April 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – On April 16, LifeSite published its initial report on the April 14 World Over Live program with Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal discussing Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the Family. The report and video generated much interest because of the respectful, charitable, but also very frank assessment of the problematic aspects of the exhortation that was given by the competent EWTN panel members. Because of its usefulness and importance, we publish today the full transcript of that EWTN program segment.
See also Fr. Gerald Murray's latest April 23 article, Reflections on “Amoris Laetitia”, which he ends by stating,
Clearly, as pope, he (Francis) introduces a radical change in sacramental practice, which he sees to be simply a “way of interpreting” or “drawing certain consequences.” It’s regrettable. The new “interpretation” will have far reaching consequences and will produce much sorrow and division in the life of the Church.
Transcript by Josie Luetke and Steve Jalsevac
Note: The transcript dialogue was edited from the original spontaneous, and therefore sometimes awkward and grammatically faulty spoken dialogue to a smoother reading text, without altering the sense of the statements made. Subtitles have been added to help readers to quickly find the specific issues mentioned during the dialogue.
Complete April 14 EWTN program transcript:
Raymond Arroyo: Last week, the Vatican published Pope Francis’ eagerly awaited apostolic exhortation on the family and titled “Amoris Laetitia” or “The Joy of Love.” In it, the pope affirms many of the Church’s teachings on family and he hints at an adjustment in practice—all in the name of mercy.
Joining us to discuss the exhortation are the papal posse: Robert Royal, the editor-in-chief of TheCatholicThing.org and from New York, Father Gerald Murray of the Archdiocese of New York.
Thank you, Father, for being here, and Bob. First of all, give me an overview here… We’re looking at this document, it is not a doctrinal enunciation by the Pope. What is it? What is an apostolic exhortation?
Robert Royal: Well, in this case, it’s a post-Synodal apostolic exhortation, which means that it is at the pope’s discretion to either write or not write a kind of report or a summary or whatever he feels he wishes to write after the bishops of the world, cardinals, archbishops, etcetera, come together on some particular time.
Raymond Arroyo: But it’s not a doctrinal document. I mean it doesn’t seek to change a doctrine and you wouldn’t normally do that in an exhortation or would you?
Robert Royal: Well, I would defer to our canon lawyer on this, but I don’t think he is pronouncing ex cathedra, which means that this is binding in terms of faith and morals, but it’s still is the case that when a pope goes out of his way to express himself and seems to be contradicting or changing what has been longstanding practice and doctrine in the church, that people pay attention.
Raymond Arroyo: Father Gerry Murray, I want to talk about some of the highlights of this document. First of all, I’ll let you weigh in there. Is this a restatement of doctrine? Does it seek to change doctrine and does it do that?
Fr. Murray: The ordinary papal Magisterium is carried out when the pope teaches through various ways and one of which is through apostolic exhortations. So, he restates Catholic teaching on many different aspects. The goal is not to change Catholic teaching. The papal Magisterium is consistent over history. It’s supposed to bring forward the same teaching. The question here is: Has it properly applied to the pastoral practice of the Church that teaching, and that’s where I think the problems have arisen here.
Raymond Arroyo: Okay, we’re going to talk about some of these elements before we get into quotations from the document, because we want to walk you through this, unpack it for you. He did hit some gongs here that sound awfully familiar, on contraception, on gay marriage. Talk about those things. You mention them in a fantastic piece you had up on The Catholic Thing.
Robert Royal: Right, and you know I deliberately put these things at the beginning of that column because I think a lot of people – we’re in such a brittle, polarized period in the Church as well as in the world – see something that makes them nervous about marriage and communion for the divorced and remarried and they assume that the entire document is corrupt or is unfaithful to the teaching. There are at least five controversial issues that I identified that the Pope speaks out very clearly about. You know, he’s not always clear when he speaks out.
But he has clearly indicated and quotes from Humanae Vitae that all marital acts must be open to life and therefore, no contraception. He’s spoken about the right to life and the right of medical workers to practice conscientious objection, so that they are not involved in morally objectionable procedures.
He’s talked about homosexuality and gay unions as not at all analogous/symbolic/similar to marriage in any way. He’s talked about the right of children to be—to have a mother and a father and he’s talked about the right of parents to educate their children. So, a lot of those hot-button issues that we’re used to in our daily Catholic lives these days, he’s absolutely rock solid on.
Raymond Arroyo: I want to put up some of these citations because it’s that chapter eight that is the difficult part of this document. It’s led some to say this is the age of individual conscience, and we’ll get into some of this. He says early on “…I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the Magisterium… Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.’” Father Murray, what do you hear there and what do you think the reception is among the German episcopate, for example?
“A dangerous statement”
Fr. Murray: Well, I think this is a dangerous statement precisely because we’re talking about the universal law of the Church regarding the administration of the sacraments and to say that inculturation would mean that in Germany the sacramental discipline would be different than in the neighbouring Poland or in a country in Africa – that’s very disturbing. The sacraments are not the possession of any culture, so therefore, their regulation is entrusted to the guardians of the church, that is, the pope and the bishops. So, that inculturation is a very popular theme because we think, well, this makes people feel more at home with their religion, but I say just the opposite: when the religion is transmitted accurately from the center, then you feel most at ease.
Raymond Arroyo: Bob, you wanted to add?
Robert Royal: Yeah, I think that there’s a true and a false way to inculturate and obviously, the Church in the United States needs to speak to Americans as Americans. The Church in France needs to speak to the French. A Church in Africa needs to speak to its people in various ways. But we have this absurd situation, and—and Father mentioned it, of particularly Germany and Poland, which share a common border and if the Germans were to go ahead in the directions that they’ve been indicating they’d like to, and the Poles, who are rock solid orthodox, were to remain where the church has always remained, we have this absurd situation that you can get in your car and drive from Poland, and in Poland if you’re divorced and remarried you receive communion, it’s a sacrilege and it’s a break with tradition, it’s a slap in the face of our Lord… you drive across into Germany and suddenly it’s this new outpouring of—
Raymond Arroyo: God’s mercy
Robert Royal:…mercy and openness to dialogue.
Raymond Arroyo: Does this invite sort of a chaotic response, Father Murray, when you have language that is as imprecise as some of what is in this exhortation?
Fr. Murray: Well, there is a lot of imprecision in the language and, as a canon lawyer and someone who’s been studying this topic since I was in the seminary, but more particularly the last year and a half, the reason why the Catholic Church does not give Holy Communion to people in invalid second marriages is because the second marriage involves an act – acts of adultery – they’ve sworn vows before a state official and they’re living in a public way, which is offensive to the teaching of our Lord. So, there’s no judgment that can be made on the conscience of the person, but what can be said to the person is, “Your acts violate the Lord’s teaching and the Church is not going to contribute to your further spiritual harm by letting you receive Communion or scandalizing the faithful into thinking that receiving Communion when you’re in an invalid second marriage is not a problem.” This is very serious and this is where I’m very, very concerned.
“A license for everything.”
Raymond Arroyo: Okay, let’s dig into this. Paragraph 298. I’m going to share this with both of you and get your reactions. “The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations,” the pope writes, “…which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.’” What’s wrong with that? Bob?
Robert Royal: Well, it’s a license for everything. I think this is one of those places where the pope is trying to raise our awareness properly, but there are lots of difficult circumstances out there in the world. The question is not—as Father just said—can they abandon another spouse and children? The question is: Are they still committing what must be regarded as adulterous acts in a second marriage? They are not licitly married as we understand—we’ve always understood it ever since our Lord pronounced the words that divorcing a woman and causing her to marry another is to commit adultery. The word “adultery”—
Raymond Arroyo:…doesn’t appear here.
Robert Royal:…hardly appears and it’s a word that our Lord Himself used and that the bishops in the Synod sought to find a way around. They talked about finding language that wasn’t offensive and so that’s why we see the language about discernment and accompaniment and you know, counselling of people, because there is a worry here the pope has, and others have, that it actually puts people off to use the very words that the Church has always used for these situations.
Raymond Arroyo: Mmm hmm. You don’t see “occasion of sin” or “living in sin,” Father, anywhere in the document. The pope is obviously going out of his way to make these people in these—what he calls—“irregular situations” feel more regular.
“The language of the Church is always you’re responsible for your moral decisions”
Fr. Murray: Well, this is where I have again more difficulties. For instance, using the expression “people in the second invalid marriage who find themselves in this situation.” No, they placed themselves in that situation and they continue to live in the situation. Now, the church has an understanding that there are reasons why the couple may not be able to separate for the good of the children or to care for a sick person—your sick partner—then we would say, but then you have to stop the acts of adultery, have to live as brother and sister. Now, that’s mentioned in an earlier part of the document but it’s not mentioned here.
Now, you can’t say that I cannot stop committing adultery because I’m going to cause another sin. No, you stop the adultery and then you do what you can to remedy the other situations, which is taking care of children from the second union. The language here kind of deprives people of moral responsibility for their actions and more or less says “I’m compelled to do this. I fell into that. I find myself in this…” The language of the Church is always you’re an acting free agent, you’re responsible for your moral decisions and decisions that have a public impact are regulated by Canon Law precisely because the good of others is at stake.
Accompaniment and the “Ideal”
Raymond Arroyo: You mentioned accompaniment. I want you to react to this and then, Bob, I want your take on this: paragraph 308 says “At the same time, from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances—psychological, historical and even biological—it follows that ‘without detracting from the evangelical ideal,” of marriage, “…there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear,’ making room for ‘the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us on to do our best.’
I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care, which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness, which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness…” Father Murray, your reaction.
Fr. Murray: Well, again I wish I could sit down with the pope and describe him why I and so many other people find that language very problematic. For me, marriage, Christian marriage, is not an “ideal.” It’s a norm, it’s a reality, it’s a sacrament, it’s a way of life. In fact, marriage is inscribed in humanity from the creation. God made them male and female. It’s not an ideal we strive for. I mean, in the ideal world, you know, I’d be a great pianist and, you know, I’d be a concert pianist—
Raymond Arroyo: Me too!
Fr. Murray: That’s an ideal. I’m not striving for that ideal—uh—I hope others do—but—you know to be able to play the piano as best you can, that’s the normal status for pianists. Marriage is the same thing. Once you get married, God has made it very possible for human beings to be faithful and to live that marriage fruitfully. Now, to say that accompaniment means that we want to help people on the path of virtue, absolutely, I do want to do that, but I don’t consider the teaching of the Church rigid or harsh or in any way an offense against the dignity of people who are sinning. For me, it’s the liberating truth.
We have to shake consciences up. I mean, in other fields, the pope does it very clearly. When it comes to immigration or poverty, he’s out there making very strong statements about moral responsibility of people acting for the benefit of the downtrodden. For people who are in invalid marriages, the best thing they can hear from the Lord and from the Church is: “Stop the sinning. Figure out how to live in a way that’s going to please the Lord and God will reward you for any sacrifices were made, that you make in that process”
Downplaying the absolutes
Raymond Arroyo: Someone said, Robert Royal, that the church is attempting here to downplay the absolutes to offer a welcoming embrace and that’s what this accompaniment and what we’ll read in a moment is all about.
Robert Royal: Well, yes, and now, I’m afraid to say—because, for me, there’s a lot of the language, a lot of the recurring terms in this document are problematic because we talk about absolutes as if they’re absolutely impossible and they’re just ideals and that the problems that we’re dealing with are just people in “irregular” or imperfect or less than “ideal” circumstances. This is not the language of the gospel. We talk about “adultery”, “right and wrong”, “sin”, “virtue,” that sort of thing. The passage that you read before, in addition to everything Father said, which I thought was very well put—the thing that worries me about that is that there’s always an excuse for everything, that any circumstance you find yourself in you can explain why it is that you’re there and let’s realize this is not simply about those probably very few hard cases where you know a woman was abandoned by a husband and she has no financial means and she remarries, she already has kids… I mean, everybody understands those are hard circumstances. But yet, our Lord’s teaching is His teaching. What worries me even more is if we’re going to start making explanations and perhaps even excuses for circumstances—biological, psychological—
Raymond Arroyo: Psychological, historical—
Robert Royal: Well, you know, people in a gay union, which the Holy Father has roundly rejected—what’s to say we can’t allow them to be readmitted to communion? What if there’s just no limit on the accompaniment that he’s talking about?
Exceptions and excuses vs. the precise words of Jesus
Raymond Arroyo: I had an email from somebody in a gay relationship who said the pope is condemning us. But wait a minute! I donated my life-giving matter to a woman. She was implanted. I have a child that’s really mine. We’re life-giving. When you start to make so many excuses, I mean, the question, and Father Murray, you can chime in on this: Does the exception become a very difficult rule or no rule at all?
Fr. Murray: Well, this is another area in the document which needs to be examined because the pope says it can no longer be presumed that people who find themselves in irregular situations are in a state of mortal sin. I would say that’s problematic to say that.
The presumption in the life of the Church is if you’ve been evangelized, you’ve heard the gospel, and you’ve believed in the gospel. When you contradict the gospel freely and knowingly, that’s a state of sin. The idea that there are large numbers of Catholics who have no idea that committing adultery is a mortal sin, I think that’s rare. Now, you will find Catholics who try and justify all kinds of bad behaviour because they’ve fallen in with the sexual revolution and the idea that there are no rules and my happiness depends on what I decide to do, but moral theology is very precise, precisely because of the words of the Lord have a meaning and when the Lord says you shouldn’t even lust for a woman in your heart, you have committed adultery. We have to say the Lord was strict when it came to trying to live virtuous and pure lives and we shouldn’t just give excuse cards. People say, “Well, I know it’s hard for you, therefore, we’re going to treat you as not fully guilty of sin and we’re going to give you a break.” Exceptions apply in all grounds of life if we accept that logic.
Raymond Arroyo: There is a mention of habit as if the persistence in whatever the sin might be… somehow the longer you do it, the better it becomes… I mean, that’s almost what you can read into this.
Robert Royal: No, these are classic—
Fr. Murray: Well, that’s a point in moral theology: teach people when you become habituated to sin you lose your sense of the evil of the sin and then you get into a false notion that somehow it’s justified or you have an exception. Those are the cases where you really have to stir up the conscience. They know you’re in direct contradiction with the words of the Lord and it has serious consequences, including for the salvation of your soul. Maybe that’ll stir them up to say, “yeah, you know, I’m in the excuse-making business; I’m not in the Gospel business.”
Cardinal Pell’s response on divorce and remarriage
Robert Royal: Two years ago, before the 2014 Synod, Cardinal George Pell from Australia gave a lecture at the North American College, which is where our American students are trained as priests, and he said then, “You know, if it was up to me, I might have been a little bit more lenient than our Lord was about divorce and remarriage”, but he says, “He wasn’t and I have to be with Him and I think that’s the difference.” We understand that this Holy Father is a very charismatic man. He very much feels what other people need from him.
He talks about if you’re just following the rules and you’re not obeying the law of love, there’s something wrong with that. Of course there is. The rules are there precisely to serve love, but there is a way in which everybody’s virtues can also be vices and without going into too much detail about this, I think it could be said that there’s a point at which the Holy Father runs the risks of, by trying to be so comforting to people, that he actually loses some of the holiness that people are called to.
Raymond Arroyo: And there is that point that Father Ray said earlier—this notion of characterising people who want to cleave to that law and the firm teaching of the Church as “rigorous”, but other articulations of things like immigration or, you know, the secondary issues – talk about rigor! I mean there’s real rigor there! There’s no room for even debate or question on some of these issues, so you see where people can be confused.
This is paragraph 304 into 305. “It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being… For this reason,” and Father Murray, listen to this: “For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding be-hind the Church’s teachings…” Is that what you’re doing, Father Murray? Are you hiding behind the Church’s teaching?
Fr. Murray: You know, in one sense, yes. In another sense, no. I hide behind the teaching of the Lord because I want to be protected from evil influences of the devil and erroneous teachings. I want to know what the Church expects of me, so in that sense you can say the expression, “I know I find my nest or my home in the teaching of the Church.” On the other hand, I’m not using the teaching of the Church as an excuse to get back at people who are sinning; I’m offering them the greatest charity in the world, which is the knowledge of what God wants them to do in life. I really have to say the Holy Father’s language is colorful and very blunt, but I don’t know that it’s really to the point, because when the Lord said to the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more,” was that presumptuous on his part to instruct her what to do? No, it’s not!
He knows everything. We don’t know everything. So, yes, sometimes, we have to lead people along in a slow manner and we try and convince them of the value of the teaching, but in the end, the people have to adhere to the teaching, not because they’re convinced by my explanation, but because they believe that’s what God taught. It’s not reductive to say the man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. That’s not a reductive statement. That’s a pure and simple statement of gospel truth recorded in the scriptures, spoken by our Lord. If you don’t agree with that you’re in a problem case. So, people who reject that teaching and live otherwise need to be shaken up. That’s the way I look at it.
The smoking footnote 351
Raymond Arroyo: The last paragraph that I showed everybody – there was a footnote, and I refer to this as the smoking footnote. I want both of you to chime in on this because it seems this really runs to the heart of the question of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics and the footnote reads—351—“In certain cases, this can include..” and what he’s talking about – what’s he’s referring to here is the Church assisting people on their journey – “In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.’ I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’” and I would point out those are two quotes from Francis quoting Francis. Bob Royal.
Robert Royal: You know, this is very puzzling, like that earlier quotation about using doctrines as stones to throw to people as if you’re a Pharisee if you hold to doctrine. This must correspond to something in the Holy Father’s experience because he does this quite often. He’s very angry about rigidity and what he sees as people being cold-hearted towards sinners and we can understand that part. This footnote, it’s very odd because this is the one place where sacraments are mentioned and it’s only in a footnote. There’s kind of a hesitation, a kind of timidity, about presenting this.
He doesn’t talk about community. It may include sacraments and then he goes on to what I regard as a very strange pair of quotations, the ones you read, and that is, the confessional as a torture chamber, and I when read that I said to myself: I wonder where in the world that’s the case and teaching people that the Eucharist is only for the perfect… where in the world is that the case? If we’re talking about mere politics, these are strawmen and when you set up strawmen to knock down like that, it’s because you don’t really want to have to try to make an argument that’s very hard.
Raymond Arroyo: Father Gerry, you are a canon lawyer. I’ve been speaking to a number of bishops. Some of them claim – the Kasper faction, Cardinal Kasper, who is advancing the notion that the divorced and remarried Catholics should be entitled to communion – that they have been routed and that all they got was this clumsy footnote and it doesn’t add up to much. Other canonists, other bishops, say “No, no, this is the smoking gun. They got what they wanted.” What is your take on this as a canonist, as a pastor?
Direct contradiction of Pope John Paul II and The Catechism
Fr. Murray: Right, well just on the mere level of fact, Cardinal Schönborn in his presentation of the document on Friday the 8th said that this does include sacraments for certain people. So, the fact it’s in a footnote is strange in my opinion, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that it does say it. The Church should accompany some people in irregular unions with the sacraments. Those sacraments include communion and confession. By the way, two quotes that Bob referred to, you quoted, Raymond, they appear in an earlier footnote. I think it’s footnote 323 in section eight. So they’re repeated twice, which I found a little bit strange, but the point being the pope would like people to have the opportunity in particular cases after talking to a priest, after reviewing the guidelines of the local bishop, to be able to receive communion.
This is a direct contradiction of Pope John Paul the Second’s “Familiaris Consortio” and subsequent documents. It contradicts the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is the Kasper proposal. I’m puzzled by those who say that the Kasper proposal was turned down. That’s certainly not what Cardinal Schönborn said in his presentation. This is where the problem is going to really manifest itself in the days and weeks following the publication of this document and we have something here which is not in accord with what the church has said up till now.
False mercy of “Father Friendly”
Raymond Arroyo: And Father Gerry, how does this play out on the local level? I mean you’re a pastor. A couple comes to you. By your reading of this document, does this entitle them to communion after a conference with you in a confession, without an annulment?
Fr. Murray: Not in my case, because I don’t believe that they should be receiving Communion if they continue to commit adultery. You know, as a pastor, I’ve dealt with many cases we call “brother and sister relationship” and that’s precisely where a couple in an invalid second marriage ceases to live as husband and wife and live as brother and sister, raise the kids. That’s fine. Now, what we call “Father Friendly,” who’s willing to sell the store – he’s going to take this paragraph and say, “Come on in. Whatever you want we’ve got it right here.”
For me, this is false mercy. It’s making reception of communion a badge of honor that you receive even though you know what you’re doing is not in accord with the teaching of the Church. I don’t think it’s pastorally sensitive to tell those people your goal in life should be to receive Communion while you’re still committing adultery. That’s a big mistake. Your goal in life should be stop committing adultery, get right with the Lord, and then receive Communion.
Raymond Arroyo: Next time, I’m going to invite Father Friendly on to debate you, Father.
Fr. Murray: There are many Father Friendlies out there.
Raymond Arroyo: Well, I got to give Father Friendly equal time. Can’t have this happening. Robert Royal, last year, you will remember, I think it was the end of the year show or the New Year Show and I boldly and perhaps brazenly predicted that Pope Francis was going to change the practice, if not the doctrine of the Church, vis-à-vis communion for divorced and remarried people and that it would have the effect of changing the doctrine. Has that happened?
Changing the doctrine
Robert Royal: Well, I’m not a Canon lawyer, so I’m not going to be quite as sensitive as the good Padre is about this. I think we still want to pay attention to the fact that this is a footnote. The word “communion” does not get mentioned. Yes, Cardinal Schönborn mentioned “communion” and other things in the presentation of the document, but for a pope who is not shy at all about presenting his positions, for him to kind of walk very gingerly around this, I think he recognizes that this—
Raymond Arroyo: the sensitivity here—
Robert Royal: …the sensitivity of it. Now, if you ask me, there probably are some cases where people are not subjectively culpable, the situation they find themselves in, but probably that means they can get an annulment or there are some mitigating circumstances.
Raymond Arroyo: Well, in the German Church this is already going on!
Robert Royal: And I think we can say probably in other churches besides Germany this has happened and in my judgment, it hasn’t done a lot for people in married situations or for the church, but, that said, it seems to me there’s an attempt to paper over what really is a change in doctrine here.
If receiving Communion means that you are in perfect community with our Lord, and unity with our Lord, and yet you are living a life that directly contradicts one of the striking statements…I mean, for the Jews of His time, it was remarkable that He said, “Forget Moses, I’m going to take you back to the way it was intended to be initially.” We’re not doing that. We’re not giving you a hall pass any longer. So, for him to have made a particular point, and it’s in many points in the New Testament where this divorced and remarried question comes up, if he made that point and we seek to say, yeah, even though that’s the case, there are circumstances we’re going to claim that that…
Raymond Arroyo:…doesn’t apply.
Robert Royal: … doesn’t really apply. It seems to me that you’re changing the doctrine, but denying that you’re changing the doctrine.
“The social effects of changing this practice are devastating”
Raymond Arroyo: Father Gerry Murray, your thoughts on this. Has the doctrine been changed by changing the practice or creating a loophole in this footnote for the practice?
Fr. Murray: No, the doctrine cannot be changed because the doctrine is divine positive law. You know, what Jesus said holds. The Church has not rejected that teaching and can’t. Now the pope is teaching here in this document that exceptions, I guess, the way you would put it, they don’t use that language, but that there are circumstances when somebody who’s living in an objectively immoral state of life should be treated as if they were living in an objectively moral state of life, because subjective or they’re not guilty – I mean this is very complicated language. The other problem, though, of course, is what does this say to the community of faithful? What does it say to the divorced spouse and children who, you know, their dad going with wife #2 up the aisle to receive Communion and what does it say to the young people in the in the mass, watching this happen about the stability of marriage vows? These were concerns that were raised by Saint John Paul the Second, by Pope Benedict when he was Cardinal Ratzinger (the Doctrine of the Faith). The social effects of changing this practice are devastating and Bob is right—this has not had a good effect where there’s been this liberalizing tendency in Germany. Mass attendance in Germany is pathetic and I have to say it’s not because they’re rigid. It’s because they’re very, very loose with the Church’s teaching. Very, very disturbing. You cannot change Church teaching but you can, monkey with practice, causing problems.
Raymond Arroyo: I’ll give you the final word, Bob Royal.
Robert Royal: Well, these are hard, hard questions. We don’t want to treat the Holy Father as you would a politician. These are not policies.
Are critics undermining the pope's authority?
Raymond Arroyo: Right. Well, some are going to say by questioning this, you are attacking and undermining the pope’s authority. You would say what?
Robert Royal: I would say I never have and never will speak about the Holy Father the way I would speak about a mere politician who happens to hold some policy. We are all Catholics. We are all committed to the faith, the tradition of the Church, and to ultimately our Lord Himself and what He’s revealed to us, but this is one of those cases where I think a great virtue in the Holy Father, his spontaneity, his charismatic nature, his feeling for other people, there is a whole literature about how a virtue can turn into a vice. There seems to be a kind of an opening here to something that he would like to be the case, as Cardinal Pell wanted it to be the case, but that simply, if you were a Catholic, cannot be, and the accompaniment is, I believe it’s fine, although we want to be sensitive about that. In other documents we’ve talked about allowing people who are divorced and remarried to be lectors, to be godparents in baptism. I don’t see how you can bring on somebody who is in an adulterous relationship or an imperfect relationship – if you want to put it that way – as a person who is going to guide a baby, if necessary—
Raymond Arroyo:…in their moral life.
Robert Royal: …in their moral and their spiritual life in the future, so Father is right: there are all sorts of, shall we say, indirect messages that get sent and I have a feeling – we already had been seeing this in the media – that the mere mention, that one little footnote, the sense that this is what he is trying to do—
Raymond Arroyo:…that ground is shifting—
Robert Royal: …will already give—send out the message, because the media is ready to transmit this—that the Catholics are giving up on all that old stuff and now you can do what everybody is already doing.
The need for 'gospel frankness'
Raymond Arroyo: What do you expect the reaction to be among canonists, among bishops and how do they register the critiques that I'm hearing and the concerns to the pope in a way that could reach him and possibly reshape or readjust this document.
Fr. Murray: This is the effort I think all of us who are concerned want to see happen, which is to tell the pope that flattery would mean we keep our mouths closed and say nothing, but gospel frankness, remember that word he used in the Synod, “parrhesia,” the gospel frankness calls upon us to say, “Holy Father either you been poorly advised or you have an incomplete conception of this issue. We know that we can share some information with you.” But the thirteen or so Cardinals who wrote to the Pope at the beginning of the last Synod, I mean that’s the perfect kind of example I think is going to happen.
Also you know canon 220 – all the faithful have the right to express their opinions about matters in Church life. This is good that this be debated and brought forward in the press. …St. Thomas is used in Chapter eight to justify this new approach (in the Exhortation). I can't believe that a good group of Thomists won’t be having a response to that
I don't want to criticize the pope. I think the pope is a wonderful man. I think he's a holy man in so many ways. I hope to be a good man and holy myself. I don't judge, but what I will say is when you do something in public that contradicts what your predecessor did, there has to be an accounting for it and a responsibility to upholding the gospel and I think that's what many bishops, Cardinals and priests will call for. RA: Very good.
Raymond Arroyo: We’ll leave it there. Father Gerry Murray, Robert Royal, thank you both for being here and for sharing your insights as always.