Rorate Caeli

'Amoris laetitia' in conflict with the Catholic Faith

Hagios o Theos.

Hagios Ischyros.

Hagios Athanatos, eleison hymas.

God have mercy on His Holy Church.

There's no other way to put it: The pope's Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia is a catastrophe.

Though released only this morning, Catholic observers and commentators have already begun to identify several objectionable passages in which the doctrine and discipline of the Church's Faith are elided, wrested, and contradicted. We at Rorate Caeli will have more to say on this subject, but we can affirm that the headline of Dr. Maike Hickson's commentary at OnePeterFive is correct: "Pope Francis Departs from Church Teaching in New Exhortation."  Also correct is Voice of the Family's observation, "There are many passages that faithfully reflect Catholic teaching but this cannot, and does not, lessen the gravity of those passages which undermine the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church." (Be sure to read all of Voice of the Family's excellent critique.)

Do read Dr. Hickson's comments, and when you have time, visit Canonist Edward Peters' weblog and read his "First thoughts on the English version of Pope Francis' Amoris laetitia."  His criticisms isolate what are probably the worst aspects of the pope's exhortation (there are many others that are also very bad), and the criticisms are charitably presented -- to my mind charitably to a fault.  Here is the core of Peters' critique (emphasis added):

1. Speaking of divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics, Francis writes: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy [i.e., sexual intercourse] are lacking ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ ( Gaudium et spes, 51).” AL fn. 329. I fear this is a serious misuse of a conciliar teaching. Gaudium et spes 51 was speaking about married couples observing periodic abstinence. Francis seems to compare that chaste sacrifice with the angst public adulterers experience when they cease engaging in illicit sexual intercourse.

2. Speaking of “Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church”, Francis writes “Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way.” AL 292. This simple phrasing requires significant elaboration: forms of union that most radically contradict the union of Christ and his Church are objectively adulterous post-divorce pseudo-marriages; forms of union that reflect this union in a partial, but good , way are all natural marriages. These two forms of union are not variations on a theme; they differ in kind, not just in degree.

3. Speaking of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2384 describes as “public and permanent adultery”, Francis writes that some post-divorce marriages can exhibit “proven fidelity, generous self-giving, [and] Christian commitment”. AL 298. Many will wonder how terms such as “proven fidelity” can apply to chronically adulterous relationships or how “Christian commitment” is shown by the public and permanent abandonment of a previous spouse.

4. In AL 297, Francis writes: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” To the contrary, it is precisely the logic of the Gospel that one can be condemned forever. CCC 1034-1035. If one meant, say, that no one can be ‘condemned for ever’ by earthly authority, one should have said so. But, of course, withholding holy Communion from those in “public and permanent adultery” is not a “condemnation” at all, so the point being made is not clear.

5. In AL 280-286, directly discussing sex education for youth, I did not see any acknowledgement, indeed not even a mention, that parents have rights in this important area. Perhaps that is to be gleaned from comments about parents made elsewhere in AL. 

These observations are dead on target -- but Peters' weakens his critique through the use of phraseology such as "I fear this is" or "Francis seems to." The pope's application of Gaudium et spes 51 certainly is a wresting of the Church's teaching, and the pope does compare if not morally equate periodic abstinence from conjugal relations with "the angst public adulterers experience when the cease engaging in illicit sexual intercourse."

To understand the enormity of Francis' teachings, compare and contrast Amoris laetitia 300-310 with Pope John Paul II's Familiaris consortio 84. The doctrine and discipline that persons living in a persistent, objective state of adultery may not receive Holy Communion is not found anywhere in the pope's exhortation. On the contrary, Amoris laetitia 301 and footnote 351 contradict the Church's doctrine on this point, falsely claiming that  it "can no longer simply be said that all those in any 'irregular' situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace," even though it certainly has always been and still is Catholic doctrine that all couples living together and engaging in sexual activity outside of a valid marriage are indeed objectively in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace, regardless of what the pope has said. Again, the Church's teaching, "Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery" (CCC 2384), is nowhere explicitly affirmed in the exhortation.

To these criticisms we must add our objection against Amoris laetitia 301's general principles, which are corrosive to all sacramental discipline. Indeed, in light of the pope's reflections there, how could the Church bar anyone from receiving Communion? Also objectionable is the pope's reference to some people being "in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin," as if the Law of Christ regarding marriage and divorce cannot be obeyed -- something that contradicts paragraph 297, which affirms that "the fullness of God’s plan . . . is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit."

That is not the only place where, calling to mind James 1:8, the exhortation contradicts not only the Faith but itself -- for, as Voice of the Family has pointed out, the exhortation first classifies sodomitic couplings among "the great variety of family situations" (AL 53) before rejecting the claim that sodomitic relationships are similar or analogous to marriages and families (AL 251), while also accepting the spurious premises of "gender theory" (AL 56) before going on to criticize it!

So, on the one hand, we have the Church's doctrine as expressed in documents such as Familiaris consortio and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  On the other hand, we have Pope Francis' teaching in Amoris laetitia.

The exhortation is effectively a sustained and wholesale assault on the Faith. With tears, I must say that Holy Mother Church has reproved and even condemned some of her popes for this sort of thing.

God have mercy on His Holy Church.