Pedro Gabriel has posted a new interview with philosophy professor, former Italian politician, and author Rocco Buttiglione on his website The City and the World. Buttiglione has been an influential Catholic thinker across three papacies, publishing 10 books and some 130 articles on topics ranging from political philosophy to Catholic social doctrine to the papacy of St. John Paul II. Professor Buttiglione first came to my attention when he was among the first prominent defenders of the orthodoxy of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, who offered a response and correction to the “dubia” of four retired cardinals who challenged the pope’s teaching. He also wrote a book on the controversy, which unfortunately is not available in English, although Pedro Gabriel does translate some of its passages in his book The Orthodoxy of Amoris Laetitia.

The interview is long and wide-ranging, but one of the central points Buttiglione makes relates to a person’s subjective culpability (or personal responsibility) when committing an objectively grave sin. This is central to the teaching of Amoris, and misunderstandings about this longstanding traditional Catholic doctrine have caused many Catholics to believe falsely that Pope Francis taught error.


You can find this doctrine in St. Thomas Aquinas, and you find this doctrine also in the Catechism, and not only in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, also in the old Catechism of St. Pius X. It is expressed in a different language: in order to have a sin, you need an objective side—gravity of matter—and you need a subjective side. Subjective side is freedom of judgment and knowledge of fact. Knowledge of fact means you must know that what you do is wrong. If you don’t know that, if you think honestly, in your conscience that it is right, then there is no sin. Second, you must be free and there are situations in which you are not free.

Unfortunately, in our time, with so many damaged lives, people who grow without having the model of a living family, of a real family, because their parents divorced, because perhaps they never had a father… many people do not have these models. And they grow with an emotional structure that is damaged and makes it very difficult for them to be really free.

Now, in order to evaluate the subjective responsibility, you must consider these two elements. And then, it may happen that something that is objectively, absolutely wrong, can be only a venial sin, or perhaps nothing at all according to the situations.

Visit The City and the World for the full transcript. For more from Pedro and Claire Gabriel, subscribe to their email list here and to Pedro’s YouTube channel here.

I will upload the audio to our podcast channel as soon as I get a chance.

Image: Rocco Buttiglioni. Source: https://flic.kr/p/5b725b. License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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