Friday, April 8, 2016

Amoris Laetitia Tsunami

Science tells us tsunamis (tidal waves) have clear warning signs before impact.  Two examples within recent memory exemplify this:  the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that resulted in at least 230, 000 deaths and the 2011 Fukushima tsunami which continues to plague Japan.

Friday, April 8, saw the release of Amoris Laetitia  ("The Joy of Love"), the Synod on the Family's final report.  You'd think we were experiencing the ecclesiological equivalent of a tsunami.  All sorts of folks--Catholic and not--weighing in on what Pope Francis did or did not say.  Not worth reposting here, but I saw at least one Twitter calling for Francis' resignation due to heresy.  Kind of like this:

H/T Mollie Z. Hemingway of The Federalist

To survive a tsunami, head to higher ground!  With that in mind, here are two, relatively differing, opinions from sources I respect.  First, Dr. Ed Peters' Canon Law Blog:

Holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics. Francis does not approve this central assault tactic against the permanence of marriage, but neither does he clearly reiterate constant Church teaching and practice against administering the Eucharist to Catholics in irregular marriage situations. And, speaking of ‘irregular marriage’, nearly every time Francis uses that traditional phrase to describe what could more correctly be termed pseudo-marriage, he puts the word “irregular” in scare quotes, as if to imply that the designation is inappropriate and that he is using it only reluctantly.
‘Same-sex marriage’. Francis leaves no opening whatsoever that ‘same-sex marriage’ can ever be regarded as marriage. AL 251.

Among the problems Peters sees these:
4. In AL 297, Francis writes: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” To the contrary, it is precisely the logic of the Gospel that one can be condemned forever. CCC 1034-1035. If one meant, say, that no one can be ‘condemned for ever’ by earthly authority, one should have said so. But, of course, withholding holy Communion from those in “public and permanent adultery” is not a “condemnation” at all, so the point being made is not clear.
5. In AL 280-286, directly discussing sex education for youth, I did not see any acknowledgement, indeed not even a mention, that parents have rights in this important area. Perhaps that is to be gleaned from comments about parents made elsewhere in AL.
Peters also links to Father Schall, SJ's comments, so I will, too:  read them here

Then here's Bishop Robert Barron's initial reflections:
In regard to the moral objectivities of marriage, the Pope is bracingly clear. He unhesitatingly puts forward the Church’s understanding that authentic marriage is between a man and a woman, who have committed themselves to one another in permanent fidelity, expressing their mutual love and openness to children, and abiding as a sacrament of Christ’s love for his Church (52, 71). He bemoans any number of threats to this ideal, including moral relativism, a pervasive cultural narcissism, the ideology of self-invention, pornography, the “throwaway” society, etc. He explicitly calls to our attention the teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae regarding the essential connection between the unitive and the procreative dimensions of conjugal love (80). Moreover, he approvingly cites the consensus of the recent Synod on the Family that homosexual relationships cannot be considered even vaguely analogous to what the Church means by marriage (251). He is especially strong in his condemnation of ideologies that dictate that gender is merely a social construct and can be changed or manipulated according to our choice (56). Such moves are tantamount, he argues, to forgetting the right relationship between creature and Creator. Finally, any doubt regarding the Pope’s attitude toward the permanence of marriage is dispelled as clearly and directly as possible: “The indissolubility of marriage—‘what God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Mt 19:6) —should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage…” (62).
And more:
The second move—and here we come to what will undoubtedly be the most controverted part of the exhortation—is to employ the Church’s classical distinction between the objective quality of a moral act and the subjective responsibility that the moral agent bears for committing that act (302). The Pope observes that many people in civil marriages following upon a divorce find themselves in a nearly impossible bind. If their second marriage has proven faithful, life-giving, and fruitful, how can they simply walk out on it without in fact incurring more sin and producing more sadness? This is, of course, not to insinuate that their second marriage is not objectively disordered, but it is to say that the pressures, difficulties, and dilemmas might mitigate their culpability.  Here is how Pope Francis applies the distinction: “Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (301). Could the Church’s minister, therefore, not help such people, in the privacy of the rectory parlor or the confessional, to discern their degree of moral responsibility? Once again, this is not to embrace a breezy “anything-goes” mentality, nor to deny that a civil marriage after a divorce is objectively irregular; it is to find, perhaps, for someone in great pain, a way forward. - See more at:

Read more of Bishop Barron here.

It will take time, of course, to sort through all that Amoris Laetitia gives, but right now the tsunami seems an awful lot like last summer's first experience of Laudato Si'.  We had to read throughout it a few (hundred) times to ascertain its arguments, strengths, and weaknessess.  Amoris will be no different.  The problem, as Scott Eric Alt notes, is that often Pope Francis' style leaves even his most ardent defenders (which Alt and Bishop Barron both are) confused.  So let's seek the highest ground possible, let the tsunami damage flow through, and then descend to start the inevitable clean-up.

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