC 1756 says the following about evil activities: 'It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts...'"
Are all evil behaviours also "human acts"?

Nicholas said [quoting St. John Paul II], "'one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments'".
It depends if the "choosing" is direct or indirect.

Nicholas: Tom said, "I observe Jesus forgave people without Jesus asking or them expressing any firm purpose."

I observe this as well, but I saw no reason to mention this in the context of this thread, and I don't understand why you are mentioning this if it is merely an observation. What conclusion are you trying to draw from this observation? 

Again, "Christ never asked men to confess their sins to Him as He could read their hearts. He could see both their sins and their sorrow. However, He rarely gives the power of reading hearts to priests." To quote paragraph 388 of the same Baltimore Catechism, "Contrition is a sincere sorrow for having offended God... with a firm purpose of sinning no more." Jesus could clearly see the sorrow expressed in the people who are described in the Gospels; Jesus knew if this sorrow was being feigned or not. Priests do not have the ability to read hearts (men like St. "Padre" Pio are exceptions); therefore, the Church has always asked that a worthy confession consist of a "firm purpose of not sinning again".
St, Matthew

Tom said, "You do not believe in passive adultery versus active adultery? Jesus did.

We're getting into semantics here. Are you referring to Matt 5:32 again? As I explained in an earlier discussion we had, I agree that there's obviously a difference between the man who left his wife and engages in an adulterous relationship, and the wife he left behind, who without engaging in any extramarital sexual activity, now "bears the taint and the disqualifications of the adulteress" To quote this interpretation (with my original thoughts from that discussion bolded and italicized of Matt 5:32 again for those that haven't seen it:
How does a man by divorcing his wife make her an adulteress?
"Not by forcing her into sexual congress with other men. The point is that she cannot marry- at least not in righteousness- inasmuch as and as long as the man who has known her carnally as her true husband is still alive. Thus she bears the taint and the disqualifications of the adulteress in virtue of a decision made not by her but by her husband, and it is this injustice that Jesus condemns. Note that Jesus is not inveighing against Judaic restrictions against divorcées; nowhere does He suggest that a more equitable or godly dispensation would permit a divorcée to remarry. The weight of the opprobrium falls on the man who makes his wife subject to such hardships." 
Given this analysis, I don't see how Matt. 5:32 can be used to say that an abandoned wife, who civilly remarried, is somehow allowed to receive Communion while actively committing adultery without the resolve or intention to stop.
Tom said, "And yet exceptions [to negative commandments] existed for 100s of years up until the time of Jesus. It doesn't say "thou shall not also Communicate". Exceptions obviously seem to exist to "You shall not kill."

Another poster made a good point about this, that is, Jesus came to fulfill the Law, including those aspects of it which were allowed by Moses because of the Israelites "hardness of hearts". And in addition to that, even if we do grant that exceptions existed then, that was the Old Law. We are under the New Law. The Magisterium, which resulted from the implementation of the New Law, does effectively say that the divorced and civilly remarried who do not commit themselves to continence and continue to live more uxurio may not receive Holy Communion.

And I'm sorry, but I'm not getting dragged back into your comparison between the 5th and 6th commandments. I believe posters adequately and correctly responded to your claims in that earlier thread that was closed in the other sub-forum.

Tom said, "...there may be tolerable technical adultery when it comes to Communion."
I agree, but I don't believe that AL opens any new doors (as does Cardinal Muller and several other prelates) besides the cases that were called for prior to 2016. If you believe there are further "tolerable" situations that exist after AL's promulgation, I wouldn't mind seeing you elaborate.

Tom said, "Of course [the activities of those in 'irregular' marriages are evil]. Just like killing, taking the property of another, being intoxicated etc etc."

So we agree here. I hope then, you would also agree that we as Catholic Christians are to avoid all evil, including venial sins, and are commanded by Jesus to "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) Of course, we can't attain perfection on our own. We need our Lord's grace in our lives, and there is no obstacle impossible for us to overcome when we rely on our Lord.

Regarding the choosing of kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments, Tom said,  "It depends if the 'choosing' is direct or indirect."

If a choice is indirectly made, this implies coercion, or that perhaps one's mind has been manipulated by drugs or other substances, no? I'm not referring to these cases.

And to bring back everything full circle to the statement from the Maltese bishops, my question still stands from earlier: [Remember that selection from the Maltease bishops statement I quoted? "If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with 'humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it', a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”]

Look at the bolded part of that quote. I ask honestly, not facetiously, what holds anyone back from taking the bolded portion out and replacing it with another group? "A person living in multiple, polygamous relationships" for example? "A person cohabiting with a long-time partner", for another example?

Tom: Nicholas said, [quoting from Fr. Mankowski's analysis of Mt. 5:32,] "How does a man by divorcing his wife make her an adulteress?..."

Well, its a viable exegesis and interesting too though not the mainstream one amongst the Church Fathers from my research. Mainstream exegesis is also viable, that the penurious mother is often forced to remarry to survive.

Nicholas said, "Given this analysis, I don't see how Matt. 5:32 can be used to say that an abandoned wife, who civilly remarried, is somehow allowed to receive Communion while actively committing adultery without the resolve or intention to stop."

Because it shows how mortal sin may often not be present due to impaired consent and lack of realistic concrete choices. Therefore the "adultery" is not always deemed "active" as you phrase it but a tolerated necessity to survive and do good by the children. You may not accept this but others better educated and pastorally experienced and intelligent than yourself do.

Given Pope Francis is one of that group I feel no need to justify my position any further. It is at least as theologically and pastorally viable as your own. I don't feel the need to say your position is untenable, though I am not sure the reverse is true for many here. I find that strange.

Nicholas said, "I hope then, you would also agree that we as Catholic Christians are to avoid all evil, including venial sins."

I do not believe it is a mortal sin to fail in either heroic virtue or always avoid venial sins.

Nicholas: Tom said, "'...adultery' is not always deemed 'active' as you phrase it but a tolerated necessity to survive and do good by the children. You may not accept this but others better educated and pastorally experienced and intelligent than yourself do."

I understand others better educated than myself accept this. But others educated better than myself also reject this, such as the 10 bishops whose positions I listed earlier in this thread. We've already agreed that adultery is evil. No qualifiers. Adultery is evil. To say that it is a necessity that one must commit evil to survive (I'm not talking about forced or coerced sex... that's basically rape) is untenable in light of the Decalogue, not to mention 2,000 years of constant Church teaching. To quote
Pope St. John Paul II
St. John Paul again in VS:
"...[Man] can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil. ...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..."
According to St. Thomas Aquinas in CCC 1759: "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention. (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means." In other words, "Adultery (an evil action) cannot be justified by reference to the 'good of the children' (a good intention)." I believe this is very straightforward.

Tom said, "... I feel no need to justify my position any further. It is at least as theologically and pastorally viable as your own. I don't feel the need to say your position in untenable..."

Very well, but several other bishops and clergy disagree with what's being put forth by the Maltese bishops, Bishop Elbs, the German bishops, and others. I still believe that Pope Francis is a son of the Church, as he has often said, and I believe Cardinal Muller's words when he says that the Pope is not at odds with his two predecessors on this issue. AL changes nothing that was explained in FC, VS, or the 1994 letter issued by the CDF and then-Cardinal Ratzinger. But this is why the dubia need to be answered. One position is correct, the other is not. We don't live in a morally relativistic world where both can be true. With bishops contradicting each other, I pray this gets resolved very soon.

Tom said, "I do not believe it is a mortal sin to fail in either heroic virtue or always avoid venial sins."

Yes, but sin is sin. Should we not always try to avoid venial sins? Otherwise, wouldn't we be lying when during our Act of Contrition we say "I firmly resolve... to avoid the near occasion of sin." No qualifier of mortal or venial sin there. CCC 1871 refers to all sin. "Sin is an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law (St. Augustine, Faust 22:PL 42, 418). It is an offense against God. It rises up against God in a disobedience contrary to the obedience of Christ."  For a priest to tell someone in the confessional that they do not need to avoid a certain sin any longer (in this case, not avoiding sexual relations/fornication with one who is not their true spouse) is anything but merciful, and makes a mockery of the sacrament of Reconciliation. 

I still think many are forgetting the real danger of venial sins: "Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin.(CCC 1863)" One can only be ignorant of the fact that adultery is a sin whose object is grave matter for so long, after being told this is so. St. Teresa of Avila makes an excellent point on the matter:
From any sin, however small, committed with full knowledge, may God deliver us, especially since we are sinning against so great a Sovereign and realize that He is watching us. That seems to me to be a sin of malice aforethought; it is as though one were to say: "Lord, although this displeases You, I shall do it. I know that You see it and I know that Thou would not have me do it; but although I understand this, I would rather follow my own whim and desire than Your will." If we commit a sin in this way, however slight, it seems to me that our offense is not small but very, very great.
Tom: When you understand the difference between malum culpae and malum poenae we will be able to fruitfully discuss your confusions here.

Nicholas: Tom, I may not have a masters in theology, or be as learned as others on this forum or within the Church hierarchy, but I am a Christian man doing my best to learn how best to be a faithful adopted son of God. The Catechism was released for this purpose, to help the laity. I often go outside the Catechism to get other opinions and insight. I don't claim to know each and every theological term inside and out, but I'm here to learn, and I believe I have more than just a rudimentary understanding of the Catholic theology on sin. 

I love St. Thomas Aquinas, and have been delving into him the past few years. There is obviously much more in his corpus for me to study, but I think it says something that saints like St. Dominic Savio and Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich (she only had an English degree from a local New Jersey college) were not as learned to understand certain concepts, yet made valid points in their writings. "Death before sin!", as St. Dominic said. Blunt and simple? Sure. The disposition all Christians should have instead of looking for an easy way out? Yes, absolutely.

Anyways, I assume in mentioning malum culpae and malum poenae, you're referring to the first part of the Summa, question 48, specifically articles 5 and 6. Suarez says in his Disputationes Metaphysicae:
We can say succinctly and clearly that the evil of sin (malum culpae) is a disorder in a free action or omission--that is, a lack of due perfection as regards a free action--whereas the evil of punishment (malum poenae) is any other lack of a due good that is contracted or inflicted because of sin.
One commentator on Question 48 cites Herbert McCabe for another perspective on the meaning of [i]malum poenae[/i]:
[In the Fifth Article,] Aquinas holds short of claiming that every such occurrence of evil is a punishment; rather, in the light of the action of divine providence, he claims it has the character of the punishment. When we might say that we are suffering from the afflictions of life, we are reflecting a similar position to Aquinas; it is as if we are being punished. On this line of thought, Herbert McCabe suggests a more fitting translation of malum poenae to be “evil suffered”.
Brian Davies in his book The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil says:
...I am happy to distinguish between naturally occurring evil and moral evil- or, as I prefer to call them, "evil suffered" and "evil done". I take evil suffered to be evil that afflicts individuals as non-rational things in the world eat away at them in various ways- badness that happens to people... I take evil done to consist in freely conceiving to act badly and/or actually doing so. This I take to be self-inflicted evil- badness that consists in moral failure. (p. 176)
My question to you, Tom, is in what way do you believe that malum culpae and malum poenae relate to this issue regarding the divorced and civilly remarried (who are living together more uxorio after being unable to attain a decree of nullity) who wish to receive the Eucharist without living in continence?

At this moment, I see no connection except that the theoretical woman spoken of in Matt. 5:32 has suffered an evil by being made an adulteress, in that "she bears the taint and the disqualifications of the adulteress in virtue of a decision made not by her but by her husband, and it is this injustice that Jesus condemns." She is suffering from an evil that her husband brought about by his unjust and evil action. I think we can both agree this woman would be able to receive Communion today.
However, if that same woman at a later time turns around and fornicates with another man who is not her rightful husband, she has done evil, as Davies notes. This was a "free action", according to Suarez. I believe, as does St. John Paul, the four Cardinals, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Blessed Pope Paul VI that:
Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it —in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. (Humane Vitae, 14)
Peter Kreeft agrees with this sentiment in a footnote to the Sixth Article of St. Thomas' Question 48, in which St. Thomas writes, "On the contrary, A wise workman chooses a less evil in order to prevent a greater..." Kreeft's footnote in his "Summa of the Summa" reads:
St. Thomas is not saying here that it is wise or good to commit a lesser fault to prevent a greater one (for this is never necessary; our own faults are prevented by our own choices, and others' faults are others faults, not ours), but that it is wise and good sometimes to inflict the lesser kind of evil, pain, to prevent the greater kind, fault. Thus punishment, which must be painful in some way, can be morally good if it is both deserved and is aimed at deterring the one punished from future faults. The principle of "the lesser of two evils" means (1) that we often must tolerate or allow the lesser evil to prevent the greater one, and (2) that we should sometimes inflict the lesser kind of evil to prevent the greater kind (above), but not (3) that we should commit little sins to prevent big sins.
Even if one sees adultery as "little" or venial, it is never necessary that one engages in fornication (that is, adultery between the divorced and civilly remarried) in order to prevent the perceived great fault of failing in promoting the welfare of a family, namely the children. In the case of those who are divorced and civilly remarried (and are living together more uxorio after being unable to attain a decree of nullity) and who wish to receive the Eucharist without living in continence, it would seem that if they freely engage in sexual activity, this action could rightly be called the evil of sin, malum culpae.

Nicholas: I have absolutely no axe to grind with you. It is simply an observation of fact that you do not yet possess the professional tools needed to fruitfully critique theological documents, classical moral theology arguments or analysis because you simply do not fully grasp the system or the terms.
It is near impossible for any person except a genius to do so without formal training. To think you can do so simply by opening the Summa cold makes as much sense to me as thinking someone can effectively learn Karate from watching an in depth video and then effectively spar with an orange belt.

If you do not accept these hard facts of Catholic life I am sorry about that but there is nothing more I can do but helpfully advise you of this and leave you to your devices. Some of us are classically moral theology educated and some are not. You are more than welcome to state your own views and start your own points here.

But if you are going to attempt to critique any moral theology analysis I might have originated please don't expect me to respond if I can see from your responses that you really have little idea of the propositions or concepts I am putting forward.

I have politely observed this to you before but you seem unable to accept this reality; rather you seem to take offence and that somehow I am saying you are less than intelligent. That is not the case. Therefore from this point forward I will not respond at all to any critique you may feel the need to make if I judge you really have not understood the scholastic moral theology concepts I often use to justify a position I might take on some point of morality. 

God's peace.
Truth and Mercy

Nicholas: I don't have an ax to grind with you either, Tom. I'm simply seeking Truth, and this seems to be a good forum to do so. I was not and am not offended by your polite observations, and I don't think you're calling me less than intelligent. Instead, I'm disappointed that you make many assumptions of myself, as well as others whom you have ended conversations with. That's your prerogative to end conversations, and if you don't wish to respond to my posts(s), you're free to do so. Thankfully, your judgement of moral theology is not absolute.

However, you assumed many things of me. You assumed I don't know the difference between the evil of sin and the evil of punishment. You assumed I have no "formal training", when all I said is that I don't have a Master's in theology. You assumed I cracked "open the Summa cold". Some of those books I quoted in my responses have been on my bookshelf and desk for several years. You assumed I am confused, saying that I have "confusions", yet you don't tell me where my confusions are found.

I'm here to learn and grow in my faith, and I have. I still have much to learn, though, of course. I interact with the points you make, while you have out of hand dismissed the points I (and others) have made, because we don't "grasp" certain things, in your judgement. You obviously have a different view on moral theology than the four cardinals, Archbishop Sample, Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Lopes, and others. I share their analysis and understanding of this issue regarding the divorced and civilly remarried, and believe it is the Truth, that what they say is orthodox. You, apparently, do not. Your view more closely matches Cardinal Kasper, Bishop Elbs, the Maltese bishops, and others. I think it's unfortunate you haven't responded to my questions, but again, that's your prerogative.

My last two posts showed my understanding of what the evil of sin and the evil of punishment are. You dismissed it, but didn't tell me where I was supposedly wrong. If I'm wrong, show me my error, so that I might grow in understanding. You were the first to bring up malum culpae and malum poenae explicitly in this conversation, yet you never elaborated on how, in your understanding, it specifically pertains to this situation. Of course, you don't owe me anything, but there's nothing saying I cannot honestly ask you to show me where I'm wrong, and what my "confusions" are that keep a "fruitful discussion" from happening. 

So my question from earlier still stands [in what way do you believe that malum culpae and malum poenae relate to this issue regarding the divorced and civilly remarried (who are living together more uxorio after being unable to attain a decree of nullity) who wish to receive the Eucharist without living in continence?, and [the following question from much earlier] still stands: 
From the Maltese bishops' statement: "If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with 'humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it', [b]a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship[/b] manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.” 
Look at the bolded part of the quote. I ask honestly, not facetiously, what holds anyone back from taking the bolded portion out and replacing it with another group? A person living in multiple, polygamous relationships" for example? "A person cohabiting with a long-time partner", for another example?
The crux of all this discussion, in my opinion, comes down to this: In the case of those who are divorced and civilly remarried (and are living together more uxorio after being unable to attain a decree of nullity) and who wish to receive the Eucharist without resolving to live in continence, can it be said that these people may receive the Eucharist in some cases? Tom, as well as some bishops, say yes. I, as well as some bishops, say no. As Bishop Steven Lopes said, "The prohibition against adultery admits of no exceptions, and discernment with respect to individual culpability and growth does not permit us to 'look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: [We] must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy' (Familiaris Consortio, 34). There are not 'different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations.'"

I think it's worthy to note, as I haven't seen this selection posted from the guidelines the guidelines Bishop Lopes gave for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter here yet, that the bishop clearly states the latter opinion, and why he has this opinion, emphases mine:
Under the guidance of their pastor, avoiding occasions of confusion or scandal, divorced-and-civilly-remarried persons may receive the Eucharist, on the condition that when, “for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and 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’” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). A civilly-remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation. Such a couple may experience continence as difficult, and they may sometimes fail, in which case they are, like any Christian, to repent, confess their sins, and begin anew. 
Reconciliation requires contrition, the “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again”(Catechism, 1451). A civilly-remarried couple firmly resolving complete chastity thus resolves not to sin again, which differs in kind from a civilly-remarried couple who do not firmly intend to live chastely, however much they may feel sorrow for the failure of their first marriage. In this situation, they either do not acknowledge that their unchastity, which is adultery, is gravely wrong, or they do not firmly intend to avoid sin. In either case, the disposition required for reconciliation is not satisfied, and they would receive the Eucharist in a condition of grave sin. Unless and until the civilly remarried honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely, sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist. 
The firm intention for a chaste life is difficult, but chastity is possible, and it “can be followed with the help of grace” (Amoris Laetitia, 295). Every person is called to chastity, whether married or not, and the assistance of grace and the tenderness of mercy is available to all. Further, the law is given to us by a kind and loving God: “Since the moral order reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator, for this reason it cannot be something that harms man, something impersonal. On the contrary, by responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person’s full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness” (Familiaris Consortio, 34).
Perhaps one can interact with just the bishop here. My question for anyone is this: Why is Bishop Lopes wrong in saying that "sacramental discipline does not allow for the reception of the Eucharist" for the divorced and civilly remarried who do not "honestly intend to refrain from sexual relations entirely"?

Harry: I read [some] as disagreeing with AL, or at least with the way AL has been implemented. 

I don't agree that the Pope has adopted a strategy of silence. He wrote AL. He deputized Cardinal Kasper to explain it; and he affirmed that the Argentinians are implementing it correctly. That is not silence. That speaks volumes, for those that choose to hear it.

Nicholas: That's the thing though; AL is being implemented in radically different ways. You have Archbishops Chaput and Sample, Bishop Conley, the Albertan bishops, and others on one side, and then you have Cardinal Kasper, Bishop McElroy, Bishop Elbs, the Bishops of Malta, and others on the opposite side. Who is correct? I agree with the former group; the bishops of Kazakhstan summed things up really nicely with quotes of many relevant documents.

Also, that response to the Argentinians was a leaked personal letter, not an act of the Magisterium. There is still silence on the correct interpretation, because bishops are still releasing contradictory guidelines. This is why, at the very least, the first question of the dubia necessitates an answer.

Harry: Homogenity is overrated. The Church is working through the application of this teaching. Like most teachings, it will not be applied identically to all situations and people. The Pope is helping the Church grow in faith and understanding, which is often a messy process, as are most things in life.

Nicholas: "Homogeneity is overrated". Really? In the context we're speaking of, in faith and morals? I find that assertion absolutely absurd. In that case, why even bother with the Eastern Catholic Churches? Why should those particular Churches be homogeneous in regards to papal primacy? If homogeneity is so overrated, they'd be better off simply recognizing their respective patriarchs instead, for the sake of not being homogeneous.

Many seem to be claiming that this practice of the Church (denying Communion to the divorced and civilly remarried) is comparable to disciplines such as those in various sui iuris Churches allowing for a married priesthood while others hold to a celibate priesthood. Or that it is comparable to disciplines that vary from diocese to diocese regarding Friday abstinence (i.e., some dioceses command the faithful to abstain from meat specifically, while others allow for a different kind of penance to be substituted on Fridays). These disciplines are not analogous.

St. John Paul II said in FC 84: "[B]However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Sacramentum caritatis 29 writes: 
If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God's love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires... The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church...
Cardinal Müller, head of the CDF, has expressly affirmed that AL has not changed anything, and that this practice of the Church is not a mere discipline akin to how different dioceses have different abstinence requirements for Fridays. This isn't a discipline that has no weight at all; doctrine can underlie disciplinary norms. As Cardinal Müller said last May, "If Amoris Laetitia intended to rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, it would have expressed itself in a clear manner and it would have given the reasons for it. However, such a statement with such a meaning is not to be found in it [Amoris Laetitia]."

AL has not changed anything in regards to the divorced and civilly remarried and the Eucharist; what was stated in FC, SC, and the 1994 letter from the CDF are still binding. However, some are interpreting Chapter 8 of AL (such as the Maltese bishops) in a way that goes much farther than even AL could theoretically allow for in interpretations by the Argentine bishops. The guidelines from the bishops of Kazakhstan further agree:
The previously mentioned pastoral guidelines [those similar to the Maltese bishops' guidelines] contradict the universal tradition of the Catholic Church, which by means of an uninterrupted Petrine Ministry of the Sovereign Pontiffs has always been faithfully kept, without any shadow of doubt or of ambiguity, either in its doctrine or its praxis, in that which concerns the indissolubility of marriage. 
A practice which permits to those who have a civil divorce, the so called "remarried," to receive the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, notwithstanding their intention to continue to violate the Sixth Commandment and their sacramental bond of matrimony in the future, would be contrary to Divine truth and alien to the perennial sense of the Catholic Church, to the proven custom, received and faithfully kept from the time of the Apostles and more recently confirmed in a sure manner by St John Paul II (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, 84) and by Pope Benedict XVI (cf Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, 29).
Tom: Keep your wig on Nicholas.

To see this as an application of faith and morals is just as logical, consistent and historical a view as yours. It is hardly absurd just because it's repels your sensibilities.

Historically there was a time in the Early Church where soldiers were denied Communion perpetually on exactly the same doctrinal grounds you are obsessed with here re adultery. Yet this was not homogeneously practised in all Churches. Eventually it faded out as Christian soldiering became acceptable with the conversion of Rome.

We are seeing the same thing happening with adultery today. Just as all those involved in killing are not killers, so all those involved in adultery may not be adulterers.

We get it that you find this horrific...but your personal nightmare doesn't make this view either illogical, absurd or unacceptable for a Catholic sorry. Least of all Pope Francis.

Nicholas: Interesting. I'm genuinely curious, do you have a specific source you can share [on the perpetual denial of Communion to soldiers]? 

Since the earliest Fathers never condemned Christians for being in the military, and they never rebuked the state for maintaining an army or a police force, the early church never condemned the use of force per se. It is no wonder that we cannot find a single instance in the early church where a Christian was refused membership or communion because he was a soldier.  
***
Cyprian made one reference that has been seized upon as proof he was a pacifist. He stated: 
"The hand spotted with the sword and blood should not receive communion." (V:488) 
***
St. Basil stated in a.d. 370:
"Our fathers did not think that killing in war was murder." (XIV:605)
While he did not see any biblical reason or apostolic tradition for cautioning taking communion after killing in a war situation, he went on to say that perhaps it would be good for a short period to avoid communion after killing in war.
And if I'm "obsessed", then turnabout's fair play. One could call you "obsessed" with your position too based on the number of threads you've been involved with and started on the topic.

Tom: No [I don't have a specific source to share], I am recalling the lecture side comments of my elderly Prof of History who specialised in the Early Church 35 years ago. Cannot remember the bibliography he provided.

Anyways here is a start I found in 20 secs on the Net. Clearly they took the 5th Commandment (Thou shall not kill as opposed to Thou shall not murder) just as seriously as some here take Thou shall not commit adultery.

It is at this point I stopped talking with Tom. For one thing, I wasn't about to go down that path of comparing the 5th and 6th Commandments. As I mentioned before, Tom had a mistaken view on how to interpret "Thou shall not kill", and he was already shown how he was in error by other people in a previous conversation. Also, the link he provides says absolutely nothing about soldiers being "denied Communion perpetually". In fact, St. Basil clearly says in the link I provided that it would perhaps be good for the soldiers to avoid Communion for a while. Nowhere is there a perpetual ban for soldiers to be found that is analogous to the divorced and remarried. All Tom had to go on was something he heard in a lecture years ago, and nothing in my more than "20 secs on the Net" of searching found anything that he described. Nowhere was I able to confirm his claim that soldiers were denied Communion outright and/or perpetually. So until he presents evidence for his claim, I can only suppose that he misunderstood whatever was being talked about in the lecture he recalled.

In fact, my searches found that he had tried this argument about a year prior, and again, failed to back it up. You can also see here a common thread: Tom dismisses anyone who does not have a degree. People get accused of being "autodidacts", and whether they are or not, he rarely interacts with the argument and will refuse to tell the person he's speaking with where they have erred. It's funny, since never once did Tom directly pick apart what the four Cardinals, Archbishop Sample, Bishop Lopes, or others have to say, as they all directly contradicted his views and assertions. Instead, I and others are told that we have no idea what we are talking about... even though all we have done is reiterate the words of saints and blesseds like John Paul II and Paul VI, as well as the bishops I have mentioned above. Instead of discussing the merits of the arguments I presented, my credentials (or lack thereof) are brought up, and used as grounds for ending any conversation we could have.

As the poster in my last link above said to Tom after being dismissed by him, "I'll let people reading this judge the discussion and who had the better argument."

The conversation continued, and in closing, I'd like to post the last couple remarks I made to other people who were engaged on this topic. After quoting a list of Scripture passages put forth by another poster, showing how adultery has always been condemned as grave matter, Harry said the following: "In none of those passages does Jesus say that the remarried must be excluded from the Sacraments. Those are words that a few are putting in the Lord's mouth to advance their own agenda against the Pope." We'll end this marathon of a post with our relatively short exchange:

Nicholas: I think we need to keep a few things in mind...

1. Scripture is the word of God. Remember, Jesus is God. The US Conference of Bishops comments, citing GIRM no. 29, "[The Scriptures] are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us, the means by which we come to know the depth of God's love for us, and the responsibilities entailed by being Christ's followers, members of his Body." GIRM no. 29 states: "When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel". Everything cited previously was Scripture. Therefore, we can safely say Scripture is the word of Jesus.

2. Jesus didn't say a lot of things. He never said to explicitly baptize infants, as many Calvinists will tell you. He never said only males may become priests. So it doesn't matter that Jesus never said what was explicitly stated in magisterial teaching, such as Familiaris consortio 84, for example. Which leads me to my next point...

3. You CANNOT separate Jesus from the Church. I don't who these "few" are that are putting words in our Lord's mouth, but if you are referring to the four cardinals and those that believe the dubia raise valid questions and should elicit an answer, you should know that these people are not putting words in our Lord's mouth, and their number is not "few". This is true throughout the centuries that the Church has existed.

Anyways, I feel that when someone says that the Church (the bishops are part of the Church) puts words in Jesus' mouth, I can't help but be amazed as the Church literally is Jesus. Jesus is the Head of the Church; we are the body, the members. The Catechism puts this well: 
Christ "is the head of the body, the Church." He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father's glory, "in everything he [is] preeminent," especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things. (CCC 792)
Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. (CCC 795)
So if the bishops in union with the Pope declare something (such as that the divorced and civilly remarried may not receive Communion if they haven't received a decree of nullity and continue to live more uxorio) in an exercise of their ministry, we shouldn't differentiate between Jesus and members of the clergy. Jesus, our God, speaks through His Church.

As Jesus Himself said before His Ascension:
“I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16: 12-15)
The Holy Spirit works through the Church always. The Holy Spirit speaks for Jesus. Jesus is Head of the Mystical Body, the Church. Therefore, Jesus as Head of the Church has already made declarations, and has addressed the reception of Communion throughout the ages. Do the guidelines for reception of the Eucharist, as it is laid out in canon law and in our doctrine, not stem from the Holy Spirit then? I answer, yes, they do.

Harry: But the issue is that the Church is saying, through the Pope and the bishops, that there are circumstances where the remarried may be admitted to the sacraments. The Holy Spirit is working through the Church to accomplish that development. And some are here claiming that the Pope lacks the authority to teach in that way, or at least is wrong in doing so. And to defend their position they are claiming the be directly supported by the words of Christ, suggesting both that they understand Christ better than the Church, and that the Pope is ignoring Jesus' express instructions. So I don't understand your appeal to the authority of the Church, when the issue is that some here are denying that same authority.

Nicholas: Harry said, "But the issue is that the Church is saying, through the Pope and the bishops, that there are circumstances where the remarried may be admitted to the sacraments."

Exactly, I totally agree with you. St. John Paul explained explicitly what those circumstances are in FC:
However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. 
Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that 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.
AL has not abrogated or changed this restriction. As Cardinal Muller said, FC and other magisterial documents such as Sacramentum caritatis and the CDF's 1994 letter concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and civilly remarried remain in force. So to say (as some interpretations of AL do) that one can receive absolution and the Eucharist without firmly resolving not to commit sin (that is, sexual relations/fornication with someone who is not their true spouse) contradicts the above teaching of the Church. 

But I believe that AL is a completely orthodox document, and can certainly be read as such. However, it has changed nothing regarding this "practice of the Church" that St. John Paul speaks of in FC 84. Pope Francis is a "son of the Church", as he has often said, and I take him at his word. I do not believe our Holy Father has contradicted anything his predecessors have said. However, interpretations such as the Maltese directive, and the statements of Bishop McElroy in San Diego, among others, do seem to contradict what was said in FC 84, SC 29, and the CDF's 1994 letter. If you believe AL has changed Church teaching, and maybe you'll find this redundant, can you spell out specifically what has changed?

Harry said, "And some are here claiming that the Pope lacks the authority to teach in that way, or at least is wrong in doing so."

Maybe some are (I don't know who you're referring to though), but I am not claiming this.

Harry said, "So I don't understand your appeal to the authority of the Church..."

I'm sorry if this wasn't clear. You said, "And in none of those Scripture passages does Jesus say that the remarried must be excluded from the Sacraments. Those are words that a few are putting in the Lord's mouth to advance their own agenda against the Pope."

I asked you who you think those "few" are. Do you believe the four cardinals, Archbishops Sample and Chaput, Bishop Lopes, the bishops of Kazakhstan, and others are among those "few"? That's what I was assuming, so my appeal to the authority of the Church is the same appeal that these bishops have made. These bishops have made clear that the teaching regarding the divorced and civilly remarried receiving the Eucharist is based on the teaching handed down by the Church throughout the ages. 

You, and a few others, talk of how certain Scripture passages pointing to this constant practice of the Church never came from Jesus' lips. And my response to that is "So what?" If the Apostle or someone else other than Jesus said something explicitly regarding adultery in the New Testament,we should realize this is the word of our God, Jesus Christ. "When the Sacred Scriptures are read... Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel." This applies to the letters of Paul and the other books of the New Testament.

Furthermore, the Church has been sent the Holy Spirit so that He may guide the Church into all truth. If the Church has made the declaration that the divorced and civilly remarried who did not receive a decree of nullity cannot, in any circumstance, receive the Eucharist while living more uxorio, then we accept that that teaching comes from Jesus Himself, even though he never spoke those explicit words before He ascended into Heaven. And the Church has made that declaration throughout the centuries, most recently in FC 84, SC 29, and was reaffirmed in AL since it must be read in continuity with past magisterial teaching. Again, as Cardinal Muller pointed out, AL has changed nothing, and I agree. 

The bishops of Kazakhstan made a good point in their letter regarding those interpretations of AL that differ from their own and the four cardinals, emphasis mine:
The Church, and specifically the minister of the sacrament of Penance, does not have the faculty to judge on the state of conscience of an individual member of the faithful or on the rectitude of the intention of the conscience, since "ecclesia de occultis non iudicat" (Council of Trent, session 24, chapter 1)... 
The confessor cannot arrogate to himself the responsibility before God and before the penitent, of implicitly dispensing him from the observance of the Sixth Commandment and of the indissolubility of the matrimonial bond by admitting him to Holy Communion. The Church does not have the faculty to derive consequences for the external forum of sacramental discipline on the basis of a presumed conviction of conscience of the invalidity of one’s own marriage in the internal forum.
Harry: So you are saying that AL didn't change anything, is that right? How do you square that with the Pope's statement that it did make changes, and with the way it is being implemented (with the Pope's approval)?

Nicholas: Yes, I am saying that AL didn't change anything. I think another poster had a good point, and I'll quote her in saying, "Dear Lord, if what is happening now is truly Your will and is truly a sign of grace, let it be made manifest. If it is not, let that be made manifest as well. For it is thy will we wish to be done."

I wish to follow Jesus and remain in His truth, and therefore I will accept whatever the Church commands. Joe made a good point that I was thinking myself, but he has articulated it better than I could: "nothing has been stated to explain why the reasons given in FC 84 for rejecting Communion for those remarried Catholics who were sexually active have been resolved or removed. It isn't sufficient to simply state 'it can no longer be said that...'; why can it no longer be said? If these reasons are the foundation of Church teaching, then why are they suddenly cast aside so arbitrarily without consideration or concern to explain why?"

We seem to have a gamut of interpretations right now. Archbishops Chaput and Sample, Bishops Olmsted and Lopes, among others on one side, the Argentine bishops somewhere in the middle, and then Bishop Elbs, the Maltese bishops, among others on the opposite side of the gamut. As canon lawyer Ed Peters commented
Unlike, say, the Argentine document on Amoris which, one could argue, left just enough room for an orthodox reading, however widely it also left the doors open for abuse by others, the Maltese bishops in their document come straight out and say it: holy Communion is for any Catholic who feels “at peace with God” and the Church’s ministers may not say No to such requests.
 Another priest also made a good point about the Argentine bishops' draft:
As a matter of fact, if we want to be fair to what has been written (rather clumsily and unclearly), were someone, some couple, to read and take seriously – with the help of a good, faithful priest – what Amoris said, and what the Argentinian [draft] said, not many people would be able to discern that they can honestly receive Communion.
The thing is, some are treating the private letter of the Holy Father that leaked to be an act of the Magisterium. It's not, and if it supposedly is, someone please explain. It'd be like saying Pope Francis' remarks on planes are to be taken as an act of the Magisterium. The dubia, however, have officially asked for clarification which would officially resolve the issue of contradictory applications, which I understand you don't see as much of a problem. But if Archbishops Sample's and Chaput's guidelines are wrong, I would like to understand why. I would like to see a point by point rebuttal of their statements, especially Archbishop Sample's, as to why they have misinterpreted AL.

As of now, I'm just praying for unity in the Church, as well as for our bishops and leaders.

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