A Dialogue with Conscience
Are priests to take on personalist role as a counselor for conscience (https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/pope-tells-new-bishops-respect-dialogue-consciences-laypeople), explaining why it's okay to sin? That is the consequence of Amoris Laetitia where the justification (and acceptance) of sin will prevail over a person admitting sin.
For example (this is the debated example), an adulterer is in that objective situation of sin willingly. And as a chosen behaviour, personal biases will prevent that person from truly listening to their conscience. Nobody is ignorant of the principles of the moral law – nobody is ignorant of the fact that adultery is wrong! And yet, that is what adulterers freely choose to do.
The question is: Are they going to admit to themselves that they are sinners?
The study of confirmation bias suggests that we protect our image of our self. Personal accountability is complicated because we have biases about ourselves. We tend to think that we are in the right, whilst others are in the wrong. This is because we desperately want to think we are good, and therefore justify many things about ourselves to ourselves, to maintain cognitive consistency.
Will a sinner listen to conscience? Not unless they are prepared to humble themselves and admit the truth to themselves.
Should Rigidity Play a Role in Discernment?
Any parent knows the answer to this question. Should a child have a set of rules to follow? Yes, children need boundaries so they know what is expected. Similarly, St Paul talks of the law in this way until we can live according to the Spirit. Rules help guide us and they are necessarily rigid/black and white otherwise we wouldn’t know if we were living up to what is expected of us.
We submit to those laws says St Paul (to the Romans). By submitting we learn to “refuse evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15) like any child of God. The analogy of drawn between child development and spiritual development holds as we are children before God.
Unfortunately, Holy Father is reportedly keen to abandon rules when it comes to discernment (and this is at the heart of the controversy of chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia) https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pope-to-new-bishops-discernment-means-avoiding-rigid-answers-to-moral-quest?utm_content=buffer8f5d1
Jesus’ Model of Discernment
Jesus presents a model of discernment. It involves knowing the rules (in this case God's prohibition of adultery) and confronting us with the truth. For example, in an act of mercy Jesus challenged the Samaritan woman for her sin of adultery.
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
The natural law is a rigid law! Do good and avoid evil. It seems omitted in the controversial exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Can it be concluded that Amoris Laetitia does not teach adherence to this rigid law?
What is the best model of pastoral accompaniment? A dialogue with conscience that involves listening to the natural law i.e., do good and avoid evil. This should be followed up by a strict/rigid adherence to the dictates of one’s conscience.
The Lord’s chalice is drunk whenever holy charity is preserved
When we offer the sacrifice the words of our Saviour are fulfilled just as the blessed Apostle Paul reported them: On the same night he was betrayed the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and said: ‘This is my body, which is for you: do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
Sacrifice, then, is offered to proclaim the death of the Lord and to be a commemoration of him who laid down his life for us. He himself has said: A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. So, since Christ died for us, out of love, it follows that when we offer the sacrifice in commemoration of his death, we are asking for love to be given us by the coming of the Holy Spirit. We beg and we pray that just as through love Christ deigned to be crucified for us, so we may receive the grace of the Holy Spirit; and that by that grace the world should be a dead thing in our eyes and we should be dead to the world, crucified and dead. We pray that we should imitate the death of our Lord. Christ, when he died, died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God. We pray, therefore, that in imitating the death of our Lord we should walk in newness of life, dead to sin and living for God.
The love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been sent to us. When we share in the Lord’s body and blood, when we eat his bread and drink his cup, this truly means that we die to the world and have our hidden life with Christ in God, crucifying our flesh and its weaknesses and its desires.
Thus, it is that all the faithful who love God and their neighbour drink the cup of the Lord’s love even if they do not drink the cup of bodily suffering. Soaked through with that drink, they mortify the flesh in which they walk this earth. Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ like a cloak, their desires are no longer those of the body. They do not contemplate what can be seen but what is invisible to the eyes. This is how the cup of the Lord is drunk when divine love is present; but without that love, you may even give your body to be burned and still it will do you no good. What the gift of love gives us is the chance to become in truth what we celebrate as a mystery in the sacrifice.
Amoris Laetitia is ‘ambiguous,’ ‘not a Thomistic document’: Filial Correction signatory
Father Thomas Crean, O.P., was one of the first signers of the Filial Correction. He has had a thorough grounding in the philosophy and theology of fellow Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas.
After earning a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology at Oxford University, Crean took a Lectorate at Blackfriars, Oxford’s Dominican college; an S.T.L. from the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute in Toulouse, France; and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the International Theological Institute in Austria.
LifeSiteNews contacted Fr. Crean to settle a burning question: Is Amoris Laetitia, as Cardinal Christoph Schonborn has assured us, Thomistic?
LifeSiteNews: First, what school of Thomas do you follow?
Crean: I would sympathize most with what is called half-humorously and half-seriously "Thomism of the Strict Observance," which emphasizes the tradition of the commentators, especially Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, as further mediated and developed in the 20th century by men like Gredt, Garrigou-Lagrange, Maritain, and Grenier. Maritain, especially at the end of his life, was closely connected with the Toulouse Dominicans.
LifeSiteNews: In what ways could Amoris Laetitia be interpreted as Thomistic? That is, why might Cardinal Schonborn think so?
Crean: Two things come to mind. One is that it presents the moral or spiritual life as primarily a growth in virtue, by which we gradually respond less imperfectly to God’s invitation to life and happiness with Him, rather than as primarily conformity to commandments and the avoidance of sin.
The other, which is an aspect of the first, is that it speaks of the need for the virtue of prudence ("discernment"), in consequence of the infinite variety of situations in which human beings find themselves, a variety which means that a necessarily finite code of rules will never be sufficient for good action.
Apart from that, it also quotes St. Thomas on … 14 or 15 occasions, including some works less often cited, such as the commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics.
LifeSiteNews: In what ways could Amoris Laetitia be interpreted as not Thomistic?
Crean: Some of the quotations from Aquinas used in Amoris Laetitia are cut short in such a way as not to give a well-rounded view of his thought on a given subject or, more seriously, quoted out of context so as to give an impression that he thought the opposite of how he really did. Sometimes he is quoted when his words are only slightly relevant to the matter of hand, as if just to increase the number of times his name appears in the footnotes.
LifeSiteNews: What is your “Respondeo” (i.e. answer) to the question “Is Amoris Laetitia Thomistic?”
Crean: If by "Thomistic" one means a document written in the style of St. Thomas himself, or in the style of someone who has taken St. Thomas for his guide in theology, then Amoris Laetitia is not a Thomistic document.
St. Thomas’ work is characterized by conciseness and clarity, whereas Amoris Laetitia is expansive, and, on certain key points, ambiguous – at least if we are to judge by the conflicting interpretations it has received. Again, a phrase such as "time is greater than space" is reminiscent not of St. Thomas but of a certain gnomic, metaphorical style of writing which St. Thomas criticized in the works of Plato.
More important than style is content. Here we could consider either the content of Amoris Laetitia as a whole, or those places in it where St. Thomas is explicitly quoted, or at least referenced.
A grave danger to faith and morals
On the first point, I was one of 45 signatories of a letter about Amoris Laetitia sent last year to all the cardinals and Eastern patriarchs of the Church. … This letter said: “When it comes to (Amoris Laetitia) itself … there is no doubt that it constitutes a grave danger to Catholic faith and morals. It contains many statements whose vagueness or ambiguity permit interpretations that are contrary to faith or morals, or that suggest a claim that is contrary to faith and morals without actually stating it. It also contains statements whose natural meaning would seem to be contrary to faith or morals.”
This letter listed 19 passages of Amoris Laetitia (saying) either that they suggested heresies and other grave errors, or else that their natural (obvious) meaning … was heretical or gravely erroneous. Hence, given that St. Thomas has been declared the Common doctor of the church and presented as a model for theologians … I should not consider Amoris Laetitia to be a Thomistic document.
When it comes to the explicit use made of St. Thomas, we should look at the individual passages. Certain passages quote him accurately and aptly in support of themes in the exhortation. Paragraphs 102, 120, 123, 126-7, and 134 fall into this category. For example, they quote his remarks that marriage is the greatest of friendships, that there need be no limit to the growth of charity in this life, and that friendship involves considering another person as a being of great worth.
At other times, Amoris Laetitia quotes St. Thomas accurately, (but) less aptly or even misleadingly. Thus Paragraph 146 cites (him) in connection with the statement that: “A family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that neither stifles nor obscures great decisions and values, but rather follows each one’s freedom.”
The reference is not apt, since in the passage cited, St. Thomas is not talking about families or great decisions, or even values or freedom. He is simply discussing whether the virtues co-exist with the moral virtues, and explaining that they sometime do and sometime don’t.
Minor and major misuses of St. Thomas
In regard to misleading uses of St. Thomas, there are minor and major examples.
A minor example occurs in paragraph 99. Talking about family life, Amoris Laetitia quotes these words from the Summa: “Every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him.” However, it omits the second half of the sentence, which is nisi propter aliquam causam necesse sit aliquando alios utiliter contristare (“unless it should be necessary for him for some reason to cause them profitable sadness at some time”).
Another example occurs in paragraph 148. This first cites Aquinas in support of the statement that excessive seeking of some pleasure can weaken that same pleasure, and also alludes to his teaching that pleasure in the marital act is compatible with observing the "mean" of virtue.
The references here are accurate, but one has the distinct impression in this section that St. Thomas is being pressed into support a more “optimistic” view of human sexuality than he in fact upheld. For example, he taught that the conjugal act in fallen human beings tends, even when legitimately exercised, to weaken the impulse of charity toward God (2a 2ae 186, 4). He also held that for a spouse to ask for the paying of the marital debt without the desire for procreation is always at least a venial fault (Supplement, 49, 5).
Seriously misleading passages
I come now to what I should respectfully consider to be more seriously misleading passages.
(The English version of) paragraph 145 (of Amoris Laetitia) states: “Experiencing an emotion is not, in itself, morally good or evil. The stirring of desire or repugnance is neither sinful nor blameworthy. What is morally good or evil is what we do on the basis of, or under the influence of, a given passion.” It footnotes the Summa, 1a 2ae 24, 1.
But what St. Thomas says here is that no emotion, abstractly considered, is either good or bad. Even hatred is not bad as such: it is good to hate sin. However, every actually existing emotion will always be either good or bad. This is true, independently of any actions to which they may give rise.
St. Thomas says: ipsae passiones, secundum quod sunt voluntariae, possunt dici bonae vel malae moraliter. Dicuntur autem voluntariae vel ex eo quod a voluntate imperantur, vel ex eo quod a voluntate non prohibentur (“The emotions themselves, inasmuch as they are voluntary, can be called morally good or bad. And they are said to be voluntary inasmuch as they are commanded by the will, or else because they are not checked by the will.”) There is a serious mistake in the text of Amoris Laetitia here, since certain emotions can rise by themselves to the level of mortal sin, for example, certain kinds of deliberate anger and sexual desire. It is dangerous to give the impression that only outward acts can be morally good or evil.
The Latin text of paragraph 145 is slightly different, but the net result is the same. On the one hand, it changes “the stirring of desire or repugnance is neither sinful nor blameworthy” to “perceiving a desire or repugnance beginning is neither harmful nor blameworthy,” which strictly speaking is true, since the perception itself would not be a sin. However, it retains the claim that moral good and evil lie only in outward action. And, bizarrely, it also quotes one of the objections in the Summa as if it were St. Thomas’ own teaching!
Next, paragraph 301. Here Amoris Laetitia states that people … can be living in irregular (e.g. adulterous) situations and may know the Church’s teaching on ‘the rule’, and yet may be unable to see the value of “the rule.” These people, Amoris Laetitia says, may possess sanctifying grace and may be unable to obey the rule without sinning.
It goes on: “St. Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well.” As Dr. Joseph Shaw has pointed out, this quotation is irrelevant to the question of whether one can be excused from obeying the divine law by an ability to see its value, or whether one can be obliged to disobey it to avoid some other sin. St. Thomas is simply talking of people who have repented of past sins, and who now live virtuously, but do so with some difficulty because of the effect that those past sins have left behind.
Hence Dr. Shaw wrote: “Aquinas is simply pointing out that impediments are more likely when the virtue has not been acquired by a process of training and habituation over time, but by an infusion of grace from God. This abstruse issue is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand, and makes me wonder about the intellectual integrity of the people advising Pope Francis at this point in the document.” A more relevant passage from the Summa would have been found in 1a 2ae 19, 6: “If erring reason tell a man that he should go to another man's wife, the will that abides by that erring reason is evil; since this error arises from ignorance of the Divine Law, which he is bound to know.”
More serious because more plausible misuse
A more serious, because superficially more plausible, misrepresentation of the angelic doctor is found in paragraph 304. Amoris Laetitia is discussing the question of universal moral laws, in the context, of course, of invalid second marriages and the conferral of the sacraments, and it quotes a passage from 1a 2a 94, 4: “Practical reason deals with contingent things, upon which human activity bears, and so although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects … In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles.”
Although the argument at this point in Amoris Laetitia seems designed to be hard to follow, the impression is very strongly given that St. Thomas would have said that either sexual activity within a marriage not recognized by the Church as valid, or else giving Holy Communion to those who engage in such activity, cannot be objects of a universal prohibition. There can be, the text implies, only a defeasible presumption against such things. In fact, St. Thomas teaches, with the whole tradition of the Church, that there are indeed such things as intrinsically bad actions which generate universal prohibitions.
Thomas would have been horrified
On the question of the reception of the sacraments, Amoris Laetitia can hardly be considered Thomistic, (because) it does not quote the relevant text from the Summa: "Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it" (3a 80), or the identical teaching in the Scriptum (Super Sent., lib. 4 d. 9 q. 1 a. 5 qc. 1 co).
What then was the meaning of the passage from Aquinas quoted in Amoris Laetitia 304?
St. Thomas there spoke of certain ”general principles” that are the same for all. These include the commandments of the decalogue and any other precepts of divine law. In addition to these, there are “matters of detail,” i.e. certain rules of good action which human reason can work out for itself, such as “keep your promises” (and) “obey the law of the land” ...
But these, though generally applicable, may in certain circumstances not serve as reliable guides to good action, because human reason cannot foresee all cases. For example, it may be necessary to break a promise to meet someone in order to deal with a medical urgency, or to break a speed limit to drive someone to hospital. It is fair to say that St. Thomas would have been horrified to think that any bishop would one day use this common-sense teaching in order to authorize Holy Communion for those publicly committed to illicit unions.
Finally, in a footnote to the same paragraph, Amoris Laetitia says: "In another text, referring to the general knowledge of the rule and the particular knowledge of practical discernment, St. Thomas states that 'if only one of the two is present, it is preferable that it be the knowledge of the particular reality, which is closer to the act.’" It refers us to his commentary on the Nicomachaean ethics, Book 6, lecture 6, section 11.
Again, it misrepresents Aquinas’ teaching, with potentially seriously consequences. St. Thomas is not here contrasting rules and ‘discernment’ but rather universal truths and more particular truths. He gives the example of one man who knows that ‘light flesh’ is healthy to eat, but not what counts as light flesh, and another man who doesn’t know the general principle about ‘light flesh’, but does know that the flesh of birds is healthy to eat. The latter person is a better guide about how to eat.
Hence, St. Thomas is not saying that a priest who thinks he can discern the presence of the Holy Spirit in Mr. Smith’s soul despite Mr. Smith’s invalid second marriage but has never heard about the principle of not giving Holy Communion to those in adultery is in a better position to judge what to do at the altar rails than a priest who knows the principle but can’t discern the Holy Spirit in Mr Smith’s soul. Rather, he is saying that a priest who knows the truth that one should not give Holy Communion to those in public adultery, but doesn’t know the more universal truth that one should not give it to those in public sin, is in a better position to decide what to do than one who knows that one should not give it to those in public sin, but who does not know that a second marriage counts as public sin.
In conclusion, although many and various passages from St. Thomas’ works are quoted in Amoris Laetitia, I cannot say that I believe that they give, as some readers might suppose ... a reliable account of the angelic doctor’s teaching on married love, the emotions, universal moral prohibitions or the reception of Holy Communion by public sinners. Hence, given also what was said above about the content of Amoris Laetitia as a whole, and about its style, I should not be able to say that I considered Amoris Laetitia a Thomist document.
World Mission Sunday (22 October, 2017)
World Mission Day is celebrated every year in every country wherever there are Catholics committed to building a better world for all of God's people, a world where everyone has all they need to live a dignified and fulfilling life. It is the day on which we reflect on the urgency to proclaim the Gospel in our times.
Jesus is amazing in the Gospels. The Pharisees thought they were really clever by thinking up a trick question about whether the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or not. The denarius that Jesus was given had a picture of the Roman Emperor Tiberius claiming that ‘Tiberius was the son of the divine Augustus.’ So, on one hand the Jews didn’t like Caesar who claimed to be a son of God, and who was oppressing the Jewish people. On the other hand, Jesus would get into trouble with Caesar if he told the people not to pay their taxes. What was Jesus to do – tell them to pay the tax to Caesar or not? There was no way out of this trap set by the Pharisees, or so they thought!
But they weren’t so smart. It hadn’t occurred to them that what God wants is justice, and not to bicker about things that don’t belong in God’s kingdom. Do you think we will need money in heaven? NO! But we will need to be just, as heaven is founded on justice! Jesus’ answer was – if it belongs to him or her, give it to him or her! It’s simply a matter of justice. If it belongs to Caesar, give it to him, if God, give it to God!
And this is why this Gospel is amazing. Jesus makes our responsibility to live according to the Gospel crystal clear. What belongs to God? Everything! What do we need to give back to God? Our whole life!
We are bound not to live for ourselves but for have a responsibility to give our lives for the kingdom of God. It is only fair, because God made us and gave us life.
Missionaries are people who have given everything back to God. We can all be missionaries. Some spread the message of God’s love even to the ends of the earth. Those people especially need our support. That’s why we have World Mission Day to financially support those who need money to spread the Gospels. When we give all we can to the Mission appeal, we support them and become a part of their missionary efforts.
But let’s not forget that we are all called to be missionaries. That means we are all called to live according to the Gospels and spread God’s love throughout the whole world as best we can!
MESSAGE OF POPE FRANCIS
FOR WORLD MISSION DAY 2017
Mission at the heart of the Christian faith
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again this year, World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, “the very first and greatest evangelizer” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Day invites us to reflect anew on the mission at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away. So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?
Mission and the transformative power of the Gospel of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life
1. The Church’s mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offers new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is the Way who invites us to follow him with confidence and courage. In following Jesus as our Way, we experience Truth and receive his Life, which is fullness of communion with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. That life sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love.
2. God the Father desires this existential transformation of his sons and daughters, a transformation that finds expression in worship in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4:23-24), through a life guided by the Holy Spirit in imitation of Jesus the Son to the glory of God the Father. “The glory of God is the living man” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7). The preaching of the Gospel thus becomes a vital and effective word that accomplishes what it proclaims (cf. Is 55:10-11): Jesus Christ, who constantly takes flesh in every human situation (cf. Jn 1:14).
Mission and the kairos of Christ
3. The Church’s mission, then, is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching. Many movements throughout the world inspire high ideals or ways to live a meaningful life. Through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the kairos, the favourable time of salvation. Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth. “His resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force” (Evangelii Gaudium, 276).
4. Let us never forget that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1). The Gospel is a Person who continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. Through Baptism, the Gospel becomes a source of new life, freed of the dominion of sin, enlightened and transformed by the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, it becomes a fortifying anointing that, through the same Spirit, points out new ways and strategies for witness and accompaniment. Through the Eucharist, it becomes food for new life, a “medicine of immortality” (Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Ephesios, 20, 2).
5. The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere. Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel. I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed. I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord. For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage. We can think too of countless testimonies to how the Gospel helps to overcome narrowness, conflict, racism, tribalism, and to promote everywhere, and among all, reconciliation, fraternity, and sharing.
Mission inspires a spirituality of constant exodus, pilgrimage, and exile
6. The Church’s mission is enlivened by a spirituality of constant exodus. We are challenged “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20). The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice. The Church’s mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of Heaven.
7. Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom. A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, his crucified and glorious Body. That is why we should prefer “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (ibid., 49).
Young people, the hope of mission
8. Young people are the hope of mission. The person of Jesus Christ and the Good News he proclaimed continue to attract many young people. They seek ways to put themselves with courage and enthusiasm at the service of humanity. “There are many young people who offer their solidarity in the face of the evils of the world and engage in various forms of militancy and volunteering... How beautiful it is to see that young people are ‘street preachers’, joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!” (ibid., 106). The next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in 2018 on the theme Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, represents a providential opportunity to involve young people in the shared missionary responsibility that needs their rich imagination and creativity.
The service of the Pontifical Mission Societies
9. The Pontifical Mission Societies are a precious means of awakening in every Christian community a desire to reach beyond its own confines and security in order to proclaim the Gospel to all. In them, thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone. World Mission Day, promoted by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.
Carrying out our mission with Mary, Mother of Evangelization
10. Dear brothers and sisters, in carrying out our mission, let us draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization. Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith. May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own “yes”, conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time. May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death. May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman.
From the Vatican, 4 June 2017
Solemnity of Pentecost
Seifert alleges that the modern approach to conscience is that it is “as a subjective generator of what is good and evil.” Bingo, what I have been saying all along. In my studies in Rome purely teleological ethics and proportionalism were shoved down our throats whilst we were taught it was in harmony with St JPII’s teachings on morality i.e., Veritatis Splendour.
This is so frustrating because people are so blind to something so simple. We cannot define what is good and evil. We are called to discern between good and evil. Our conscience can do that!
Certainly, a healthy conscience tells us adultery is wrong. But even if “unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense... no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law” (Catechism, 1860). Therefore, a correct understanding of conscience is required to lead to the conclusion that we can never justify sin (cf. paragraph 305, Amoris Laetitia).
THE PERSECUTION OF ORTHODOXY
by Josef Seifert 10 . 5 . 17
If one considers the transformation of Plato’s Academy, champion of eternal truth, into a center of radical skepticism against which St. Augustine wrote his Contra Academicos, or contemplates the splits and changes that have occurred in all other philosophical schools, one will see that the preservation of Catholic doctrine over two millennia is a miracle. Considering likewise the countless divisions between and within the different Protestant confessions, as well as in other religions, it is evident that the way Catholic teaching has survived intact, becoming increasingly clear with each confrontation with error, is a wonder far greater than healing the sick or making the blind see.
Add to this the fact that many priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes not only lived very bad lives opposed to Catholic teaching, but rejected many Catholic doctrines, or simply did not believe them. Any purely human institution would long since have been dissolved, or suffered inner divisions and contradictions that would have been reflected in its creeds and official teachings.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel declared the Church’s survival impossible unless it were established and preserved by God. The same line of thought underlies Boccaccio’s famous story in the Decameron, of the Christian merchant and the Jew, who converts precisely because the many unworthy and worldly men whom he met in the Vatican did not destroy the Church, which therefore must be of God. When one observes that “the Church” gloriously overcame the many crises it suffered, one can only mean the true voice and official teachings of the Church. One cannot deny that these same errors have lingered until the present day, and even gained force in many circles despite having been recognized and condemned.
In the last fifty years, the crisis that threatened the Church most gravely is one of moral theology and of the understanding of “natural law.” This crisis became dramatically clear after the publication of Humanae Vitae. At first, theologians who opposed the document sought refuge in the sanctuary of moral conscience, the supreme subjective norm of morality. Instead of seeing conscience as founded upon the objective truth about good and evil, upon the infinite dignity of God, and the towering dignity of man, instead of recognizing that conscience is called to form itself through the truth, these men saw it as a subjective generator of what is good and evil—for me. As if it were not necessary that conscience correspond to objective moral norms that are inscribed in the essence of things and of human acts, and in the eternal holiness of God.
Yet the moral-theological phalanx that turned against Humanae Vitaewas not content with saying that the ethical errors and gravely disordered acts of those who practice contraception are purely subjectively justified by their erring conscience. Instead, these opponents suddenly wanted to claim the full objectivity of their opposition to Humanae Vitae, saying that we do not deal here only with erring consciences (tirelessly invoked by Rocco Buttiglione in his defense of Amoris Laetitia).
Defenses of the subjectivity of conscience still implied that the sinner, who found himself entangled in errors of conscience, should be better taught and humbly submit his judgment to the objective truth about the intrinsic wrongness of his acts. Rejecting this, the new proportionalist and consequentialist ethical theory (really a rehash of old ideas) allowed theologians to claim: Under many circumstances the acts Humanae Vitaecalled intrinsically wrong are, objectively speaking, not wrong at all. Those who disobeyed Humanae Vitae not only had every right to follow their own conscience, even against the Church, they were objectively right when they chose to do so.
Whether this position was called “proportionalism,” “consequentialism,” “purely teleological ethics,” “situation ethics,” etc., the point was the same: It threw overboard the central teaching of all ethics since Socrates, Plato, and Cicero, and throughout the history of the Church—namely, the teaching that there are intrinsically wrong acts. Acts such as lying, raping a woman, abortion, murder, euthanasia, using false judgments to fulfill one’s own lust—as did the old judges who accused Susanna of adultery because she had refused their evil wishes—are always wrong and gravely disordered. The young Daniel’s glorious act of uncovering their lie and injustice, and his just judgment against these evil old men, brings home with gripping force the existence of acts of injustice, lies, calumnies, killing the innocents, etc., that are absolutely and under all circumstances wrong; they are what is called an intrinsece malum.
Now this new moral theology, advocated by Fuchs, Demmer, Böckle, Schüller, and many others, denied that any act could be judged morally, except in terms of its good and bad consequences. Hence, there does not exist an intrinsically and always wrong human action. If an action, whatever its inner nature may be, promises to lead to a lessening of evils in the world, it can be justified. We can easily see that with this ethics nothing in Catholic moral teaching would remain intact. Because no act would be bad by its nature, but good or bad only with reference to the concrete complexity of life and the web of causes and effects.
One can always find cases in which committing murder, betraying the innocent, or many other abominable acts can have a greater number of good consequences than an alternative action. For example, betraying one Jew and sending him to his cremation, considered in isolation, is certainly a most horrible act, these authors admit. However, this same act, under some circumstances, may mean the death of just one man, instead of risking that the Nazis, because of my unwillingness to deliver this one Jew to them, are murdering my own family of eight. Therefore, under such circumstances, we would be permitted, or even obliged, to deliver this one Jew to be killed by the Nazis.
It is not solely a clear teaching of the Church, however, but it is also evident to human reason, that certain abominable crimes cannot at all be justified through pointing out their good consequences. Consider the abominable act the prophet Daniel would have committed, if he had himself condemned the innocent woman, in order not to put his career as young judge into peril.
It is hardly possible to exaggerate the immense proportions of the crisis in the Church produced by such a false and vicious ethical theory. It is able to find an excuse for any kind of sinful act. If mere consequences could make human acts morally good or evil, there would remain no injustice, no cruel abortion, nor any abomination that could not be justified under some circumstances.
To this crisis, Pope St. John Paul II reacted most forcefully. In his Familiaris Consortio, he reconfirmed the teaching of the intrinsic evil of adultery, and of contraception, by which the unitive meaning of the conjugal act is actively and deliberately severed from the procreative one. In Evangelium Vitae, he insisted on the dignity of each human being, who is simultaneously a human person. Hence, any attack against human life, from its very beginning in conception until true death (not merely so-called “brain death”), is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified by any good consequence that such an act might have (such as saving a life or a marriage, or preventing that the husband leaves his children, etc.). No, invoking the authority of St. Peter, and thus (in my view), declaring this teaching a dogma, John Paul formulated in Ch. 68 of Evangelium Vitaethat in each and every living human being we must respect the full dignity of the person. Thus, any antilife act is intrinsically wrong and can never be justified in view of any external or posterior consequences.
Finally, in Veritatis Splendor, the pope put an end to this proportionalist ethics, affirming with utmost force that there are acts that are by their nature evil and morally wrong. Their very end and essential intention (finis operis) make them morally wrong regardless of the consequences.Veritatis Splendor condemned lock, stock, and barrel the moral-theological errors that denied intrinsically wrong acts. It thus gave Humanae Vitae its ultimate foundation in the unambiguous teaching that there are acts that are intrinsically wrong and cannot be justified in any situation.
Today the ethics rejected by Veritatis Splendor has raised its ugly head once again. It threatens to bring about the climax of the moral-theological crisis in the Church, because now it is not just a mob of some rebellious theologians and bishops who deny intrinsically evil acts. No, there are some formulations in Amoris Laetitia that have caused a deep shock in those of us who have fought, alongside St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, for decades against the immense evil of this false ethics. These formulations are what have provoked our “dubia,” questions posed at the highest level by four cardinals but expressed in various forms by bishops, priests, theologians, and journalists.
Could it be that Pope Francis threw away in Amoris Laetitia the moral-theological teachings that have been declared most solemnly to be the perpetual teaching of the Church and eternal truths about morality? It is against this background that the five dubia of the four cardinals must be seen. They are in no way anti-pope or damaging to the community of the Church, but represent a supreme service to the Church and to the pope, by pointing out a threat of destruction of Catholic moral teaching if Pope Francis does not clarify things or correct some assertions he made.
The dubia are a church-historical necessity. They are questions that should be asked by all cardinals and bishops, and by all laymen across the world. Yet the four cardinals who asked these questions in the most refined, polite, and fraternal way, were insulted, maligned, made to seem like heretics and schismatics. Cardinal Müller was forbidden by the archbishop of Madrid to present a book that interpreted Amoris Laetitia exactly along the lines of Familiaris Consortio 84 and in the same way the Polish episcopate did, whose position was approved by Pope Francis (“for Poland”). No, these four cardinals, two of whom have died, are heroes, servants, and brothers of the pope, who ask him whether the shocking impression given by some of his assertions corresponds to his will, or not.
The same kind of name-calling and persecution of those who defend the solemn teachings of the Church directs itself against many others. A topsy-turvy inquisition has been launched against orthodoxy, and truth is persecuted by those called to uphold it. I have become one of the victims of this reverse inquisition. Asking the pope, in a paper in total agreement with Veritatis Splendor, a question that coincided with one or two of the five dubia of the four cardinals was enough to get me fired by my archbishop whom I served faithfully during the past six years in Granada, Spain.
I only asked whether or not an iron logic must draw the conclusion that there are no intrinsically wrong acts from the thesis that conscience can know in some cases that God Himself wills us to commit acts of adultery and homosexual acts. I explicitly left the answer to the pope. If he answered this question in the affirmative, I wrote, I would beg him to revoke this affirmation.
For asking this question, and for saying that if the pope answers my question in the affirmative, he should please revoke at least this one sentence, I was charged by the archbishop of Granada in an extremely sharp way. He forced my retirement from the Dietrich von Hildebrand Chair for Realist Phenomenology in the IAP-IFES (the International Academy of Philosophy-Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein). This chair had been created for me by Don Javier Martínez in 2015, nine months after my seventieth birthday. It was especially absurd, then, that my dismissal was later attributed to the application of a collective law of retirement of professors at age seventy.
One year before, I had already been removed from seminary teaching for another article: “Amoris Laetitia. Joy, Sadness and Hopes.” The second article was punished with my immediate forced retirement, which was never communicated to me directly, in a signed letter, but only indirectly by some hints in emails and telephone conversations, and by a salary receipt. This receipt bears the same date, August 31, 2017, of the press notice in which, next to expressing “the immense sadness of the diocese over my article,” the whole world was informed, without any reason offered, that through “my article” (that was not even cited), I had “damaged the community of the Catholic Church,” “confounded the faith of the faithful,” “undermined the authority of the Pope, and served more the world than the Church.”
The fact that publishing an article, which many voices, including cardinals, archbishops, and bishops called a great service to Church and pope, which is completely faithful to the whole body of magisterial moral teachings of Pope John Paul II, and to a 2,000-year tradition of Catholic moral doctrine, can cause one to be fired by a Catholic archbishop, is shocking, as Robert Spaemann said.
My case is only one of many examples in the present Church. Was not the removal of Cardinal Burke from the second part of the Synod on the family and from all his high posts in the Curia a kind of inquisition in response to his questions, which have not been answered but punished? Is not the same assumption necessary to explain Cardinal Müller’s abrupt removal as Prefect of the Congregation of Faith? Is not the continuous and complete silence of the pope to the four cardinals’ questions a kind of “silent inquisition” and a victory of power and will over reason, a “papal positivism,” as Father Harrison points out in an excellent article? There are countless other examples. Is all of this not a sign that a longstanding deep crisis of Catholic moral teaching in the Church has reached a new and disquieting climax, being not only linked to the supreme authorities of the Church, but espousing a new style in the Church? Not answering questions or doubts at all, not giving reasons, but remaining silent and acting by sheer power! The moral-theological crisis has moved from the bottom to the top of the Church. The victims of judgments or actions against them are denied the opportunity to defend themselves against unjust charges, a natural human right that is explicitly recognized in canon law.
There is a strong dose of “papolatry” in all of this. As the pope is by no means infallible in every statement he makes, none of the fierce charges against my article and the dubia of the four cardinals, which are in perfect harmony with Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, and with 2,000 years of moral teaching, can be justified. Moreover, the pope himself told the SSPX that they did not—and Pope Francis acted quite rightly in this—have to subscribe to all non-dogmatic documents of the Second Vatican Council in order to be fully reintegrated in the Church. In sharp contrast, Archbishop Martínez turned any doubt regarding even just one sentence of the non-dogmatic assertion of the pope in a document of incomparably lesser weight than Council documents into a sort of heresy or crime against the Church, sufficient to fire me instantly. According to chapter 3 of Amoris Laetitia, the pope’s admitting divorced and remarried and homosexual couples to the sacraments is, according to his own assertion, not a magisterial teaching. The fact that the pope’s own, and the Buenos Aires Bishops’, interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is not an act of the magisterium, is already clear from the fact that the pope explicitly accepted the contrary interpretation that nothing has been changed through Amoris Laetitia, for the Polish Church.
How is it, then, that the archbishop of Granada is more papal than the pope, and turns the Buenos Aires interpretation, which he accepted and demands to be accepted by his clergy, into a kind of dogma that justifies my suspension from the seminary teaching for asking critical questions about it, and seeking the clarification or revocation of some assertions in it, pointing out that the sense in which they are being read by many contradicts revealed truth? And how can it be that now, in response to the second article, a Church authority regards a mere question, similar to some of the four cardinals’ dubia, put to the pope, as sufficient ground for my expulsion from a chair? Is asking a question now harmful to the Church, regardless of whether it is asked for good reasons or not? Does it not have to be answered (for neither the pope nor the archbishop answered the question), so long as the questioner can be sent home?
Ilove Archbishop Martínez and admire him for founding an excellent cultural institute, a new publishing house, a school of sacred music, an institute for women, and other good works. I have never seen an archbishop who initiated so many good activities and entities. I admire him especially for having created the Instituto de Filosofía Edith Stein and the Lumen Gentium Institute, which keep seminarians from being educated in all kinds of philosophical and theological errors taught in the Jesuit faculty of theology inside the Universidad de Granada. Because of this admiration, I wanted to remain in Granada for the rest of my life, and donated many books and unedited writings, including my own, to IFES.
That the archbishop does not remove Catholic theologians who spread errors and heresies while teaching in the name of the Catholic Church, but instead expels me from a chair he had created in a non-Church-affiliated school of philosophy, is beyond my comprehension. Such a persecution of someone who defends teachings that are entirely compatible with the Catholic Church is harmful not only for me, but for the archbishop himself and for the Church itself.
For this reason, I have found it appropriate—on the advice of a very saintly and brilliant cardinal of the Catholic Church—not to accept humbly and silently episcopal slaps in the face for telling the truth and asking questions of the greatest importance to the Church. Instead, I have resolved to fight against misrepresentations of truth and against injustice, both by an ecclesiastic and a civil legal action. Power must not be allowed to dominate over reason in the Church. Gravely damaging and false accusations are not to be simply accepted, not just in my case, but also in many other cases of a persecution of Catholic believers in the name of a pseudo-inquisition.
I have tried, and will continue to try, to propose a conciliatory and peaceful settlement before the peace Court in Granada, but not at the price of truth and of justice. For if I did forego truth and justice or duck down upon being illegitimately castigated, I would indeed damage the ecclesiastic community, confound the faith of the faithful, and undermine the true authority and reputation the pope, who is the visible head of the Catholic Church and the true representative of Christ on Earth.
May God give us a glorious resurrection of truth, of reason and of faith, in the Catholic Church, and may He prevent a new climax of the moral theological crisis in the Church from tearing down the most solemn Church teachings on the divine commandments and natural law! The light of true morality, together with the higher light of the supernatural morality of the Sermon on the Mount, is entrusted to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church under the authority of the pope, who is called to be the Rock on whom Jesus built His Church, a truth I profess. And precisely because I profess it, I feel the obligation to accept the invitation Pope Francis addressed to all of us: to challenge him wherever we think that his words deviate from the truth of Jesus Christ, whom the pope is called to represent, but not to replace by proposing a new teaching. If this new teaching, or even just one phrase contained in Amoris Laetitia, clearly seems to shake the foundations of the moral order, I am not just permitted but obliged to speak out. In doing so, the philosopher follows the example of St. Paul, who criticized the first pope publicly and sharply, as he tells us in the Letter to the Galatians and as St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully defends. I would not deserve the name of a philosopher and would betray Socrates and Christ (who addressed the first pope with the words “Get behind me, Satan,” when Peter spoke against the will of God) if I acted otherwise and, for base fear of the consequences, failed to speak the truth and to ask necessary questions.
Thus, I repeat again my plea to Pope Francis to answer the question put to him, and to answer unambiguously, with a simple Yes or No. If he answers that one of his affirmations has the logical consequence of denying intrinsically wrong acts and runs counter to the constant teaching of the Church, I implore him, in the name of God, Who Is THE TRUTH, to retract any affirmation that is counter to the truth and Church Teaching.
I do not act this way because I believe myself, in insane pride, to be more infallible than the pope. Rather, I do this because I profess a faith whose Scriptures teach us that sometimes a donkey can see something the prophet fails to see. If the prophet in such a case slaps the donkey, whom God sent him, he will receive the stern reprimand God gave the prophet through his angel.