(LifeSiteNews) — On 29 June 2023, the Church celebrates St. Peter and St. Paul. The latter’s love for the former led him to publicly correct him (cf. Galatians 2:11-14).
Today, Peter is Pope Francis, and Paul is the Christians who had the courage to undertake a filial correction of Francis. This is the example of the priests, university professors, and experts in theology and morality who published the open letter to the College of Cardinals (July 2016, 45 signatories), the filial correction of Pope Francis (July 2017, 62 signatories), and the open letter to the bishops (April 2019, 20 signatories). But have they done something good?
Yes, according to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, because
the correction which is … an act of charity belongs to each one towards all those whom he ought to love, and in whom he sees something to correct … if there were any danger to the faith, superiors would have to be rebuked by inferiors, even in public. So Paul, who was subject to Peter, rebuked him for this reason. And on this subject Augustine’s gloss explains: “Peter himself shows by his example to those who have the pre-eminence, if it happened to them to deviate from the right path, not to refuse to be corrected, even by their inferiors.” (Summa Theologica II-II, q.33, a.4).
This is why the African priest who is writing these lines wishes to carry out this act of spiritual mercy, which consists in drawing Pope Francis’ attention to his errors that negatively affect marriage, the family, the sacraments, the Church, and the world. Is Francis the Pope of relativism? The following analysis shows that he is. By studying the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, we will see that the main errors of Francis’ pontificate have a common root: relativism and situation ethics (cf. my second open letter). Relativism occurs when a person believes that he or she is exempt from living an absolute law, for example the natural moral law (represented by the Ten Commandments). There is situational ethics when this exemption is based on certain situations or circumstances.
Relativism and situation ethics in Amoris laetitia and the ‘pastoral care’ of remarried divorcees
Before Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016), the Church showed great understanding and mercy towards remarried divorcees. It allowed them access to the Sacrament of Confession with the same conditions that God imposes on all Christians, namely repentance and the resolution to sin no more. These are not bodily acts but spiritual acts, achievable by any human will (even that of vicious people). In Confession, the priest simply asks the repentant sinner a question: “Since you are not married, are you willing to struggle to avoid sexual relations?” If the answer was yes, the remarried divorcee received absolution and was admitted to the Eucharist in private.
With the appearance of Amoris laetitia, a lively polemic immediately arose because of numerous sentences (numbers 298, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304 and 305) that make clear the relativism and the situation ethic in Pope Francis’ mentality (cf. Robert Spaemann, interview of 29 April 2016, with Anian Christoph Wimmer of Catholic News Agency) and which reveal three specific cases of crypto-heresy (heresy that is real but not openly expressed, as Professor Roberto De Mattei puts it). “Heresy is the obstinate denial, after the reception of baptism, of a truth that must be believed in the divine and Catholic faith, or the obstinate doubt about this truth” (Code of Canon Law 751).
What is the new doctrine proposed by Amoris laetitia? Here it is, in the words of Pope Francis: “because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end” (305); “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments” (note 351); “in such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’” (note 329).
What is the meaning of the preceding words? The text that Francis has officially presented as the only valid interpretation of the new pastoral approach of Amoris laetitia towards remarried divorcees is the letter from the bishops of Buenos Aires (5 September 2016). This text says:
5) When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians walking the path of faith, the commitment to live in continence can be proposed. Amoris laetitia does not ignore the difficulties of this option (cf. note 329) and offers the possibility of having access to the Sacrament of Reconciliation when such a commitment fails (cf. note 364, according to the teaching of St. John Paul II to Cardinal W. Baum, of 03/22/1996). 6) In other more complex circumstances, and where a declaration of nullity cannot be obtained, the mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is also possible. If it is recognised that in a particular case there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person considers that he/she would incur a subsequent fault by harming the children of the new union, Amoris laetitia offers the possibility of having access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351). These, in turn, prepare the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace.
Let us also add the words of Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, as he takes up the idea of the previous text in his book Il capitolo ottavo della Esortazione Apostolica Post Sinodale Amoris Laetitia (February 2017):
if the commitment to live as brother and sister proves possible without difficulties for the relationship, the two cohabitants willingly accept it; if, on the other hand, this commitment gives rise to difficulties, the two cohabitants do not seem to be obliged per se, because they check the case of the person referred to in n. 301 with this clear expression: he or she may find himself or herself in concrete conditions that do not allow him or her to act otherwise and to make other decisions without committing a new fault.
To sum up, what is the new doctrine of Amoris laetitia? It is as follows: because of extenuating circumstances, the supposed good of the family, or the difficulty of abstaining from sexual relations, there are remarried divorcees who cannot be required to live a life of sexual continence and who must be admitted to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist after a period of accompaniment and discernment. Is this new doctrine of Amoris laetitia in line with Christian Tradition? No, for three reasons.
The first reason is that all human beings (even the vicious, for whom imputability would be reduced or absent) are obliged to live in sexual continence if they are not married. This is prescribed by God in the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue and is an expression of the natural moral law. Indeed, “the natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1956); “the natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history” (Idem 1958). To affirm the contrary is to fall into moral and sexual relativism, and then into a heresy that rejects the universality of the Sixth Commandment. Yet this is what Pope Francis is doing when he concedes that some remarried divorcees may have “certain expressions of intimacy” reserved for married people. This is also what the official text interpreting Amoris laetitia does when it presents the virtue of sexual continence as an “option” for some remarried divorcees and states that it “may not, in fact, be feasible.” The same applies to Cardinal Coccopalmerio when he states that “the two cohabitants do not seem to be obliged per se.”
The second reason why the new doctrine of Amoris laetitia is unacceptable is that “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice” (John Paul II, Veritatis splendor 81). “It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1756). St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Paul confirm this: “It often happens that man acts with a good intention, but without spiritual gain, because he lacks a good will. Let us say that someone robs in order to feed the poor: in this case, even though the intention is good, the uprightness of the will is lacking. Consequently, no evil done with a good intention can be excused. ‘There are those who say: And why not do evil that good may come? Their condemnation is just.’ (Rom 3:8)” (St Thomas Aquinas, Opuscula Theologica II 1168) By living sexually outside of marriage, remarried divorcees commit intrinsically evil acts i.e. either the sin of adultery (if their previous marriage is valid) or the sin of fornication (if their previous marriage is not valid). Even Amoris laetitia recognizes that they live in an “objective situation of sin” (305, cf. 302 and 303), but unfortunately it finds arguments to excuse their incontinence and thus falls into a situation ethic, then into a heresy rejecting the absolute character of the Sixth Commandment (cf. Exodus 20:14; Mark 10:11-12).
The third reason why the new doctrine of Amoris laetitia is unacceptable is that no unmarried Christian (even the vicious, for whom imputability would be reduced or absent) can receive the Sacrament of Confession if he or she is not prepared to do everything possible to avoid sexual relations. This is what Pope John Paul II recalled in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio: “Reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’” (84).
The new doctrine of Amoris laetitia thus falls into a third heresy, since it rejects a condition which is absolutely necessary for receiving the Sacrament of Confession and which constitutes a truth of divine and Catholic faith relating to this sacrament: namely, the resolution to do everything possible to avoid sin (cf. Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, 14th session, 25 November 1551, DS 1676 and 1678; Catechismo di San Pio X, Della Dottrina Cristiana, Parte IV, 731; Catechism of the Catholic Church 1451; Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church 303; Tradimento della sana dottrina attraverso “Amoris laetitia”, Tullio Rotondo, March 2022). Pope Francis’ silence in the face of the dubia of Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Leo Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner is ultimately a good indication of his relativistic mentality, which refuses to state the truth clearly and publicly.
Relativism and situation ethics in Pope Francis’ other errors
On 10 December 2018, Pope Francis, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., and Archbishop Giacomo Morandi authorized hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) on the pretext of the agreement of medical experts who would ensure that no future pregnancy could come to term. In reality, since the state of the uterus poses no present or future danger to the mother’s health, this is a case of direct sterilization, an intrinsically and morally evil act (cf. Humanae vitae 14; document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 31 July 1993; my 3rd open letter). It also conceals a heresy rejecting the divine law on procreation (cf. Genesis 1:28).
The Abu Dhabi Declaration, signed by Pope Francis (4 February 2019), contains a sentence denying that Christianity is the supreme religion willed by God (cf. John 14:6; Dominus Iesus 13), and conceals two heresies rejecting Christ’s salvific mission and the goodness of divine will (cf. Genesis 1:31). This religious relativism can be seen in Pope Francis’ participation in three pagan ceremonies (4 October 2019 with the Pachamama, 25 and 27 July 2022 with the autochtones of Canada).
On 21 October 2020, 15 September 2021, 5 February 2023, and 10-11 March 2023, Pope Francis called for homosexual civil cohabitation laws on the pretext of the legal sharing of socio-economic benefits. In reality, he has committed “a gravely immoral” act by authorizing sexual cohabitation that is intrinsically sinful, and by forgetting that homosexuals can have recourse “to the common law to protect legal situations of mutual interest” (document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 3 June 2003; cf. my 1st open letter). This conceals a heresy rejecting the divine law on marriage between man and woman (cf. Genesis 2:24; 18:20).
On 15 September 2021, on the pretext that “Communion is not a prize for the perfect,” Pope Francis gave his consent for all publicly pro-abortion politicians to receive the Holy Eucharist without the need for them to reject their attachment to abortion (cf. my 4th open letter). This conceals two heresies: the denial of the necessity of the Sacrament of Penance for access to the Eucharist in the case of grave sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Code of Canon Law 915, 916, 1347§2) and the denial of the absolute nature of the Fifth Commandment (cf. Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 19:10).
Finally, we note that, unlike St. John Paul II (cf. Veritatis splendor 80-83), Francis does not recognize that certain acts (adultery, sterilization, idolatry, homosexuality, abortion) are intrinsically evil and can never benefit from a certain degree of moral acceptance because of extenuating circumstances or because they contain “positive elements.”
Will Pope Francis finally acknowledge his errors and correct them? Many Christians have been hoping so since 2016. So let us speak out loud and clear to get Pope Francis’ attention. But above all, let us pray to Jesus and Mary to give him the humility that St. Peter had when St. Paul gave him the filial correction in Antioch.
Father Janvier Gbénou (Father Jesusmary Missigbètò as his pen name) was born in 1980 and ordained a Priest of Jesus Christ on 5 May 2012 in Rome. Originally from Benin (West Africa), he holds a master’s degree in Computer Methods Applied to Business Management and a doctorate in Philosophy.