You often find the charge among critics of Pope Francis that his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is opposed to Pope John Paul’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor. The differences between the two are exaggerated in order to set these two documents of the papal magisterium against each other; Amoris Laetitia against Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II against Pope Francis, Pope Francis supposedly against tradition.

Veritatis Splendor, according to this narrative, is the strong, bold, defense of immutable moral norms and laws. We expect to find affirmations of the truth and warnings of any threats against it. We expect to hear admonishments like:

  • It is easy nowadays to confuse genuine freedom with the idea that each individual can act arbitrarily, as if there were no truths…
  • A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence…would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel.
  • Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. 
  • Discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.

On the other hand, Amoris Laetitia is said to cast black and white immutable moral truths into doubt by teaching instead a mushy subjectivism that creates doubt and confusion about the eternal truths of God’s law. Amoris Laetitia is criticized for implying that there are exceptions to the norms and suggesting that it’s not possible to follow God’s laws. Amoris Laetitia is accused of undermining Veritatis Splendor for saying things like:

  • Rational reflection and daily experience demonstrate the weakness which marks man’s freedom.
  • Clearly, situations can occur which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which influence the sinner’s subjective imputability.
  • It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent.
  • Appropriate allowance is made for…the understanding of human weakness.

Such a capitulation to human weakness seems to cast into doubt (so we’re told) the declarations of the council of Trent that no one should say the laws of God are impossible to follow.

The problem is that this is selective nonsense. The nod to weakness above that is supposedly so threatening to Trent came from Veritatis Splendor, not from Amoris Laetitia. Likewise, the warnings above about false freedoms and relativism were taken from Amoris Laetitia, not from Veritatis Splendor.

The fact is that there are two dimensions in the moral life of human beings, the subjective dimension and the objective dimension. The objective dimension describes universal moral truths that constitute an immutable measure of human actions. The subjective dimension looks at the state of mind of an individual, and the quality of their moral acts in light of any limitations to their knowledge or their ability to act freely. The subjective dimension is necessary because we need more than a moral compass that always points north and gives us objectively true knowledge of where we stand. We also need to connect where we stand with where we need to arrive. We must be able to draw a map to see how we can realistically get to our destination. A compass shows us the objective coordinates, but the map shows us the terrain, where the obstacles and dangers are, and the areas where we might rest and regain our strength.

Neither dimension is reducible to the other and neither one detracts from the other. Veritatis Splendor and Amoris Laetitia are not opposed, but complementary. Veritatis Splendor’s primary focus is defending the objective dimension. Amoris Laetitia’s primary purpose (particularly in Chapter 8) is to defend the subjective dimension. Both perspectives are legitimate. Both perspectives are necessary. Both dimensions are capable of being degraded and deformed into a unique set of theological errors. But if one looks holistically and honestly, one can find the perspective of each of these documents within each other.

A concrete example: Amoris Laetitia gets a lot of flack for its emphasis on taking into account the “complexities” of an individual’s life circumstances, as in Amoris Laetitia 79 which says:

While clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.

In Veritatis Splendor 119, after talking about Gospel simplicity in the face of moral complexities, Pope John Paul II adds the qualification that:

Evangelical simplicity does not exempt one from *facing reality in its complexity*; rather it can lead to a more genuine understanding of reality, inasmuch as following Christ will *gradually* bring out the distinctive character of authentic Christian morality, while providing the vital energy needed to carry it out. [emphasis added]

This doesn’t merely confirm that the complexity of a person’s life cannot be ignored, it relates it to the law of gradualism, and therefore actually anticipates the exploration of the law of gradualism in Amoris Laetitia. Again in Veritatis Splendor 103 we hear words that sound a lot like criticisms leveled against Amoris Laetitia. Veritatis Splendor says:

It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.

But a few sentences later, the Pope clarifies:

God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit”.

So Pope John Paul II is saying that yes, God’s law can be said to be adapted, proportioned, and graduated to the concrete possibilities of man, as long as the “possibilities of man” is understood as the possibilities of man redeemed by Christ and not man dominated by sin. For man “always has before him the spiritual horizon of hope, thanks to the help of divine grace and with the cooperation of human freedom.”

Now the thing about hope is that it is something set in the future. As St. Paul says, “hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see?” The perfection of redeemed man may be unseen, but it is not a horizon of the impossible. It is a gradual process made possible by divine grace and the cooperation of human freedom. One might say, as Amoris Laetitia does, that this is not a gradualism of the law “but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.”

Here too, Veritatis Splendor has done the groundwork for the themes of gradualism that Amoris Laetitia will further develop. And Amoris Laetitia, for its part, also warns against the misuse of this law of gradualism.

It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.

This perspective is the proper way to interpret Pope Francis’ use of the word “ideal” in Amoris Laetitia, by the way. The law is an ideal, not in the sense that it’s something absolutely unrealizable, but in the sense of being the goal of a dynamic process. It’s the law as seen through the perspective of a pilgrim who always has in front of him or her that “spiritual horizon of hope;” because they are starting from a place of weakness and imperfection. Amoris Laetitia takes up this perspective of the pilgrim who is progressing ever forward in the light of  that splendor of the truth.

And in doing so it shows itself faithful to Veritatis Splendor’s warning that the Church “must always be careful not to break the bruised reed or to quench the dimly burning wick.”

 

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  1. Avatar Joaquin Mejia says:

    Thank you for this article! I love St. John Paul II and Pope Francis! I find it quite strange that the criticisms against them seem to be on opposite poles. St. John Paul II was always criticized for his “authoritarianism”. On the other hand, Pope Francis is being criticized for being “soft” when it comes to the Catholic Church’s doctrine. I guess the critics of both Popes need to read both of their writings. They misunderstood St. John Paul II and Pope Francis. Even if I am not a critic of either of them, I think I really need to read more of their writings myself because I know there are a lot of lessons in store in them.

  2. Avatar Jane says:

    Thank you for this article!

    I think of the following many times while reading the terrible vitriol against Pope Francis: ‘Catholico ignorante, futuro protestante.’

    What is happening is so much protesting based on so much ignorance of the writings of the Popes.

    From the reading of encyclicals I have been blessed to do in my life, and I have yet to read many more, I see a beautiful harmony and continuation, not the opposite.

    God Bless you and thank you again!

  3. Avatar carn says:

    “You often find the charge among critics of Pope Francis that his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is opposed to Pope John Paul’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor.”

    Not only among critics of Pope Francis, but also among some claiming to be in favor of Pope Francis. Some think are fond of Pope Francis cause they – implicitly – think he is slowly abolishing what is taught in VS. (“implicitly” cause no explicit talk about VS, but talk about how Pope Francis approach makes the absolute norms – which VS is about – a thing of the past)

    There is even a poster Ashpenaz here who tried to use the words of AL to argue that contraception or same-sex relationships might be something some Christians are called to by God, which is nothing but reading AL in contradiction of VS.

    • Daniel Amiri Daniel Amiri says:

      This is a fair and regrettable point. The greatest and most important insights are gained when we read Francis in continuity with what has come before. But as you note, there are people “on both sides” who are apt to see Francis as a “tradition-breaker.”

    • Avatar Marie says:

      Carn- Ashpenaz has repeatedly indicated he/she (I believe she) is on par with papal authority and as such, is on his/her own regarding interpretation. You cannot ‘blame’ the pope for individuals who choose to interpret things the way they want them to be, rather than the way they are intended.

      • Avatar M. says:

        Pope Francis’ way of wording things, off the cuff remarks, etc. do seem to lend themselves to those who wish to take a tradition-breaking interpretation, (whether on the permissive or the traditionalist side of things) more than recent popes have allowed for. I don’t think anyone here is arguing that “nothing Pope Francis says is ever useful to a permissive mindset.” What we are happy that the authors of blog are arguing, and that we support them for- is that, in spite of the fact that some of Pope Francis’ words can be taken in a permissive way, *they can also be taken in a sense that is in continuity with the Church’s traditional teaching.* This is the part that both the trads and the progressives leave out, I think it is simply because it is more convenient to their world view to do so. But this is using a person, I would argue, who for reasons we do not entirely know and can really only speculate about- has decided not to defend himself. We should take the best interpretation of his silence- not the worst. Anything less risks rending the church. Do we want to do that? Some apparently, do.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        M- I’m just being honest, but I don’t see the confusion, I just don’t. We always must assume the best in all people, not just the pope, and we must assume goodness in his words. I think it really depends on our starting point. Is it starting with the Magisterium , as in she is expressing Christ’s desire for us, or is our starting point us? I found the pope’s silence regarding Vigano, a breakthrough point for me, because at first I didn’t understand, but I did presume his goodness. Upon reflection it was such an eye opener for me, genuinely, and that became the moment I truly recognized what a wonderful pope we have. He has reclaimed forgotten virtues in all of us, and I for one will be forever grateful.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        M- Just another thought 🙂 I really don’t see this site as showing that ‘in spite of’ Pope Francis’ words or it can ‘also’ be seen in this way. I see the authors clearly showing exactly how it should be seen AND exactly how it was intended. This whole concept of confusion, at least from my view, has nothing to do with what or how Pope Francis speaks to us, and EVERYTHING to do with the message they want to reject.

      • Avatar carn says:

        While i can vaguely make sense of being silent regarding Vigano, i cannot make sense being silent regarding most of criticism or even questions coming from the so to say more conservative quarter of the Church.

        Especially, that he seems to access the attitude of the one bringing forth some criticism/question is brought forth and if he perceives that it is the wrong attitude, he will not react.

        “seems” means that it is my impression, so it might be wrong; while i think i once read some statement by him in that direction, i could not find it again. I only found Fr. Spadaro, who claims that the Pope acts that way:
        https://cruxnow.com/interviews/2016/12/04/jesuit-close-pope-says-many-attacks-amoris-result-bad-spirit/

        “In other words, the pope responds by encouraging, and indeed loves to respond to the sincere questions put to him by pastors.”

        “Francis loves dialogue when it is in loyal and sincere and motivated by the good of the Church.”

        If that impression of mine is accurate, that the Pope is silent, when he thinks that some question is insincere, etc., i have no understanding for that.

        Cause as the Pope is not infallible in reading the hearts of other people, he should assume that his thinking the intent is insincere, is just wrong and presume the best, that even the seemingly insincere and disloyal question/criticism is offered in good intent, at least when it is from Catholics who claim to be faithful.

      • Avatar M. says:

        Hi Marie! I guess I worded things awkwardly. It is a nuanced thing I am trying to express. I see no confusion, personally, either- except the confusion that has been sown by the chronically confused themselves. Like you, I see only goodness in his words, choices, remaining silent, and all the other things he is attacked for. However, I am willing to allow that other popes have tread a lot more lightly in their wording, and were more willing to please, perhaps less likely to say things that can be taken two ways or be misinterpreted- or to “thwack” sinners of a certain neo-Pelagian persuasion with “his stout episcopal staff.” (love me some Belloc) This left the “chronically confused” as I have come to think of the right wing, feeling much safer and less inclined to test boundaries, since they felt that lines were drawn and the pope was firmly in “their camp.” Perhaps. I do think Pope Francis is making a mess. But I also believe very firmly that it is a mess that absolutely and unequivocally needed to be made.

      • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

        Something just occurred to me: Pope Francis is the first Pope (at least among the recent ones) whose native language is Spanish. Part of the problem could be that the translators normally used for what popes are saying are not quite as good with Spanish as for Italian, or Latin, or even some other european language such as German or Polish. My experience in that field is that two translators working on the same text can, with the best of intentions, actually come up with slightly different meanings or with wording that can be left open to different interpretations. I wonder if part of the problems some people have with Pope Francis are coming from that.

      • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

        I would like to add that, if the Pope tried to reply to each and every criticism, he would find himself constantly “fighting fires”, instead of getting any of his real work done…

    • Avatar David says:

      Yes, we also have to look just as much as what Francis does and say indirectly and permits, for that is how he operates. His ambiguity in official documents is clearly deliberate. The claim that there are a few loose cannons claiming to use AL to support various evils does not wash because among them are those closest to Francis, have publicly advocated for various evils, such as acceptance of homosexuality and contraception, and have even publicly attributed this to Francis’ thinking and Amoris Laetitia; and very importantly, with no sign of disapproval or refutation whatsoever by Francis. This includes Cardinals Marx, Maradiaga, Kasper, Schonborn (the “official interpreter” of AL according to Francis), Archbishop “tucho” Fernandez, cardinal coccopalmerrio. Think about that- the “official interpreter” of AL has said that Francis’ thinking argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships! But that’s just all a coincidence, right? There is also the fact that Francis refuses to answer the 5 dubia, which ask for a clear denial of these moral errors.

      However, we do have some smoking guns- the Argentine guidelines do contain some of the errors; and more recently Stephen Walford’s book also contains the same, which was endorsed by Francis, while a summary of it, including the errors, was printed in l’osservatore romano, and again no indication that what Walford claims is wrong, is not in keeping with Francis’ thinking and A.L. So, #6 of the guidelines indicates some people may not be able to observe continence, i.e. observe god’s commandments, and that someone may commit adultery as a “lesser evil,” and thus also that the absolute prohibition of adultery that applies to everyone at all times without exception can be broken. This also involves a necessary correlation that there is an ideal which some people cannot attain. Walford’s book contains the same errors and also that conscience can judge that adultery can sometimes be morally right, requested, even commanded by God, which is also implicit in the guidelines. As some examples, he imagines a couple saying to themselves: “We ask your constant forgiveness even though our weakness means we CANNOT FULFILL WHAT YOU DESIRE FROM US.” “For our children, we are now witnesses for the devil more than you. We are spreading poison and it is ruining them. If we continue like this, we are causing greater evil, and we feel we may turn the children away from the faith. Our conscience tells us we risk breaking the fifth commandment and in real sense, destroying their emotional and spiritual lives.”

      One could also cite other guidelines, which go beyond the Argentinian in their errors of moral theology condemned by V.S., and to which Francis has given some form of approval, e.g., those of Malta, Germany, Braga (Portugal).

      The error that subjective culpability can be invoked is repeated here, when people know that this approach was explicitly rejected under JPII and BXVI. Yet they pretend as though that didn’t happen. That further points to wanting a foregone conclusion- of upholding Francis’ image no matter what he says and does- regardless of the truth. Even if someone is not in mortal sin, what prevents them is their objective situation. The only other option would be to say that previous popes were in error, for not even the claim of “development” could justify what one pope explicitly rules out to later being licit.

      The background of AL is also very important- by all accounts, and even a quasi-admission of his own- the person who drafted at least part of it, particularly chapter 8, is Archbishop Fernandez, and portions have been shown to be almost verbatim to a paper he wrote after the appearance of V.S., in which he attacked the encyclical and tried to still argue for the erroneous ideas JPII had condemned. Then Bergolio had wanted Fernandez to be the rector at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, but it was denied under B16 because of Fernandez’ moral heterodoxy. Francis then had him appointed to such after being made pope. At the least he and Francis have been long time buddies and obviously they are of like mind. But that’s all coincidence right? A guy branded for heterodoxy by prior popes is now just fine for Francis. So, the same heterodox ideas he expressed precisely as an attack on V.S. now reappear in AL!!! If one thinks I am making this up to be “anti-Francis” you can read Fernandez’ previous work for yourself and see the almost verbatim text and certainly the same ideas, the same ones condemned as situation ethics under B16!

      • Avatar carn says:

        “The claim that there are a few loose cannons claiming to use AL to support various evils does not wash because among them are those closest to Francis, have publicly advocated for various evils, such as acceptance of homosexuality and contraception, and have even publicly attributed this to Francis’ thinking and Amoris Laetitia; and very importantly, with no sign of disapproval or refutation whatsoever by Francis. This includes Cardinals Marx, Maradiaga, Kasper, Schonborn (the “official interpreter” of AL according to Francis), Archbishop “tucho” Fernandez, cardinal coccopalmerrio. Think about that- the “official interpreter” of AL has said that Francis’ thinking argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships!”

        Would you consider to abstain from effectively accusing numerous Cardinals and Bishops in an indiscriminate way of promoting heresy WITHOUT providing evidence for each Cardinal and each Bishop regarding each potential heresy?

        One can voice criticism sufficiently harshly without such accusations tied to name.

        E.g. regarding faithfully defending and preaching what the Church teaches, especially regarding homosexuality and contraception, the honorable “Cardinals Marx, Maradiaga, Kasper, Schonborn (the “official interpreter” of AL according to Francis), Archbishop “tucho” Fernandez, cardinal coccopalmerrio” have still extraordinary potential for further growth till acting as the holy shepherds they should be and all are in dire need for our prayers so that all of them will be as holy as they should be.

        See?

        That is about as nasty as what you said. But it didn’t include accusation of a canonical crime.

        That criticism does not apply to the rest of what you said, as there you at least offer sources, where evidence might be found, and give some general shape how the arguments might be.

      • Avatar M. says:

        I would appreciate a citation to the following: “As some examples, he imagines a couple saying to themselves: “We ask your constant forgiveness even though our weakness means we CANNOT FULFILL WHAT YOU DESIRE FROM US.” “For our children, we are now witnesses for the devil more than you. We are spreading poison and it is ruining them. If we continue like this, we are causing greater evil, and we feel we may turn the children away from the faith. Our conscience tells us we risk breaking the fifth commandment and in real sense, destroying their emotional and spiritual lives.”

        I would also appreciate a citation for the following: “Think about that- the “official interpreter” of AL has said that Francis’ thinking argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships!”

        I’m not questioning your honesty- I just would like to know where I can find those quotes, thank you, because if it is true than it is really troubling to me.

      • Avatar carn says:

        Regarding Walford, here is a site that claims to quote directly from the book:

        https://romalocutaest.com/2018/10/08/the-errors-of-mr-walfords-pope-francis-the-family-and-divorce/

        ” He writes (emphasis added):

        “So what exactly is this situation to which we allude? It would be the case where children are born out of a civil, invalid union. The couple have at some stage returned to the faith and seek a loving relationship with Jesus. They know and accept their union is wrong, but there is no going back. Former marriages are irreparably damaged. In this new union they have tried hard to live as brother and sister, but their attempts have caused great tension and constant arguments. The husband is now fighting temptations against impurity of various kinds. The peace of the home if fragmenting and the children are being affected. No longer are the arguments kept behind closed doors, but abuse is being hurled across the room while the children play. There is a real danger of the home becoming a quasi-war zone, and possibly a family break-up is imminent. Not only have the children had to experience this, but they have also not experienced for a considerable time any affection between their parents; on the contrary, coldness has been apparent even in “good” times. They are confused; what they hear preached at Church is not replicated at home. The older ones are asking questions why mom and dad no longer love each other, and there is the distinct possibility they begin to see nothing beneficial in Catholicism based on their experience at home, in fact, there is the danger of blame being attributed to the faith.

        At this point, the parents make the decision that living celibate lives is unworkable. They say to God: “We cannot continue like this, we don’t have the strength even though we have tried. For our children, we are now witnesses for the devil more than you. We are spreading poison and it is ruining them. If we continue like this, we are causing greater evil, and we feel we may turn the children away from the faith. Our conscience tells us we risk breaking the fifth commandment and in real sense, destroying their emotional and spiritual lives. It is our honest intention to flee from all these evils including the sexual relationship, and we long to live lives of purity. We ask your constant forgiveness even though our weakness means we cannot fulfill what you desire from us. We shall strive in whatever way we can to respond to your grace knowing that your love and mercy will lead us toward salvation. As proof of our good intention, what we lack now, we will make up for in other areas; in almsgiving and fasting.” (p. 102-103)”

        On google books the respective pages are also found:
        https://books.google.de/books?id=BPp6DwAAQBAJ&pg=PT144&lpg=PT144&dq=stephen+walford+though+our+weakness+means+we+CANNOT+FULFILL+WHAT+YOU+DESIRE+FROM+US&source=bl&ots=abIL7NtCZy&sig=ACfU3U2R9qVBW-WuYu_kaLRP5P-dUsTUHw&hl=de&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj-g_a2iLXiAhXNxcQBHS_lAa4Q6AEwBnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=stephen%20walford%20though%20our%20weakness%20means%20we%20CANNOT%20FULFILL%20WHAT%20YOU%20DESIRE%20FROM%20US&f=false

      • Avatar M. says:

        OK, in context, what Walford said is much less troubling, and makes more sense.

        I was hoping for calrification and citation from David on :
        “Think about that- the “official interpreter” of AL has said that Francis’ thinking argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships! But that’s just all a coincidence, right? There is also the fact that Francis refuses to answer the 5 dubia, which ask for a clear denial of these moral errors.” The way he put it, he is trying to cast doubt on that Pope Francis supports church teaching on sexual morality. So I would like to see citation or where Pope Francis designated Cardinal Schonborn as the official interpreter of AL, and also citation of where Schonborn said Pope Francis thinking argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships. I no longer trust the stuff that “everybody just knows.”

      • Avatar carn says:

        I am not aware, where “argues for legitimizing homosexual relationships” is from.

        As far as i am aware Cardinal Schönborn made only some statements about homosexual relationships, which might be honest attempts to be more welcoming without giving up Church teaching OR might be of the lets-scrap-church-teaching-but-without-making-it-obvious type; these are hard to keep apart.

        He is “official interpreter” for some potential definitions of “official interpreter”:

        https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-in-flight-interview-from-lesbos-to-rome-97242

        “For a Catholic who wants to know: are there new, concrete possibilities that didn’t exist before the publication of the exhortation or not?

        Pope Francis: I can say yes, period. But it would be an answer that is too small. I recommend that you read the presentation of Cardinal Schonborn, who is a great theologian. He was the secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and he knows the doctrine of the faith well. In that presentation, your question will find an answer.”

        One can call that “official interpreter” without stating something definitely untrue, cause the Pope refers to Schönborn as having the answer to some important question about AL.

      • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

        It seems to me that what has been lacking in those discussions of any mention of a “venial sin”. For example, although we know very well that adultery is wrong, e.g. a grave sin, but it is not always a mortal sin, in such circumstances, for example, quoted in Mr. Walford book. While a sin remains a sin, circumstances may be reducing the responsibility for that sin to the status of a “venial sin”, which does not prevent people from receiving Communion. We know that venial sins should also be avoided as much as possible, but it seems to me that many of us don’t pay too much attention to our own venial sins, and therefore should not attempt to pass judgement on other people’s state of grace based on what we think we know about some of their sins…

      • Avatar carn says:

        @M.

        I find it interesting that you think the context makes it “much less troubling”. I cannot see that it does.

        For one, from the couple’s hypothetical stance/prayer in my view any indication is absent, that they acknowledge that they do break the sixth commandment.

        Second, i miss any indication that they intend to try to keep it or at least violate it as seldom as possible (as in the robot example below, in which the robot at least tries to limit his stealing to “lesser” theft).

        Third, they claim that – although they implicitly regularly go to confession and accordingly are at least temporary in a state of grace – they cannot even have the intent/resolve to abstain; that sounds troubling when read in light of Trent.

        Fourth, even if one accepts the idea of them having a limited freedom (in the sense of the robot example below), then there is an absolute unavoidable conclusion: that they do NOT have a well-formed conscience and/or CANNOT follow that conscience (cause someone with a well-formed conscience either would try and try and try to keep both 5th and 6th and not sacrifice one for the other and would either succeed or become aware that he is unable to act as his conscience says).

        Fifth, realistically Walford paints still a picture far more rosy than the reality; for example there was some time ago an article about a divorce and remarried couple getting a sort of celebratory acknowledgement in their parish, that according to AL they can not access the sacraments; so it is celebrated if people are too weak to keep both 5th and 6th and either have a malformed conscience or cannot follow it? That doesn’t make much sense.

        And sixth and in my view most serious:
        I can perfectly read what Walford describes 100% on my hypothetical murderous and torturing catholic dictator, who one day starts his attempts to find his way to God, but due to the political realities and his duty to his country still murders and tortures here and there a few people who would be a hindrance for a transformation to democracy.

        That would mean we would have to drop nearly ALL (catholic) condemnations of Franco, Pinochet and a bunch of other “right-wing” dictators who fought against socialistic takeovers and managed to leave their country in a situation, in which transformation to democracy somehow worked.

        Yes, externally they seem to be in part to have been brutal and murderous thugs.

        But didn’t we just learn that maybe their own freedom was not perfect and like the robot stealing little at first and maybe even less later they were within their limited freedom on the right path and did what they could in their limited freedom do.

        Mind you, i am both fine with condemning them and/or reducing/skipping condemnation due to mitigating circumstances.

        But one cannot have the cake and eat it at the same time. If mitigating circumstances and limited freedom apply to considerations about a catholic violating the 6th, they are to be applied also to a catholic violating the 5th.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        David,
        You started your comment with “Yes, we also have to look just as much at what Francis does and says indirectly and permits, for that is how he operates.” I’m sorry that you do not recognize, in your own words your lack of respect and openness. You are hostile, to the Vicar of Christ, yet, as you say, you look just as much at what he does and says indirectly…Wow, I wonder if you have given that any thought. Is that something you think is the charitable thing to do, to judge someone with such vigor as to determine their motive? “that’s how he operates”, “that’s what he permits”, “thats what he says indirectly” May I suggest you do this because if you just read everything Pope Francis has said there would be no problem? Have you read AL in it’s entirety? What else exactly in it is a problem? Have you read his encyclicals and other writings? Here is a link. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/franc.

        I think it is vital, especially when we think so negatively about a person, to make sure we go to the source, and not judge someone based on other people’s opinion or rendition of events. That is exactly what Pope Francis is asking of us with his silence. Look at what you say regarding the dubia: ” There is also the fact that Francis refuses to answer the 5 dubia, which ask for a clear denial of these moral errors.” Does that sound respectful to you? or objective? open to the possibility of the Pope NOT being in error? does it sound perhaps a bit arrogant, considering you’ve already concluded he is in error so you really are ‘demanding’ he be held to account?

        Can you please reference any quote from Pope Francis that is NOT in complete, 100% support of Catholic teaching regarding abortion, homosexuality, marriage, contraception? Or is he guilty because he dares to speak with people that may think differently? Shall we judge you the same? so harshly? put our spin on what it means you think based on who you may speak with? what you have chosen not to defend? not to criticize? Should we cut out of our lives everyone who may not agree with us regarding Catholic teaching? should we be assumed to hold the same beliefs when we remain friends with them? How should Christ be viewed in light of his friendship with Mary Magdalene? Has the view of her past changed over time? does it matter?

        If you believe that Christ promised us that there would be no error in faith and morals concerning Church teaching, where is your faith? You would prefer to have faith in Lifesite News? Do they sound charitable to you? Almost all of us on this site FULLY support Catholic teaching regarding faith and morals. No exceptions in teachings. If we, like you fully support these teachings, what makes us different from you? For one, we believe, without exception that Christ’s promise to protect the Church, through Peter. We also believe in humility, a necessary quality to understanding teaching. Our starting point, therefore is not ourself or our natural inclination if it differs from teaching. Our starting point is with the Pope and the Magisterium because Christ told us that was the way to protect us from error. Why would you not want to do the same? Because you know better? Do you really want to take that position?

  4. Avatar carn says:

    “We also need to connect where we stand with where we need to arrive. We must be able to draw a map to see how we can realistically get to our destination.”

    I think there lies the heart of where problems with AL are seen.

    You word it as if the objective moral dimension is mainly relevant for determining the goal/general direction.

    Thereby it might appear as if the individual steps are only to be guided but not limited by the objective moral norms. Which might be understood as if in selecting the path around obstacles it is morally fully permissible to sometimes violate the objective moral norms with a few steps.

    Trying to give an example:

    One day a brutal catholic baptised and confirmed dictator – who regularly signs orders to murder and/or torture some opponents or other problematic persons – realizes that he should try to be a good Catholic.

    Correctly the objective moral norms point out that – among other things – he should not sign orders to murder or torture people as this is an intrinsic evil.

    “realistically” his path might from a human perspective look like slowly trying to alter the course of his life and the country he is responsible for, turning it into a democracy with human rights, etc.; cause if he just steps down, the next dictator will take his place.

    Accordingly, the “realistic” path to the goal would not be never ever to sign again some murder/torture orders, but to sign fewer and fewer of them, stopping one day completely (e.g. just concentrate on murdering/torturing those who might obstruct the path to democracy cause they yearn to be dictators themselve).

    Of course a dictator stopping to murder people to stay in power and instead only murdering the people who might sabotage the change of the country into some decent democracy, is a laudable change, cause at least the goal of the dictator turned into something acceptable.

    But the teaching of VS is that intrinsic evils are never to be done; so VS asks the dictator to stop ordering murder and killing right now right there and NEVER do it again. And that it would be false that due to the circumstances the dictator finds himself in it would supposedly in accord with God’s will that the dictator still orders here and there a bit of mureder/torture for the good cause of turning the country into a democracy.

    Does AL confirm this, that the dictator should stop right NOW doing this and that it would be false to suggest that murdering/torturing a little bit more is the best response that he could offer after he confessed all his sins to a priest and is thereby in a state of grace?

    Its one thing that the moral norms define a goal or direction. It is another thing if they also limit the choice of paths that one could legitimately and in good conscience walk towards that goal.

    • Brian Killian Brian Killian says:

      Hello Carn. Let me share with you a little thought experiment I wrote a few years ago.

      Imagine a robot that is programmed to steal. It has no consciousness, no moral sense, no conscience, no freedom, no will, it just does what it is programmed to do – steal people’s belongings. Despite the fact that we can describe this robot’s actions as being ‘objectively disordered’, we know that there is absolutely no moral agency involved. The robot is simply not the proper subject of moral language. It’s not a bad robot, it’s not an evil robot, words like ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ don’t even apply to it. They might apply to the robot’s creator, but they don’t apply to the robot itself. Without the passport of freedom and knowledge, the robot can never be a citizen of the moral universe. No one would ever think of arguing about the robot’s level of guilt or responsibility because it has none.

      Now imagine that you are a witness to a miracle. The robot suddenly wakes up. It is conscious of moral values, of right and wrong, etc. However, it is still programmed to steal. It can’t not steal, but it now knows that stealing is wrong. But there is actually one small bit of freedom that it does possess. It must steal something, but it can choose what to steal. Now imagine watching what happens when this conscious robot goes to its target house to do its nightly thieving. “What will it do?” you wonder, stuffing handfuls of popcorn into your mouth.

      You watch as the robot eyes the life savings stuffed under the mattress, and the looks at a little paperclip sitting on a table. He looks again at the money under the mattress and then the paperclip and hesitates. You sit utterly still as the robot mulls over the first moral decision of its new life. Suddenly, the robot grabs the little paperclip sitting on a table and takes off. “Yes!” you shout, fist pumping the air. Can you imagine that? Can you see yourself doing that – cheering the robot for the actual choice it made in the first ever real decision of its life?

      What were you cheering for?

      Were you cheering because the robot stole a paperclip? Or is the truth more that you were cheering because the robot decided to use what little freedom it had to lessen the harm that its programming would have created? If you saw yourself fist pumping because of the robot’s choice, was it not because within the concrete circumstances of the robots life at this moment, it did the good it was capable of doing and avoided the evil that it was capable of avoiding? You had the intuition, did you not, that the choice made was good? That it was the right thing to do under the circumstances?

      And describing what just happened with the robot as “stealing a paperclip” – is that not a perverse abuse of language and a lie? “Stealing” is too big a moral frame to describe what happened. The robot’s moral universe is not big enough to include the moral possibility of theft. Increasing harm or lessening harm is its entire moral universe right now. It can neither commit theft nor not commit theft in a moral sense. It has no choice in the matter. To say our happiness at seeing the robot choose the paperclip rather than the life savings implies cheering on theft is a major misreading of the situation. The truth is that in the moral universe of the robot, as small as it is, it did the good thing.

      Does this imply that theft is good? Are we applying a double standard to the robot and letting it off the hook? Is theft good for the robot and evil for other moral agents? Are we justifying theft?

      Again, of course not. As said earlier, we don’t talk in moral terms about things that have no moral agency, because they are not free. We can only talk in moral terms to the same degree as an entity has the capacity to act freely. Since our robot doesn’t have that ability regarding the taking or not taking of things – to talk about justifying theft is meaningless nonsense. It can only choose to lessen harm or not, therefore we can only speak in moral terms about those choices. There is no double standard here because there’s no standard at all where there’s no freedom.

      Everyone who lacks the power to do something, everyone who’s freedom has been compromised, becomes kind of like that robot. To the extent that they have lost some of their will power, their moral universe has shrunk to the same extent. To that same extent they have also left the world of moral discourse.

      When Pope Francis says: “Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

      He isn’t saying that God is asking the weak person to do something evil anymore than you were cheering the robot for stealing a paperclip. Like the fathers of the council of Trent, the pope is saying “do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do).”

      • Avatar Marie says:

        What a great analogy!

      • Avatar M. says:

        Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      • Avatar carn says:

        Thanks for the interesting post.

        Main issues:

        The analogy considers the present. So what the robot is doing right now.

        And it does not consider the robot to be in a state of grace.

        Pope Francis intent seems not only to be that one considers the mitigating circumstances for present actions, but also mitigation for future actions in the moment one should be in a state of grace.

        In the analogy:

        The robot also gets to know God, is drawn to Catholicism, gets baptized (all the while continuing his paper slip stealing instead of savings) and goes to confession. At the end of a valid confession he would be in a state of grace.

        So he confesses his paper slip stealing cause it is a sin (probably only a venial, but even these should be confessed if they are a habit, which is the case here). Wouldn’t for a valid confession the robot at least have resolve to try to stop entering other people’s houses and stop stealing paper slips?

        Even if the resolve is accompanied by the knowledge that due to his programming failure is likely.

        And wouldn’t also be the resolve necessary to work on that programming?

        Because if i read Walford’s word above, it seems as if it would be fine if the robot had – at least for this confession – no resolve to stop stealing or even to try to do something about its programming.

        And the reasoning seems to be that even in the moment of walking out of the confessional – in a moment where it seems like the robot is in a state of grace – it is impossible for the robot to have the resolve not to steal, not even the version of resolve “i will try, but i am likely to fail”.

        Maybe i am wrong with “seems” and the intent of the Pope is otherwise. But it is hard to see.

        Also, a general question:

        For me it was obvious after about a few days (or even less time) pondering about the issue of communion for divorced and remarried, that the main obstacle would be lack of resolve during confession to not have sex with the non-spouse.

        Trying and falling is of course no fundamental obstacle.

        So the main obstacle obviously lies from my point of view with any future and potentially intended actions or at least lack of resolve to avoid these actions.

        Yet, nearly always when someone tries to explain why there is no problem the focus is about mitigation or present or past actions; the Walford quote above is the ONLY ONE i am aware of, which tries to tackle the issue of intended future actions and how mitigation might work there.

        How is it that so seldom those who defend AL and often argue from the presumed position that they are better at understanding nuances than the critics so often fail to tackle the absolutely critical nuance of whether we are discussing past, present or future actions and the critical nuance that intent for future actions can present problems for valid confessions?

        Forgiving past and even present actions is not a real problem. But whether on how forgiving future actions/intent therefore can be validly forgiven is a bit obscure – after all, if our robot does not have the resolve not to steal again, the confession might be invalid.

    • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

      In the case of your hypothetical dictator: Maybe he could surrender some of his authoritarianism and invite as his advisors some people of good judgement who will be able to show him the way and prevent him from reacting in ways that would bring him to sign orders to murder or torture…

      • Avatar carn says:

        Maybe.

        But we would still have to drop our condemnations of such a dictator, cause its “maybe” and accordingly we do not know.

        Besides, if looking at the reality of warfare, civil warfare and transformation to democracy, there are a lot of circumstances which might be mitigating.

        For a starting, imagine that one day you woke up and some stupid body-soul exchange happened and the face in the mirror is Baschar al-Assad. How do you get through the day, while both not sinning and helping your country – for which you are responsible as official head of state – get out of its mess?

        And not just that single day, but the weeks, months or even years to come, till you finally see your wife and children to some place of safety and can be off to Den Haag (for being prosecuted and sentenced for the crimes you committed) without your country again falling into civil war or even worse another IS rising and burning and butchering people in livestreams. You could ask friends for help – but asking Putin for help is likely to end up doing something which is a sin. You could try to rid your ranks of all people of questionable character – but then you might end up with too little forces to keep the islamistic part of your military opposition in check. You could try to parley with those parts of your opposition that are not islamistic and keep their distance from islamists – which could result in ineffective talks cause too much of the military opposition is excluded. You could get the Kurds on your side by offering them some semi-independent kurdish state – only to have Turkish forces invade and then you have to react (cause you are officially allied with the semi-independent Kurdish state). You could parley with also islamist or islamist-allied opposition – which could result in paving the way for islamists gaining power and influence.

        I do not suggest that it would be impossible for a person in a state of grace to get through that without sinning. I just suggest that at least some of us would fail there due to our own limitations to actually see which would be the just path through that mess and to actually walk that path (cause it might also include risking one’s own death or worse the death of one’s wife and children beforehand).

        So by applying this “robot example” to the real world, it seems that we would have to give Assad the benefit of doubt, cause maybe he is just on a sincere path to turn his country to the better and using a lot less chemical weapons than if he weren’t on that sincere path, but we from the outside just cannot see and understand all the constraints he is acting under, just like we do not see the programming of the robot.

        And Putin of course would also deserve the benefit of doubt. Like many other.

  5. Avatar M. says:

    Not if the robot’s freedom to have firm purpose of amendment is compromised. If the robot wants to have a firm purpose of amendment but cannot? Then, the priest can determine whether or not the robot should receive absolution, and thus be allowed Communion, on a case-by-case basis, and in the context of continual support, help, and understanding, working towards a holier state of life for the robot together with the priest in confession/spiritual direction. (In the analogy, in this case, you could have the robot stealing something far more valuable than a paper clip, and thus needing such intense accompaniment, because sin potentially objectively grave matter) This is what the Pope means by accompaniment.

    • Avatar carn says:

      “Not if the robot’s freedom to have firm purpose of amendment is compromised.”

      So out robot has not the intent not to sin again, because he lacks the ability to have that intent and therefore is not culpable for not having the intent?

      And therefore the robot’s confession might be valid, cause his lack of intent not to sin again – normally making the confession invalid – is not his fault and does not make the confession invalid?

      I asking to make sure, i understood this correctly.

      “Then, the priest can determine whether or not the robot should receive absolution,”

      A little problem:

      “Priests are called to respect the decisions made in
      conscience by individuals who act in good faith
      since no one can enter the soul of another and
      make that judgment for them. As Pope Francis
      teaches, “We have been called to form consciences,
      not to replace them” (AL, 37).”

      Or in other words, the priest is not allowed to do what you suggest, namely determine = judge whether some decision – e.g. not having intent not to sin again but still ask for forgiveness in confession and approach Holy Communion – is correct or not, cause the Priest cannot enter the soul – which means the Priest cannot determine whether there are such freedom limiting factors present or not.

      Now this is not from Ashpenaz trying to spin some words of Pope Francis, bus from his Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl in the official guidelines of the diocese of Washington (and need i say, that i truly wish that Cardinal Wuerl makes good of that extraordinary potential for holiness that i think might be still waiting for him?).

      So its the robot – who lacks a well-formed conscience and lacks even freedom to have intent to not sin again – who decides whether he received a valid absolution and might approach holy communion. The priest can try to offer advice – but even if the robot rejected this advice, this wouldn’t mean that the priest might withhold absolution.

      • Avatar M. says:

        What is from Cardinal Wuerl? I have no idea what you could be referring to.

        Just be careful when you start deciding that guidelines for valid absolution apply to every subjective situation across the board, and that priests have no right to apply discretion to individuals circumstances. I personally know of a situation where, yes, ther person’s *ability* to have a firm purpose of amendment was seriously compromised by many mitigating factors, and if the (very holy, extremely orthodox priest, and well-known and trusted spiritual director incidentally) hadn’t helped them to determine that yes, they had such mitigating factors and not only could but should approach the sacraments including confession, frequently and without fear (and the person was fearful of doing so) I can tell you that person would never have had the sacramental grace to grow slowly out of the impossible situation that they found themselves in. Of course I can’t give specifics, so you can choose to believe me or not. It isn’t a good argument, or a logical one, but I can say honestly that if I didn’t know about this situation, which happened long before Pope Francis was even elected- I would probably think exactly like you do.

      • Avatar Marthe Lépine says:

        I lived through a case similar to the one you describe and trying to decide if I should write about it…

      • Avatar M. says:

        The situation I am referring to was deeply personal and agonizing for those involved. I wish I could write about it, because I wonder if it could possibly help some who are so opposed to AL. Truly, I and those involved probably would have fallen into the camp of those opposed to AL, if I had not been exposed to the knowledge of that situation, and then realized that, although fairly uncommon, certainly not a completely unusual situation- those in it would be abandoned truly if they were never blessed enough to find a holy, orthodox, trustworthy and wise priest to help them out of the muck. But it is difficult to write about such things, and there is the issue of pearls before swine, shaking dust, and all of that to consider, when it is likely such tender and painful things may get torn apart and spit on by the opponents to the pope. Pray about it before you decide.

      • Avatar carn says:

        Oh, sorry, forgot the link:

        http://adw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/PastoralPlan-AmorisLaetitia.pdf

        Page 52, bottom right is what i quoted. That the document is published on the official website of the archdiocese of Washington and has “by his eminence donald cardinal wuerl
        archbishop of washington” on page 1 (again bottom right corner) is in my view sufficient to justify to say that it is from Cardinal Wuerl.

        “Of course I can’t give specifics, so you can choose to believe me or not.”

        I believe you.

        But note the important difference:

        In your example the priest did what Cardinal Wuerl seems to forbid his priest from doing, namely making the judgement for them that there are sufficient mitigating factors.

        It is another of these details, which nobody ever seemed to care enough about to clarify. Who is to decide? The accompanying priest? Or the member of the illicit relationship himself/herself?

        I know full well that to many people even asking this question is akin to throwing stones at poor sinners; but the question is – as far as i am aware – unanswered; the Buenes Aires guidelines with papal approval are as far as i can see silent on that point.

        “Of course I can’t give specifics, so you can choose to believe me or not.”

        I believe you.

        But as far as i can understand it, the person in question was aware that failure to avoid the in itself sinful action is a problem; that it was a fault, that he/she would have corrected if he/she would have seen a way how to do that.

        That is in itself an intent to avoid the sin.

        With the robot it would be the difference between:

        I’m probably going to steal again and that is not good, so plan to do it as seldom and as little severe as possible.

        I’m going to steal again and there is nothing wrong with that.

        “I would probably think exactly like you do.”

        I am not sure whether you know exactly how i think. Cause i wrote above:

        “not even the version of resolve “i will try, but i am likely to fail”.”

        that i count the version in which a in principle intent to avoid the sin is there, but in which failure is expected, as having intent.

        I do not see a problem with a drug addict confessing his addiction and receiving absolution, although both the confessor as the drug addict are fully aware and even discuss that the likelihood of taking drugs again the next days is only marginally different from the sun rising, as long as the drug addict sees the taking of drugs as wrong and has intent to do what he can to postpone the moment when he will again give in and take drugs. The intent is there.

        But it is another thing, if one now longer tries. And with the Walford example it seems like the trying is stopped for the time being.

      • Avatar carn says:

        And also: for those trying and failing, one can still call what they do wrong. It is wrong.

        Therefore, one avoids the problem of having to give carte blanche to every murderous dictator and still can call them out for the wrong they do (even if there is some mitigation).

      • Avatar M. says:

        With the Walford example, the couple is experiencing difficulty maintaining the relationship as a result of the celibacy and as a result the children are suffering. In that situation (whether you agree that is a mitigating factor or not, and whether you agree that would let them approach confession and receive absolution or not) it is different than the robot, because, nobody can ever say that stealing a paperclip is, in itself a good thing. But you can say that having relations in order to maintain a relationship for the good of the children, between people who have not attained any degree of holiness yet, could be a “good.” The relations are not good, but the intent might be good. If there is great weakness, and need for grace in order to attain to the higher level of perfection that the calling now requires of them, namely, celibacy living as Mary and Joseph, say, although quite ordinary, sinful people- hmm. Maybe. I wouldn’t presume to have the answers on that one, I think it would require a holy spiritual director who can figure out how to help them out of that catch 22 situation.

      • Avatar carn says:

        I am a bit uncertain, how you mean that:

        “But you can say that having relations in order to maintain a relationship for the good of the children, between people who have not attained any degree of holiness yet, could be a “good.””

        The issue is not about having “relations”, but about having sex. Which is – if they are not married to each other before God – usually considered to be adultery.

        So it seems to me that you are suggesting that committing adultery could be a “good” if it is done out of the intent to avoid a for the children dangerous breakup.

        Did i understand you correctly?

        “The relations are not good, but the intent might be good.”

        If i understood the Church teaching regarding intrinsic evil correctly, committing an intrinsic evil act is still wrong even if the intent is good and would be something one should avoid when trying to heed “Go and sin no more.”

        Besides:
        “13 ‘You shall not kill.

        14 ‘You shall not commit adultery.

        15 ‘You shall not steal.

        16 ‘You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour.”

        This sounds as if stealing and committing adultery are rather similar before God.

        And that adultery even refers to divorce and remarriage seems to be implied by Jesus himself (Mathew 5:32) and seems to be confirmed by St. Paul (1 Cor 7: 8-13). Here i mean with “seems to be implied” that it is hard to interpret these words:
        “I say to you,* whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.””

        in any other way except that sex between divorced and remarried is adultery according to Jesus.

        Accordingly, i cannot see that adultery and stealing should be approached very differently and that the robot example is very different from the Walford example, except for the intent (and the robot might also be said to have good intent: he steals the paper slips to avoid stealing the life savings; this is the intent to reduce the damage his victims suffer from the robot’s theft)

  6. Avatar M. says:

    And, I couldn’t reply to you other comment above, regarding Cardinal Schonborn. It seems he is the official interpreter of AL, yes, based on what you told me. But I seriously doubt that he is using the pope’s words to twist to justify approving of homosexual marriages and such. For example he said, regarding Pope’s introduction of AL when there was such pressure, apparently, on the pope:
    “I had serious fear that the attempt of certain bishops, certain theologians, certain pressure groups, would lead Pope Francis to attempt to formulate a new canonical disposition applicable for all situations of irregular situations. That is what the eastern Orthodox Churches do … where it is generally canonically established that a second and third union are possible under certain conditions.”

    Some, he said, wanted a similar canonical disposition for the Catholic Church.

    “I was so relieved and glad that Pope Francis stood clear above this. The canonical dispositions are valid and need no addition.”://cruxnow.com/commentary/2017/07/15/cardinal-schonborn-moral-theology-needs-principles-prudence/

    It just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a Cardinal who is hoping to collaborate with the pope in allowing homosexual unions, as David hints at above, would say.

    • Avatar Marie says:

      M- This is from an article in Zenit, dated March 7, 2013: “It is widely known of the close bond between Cardinal Schönborn and Benedict XVI. In the same interview, the cardinal praised the Pontiff Emeritus’ mastery, who, just as the most renown Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, “has the ability to explain things in all simplicity and clarity in the light of reason.”

      What should we all make of that? Hmmm….It is absolutely ridiculous that a sentence here, a sentence there is all it takes to twist a person’s words to reflect what the reader wants them to mean…..This nonsense needs to stop. You and Ong had a good day today!! 🙂

      • Avatar M. says:

        Thanks Marie, yes it is like a sentence here nad there to help along the narrative, oftentimes. I respect those who have serious questions, I have a few myself, just as I do with many things I do not yet understand, but submit in an act of the will. I didn’t realize that they had a close bond, that is so nice to know. I think of the Pope Emeritus as like a doctor of the church. I bet one day he will be so considered so. I like how Pope Francis asked Schonborn “Is it orthodox?” I thought that was sweet and humble. By the way, is no one talking about the new interview of Pope Francis to Mexican journalist? I thought it was big news, but see very little about it anywhere? (Or course I have not looked at the news outlets with the usual suspects because I do not have Jane’s remarkable patience!)

  7. Avatar Mary Angelica says:

    I have a question, but didn’t know where to post it, so here goes. The common refrain is that according to AL, reception of the sacraments can occur when the person intends to live the Gospel in full, but due to her circumstances, her culpability is reduced so that she is no longer committing mortal sin. yet canon law forbids the reception of communion in the case of “manifest grave sin”.. This isn’t the same as mortal sin, since it does not involve the issue of intent and level of culpability (nor does mortal sin need to be manifest). The ban is for those who have committed grave sin in a public manner, not those who have committed mortal sin. The divorced and civilly remarried, since they are in a public union, qualify under the “manifest” part, and also, if they are sexually active, qualify under the “grave” part as well. By canon law it follows that they cannot receive. Now there are several reasons for this law as is written, I assume, but I can see a shift in it so long as the restrictions in AL remain in place. This would require a change in canon law, wouldn’t it? But if I recall correctly, Pope Francis also said that canon law would remain the same.