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New Appeal to the Pope. The Catholic Doubts of “The New York Times”

In California the bishop of San Diego, a favorite of Bergoglio, admits de facto divorces and remarriages, as in any Protestant church. From the news arises the question: Can “Amoris Laetitia” be interpreted this way, too?

by Sandro Magister

ROME, December 5, 2016 – Four cardinals, as is already known, have asked the pope to give a clear answer to five “doubts” raised by the most controversial passages of “Amoris Laetitia":

> “Seeking Clarity.” The Appeal of Four Cardinals To the Pope

But they have received no response, and probably never will. Because for Pope Francis “it is in the flux of life that one must discern,” not with strokes of “either black or white,” as “some still fail to understand”:

> Papa Francesco: Non svendo la dottrina, seguo il Concilio

Vox Wrote:

He already made his "strokes in black and white." He's being asked for clarification about those strokes that are very clearly not being understood, hence the dubia! If he were worried about a "failure to understand," one'd think, especially since he has the job of being the supreme pastor of the Church, that he'd help people to understand. What the...?

But if he has that sort of attitude toward things in "black and white strokes," why not do away with the Ten Commandments while he's at it, eh? Any why even bother writing down or expressing in any way the Two Great Commandments? Why even bother writing or talking at all? How's about if we all sit and soak in our own gnosis?

Personally, I'd be thrilled if this Pope were to never write anything down or speak again --  aside, maybe, from ordering eggs-over-easy or something inane like that. Thrilled. Positively thrilled.

A few days ago, however, Francis received through unusual channels another pressing request to speak out clearly. Getting away from which will be more complicated for him.

The request has come to him from the most famous secular newspaper in the world, “The New York Times,” and to be precise from one of its editorialists, Ross Douthat, a Catholic.

Vox Wrote:
Ignoring your own Cardinals who are asking for clarification about Church teaching so that they might spread that teaching to others in the proper way -- a little rigid. But some idiot journalist asking a question? Attention must be paid!

Who in turn has cited the instructions on “Amoris Laetitia” given to the diocese of San Diego, California, by Bishop Robert W. McElroy (in the photo). In which the abandonment of the indissolubility of marriage and the admission of remarriage appears so glaringly evident as to in fact oblige the supreme authority of the Church, in concrete terms the pope, to take a position. And to speak out against these, because even just remaining silent would be the same as giving the go-ahead to an unquestionably substantial rupture with a pillar of the perennial Catholic faith:

> The End of Catholic Marriage

This request to the pope to make a clear statement is all the more trenchant in that the bishop in question, McElroy, is a favorite of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who promoted him to the important diocese of San Diego precisely in order to increase his influence among the bishops of the United States.

But what do the instructions that McElroy has given to his diocese say?

The complete text is on the website of the diocese of San Diego:

> Embracing the Joy of Love

And these are the passages most in rupture with the bimillennial doctrine of Catholic marriage:

"Many Catholics who have been divorced and remarried conclude for a variety of legitimate reasons – many of them arising out of caring concern for the effects that an annulment process might have on the feelings of adult children or former spouses – that they cannot initiate the annulment process. What is their status in the Church?

"The 'Joy of Love' emphasizes that no abstract rule can embody the many complexities of the circumstances, intentions, levels of understanding and maturity which originally surrounded the action of a man or woman in entering their first marriage, or which surround the new moral obligations to a spouse or children which have already been produced by a second marriage. Thus, Pope Francis rejects the validity of any blanket assertion that 'all those in any (second marriage without benefit of annulment) are living in a state of mortal sin and deprived of sanctifying grace.'

Vox Wrote:
I have to add here that the being in a "second marriage," which wouldn't truly be a "marriage" at all but in the legal sense, would have to involve sex for it to be sinful. At least that is my understanding. I.e., there are reasons for legal divorces, and reasons for civil marriages, even if those marriages aren't true, sacramental marriages, and even if the couple can't have sex without sinning.

But it's pretty obvious that that sort of situation isn't what Francis is talking about. He's not referring, for ex., to some sacramentally married woman who, against her wishes, gets dumped at the age of 50, and then civilly marries a nice, understanding man who wants to make sure she has medical insurance so she can get the care she needs for a heart condition she has or whatever.

"This does not mean that there is not a deep level of contradiction in the life of Catholics who are divorced and remarried, as the Lord himself noted in the Gospel of Matthew. But Pope Francis explains that even in the face of substantial contradictions between the Gospel and the existential life of a disciple, the inexorable logic of divine grace seeks ever more progressive reintegration into the full life of the Church. […]

"In conversation with a priest, the believer with humility, discretion, and love for the Church and its teachings seeks to reflect upon their level of responsibility for the failure of the first marriage, their care and love for the children of that marriage, the moral obligations which have arisen in their new marriage, and possible harm which their returning to the sacraments might have by undermining the indissolubility of marriage. It is important to underscore that the role of the priest is one of accompaniment, meant to inform the conscience of the discerner on principles of Catholic faith. The priest is not to make decisions for the believer, for as Pope Francis emphasizes in 'The Joy of Love,' the Church is 'called to form consciences, not to replace them.'

Vox Wrote:Hmmm... I wonder if that'd include the great sin of voting for Trump, or "contributing to global warming" by using one's fireplace too often. Or what about working against your mayor's desire to turn your little village into a sanctuary for Muslim immigrants? Or what about if the parishioner thinks the N.O. Mass is, Consecration aside, sucky, wants to attend the TLM instead, and is causing a ruckus about it at his parish? Should the priest just be there as "an accompaniment" -- like a bottle of Tabasco on the table during dinner? -- or should he, as Francis has, make clear that such an awful parishioner is rigid, judgmental, and generally deplorable?

"Catholics participating authentically in this discernment of conscience should keep in mind both the permanence of marriage and the teaching of the Church that 'the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine and nourishment for the weak.' Most importantly, this discernment must always place at the very center the question 'What is God asking of me now?'

Vox Wrote:? How can marriage be "permanent" if someone is allowed to enter into it twice without having a spouse die?

"Some Catholics engaging in this process of discernment will conclude that God is calling them to return to full participation in the life of the Church and the Eucharist. Others will conclude that they should wait, or that their return would hurt others.

"In pointing to the pathway of conscience for the divorced and remarried, Pope Francis is not enlisting an element of the Christian moral life which is exceptional. For the realm of conscience is precisely where the Christian disciple is called to discern every important moral decision that he or she makes."

Vox Wrote:So, if a guy commits murder, hasn't gone to Confession but thinks, instead, that his victim needed killing because he, for ex., beat him up in 4th grade, he should be allowed to receive the Sacraments. Is that the sort of conclusion y'all are getting from this way of thinking? None of it is the Church's business, the priest's business. It's all between the murderer and God. The priest is just there to consecrate the Eucharist and drop it into the grubby hands of whoever deems himself in an OK-enough position to receive. Same goes with the active homosexual who really thinks that Christians have it all wrong and have had it all wrong for 2,000 years. Is that it?


As Douthat points out in his column in “The New York Times,” absent from these instructions are both the word and the notion of “sin,” except in a citation of “Amoris Laetitia” that is recalled precisely in order to rule it out.

Vox Wrote:
Sin-schmin. What a "rigid" concept! Post-modern man does not sin; he just sometimes makes unhealthy choices, politically incorrect choices, or choices that make for a large carbon footprint.

Also absent are the word and the notion of sacramental confession. What takes its place is a conversation with a priest who however neither judges nor absolves, but only advises, leaving the final decision to the conscience of the individual with which he is conversing.

But what vanish above all are the indissolubility of marriage and the inadmissibility of remarriage when one’s spouse, validly married, is still alive. The realities that matter instead become the happiness of the new union or the lack thereof, with the “new moral obligations” that it involves, the needs of the first and second spouse, the care of the children from the first or second bed.

Even recourse to a proceeding over the validity of the “first” marriage must be subordinated to the sentiments of the persons in play, past or present, so as to do no harm in any way. Divorce and civil remarriage certainly remain in contradiction with the words of Jesus, but “Pope Francis explains” that the logic of divine grace also urges here toward a reintegration in the full life of the Church.

And access to the Eucharist? According to these instructions, it is enough that each one should consider within himself what God is asking of him at that moment. And so there are those who will receive communion, those who will postpone it until another time, those who will evaluate its effect on other persons. The question, in short, is no longer “whether” to receive communion, but “when” to receive it.

Put in this way, then, communion for the divorced and remarried is no longer an exception for the rare difficult cases and within a process subjected to the evaluation of the Church, as Cardinal Walter Kasper himself, the leader of the innovators, has repeatedly made a point of emphasizing and as Pope Francis himself has repeatedly shown that he means, either in his own words or through intermediaries like Cardinal Agostino Vallini, his vicar for the diocese of Rome.

No, in the format established by Bishop McElroy for the diocese of San Diego, communion for the divorced and remarried enters completely into normalcy. A normalcy in which, however, marriage is no longer indissoluble, remarriage is tranquilly admitted, sacramental confession has vanished, and Eucharistic communion is accessible “ad libitum.” As in any Protestant church.

Is all of this part of the multiform and often opposing interpretations and applications of “Amoris Laetitia” that Francis has deliberately allowed to coexist so far?

And can even this interpretation of “Amoris Laetitia” be viewed as compatible with the perennial doctrine of Catholic marriage?

These are two questions that the pope will have a hard time setting aside.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.