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  Monday, April 18, 2016 
Amoris Laetitia: Anatomy of a Pontifical Debacle  Featured 

Written by  Christopher A. Ferrara

Editor's Note: This is the REVISED AND EXPANDED WEB VERSION of Mr. Ferrara's article by the same name which appears in the current print-edition of The Remnant. We've decided to post it here in its entirety due to the gravity of its subject matter and to the fact that it may well be our most definitive exposé of Pope Francis and his agenda to permanently change the Church. It gives us no joy to publish this devastating critique of the 'Joy of Love'. In fact, we regard it as nothing less than the heartbreaking duty of loyal sons of the Church who can see no alternative but to resist. Please pray for Pope Francis and for our beloved Catholic Church under obvious siege. MJM

No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. -Pius XI, Casti Connubii

Introduction: Spreading Alarm

As Cardinal Burke has observed in an article appearing in the National Catholic Register, upon careful reading AMORIS LÆTITIA reveals itself to be “a personal, that is, non-magisterial” document, “a personal reflection of the Pope” that “is not confused with the binding faith owed to the exercise of the magisterium.” This is true enough, but perhaps not for the reasons the Cardinal expresses, as I show at the conclusion of this essay.

But that hardly eliminates the massive problem with this utterly unprecedented 256-page “apostolic exhortation.” What motivates all the pages to follow here is that Pope Francis has promulgated Amoris Laetitia as if it were an authentic and binding act of the Magisterium and that it will be treated as such by his collaborators and by ecclesial progressives throughout the Catholic world. Amoris Laetitia is, therefore, yet another addition to The Great Façade of pseudo-doctrines in the form of non-binding pastoral and disciplinary novelties and new attitudes and “approaches”—all emerging for the first time during that great epoch of enlightenment known as the Sixties. These include the new liturgy (which the faithful were never actually required to attend), “ecumenism,” “dialogue” and “interreligious dialogue.” Their combined effects have been ruinous.

And now this.A commentary at the Rorate Caeli blog site said what had to be said for the sake of truth: “There’s no other way to put it: The pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia is a catastrophe.” Voice of the Family likewise recognized what was immediately apparent from a reading of the critical Chapter 8: “Our initial overview provides sufficient cause to regard this document as a threat to the integrity of the Catholic faith and the authentic good of the family.”

Even normally middle-of-the-road commentators have not concealed their alarm over the document’s patent downgrading of Our Lord’s demanding teaching in the realm of sexual morality and Francis’s thematic argument that “mitigating factors” and “concrete situations” somehow convert mortally sinful adultery and fornication into mere “irregularities” falling short of the “ideal” of Christian marriage but nonetheless possessing “constructive elements.” See extended discussion at II.

EWTN’s show The World Over presented a politely devastating critique by Fr. Gerald Murray, Robert Royal and Raymond Arroyo. The participants described passages to be examined here as “dangerous,” “very disturbing,” “very problematic,” “not the language of the Gospel,” “very odd,” “very strange,” “a big mistake,” “set[ting] up straw men to knock down,” “a direct contradiction of John Paul II in Familiaris consortio and subsequent documents,” “not in accord with what the Church has said until now,” “false mercy” favorable to “‘Father Friendly’ who wants to sell the store,” that would make receiving Communion “a badge of honor that you receive even you though you know what you are doing is contrary to the teaching of the Church,” and an “attempt to paper over what really is a change of doctrine… but denying that you’re changing the doctrine.” As Arroyo observed, according to the general tenor of the document “the exception becomes a very difficult rule, or no rule at all” while the Church, to quote Father Murray, becomes involved in “the excuse-making business, not the Gospel business.” Given the last word, Father Murray, citing the natural right of the faithful to voice their concerns as recognized by the Code of Canon Law, concluded:

Flattery would mean we keep our mouths shut and say nothing. But Gospel frankness… calls upon us to say, Holy Father, either you have been poorly advised or you have an incomplete conception of this issue…

I don’t want to criticize the pope…. but what I will say is when you do something in public that contradicts what your predecessor did, there has to be an accounting for it and a responsibility to upholding the gospel, and I think that’s what many bishops, Cardinals and priests will call for.

In The Catholic Thing, Robert Royal dismissed the claim of the usual whitewashers that Francis has not authorized Holy Communion for public adulterers in “certain cases” (as shown below). That is exactly what he has done, as Francis himself just admitted during his inflight press conference on the return from Greece. See Part II at (6). Royal laments the inevitable consequences:

Amoris Laetitiahopes to resolve the situations of many in the modern world, but is far more likely only to add further fuel to the holocaust. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that once Communion can be taken by the divorced/remarried in some circumstances, it will soon be assumed licit by all. And—why not?—by people in gay relationships, who probably have an equally good claim to mitigating circumstances….

On one side of a border between two countries, Communion for the divorced and remarried would now become a sign of a new outpouring of God’s mercy and forgiveness. On the other side, giving Communion to someone in “irregular” circumstances remains infidelity to Christ’s words and, potentially, a sacrilege. In concrete terms, around the globe, what looms ahead is chaos and conflict, not Catholicity.

Writing for LifeSiteNews, Philip Lawler stated:

Amoris Laetitia— “The Joy of Love”—is not a revolutionary document. It is a subversive one…. Unfortunately, the net effect of the Pope’s approach will very likely be an acceleration of an already powerful trend to dismiss the Church’s perennial teaching, and therefore a decline in respect for the pastoral ministry he hopes to encourage [emphasis added here and throughout].

Catholic World Report, published by Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., presented a symposium of articles on the document, nearly all of them strongly critical in some respect, particularly concerning Chapter 8, the focus of this commentary:

·        Father Fessio’s fellow Jesuit, James V. Schall, S.J., agreed that the overall document has a subversive impact respecting the Church’s teaching on sexual immorality and grave sin in general: “But when we add it all up, it often seems that the effect of this approach is to lead us to conclude that no “sin” has ever occurred. Everything has an excusing cause…. One goes away from this approach not being sorry for his sins but relieved in realizing that he has never really sinned at all.”

·        Carl E. Olson called Amoris Laetitia “profound and muddled,” noting that “Francis apparently plays a bit fast and loose with some of his arguments and sources.” (Not apparently and not a bit, but actually and quite seriously, as we shall see.)

·        The renowned canonist Edward Peters lamented Amoris Laetitia’s “more-than-occasional resort to platitudes, caricatures of competing points of view, and self-quotation…” He noted a “serious misuse of a conciliar teaching [in] Gaudium et spes 51” (a veritable fraud to be discussed below) and marvels at Francis’s astonishing opinion that there can be “proven fidelity” and “Christian commitment” in “chronically adulterous relationships” following “the public and permanent abandonment of a previous spouse.”

·        Eduardo Echeverria, Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, offered a series of severe criticisms:

“Francis seems almost (not quite, but almost) incapable of acknowledging that an individual is sinfully responsible for rejecting the truth of marriage and family” …

“So, with all due respect to Francis, I think that he does imply support for the “gradualness of the law” and hence by implication opens the door to a “situation ethics.” (That is exactly what he has done, as I show below.)

Francis “does encourage the ‘dimming of the light’ because he downgrades the moral force of this normative [moral] order when he speaks of ‘rules’ here. He wants to create a moral space to regard a person as inculpable, resorting even to calling those who want to apply these norms unconditionally (in his mind, at this point “mere rules”) as sporting a ‘cold bureaucratic morality.’… This conclusion appears to be a far cry from theCatechism of the Catholic Church…”

Must We Sift the Good from the Bad—Again?

Yet despite such damning (however muted) comments, the above-quoted “mainstream” commentators were at pains to stress the orthodox elements to be found in its meandering 256 pages of promiscuously verbose text. These include a forthright condemnation of abortion at paragraph 83. (Even this, however, is mingled with the false declaration in the same paragraph that “the Church”—meaning Francis—“firmly rejects the death penalty.”) But why should any member of the faithful have to devote any effort to separating out the orthodox parts of a papal document that, as even these mainstream commentators observe, will lead to chaos and conflict in the Church, is subversive, conveys the overall impression that mortal sins are all more or less excusable, resorts to misleading citations, dishonest arguments and caricatures of opposing views, and opens the door to the gross evil of situation ethics?

If a world-renowned head chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant served us a cake whose recipe included “1 tsp. cyanide,” we would hardly praise the other wholesome ingredients because of the chef’s prestige. We would throw the thing away and have him arrested. Where an admittedly subversive “Apostolic Exhortation” is concerned, the faithful have no duty to parse it for acceptable Catholic teaching on marriage and family. Have we not had more than enough of this nonsense? It is not the responsibility of the faithful to “purify” defective papal teaching with defensive post-publication commentaries that “accentuate the positive” while ignoring the negative. It is the Pope’s responsibility to give the faithful teaching whose purity they can trust implicitly in the first place—on every page of every document.

After three years of this sort of thing, we have learned well that this pontificate is a continuing demonstration of the strict limits of papal infallibility, a charism that ends at the frontiers of novelty, where Francis fancies himself a bold pioneer. There is no more telling comment on this document than Father Zuhlsdorf’s initial declaration that “We have dodged a bullet, at least dodged a round to center mass.” Nothing could be more revealing of the disaster of this whole pontificate than the inadvertent recognition that Francis is like some active shooter on a college campus, and that we should be glad he missed or only winged us. Whew. That was a close one!

As for those parts of Amoris Laetitia which affirm, however verbosely, aspects of traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and family, we already have that teaching inabundance from innumerable sources of the infallible Magisterium, includingbeautifully written landmark encyclicals, to which faithful Catholics have already given assent of mind and will. As for unfaithful Catholics, they will not even bother to read the thing, but will simply be content with the news, now being trumpeted throughout the world, that Francis has lightened up on all that “adultery” business. And if, at the end of the tumultuous “synodal journey” that Francis insisted upon and stage-managed from start to finish, tradition-minded Catholics are supposed to exult merely because he did not do what he had no power to do anyway— “change doctrine”—then what was the point of the whole “Synod on the Family”?

The answer to this question is now obvious to anyone in possession of his reason. The Synod was merely the delivery vehicle for Amoris Laetitia, wherein Francis, as I will demonstrate below, finally arrives at the destination he has arranged from the beginning: admission of “certain” (ultimately all) divorced and “remarried” Catholics, along with other habitual public sinners of the sexual variety, to Confession and Holy Communion without prior repentance and amendment of life. The bare doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage is left untouched—indeed paragraph after paragraph of flowery praise is heaped upon it—while Francis’s plan for ignoring it in practice is finally confirmed. Amoris Laetitia widens to commodious dimensions the opening for that outcome already created by the infamous paragraphs 84-86 of the final report of Synod 2015.

But there is more. Exceeding even the most pessimistic predictions, Francis goes beyond his sham of a Synod to proclaim what amounts to a de facto ecclesial “amnesty” on grave sexual immorality generally, if that were possible. This outcome is reached via the document’s reduction of the Church’s moral teaching to “general rules,” Christian marriage to an “ideal,” and even the natural law itself to an “objective ideal” from which departures are deemed excusable based on “mitigating factors” and “concrete situations”—that is, situation ethics, as Professor Echeverria recognizes.

As this essay will show, this catastrophic breakthrough for the neo-Modernist insurgency is found in Chapter 8, whose bizarre title says it all: “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.” Read that title again and ponder its implications before reading further. See discussion at Part II (1) - (5).

As Francis would have it, the Church will now integrate unrepentant, habitual, public mortal sinners into ecclesial life, even though the Church has always taught, for their own salvation, that they are not living members of the Church until they repent, are absolved of their sins, and are restored to the life of sanctifying grace. This “integration” plan will include, but not be limited to, those living in adulterous second “marriages” or simply cohabitating with no intention of ending their immoral situations. This is to be done on the pretext that such people are just so helpless in their sins that they cannot be deemed culpable for them or be required to amend their lives at present, and that “mercy” requires that the Church accommodate their “weakness” until they “grow” spiritually at some point in the indefinite future. But what of God’s grace? In the usual postconciliar mode of Modernist doubletalk, Amoris Laetitia blatantly contradicts itself by declaring: “Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to bear witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion (¶ 63).”

If only this were a joke. But Francis is deadly serious. Of course, what I say here requires a demonstration, which follows. It will be quite detailed and thus quite lengthy, but a matter this grave must be demonstrated entirely with the words at issue, and that requires extensive analysis, not general characterizations of the document.



While the focus of this commentary is Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, the preceding chapters contain numerous intimations of the subversion to follow. These rhetorical appetizers for the main course tend to undermine or disparage the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage and family and the modern threats to both expounded by a line of great Popes before Vatican II. (There are token citations to Pius XI and Pius XII, but nothing of their uncompromising “rigorism” finds its way into the text).

1.  The bombshell in paragraph 3.

From its very outset, Amoris Laetitia unveils an astonishing theme of ethical relativization according to local and individual circumstances. Quoting one of his own peculiar sayings, Francis declares:

Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs…. For “cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.

The implications are obvious and devastating. The passage is clearly designed to pave the way for each region or nation to adopt its own culture-bound “interpretation” of the Church’s universal Eucharistic discipline respecting the divorced and “remarried” and other habitual public mortal sinners, and indeed its own interpretation of other “general principles,” including “some aspects” of Church teaching. As he has throughout the “synodal journey,” Francis invokes “the Spirit” as a continuing source of “revelation” that “guides us toward the entire truth”—hidden until now!—and finally “leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.” In short, the “God of surprises” Francis introduced to the world at the end of Synod 2014. An alarmingly gnostic view of discipline and doctrine is apparent.

During the EWTN critique mentioned above, Robert Royal noted that paragraph 3 would in practice lead to “this absurd situation that you can get in your car and drive to Poland, and if you are divorced and remarried and receive Holy Communion it’s a sacrilege and a break with Tradition, a slapping across the face of Our Lord. You drive across into Germany and suddenly it’s this new outpouring of mercy and openness to dialogue.”

2.  A plate of subversive hors d’oeuvres.

After this ominous overture, Amoris Laetitia serves up numerous hints of the coming subversion amidst pious praise of “God’s plan” for marriage. I highly recommend Chris Jackson’s brilliant dissection and discussion of these tendentious elements, among which he identifies the following:

·        praise for the supposedly more “equitable distribution of duties, responsibilities, and tasks” in the “modern” family versus the “older forms and models” (35);

·        a laughably feeble protestation that the Church “can hardly stop advocating marriage” because this would be “depriving the world of values that we can and must offer” (35);

·        the claim that “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things”—when Francis never ceases decrying the “present-day evils” he considers most urgent, all of which happen to be politically correct targets (35);

·        the false accusation that the Church’s teaching on marriage “is overshadowed by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation” versus the so-called “unitive” aspect, when exactly the opposite is true (36);

·        the false accusation that the Church has presented an “excessive idealization” and an “artificial theological ideal” of marriage” (36);

·        the false accusations that the Church has long been “stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace” and has unjustly neglected to “make room for the consciences of the faithful” (37)—an obvious setup for Chapter 8;

·    see the rest at