15. Sep, 2017

Joseph Seifert dismissed for criticism of Amoris Laetitia

Online Threads - Do You Care Enough About Amoris Laetitia to Voice your Opinion?


Sandro - a critic of Amoris Laetitia got fired

by Debb , Friday, September 15, 2017, 05:50 (14 hours, 25 minutes ago) @ clammer

I don't often read the articles by Sandro, but this one drew my interest.

Joseph Seifert has been dismissed for writing in criticism of Amoris Laetitia.

The criticism by Seifert has to do with his long-standing opposition to situation ethics, which he sees now creeping into an official papal statement. The popes before Francis did not endorse situation ethics, it is claimed, and now this pope has given it credence. Has the Pope, as a person, "fallen into error"? And do the Pope's personal opinions affect the true teaching of the Magisterium? The Pope has "contributed to the confusion between the Magisterium and his private opinions." Sandro calls on the Pope to listen to the orthodox voice that is pointing out his error.

According to Sandro, Seifert is being punished for being orthodox.

Quoting from Sandro:


The passage is the following, taken from paragraph 303 of the post-synodal exhortation:

“Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

Seifert’s thesis is that according to the rigor of logic “Amoris Laetitia” here ends up maintaining that God can ask, in some circumstances, for any kind of evil action, like adultery, contradicting his own commandments.
With the result that such a “theological atom bomb” “threatens to topple the entire edifice of Catholic moral teaching.”

Someone could object that the confusion already existed before AL: yes, but the huge problem with AL is that relativistic currents of thought and “situation ethics”, which the previous three Popes had tried hard to stop, have now surreptitiously entered the pages of an official papal document. Things have thus reached the point that one of the most outstanding and lucid defenders of the previous Magisterium during more than three decades, personally supported and encouraged in his philosophical enterprise by St. John Paul II as one of his most precious allies in the defence of the infallible moral doctrine of the Church, Josef Seifert, is now dismissed and treated as an enemy of the communion of the same Church.

According to a Claudio Pierantoni, we now have Offical Persecution and Practical Schism in the Catholic Church.


Equally unjustified and naïve, I think, is the affirmation that Seifert “sows distrust toward the successor of Peter.” Archbishop Martínez seems to be unaware of what is as evident as what we said before: by allowing into an official document affirmations that are contradictory to essential points of the previous Magisterium, and of the millenary doctrine of the Church, Pope Francis has directly thrown upon himself the utter distrust of an immense number of faithful Catholics. The disastrous consequence is that distrust is thereby thrown, in the minds of many, upon the Papacy itself.

In one sense I am not interested in all this, whether some orthodox theologian criticises the Pope, and whether the Pope has private opinions that upset the orthodox. But what is interesting is that it seems that the situation that has got everyone into a lather is one of adultery. We are living in a world in crisis, threats of nuclear war that could wipe us all out, galloping climate change that could wipe us all out and a myriad of other problems. In such a world, why is adultery such a focus? Why don't the orthodox scholars and clerics worry about the big sins of humankind?

Nero fiddled . . . I can't think of a sentence to describe what these "orthodox" catholic leaders are doing. Perhaps someone else will come up with something pithy.

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Sandro - a critic of Amoris Laetitia got fired

by James, Australia, Friday, September 15, 2017, 07:02 (13 hours, 13 minutes ago) @ Debb

You’re right Debb. Whenever sex comes up, the celibates go into a lather. Not surprising really, because it’s like Tolstoy’s story about the naughty boy who has been told to go into a corner and to think about anything else but a white bear. Needless to say….

But there is one thing in the article that I find quaint.

Someone could object that the confusion already existed before AL: yes, but the huge problem with AL is that relativistic currents of thought and “situation ethics”, which the previous three Popes had tried hard to stop, have now surreptitiously entered the pages of an official papal document.

When Pope John Paul II revised the Church’s teaching on capital punishment, the reasons given were that circumstances had changed and because of modern social conditions, capital punishment was no longer appropriate. I can’t think of a better example of “situation ethics” being proclaimed by a Pope. The Church has believed in situation ethics right throughout its history, from usury, slavery, the subjugation of women etc.

I don't accept a version of situation ethics that says there are no absolutes, and that respect for cultural differences should prevent us from thinking that some cultural practices are bad, even appalling. But I do think it comical when critics of Francis go off about his being a situation ethicist when he is doing no more than what JPII and Benedict were doing in other areas, bar sex.

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Sandro - a critic of Amoris Laetitia got fired

by Aristotle, Australia, Friday, September 15, 2017, 11:01 (9 hours, 14 minutes ago) @ James
edited by Aristotle, Friday, September 15, 2017, 11:21

With you all the way, Debb and James.

The church has always recognised and employed situation ethics (SE): the whole just war doctrine is situation ethics, unless of course you mean by 'situation ethics' that anything goes. 'Thou shalt not kill' is SE'd away in all sorts of situations. Francis does not say anything like the sort of situation-only ethics that the conservatives mean when they use the term SE. Philosophers who take a realist view of ethics, (ie. are not what Macintyre calls 'emotivists', who see all ethics as personal preferences,) usually do not see situational factors as abrogating general ethical principles.

Francis is merely pointing out the objective situation that some moral actors may not find it possible to act in accord with first principles in all circumstances. That means that 'objectively', the morally relevant context has become one of the lesser of evils for them (as, I think, Aquinas would argue).

Of course, what the conservatives mean by 'objective', is not what anyone else would mean by it i.e. in accord with the best evidence and most up to date understanding of the morally relevant facts. They mean, 'in accordance with Plato's metaphysics, and his view of human nature, and in accordance with 'natural law' theory as developed deductively, much later, by the church'. As I have said before, this 'natural law theory' does not accord well with what we see empirically of human psychology and anthropology. It was formulated in great ignorance of cultural differences, and in a manner contrary to what even mainstream catholic scholars of the literary and cultural context of the gospels now believe them to mean.

It always gives me the creeps when I see this clanking zombie of antiquated natural law theory lurch out of hiding to try to frighten the faithful. After all, it has risen from the same graveyard that contains the corpses of slavery, capital punishment torture and burning heretics at the stake for their own good. (How quickly, as James pointed out, the spokespeople for the 19th Century resort to saying that the inquisition and it atrocities were a product of circumstances, and so 'excusable'.)

To my mind, almost all 'double effect' cases involve something like SE; thou shalt not kill is SE'd away in all sorts of situations. I am presently writing a piece on Meta Ethics, and I have had to review a lot of contemporary and modern philosophy. All the philosophers I have looked at, including Kant, resort to the description of situations to deal with the inevitable gaps, dilemmas and conundrums that all systematic ethical thought gives rise to.

One of the most influential philosophers of the last third of the 20th Century, Rawls builds his whole system of ethics precisely on the issues of the relationship between general ethical understandings free of knowledge of specific situations, and the potential effects when situations are taken into account.

Nothing I have said above rules out the development of some general account of human nature, and an associated 'natural law' theory of morality, providing what we mean by 'law' is imperfect generalisations based on the best available conceptual and evidential framework concerning human conduct. Nothing rules out a notion like 'warranted assertability' being applied to these generalisations (Dewey's term), but no one in the real world uses the term 'objective' in the same sense as the Platonists anymore.

We have been around the block too many times in the last hundred or so years to fall for that. Fake Philosophy! What I have said above doesn't even rule out a role for the church in formulating such generalisations, promulgating them, and urging that they be taken into account when catholics form their consciences. In fact, there may need to be some quality assurance.

I'm not sure why I bother to point out that these people are living in a shrinking bubble of ancient errors. Maybe Enda can psychoanalyse me.

regards to all,


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Sandro - a critic of Amoris Laetitia got fired

by georgeh , Friday, September 15, 2017, 07:04 (13 hours, 12 minutes ago) @ Debb

You bring up some challenging points Debb.What does destroy civilisations,wars,famines or collapse of their morals.I always thought Rome partly fell because moral decline not so much when it was burning and Nero fiddled.But I take your point about what are the big sins.Francis admits he can,t be the judge.