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Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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Pope Francis’ teaching on marriage is not ‘in the Spirit of Christ’: scholar

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
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Anna Silvas (L) and LSN reporter Jeanne Smits in Rome.

May 1, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) -- Pope Francis’ teachings on marriage do not “breathe the Spirit of Christ” since they offer an “accommodation to human weakness,” said one of the world's top Catholic experts on the Church Fathers in an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews. 

Dr. Anna M. Silvas, a professor at the University of New England, said there has been a “fierce war” going on within the Church over the nature of marriage. On one side is the teaching of the Church on the matter as developed by the Fathers of the early Church. On the other side are those who seek to undermine and change that teaching. 

“There's a fierce war that's been going on on this issue for some decades. And currently, Pope Francis thinks he's winning. But he's not doing things in the Spirit of Christ. Whatever it is, it does not breathe the Spirit of Christ,” she said. 

Silvas said that Catholics seeking to be faithful to the Church must “cleave” to Christ more than ever.  

“And we have to center on Him absolutely. Popes come and go, but Jesus Christ is the real Lord and Master, and the Bridegroom of the Church, absolutely. The same yesterday, today and forever. Getting a good, strict purchase on that will be the one remedy, at least in our own pained situations, individually, that we can look for,” she said. 

The interview was conducted in Rome last week while Silvas was attending an international conference titled “Bringing Clarity One Year after Amoris Laetitia.” The conference examined the problems that have arisen in the Church after Francis’ publication of his exhortation.

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LifeSiteNews: Anna Silvas, your talk gave the impression that you think that everything that is happening is intentional. How can we as Catholics live with a Pope who is doing intentionally bad things?

I did try to not disguise the stark conundrum we find ourselves in, and I don't quite know what the solutions are. The Lord is obviously allowing this to happen for some very good purpose. I think it's the culmination of decades of malaise in the Church. How on earth is the Lord going to purify the Church of this crisis, I don't know. 

But the fact is that the current Pope of Rome is a serious paradox. I don't think, for example, “synodality” or “conciliarism” is any sort of solution to balance the papacy. I do think the papacy itself probably needs to be looked at, but how on earth the Lord will allow this to happen… 

There have been other times in the Church when the vast majority of bishops went the way of heresy, or soft-pedaling heresy as in the Arian crisis. The Lord has handled that. Pope Francis is moving, bit by bit with his choices of cardinals, to get his sort there in the Vatican so that he can retire. He thinks this is the way he can achieve his agenda. 

All of that actually makes me glad in a way, because it's obvious that it’s so very much not of the Spirit of God. It's so very much not of the Spirit of Christ. It's paradoxical, but I think it's clear that the Lord Himself is going to bring about something different. 

LifeSiteNews: That was the gist of your talk: Christ will not abandon His Church.

He will not. And we have to center on Him absolutely. Popes come and go, but Jesus Christ is the real Lord and Master, and the Bridegroom of the Church, absolutely. The same yesterday, today and forever. Getting a good, strict purchase on that will be the one remedy, at least in our own pained situations, individually, that we can look for. 

I'm not one of the minimizers of the deep distress of the Church, but it is so varied, in so many different ways. This moral, sacramental crisis is just like a widespread corruption – the cult of modernity. You can think of your own descriptions. We're all thinking and have been thinking for years to try and understand what has brought society, in general, and our Church, in particular, to this point. But how we'll get out of this hole, I don't know, except by definitely cleaving to Our Lord Jesus Christ, with faith.

LifeSiteNews: In the Oriental orthodox Churches, there is the “oikonomia,” as you remarked, of remarriage and communion. Has their theology evolved because of this or at the same time as this? Has it moved away from the true faith?

Definitely! They've abandoned the Greek Fathers! They have abandoned the original tradition of the Fathers of the Church – I refer to their breech with Holy Tradition. In the 3rd century, there were people like Athanagoras of Athens. The early tradition of the Church was you did not marry a second time after the death of your first spouse. They've traveled a fair distance since the time of Justinian. 

It took about 500 years, I'd say, when Rome and civil law began to infiltrate into the practice of the Church and a bad example began to be set for “dynastic reasons,” of course, by the emperors and empresses. And then it filters down … It takes some centuries. You get some saints, like saint Theodore the Studite, who fought a rearguard action against this devolution in the Church of Constantinople, but they very definitely abandoned the Greek Fathers. You can still find some very powerful statements from Saint John Chrysostom or Gregory the Theologian, but it’s a fair-seeming theology, beguiling language that actually cloaks a serious abandonment of the Tradition.

People like Kasper and Häring are listening to all this, and they haven't actually done the work on the early Fathers. They're listening to their line, and thinking of course the Russian Orthodox Church must know about the Fathers of the Church. Actually, this is one of the most significant areas where the Catholic Church maintained the Tradition and the Eastern Orthodox didn't.

LifeSiteNews: Has the notion of sin been changed by this breaking away from tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church?

No, I think they just suspend judgment, mostly. Marriages break down, they don't investigate whether it was valid or not, it's just a sort of accommodation to human weakness, and they call it kindness. Which is more or less what we're hearing from Pope Francis, it's exactly the sort of thing.

Of course, all this has decades of back history in the recent history of the Catholic Church. Kasper fought this one out with the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1993 – who happened to be Ratzinger. All of this was going on for some years and we're supposed to pretend that none of it happened. 

There's a fierce war that's been going on on this issue for some decades. And currently, Pope Francis thinks he's winning. But he's not doing things in the Spirit of Christ. Whatever it is, it does not breathe the Spirit of Christ, so I think the Lord will paint something else.

I'll finish with this; I read this wonderful little saying from a Russian saint, a monk, the Elder Paisos. He said something like this: “The things I see going on around me would drive me insane if I did not remember that the Lord will have the last word.”

Related: 

Lay Catholics warn of ‘great confusion’ in Church at Rome conference 

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