The Ongoing Discussion on Amoris Laetitia
Müller and Buttiglione, So Near, So Far http://magister.blogautore.espresso.repubblica.it/2017/11/23/muller-and-buttiglione-so-near-so-far/
Following the release of the book on “Amoris Laetitia” that bears their signatures, both the philosopher Rocco Buttiglione and the theologian and cardinal Gerhard L. Müller have again spoken out to reiterate their respective positions.
Buttiglione in an interview with Andrea Tornielli for Vatican Insider:
Cardinal Müller in an interview with Riccardo Cascioli for La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana:
Both of these interviews confirm that the positions of the philosopher and of the cardinal are by no means in congruence. And therefore it continues to seem inexplicable that Müller should write about Buttiglione’s ideas with such enthusiastic approval, and recommend them to readers.
What are the points on which Müller and Buttiglione disagree? Let’s take them in order.
Buttiglione starts from a premise that in effect, as he says, is “adamantly traditional,” taught in every catechism. It is the premise according to which that sin is not “mortal” but only “venial” which in spite of being of grave matter, like adultery, is committed without full knowledge and deliberate consent.
From this he deduces that the faithful who confesses this sin with these attenuating circumstances may receive sacramental absolution and receive communion, even if he continues to live “more uxorio” in a union that is illicit for the Church but the gravity of which he continues not to realize.
The critics, however, object to Buttiglione that in the very act of confessing this sin, if the confessor does his duty of enlightening consciences, the penitent becomes aware of the gravity of his way of life and of the voluntary nature by which he makes it his own, in continuous fashion. And therefore if he does not repent and detach himself from it (or at least resolve seriously to change his life as soon as possible) he can neither be absolved nor receive communion.
Buttiglione does not give a convincing response to this objection. Nor does Cardinal Müller, in his preface to the book, take the philosopher’s arguments into consideration.
For his part, the cardinal addresses another hypothesis, and only this, according to which in fact the divorced and remarried can be allowed to receive communion licitly, in the ‘internal forum’ and without giving scandal. And it is the hypothesis already repeatedly conjectured by Joseph Ratzinger as theologian, as cardinal, and as pope. An hypothesis completely in line with tradition, covered by Settimo Cielo in a previous post.
So this is a first divergence between the two. But then there is a second. And it is their opposite judgment on “Amoris Laetitia.”
On the postsynodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, Buttiglione has nothing but great things to say.
Even on the cryptic footnote 351 in which Francis concealed his “openness” to communion for the divorced and remarried, Buttiglione speaks favorably. The pope was right to do so, he says, because in a world so complicated as the present one “it is not possible to dictate a disciplinary norm that would apply to all in a uniform way.” Better “to invite the episcopates and the individual bishops to take on their responsibilities.”
Müller, however, is of a completely different view. He traces back to precisely the obscurity of that footnote and of other passages the babel of interpretations that is now plain for all to see. He writes in the preface to the book:
“In footnote 351, the pope cites himself in ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’ However, the statement that the Eucharist is not a ‘prize for the perfect’ but ‘a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’ does not make things clearer. This by no means opens, for those who find themselves in a condition of grave sin and persist in it, the way to sacramental communion. There can be no confusing and exchanging of one and the other sacrament in their specific function. In Baptism and Penance is offered a medicine that purifies, that frees us ‘from the fever of sin.’ The sacrament of the Eucharist is a medicine that strengthens, that can be given only to those who are free from sin (Summa Theologiae, III, q. 80, a. 4 ad 2).”
And this is only one of the numerous critical observations that Müller directs toward “Amoris Laetitia” and subsequent statements from the pope, in the preface to the book.
The following is an assortment of them.
“Verbal images that are not always very successful (for example, hurling against others the commandments of God as if they were stones) and hasty translations of theological positions into the language of psychology, like legalism and pharisaism, provoke bewilderment instead of understanding for the pope’s pastoral intention (cf. ‘Amoris Laetitia’ 305). Those who are exerting themselves for the clarity and truth of the doctrine of the faith, especially in an age of relativism and agnosticism, does not deserve to be pigeonholed as rigoristic, pharisaic, legalistic, and Pelagian. Thus, for example, legalism is the opinion that man can attain the justice of God through the simple outward execution of the commandments, and Pelagianism is the idea that man can fulfill the commandments of God and therefore reach eternal life even without the unmerited and unmeritable grace of justification. What Catholic theologian defends such a position, which would stand in the most evident opposition to the doctrine of justification through grace?”
“The categories of marriage as ‘ideal’ in opposition to ‘reality,’ an ideal to which man can never correspond entirely, are perhaps appropriate for moral theology and the spiritual life, but not for sacramental theology. Marriage is not at all ‘an imperfect analogy’ (‘Amoris Laetitia’ 73) of the relationship of Christ with his Church. In the same paragraph, however, the analogy of the sacrament of marriage with the mystery of the unity of Christ and the Church are described in an absolutely correct way. Here we have an example of terminology that can cause confusion.”
“In article 305, and in particular in footnote 351 that is the object of impassioned discussion, the theological argumentation suffers from a certain lack of clarity that could and should have been avoided with a reference to the dogmatic definitions of the Council of Trent and of Vatican II on justification, on the sacrament of Penance, and on the appropriate way to receive the Eucharist.”
“The fundamental criteria for the application of chapter 8 of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ published by the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires unfortunately do not tell us anything about the problem of whether someone in the condition of impenitent mortal sin could approach the Lord’s table and receive the sacred species as communion of spiritual and supernatural life, something that would be a contradiction ‘in adiecto.’ In the reply letter from Pope Francis to the document of the Argentine bishops, the statement that ‘there is no other interpretation’ cannot be understood in the literal sense, in the face of the actual existence of contradictory interpretations. Among these are some that indeed refer to ‘Amoris Laetitia’ but are in direct contradiction with the doctrine defined dogmatically by the faith of the Church. It is not enough to affirm the orthodoxy of the controversial passages on admission to the Eucharist. It is also necessary to demonstrate the truth of these statements with persuasive arguments.”
Moreover, in the preface to the book, Cardinal Müller takes a shot at the immediate architects of much of “Amoris Laetitia”:
“The congregation for the doctrine of the faith has the theological and institutional competence to assure the consistent argumentation of the texts of the Roman magisterium. Individual theologians who may be brought in ‘ad hoc’ - albeit with all the gratitude and respect due to them - cannot elaborate a final draft.”
Here Müller is alluding in particular to Víctor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina, for years the favorite theologian and ghostwriter of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who made him an archbishop as soon as he was elected pope. His hand in the construction of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ is so evident that entire pieces of it come from articles of his from a dozen years ago.
As for the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, however, it is known that Pope Francis systematically ignores it, even after dismissing its prefect, who was none other than Cardinal Müller.