In what is surely one of the most bizarre twists in the debate on Amoris Laetitia, Pariarch Bartholomew, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, has penned an article unabashedly endorsing that exhortation. While it is no secret that the Kasperite and liberal wing have partly taken inspiration from Eastern Orthodox praxis, that L'Osservatore Romano would go to the extent of publishing an article from Bartholomew in support of AL will only exacerbate the concerns of those who do see this document as intending a departure from perennial Catholic teaching.
The full text of the editorial, in English, can be found here: "God is Love (1 John 4:8)".
What is most galling is Bartholomew's glib oversimplification of the debate on Amoris - see the parts with our emphases:
Over the last months, there have been many commentaries and evaluations on this significant document. People have wondered how specific doctrine has been developed or defended, whether pastoral questions have been reformed or resolved, and if particular rules have been either reinforced or mitigated. However, in light of the imminent feast of the Lord’s Incarnation -- a time when we commemorate and celebrate that the “divine word assumed human flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14) -- it is important to observe that Amoris Laetitia recalls first and foremost the mercy and compassion of God, rather than solely the moral rules and canonical regulations of men.What has undoubtedly smothered and hampered people in the past is the fear that a “heavenly father” somehow dictates human conduct and prescribes human custom. The truth is quite the opposite, and religious leaders are called themselves to remember and in turn to remind that God is life and love and light. Indeed, these are the terms repeatedly emphasized by Pope Francis in his encyclical, which discerns the experience and challenges of contemporary society in order to discern a spirituality of marriage and family for today’s world.
"Solely the moral rules and canonical regulations"? As if that is what the critics of Amoris Laetitia are only concerned with! This is a complete and utter lie.
Ridiculing the idea that the Heavenly Father tells us what to do? Seriously?
We wonder which is more embarassing here: the head of a tiny, increasingly irrelevant, but still respected (albeit dissident) Eastern Patriarchate expressing himself like a sycophantic papal courtier; or L'Osservatore Romano publishing this trash.
Unfortunately, this twist in events is not surprising. One of the least-known sideshows of the Synod of 2015 was the active involvement of a representative from Constantinople on behalf of the Kasperite wing. La Croix briefly reported that Metropolitan Stephanos of Estonia actually appealed to one of the Francophone groups at the Synod, in order to support giving "remarried divorcees" access to Holy Communion, either once a year or after a period of penance. Furthermore, Stephanos was chosen to speak at one of the official Vatican press briefings at that Synod, during which he spoke in an ambiguous manner:
Patriarch (sic) Stephanos said that the Synod was a positive experience. He said that extraordinary work had been done and that many problems have been laid out. “The problems you face are not the different to the ones that we have, we are all searching,” he said. In his remarks he said that there were “no easy answers” and yet the Church must engage with difficult questions.
Responding to a question about the "penitential path" for the divorced and remarried and their admission to the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch explained that there is only one Orthodox Church but that there are different expressions of the Church. He said that he noticed that the “human dimension of the sacraments” was being better understood at the Synod. “The Fathers are slowly coming to understand what we call ‘the economy of salvation.’ This means that for each there is a place and position in the economy of grace and hence the importance of mercy,” he said.
This was in stark contrast to the intervention in the Synod of 2015 of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Moscow's representative, who not only refrained from saying anything about the Kasperite proposal or about the divorced receiving communion, but essentially told the Catholic bishops to stand firm as they had always done on matters relating to the family. (Fr. John Hunwicke wrote at the time on the significance of what Hilarion did, and did not, say.)
It is noteworthy that under Francis the collaboration between the Vatican and Constantinople have intensified (notably on matters such as the environment and immigration) with Bartholomew more than happy to act like Francis' sidekick. Just as Laudato Si drew from Bartholomew, so now Bartholomew has virtually made Amoris Laetitia his own. At the same time, both have promoted their progressivist and ecumenist agendas in ways that have increasingly alienated the 'traditionalists' and 'conservatives' in their respective Churches -- a situation that cannot and will not help the cause of actual corporate reunion now or in the future.
(NB: We are completely aware of the other remarks made by Met. Hilarion against the Greek Catholics during the Family Synods and after. We by no means excuse these reprehensible remarks or justify them. Our point here is not to praise Hilarion but to note the difference in approach between the two Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates in relation to the points debated in the Catholic Family Synods. To note this fact is not to justify or praise anything else that Moscow has done.)