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12/09/2016 4:16 pm  #1

Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia was published in April. It has been controversial in large part because its eighth chapter, which some have seen as opening a pathway for reception of communion for Catholics who have civilly divorced and remarried without annulment. Pope Francis never comes out and says this explicitly, though one can find statements that kind of move in that direction, and can easily be read in support of such a view, if one wants to read them that way.

And there are some who want to read them that way. So some priests, bishops, and cardinals have proposed their own more explicit readings of AL, while other bishops have issued guidelines for its implementation in their dioceses which rule out any radical alteration of preexisting practice. See Ross Douthat's commentary.

Four cardinals, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner, privately addressed five clarifying questions, or dubia, about AL to Pope Francis. They did not receive a response, so they published the questions publicly, to some (sometimes vituperative) criticism.

I think Bishop Athanasius Schneider's take on this criticism is quite correct. It is easy to see how the four cardinals could be well-motivated, so their questions should be taken as sincere. Some have suggested that the questions have already been answered and the answers are easy to find, but if that is true, then they can easily also be stated.

Today, an open letter to Pope Francis by John Finnis and Germain Grisez was posted at First Things. The letter outlines eight positions contrary to the Fatih that AL has been or will be used to support.


12/11/2016 2:12 pm  #2

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

I am no Catholic, but if I were I would most likely disavow any sort of loyalty to the current pope. His constant toeing the line coupled with his deliberate ambiguity make his intentions crystal clear to the impartial observer. I have no desire to see the last (western) Christian bastion fall into schism, but as a deeply religious Jew, I find that preferable to allowing the liberals free reign in the Catholic Church.

I have no objection to divorce and subsequent remarriage, but this pope will unleash his poison in due course on homosexual unions and a host of other issues as well. If he gets away with this, I have no doubt that he will be able to introduce similar heresies as well.

Noli turbare circulos meos.

12/11/2016 4:53 pm  #3

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

As a Catholic, my loyalty is to the pope. I believe he is the legitimate successor of Peter and deserves the Church's respect. But I also think it is good, as has happened historically, for the pope to be called to task when necessary.

His intentions are fairly clear, but it is also clear that he recognizes that he faces limitations and knows what he cannot do. He is prompting an intelligent response from certain bishops and laymen. I don't foresee a schism.

     Thread Starter

12/11/2016 10:15 pm  #4

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Pardon my ignorance, but what is exactly is the status of the Catholic doctrine on divorce? That is, is it the kind of doctrine that can be substantively changed?


12/11/2016 10:30 pm  #5

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

@ Jeremy Taylor
No, there is no such thing as divorce in the Roman Church, and such doctrine cannot be changed. The Roman Church believes in the words of Jesus in Mark 10:9.


12/12/2016 8:44 am  #6

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Mysterious Brony is correct. Catholics take Jesus' words on divorce to be saying that divorce is impossible: once (really) married, always (really) married. For which reason, those who 'divorce' and 'remarry' commit adultery.

But the question does arise whether there ever was a marriage or not. A marriage requires certain conditions regarding the intentions of the participants: they must, for instance, be free of coercion. What looks like a marriage may not be a valid marriage, in which case the marriage can be declared null after a canonical investigation.

This teaching applies both to the sacrament of matrimony and to natural marriage.

Regarding civil marriage as a contract, it can of course be dissolved, and at least today, one can go on to remarry civilly. So the recent debates have arisen to ask what should be done in such cases, where Catholics have civilly divorced and remarried and have no obtained an annulment, either because they have not tried or because the tribunal has reviewed the case and has not found grounds for a declaration of nullity. The civilly divorced and remarried Catholic may believe, contrary to the finding of the tribunal, that the original marriage was a mere 'marriage' and was never valid, or he may believe that it was a marriage but, contrary to the teaching of the Church and of Christ, that divorce and remarriage are genuinely possible.

But yes, the doctrine of the indissolubility cannot be changed. What is potentially more flexible is the question of what one does in ambiguous cases, though the practice of refusing communion to people in these situations is drawn from canon law, and Amoris Laetitia has not altered the relevant canons.

Also, those who want a more radical (but not super-radical) reading of Amoris Laetitia generally draw a distinction between doctrine and practice. They want to say that they are changing the way pastors engage with their flock and not any settled doctrine. I think the distinction is specious, though. Doctrine can impose limitations on acceptable pastoral practice.

     Thread Starter

12/12/2016 7:30 pm  #7

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

Interesting. It is interesting, though, also, that other traditional branches of Christianity, including even the Eastern Orthodox Churches (not known for innovations), don't take quite such an absolute stand. Does anyone know what the practice and teaching of the early Church and Fathers was? Doesn't Paul himself imply some recourse for remarriage, at least if one partner is an unbeliever and abandons a believer?


12/12/2016 8:25 pm  #8

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

My understanding is that the Eastern Orthodox differ mainly because they put greater weight on Origen. To my knowledge, the other Church Fathers are more or less unanimous. I don't have the relevant historical surveys on hand presently.

The so-called Pauline privilege and Petrine privilege are special, though long-recognized exceptions. They apply only in the case of natural and not sacramental marriages; one of the spouses must not be a Christian, or both in the case of Pauline privilege. Petrine privilege, it seems, requires the action of the pope.

     Thread Starter

12/13/2016 5:33 pm  #9

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

I'm probably quite typical among Catholic laity in that I don't particularly mind whether or not there might be situations where divorced-and-remarried people may be able to receive the Eucharist, even apart from Pope John Paul II's famous "living as brother and sister" example (certainly the "grave matter" is a non-negotiable, given a Catholic understanding of marriage, but other elements of mortal sin may be absent, so it makes a certain amount of sense to let people examine their own situation in light of Christian teaching and make a decision to withdraw themselves from receiving - or not).

However, whatever Pope Francis means by what he has said, the dubia ought to be answered. Leaving the Church in confusion serves no one - the ambiguity of the current guidance from bishops, which I have seen at work in my home parish, is not encouraging even to those who take a very liberal stance, and it just breeds more division. If the Cardinals have misunderstood him, as many defenders of the Pope have argued, they should be corrected clearly, authoritatively, and publicly, not given a finger-wagging only to be left as unenlightened as before.

I agree with Greg's response to Etzelnik. Disavowing loyalty to the Pope isn't a live option for me [not to state the obvious, but I'm a Catholic in England, so if I hated the Papacy I could just become a High Church Anglican]. Even if the Pope were undoubtedly wicked I would still be loyal to him qua Pope. I certainly won't become a sedevacantist just because the Pope has caused confusion in moral matters, especially considering St Peter himself was accused of the same thing - in Scripture, no less.

Last edited by Alexander (12/13/2016 5:34 pm)


12/13/2016 10:25 pm  #10

Re: Reactions to Amoris laetitia

No no, disavowing the see is clearly improper. Nothing about his ascension was improper. If one is going to pick and choose like that one might as well become protestant.

A side question: is an Orthodox second marriage valid for the purpose of reciept of communion for a Catholic. I know that a first marriage is valid.

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It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
~Martin Heidegger

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