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‘It gives the feeling of a schism’: EWTN panel analyzes current ‘disaster’ in the Church

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February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – On Thursday, Raymond Arroyo, canon laywer Father Gerald Murray, and The Catholic Thing's Robert Royal presented a somber analysis of the confusion caused by Amoris Laetitia.

Arroyo featured Murray and Royal as guests on his EWTN show The World Over, where the three discussed the "odd" move of the pope's nine advisors pledging their allegiance to him this week.

"This highly unusual vote of confidence comes at a serious time, a time of tension at the Vatican as major concerns are being raised about the direction of papal teaching and curial reform," said Arroyo. "I’ve never seen anything like this sort of a pledge of confidence. I mean, Parliament’s done this in England, but I’ve never seen it done at the Vatican."

"It’s very odd when you have a vote of full confidence in a pope," said Royal. "In the entire history of the Church I don’t think this has ever happened before. Yet...it was felt necessary. So there must be – even among that very close group of advisors – there must be a sense that they needed to affirm something because of a threat that seems to be from the outside. And it’s not just Cardinal Burke…The joke is often that when you, in a parliamentary system, express full confidence in someone, it’s at the point where they’re about to be dismissed from office."

"Things got strange" at the "much-publicized release of a booklet purporting to be an official response to the questions surrounding Amoris Laetitia," Arroyo explained. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts, "failed to show up at his own press conference" and then attendees were told the booklet is not an official response to questions about the dubia. In this booklet, Coccopalmerio writes that Catholics living in adulterous unions "must be given" Holy Communion.

"Father Murray, what is this, in your estimation, and are good intentions enough to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church?" Arroyo asked.

"This is really a disaster, I’ll say it straight out," Murray replied. "It’s a direct contradiction of what the Church has always taught, of what John Paul II, now St. John Paul, taught in Familiaris Consortio and in subsequent documents. The idea that you would say people who are living in an adulterous union are not exactly models of Catholic marriage but nonetheless they should be given Communion – this is casting aside the message of the Gospel."

Catholic teaching is clear and simple, the canon lawyer explained: "Holy Communion is the Bread of Life given to those who approach the altar in the proper disposition, which means if you’re committing mortal sin, you go to Confession. If you’re planning on committing a mortal sin in the days ahead, then you can’t go to Confession ’cause you can’t repent...there are a lot of slogans, a lot of euphemisms. Holy Communion should not be received by people who are objectively contradicting the truth of Christ."

"We have yet again the highest levels except for the very highest level saying contradictory things that…as Father said, contradict the entire tradition of the Church," said Royal. "The only way that this can be resolved is for the Holy Father himself to step forward. I’ve said this before. After Humanae Vitae, when Paul VI took a very unpopular position about contraception affirming the [Church's] teaching, there was controversy all over the place but there was no doubt about what he said."

The panel explained that at this point, only Pope Francis can clarify the confusion, but that doesn't seem likely any time in the near future.

Murray said "pastoral charity" requires the pope to intervene and affirm the Church's perennial teaching on marriage and the Sacraments.

"You’re not allowed to commit adultery," said Murray. "That’s the sixth commandment. One thing that really puzzles me in this whole discussion is the resistance to describing things as they are. Adultery means adultery...'irregular' has all kinds of meanings. We’re talking about Gospel truth here. The Lord reaffirmed quite clearly...‘the man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.’ We should have Gospel frankness here. That’s what the pope has called for, and I agree with Bob – the only one who can solve this debate is Pope Francis and I think, you know, as an appeal to him from a pastor in the trenches, pastoral charity requires that he solve all of these confusing doubts because no one is in good shape when you have one cardinal criticizing another and then priests like me having to get on TV and tell people, ‘no, things don’t change even though a cardinal says it changes.’ This is confusing."

Royal explained how intellectually dishonest it is for promoters of adultery to accuse those who defend Catholic teaching of being "pharisees."

"Because, it’s Jesus who made this rule" against divorce and remarriage, he said. "It was a rule that was shocking to the Pharisees under the strict Jews of this time. This is something that has always been taught by the church. We now have a conflict not just between existing cardinals but it’s made to appear as if people who remain faithful to the teaching are somehow themselves Pharisees – the ones that Jesus was contradicting with this very teaching that they’re trying to defend."

"There’s something very odd going on here," warned Royal, "and I would have to say that this can only get worse as time goes on, as various people take one side or the other in what has to be determined at the very highest level of the Church."

This "gives the feeling of a schism," Arroyo remarked. "It’s not a schism, but it gives the feeling of one." 

Arroyo said that a "fairly common" question now is "if there is schism, is the Church automatically on the side of the Pope? How do we discern which side is correct?"

"This is a very difficult question, because we’ve never had a circumstance with a pope obstinately teaching something that seems to be contradictory to the longstanding, permanent tradition of the Catholic Church," said Royal. "I think that we’ll find ourselves sorting this out and it’s gonna be very, very painful. It may go on for decades. Things like this have happened in the past...I don’t think there’s any automatic mechanism here, or automatic principle that you can apply."

Murray said his "prayer and hope" is that Pope Francis will "pull back" and acknowledge "it’s a mistake to go this way" of trying to change a doctrine that can't be changed.

 

 

A full transcript of the panel's discussion is below.

RAYMOND ARROYO: And Pope Francis’s top advisers rallied to his defense this week in a first. The nine Cardinals from around the world who were appointed by Francis to advise him on running the church went out of their way in a public show of support for the pope and his teachings. The Council of Cardinals released a statement pledging its full support for the Pope’s work and its adhesion and loyalty to the figure of the pope and his magisterium. This highly unusual vote of confidence comes at a serious time, a time of tension at the Vatican as major concerns are being raised about the direction of papal teaching and curial reform. More on all of this later with the papal posse…

Meanwhile, the controversy over a papal teaching document on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics continues. Another Vatican official attempts to explain the document contradicting other Holy See interpretations. Where are we? The papal posse Robert Royal and father Gerald Murray join me to explain [when] the world over continues…

Welcome back to the world over. In Rome there was a much-publicized release of a booklet purporting to be an official response to the questions surrounding Amoris Laetitia. Then things got strange. The author and Vatican chief for interpreting legal texts failed to show up at his own press conference. Those in attendance were told the book was not an official response to the Dubia. So why are we still waiting for a definitive clarification on this papal teaching on marriage divorce we married Catholics in communion? Here to help us process all of this and more, we are joined on set by the papal posse. Joining me is editorial in chief of the Catholic Thing Dr. Robert Royal and via satellite from Manhattan is Father Gerald Murray, canon lawyer and pastor extraordinaire. Father, thank you for being with us. Thank you both for being here...

Let’s start with this controversial – it was billed as a book, really not a book, it’s 51 pages. A snappy title in typical Vatican style titled The Eighth Chapter of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation by the aforementioned Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, in it he states the following – this is the cardinal – the divorced and remarried de facto couples, those cohabitating…they’re certainly not models of unions in sync with Catholic doctrine. But the Church cannot look the other way. Therefore, the Sacraments of reconciliation and of Communion must be given, even to those so-called ‘wounded families’ and to however many, who, despite living in situations not in line with traditional matrimonial canons, express the sincere desire to approach the sacraments after an appropriate period of discernment.

Father Murray, what is this, in your estimation, and are good intentions enough to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church?

FR. MURRAY: This is really a disaster, I’ll say it straight out. It’s a direct contradiction of what the Church has always taught, of what John Paul II, now St. John Paul, taught in Familiaris Consortio and in subsequent documents. The idea that you would say people who are living in an adulterous union are not exactly models of Catholic marriage but nonetheless they should be given Communion – this is casting aside the message of the Gospel. Holy Communion is the Bread of Life given to those who approach the altar in the proper disposition, which means if you’re committing mortal sin, you go to Confession. If you’re planning on committing a mortal sin in the days ahead, then you can’t go to Confession ’cause you can’t repent. So it’s – there are a lot of slogans, a lot of euphemisms. Holy Communion should not be received by people who are objectively contradicting the truth of Christ. I think the cardinal’s made a tremendous mistake here and I regret it.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Bob…what’s happening in the backdrop. This was billed – this was sold – as kind of the answer, the official answer, to that famous dubia that Cardinal Burke and those three other cardinals put forward. A dubia is nothing more than a series of questions – yes or no answers [are] all that are required – to clarify, can Catholics who are divorced and remarried without an annulment get Communion? It’s a simple question. At the last minute, the Cardinal Coccopalmerio, who was supposed to show up and answer all the questions, bailed on the press conference. And then, Fr. Costa, who’s a member of the Holy See press office, says this is not an official Vatican response, but it is authoritative and we are part of the dialogue. What is this?

ROBERT ROYAL: Well, it’s hard to say of course. But, if I had to guess, this seems to me to be part and parcel of something we’ve talked about before and lots of other people have discussed. And that is that the Holy Father has a set of principles that he likes to operate by. He used the same principles when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires and one of them is that the Church doesn’t have to, as he says, ‘dominate spaces.’ It allows time to develop in questions and discussions to take place – which is fine if you’re the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The problem here – and I think that the backing off indicated some personal nervousness on the part of Coccopalmerio, but also I think what we’ve seen since the beginning with Amoris Laetitia, that there is a reluctance actually to take the stand. And so there – this is just another voice, and we’ve got other cardinals as Fr. Murray says today at The Catholic Thing, if I may put in a plug there for his wonderful article this morning – we have yet again the highest levels except for the very highest level saying contradictory things that also…as Father said, contradict the entire tradition of the Church. The only way that this can be resolved is for the Holy Father himself to step forward. I’ve said this before. After Humane Vitae, when Paul VI took a very unpopular position about contraception affirming the teaching, there was controversy all over the place but there was no doubt about what he said.

Now, all we have is a dialogue that’s going on. So we don’t have either a fidelity to Catholic teaching or a definite change in discipline.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Father Murray, Cardinal Coccopalmerio had this to say about…he raised this as an example to justify and undergird his interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. He said, ‘A woman who’s been married for 10 years to a man who had been abandoned by his first wife and left with three small children are in this situation,’ and then he says this, ‘the woman has full awareness of being in an irregular situation. She sincerely wants to change her life, but clearly, she cannot. If in fact she left the union, the children would be without a mother. Therefore the union would be not fulfilling a moral duty towards innocent persons.’

Do you buy that argument?

FR. MURRAY: I don’t buy it at all. Number one, those children already have a mother. …[the woman mentioned is] the second wife, she’s acting in the place of the mother. But they have a mother, and that mother has duties to those children. Secondly, the Catholic Church has taught if there is a serious reason why those in an invalid second marriage must remain together for the good of the children or other reasons – taking care of the sick spouse, for instance – then you have to live as brother and sister. The sin is adultery. You’re not allowed to commit adultery. That’s quite – that’s the sixth commandment. One thing that really puzzles me in this whole discussion is the resistance to describing things as they are. Adultery means adultery. Irregular unions – you can have – irregular has all kinds of meanings. We’re talking about Gospel truth here. The Lord reaffirmed quite clearly the invalidity, saying that you can have a second spouse – ‘the man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.’ We should have Gospel frankness here. That’s what the pope has called for, and I agree with Bob – the only one who can solve this debate is Pope Francis and I think, you know, as an appeal to him from a pastor in the trenches, pastoral charity requires that he solve all of these confusing doubts because no one is in good shape when you have one cardinal criticizing another and then priests like me having to get on TV and tell people, ‘no, things don’t change even though a cardinal says it changes.’

This is confusing.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Now, you heard Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s take and we were told at this press conference when his book was rolled out – I wish I could write a little book this size – that it has the same reading as the bishops of Malta, Germany, Buenos Aires – but it flies in the face, at least it seems to, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith’s interpretation. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller had this to say about Amoris Laetitia just last week. He said, ‘For us, marriage is an expression of participation in the unity between Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, His bride. This is not, as some said during the synod, a simple vague anaology. No, this is the substance of the sacrament and no power in heaven or on earth – neither an angel nor the pope nor counsel nor a law of the bishops – has the faculty to change it. Amoris Laetitia must be interpreted in the light of the whole doctrine of the Church.’

Now, Bob, here we are, and we’ve been getting emails all night. Who is right here? Is this CDF right? Or is Cardinal Coccopalmerio And the Bishops of Malta and Germany right?

ROBERT ROYAL: You know, it’s interesting, at this press conference that presented this so-called answer to the Dubia and you know was backed off on, there was a journalist who stepped forward and said, ‘well we have to ask the question, who made up these rules…?’

I think this is a good question to ask actually. Because, it’s Jesus who made this rule.  It was a rule that was shocking to the Pharisees under the strict Jews of this time. This is something that has always been taught by the church. We now have a conflict not just between existing Cardinals but it’s made to appear as if people who remain faithful to the teaching are somehow themselves Pharisees – the ones that Jesus was contradicting with this very teaching that they’re trying to defend. There’s something very odd going on here, and I would have to say that, um, this can only get worse as time goes on, as various people take one side or the other in what has to be determined at the very highest level of the Church.

RAYMOND ARROYO: It gives the feeling – it gives the feeling of a schism. It’s not a schism, but it gives the feeling of one, because people are taking sides and it’s not just any people. As Father Murray’s article – it’s Cardinals Clashing is the title of the article, When Cardinals Clash – this is what we seem to be seeing and it is very confusing to the people at home and the people watching all over the world, not just here in the United States or at this table.

ROBERT ROYAL: And I’d like to add one other thing. I have to – we haven’t seen the full text yet, I haven’t seen the Italian text, I’ll be getting it soon. It seems to me that in the excerpts that are published that they’ve gone beyond simply saying that the people who are divorced and remarried in these special circumstances are – there is good will, there is some problem – [to] also talking about couples that are cohabiting. It seems to be in the language – and other irregular circumstances.

You talk to any moral theologian of substance, of credibility, and it’s always been the Catholic teaching that you cannot do evil so that good will come out of it. So you can’t say, ‘you should continue to commit adultery so that some other good will result.’

RAYMOND ARROYO: So he or she can feel loved.

ROBERT ROYAL: People can say, you know, if I kill so-and-so, this good will result from it. Well that’s true, but you’re not allowed to murder anyone.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Hmm.

ROBERT ROYAL: So there’s some very strange confusion that is spreading out and out from this desire to regularize the irregular. It’s the only way to look at it.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Father Murray, there was a rather interesting – Bob used the word odd earlier – declaration of support this week. He was referencing odd to this whole situation, not to this particular event – the council of cardinals, the nine who advise Pope Francis – issued a vote of support for him this week. Cardinal again Francesco Coccopalmerio who’s apparently had a very active week, he was speaking to the Associated Press, and he said this: ‘Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga’ – also a member of that nine cardinal panel – ‘made a declaration in the name of all of us [of] full support for Pope Francis and of his work. We are here to help him. He knows we love him and we are with him…’

What do you make of this? I’ve never seen anything like this, sort of a pledge of confidence. I mean, Parliament’s done this in England, but I’ve never seen it done at the Vatican.

FR. MURRAY: I wasn’t so happy when I heard about it because [it’s] adding a further political element to what we have here. As you say, this is like something that happens in a parliamentary democracy. Right now, there’s a serious theological debate going on in the Church about the meaning of the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia [and] whether Pope Francis intends to change the teaching of the Church concerning the inability of people who are in adulterous relationships to worthily receive Holy Communion. Cardinal Burke and the other cardinals want a solution – they did a very respectful thing in bringing it forward – [they’re not] the only ones who are wondering. And on the other hand, you have the Vatican publishing house putting out this Coccopalmerio booklet, which never would have been published under any previous pontiff, I can guarantee that. Bishops of Malta said, ‘if you feel you’re at peace with God, go ahead and receive Communion.’ That’s not Catholic theology. That’s some kind of pop psychology…that’s not the Catholic Church faithful to the Lord.

So, you know, it’s assumed that all Catholics are loyal to the pope. We are loyal to the pope because he is the leader of our Church. When there’s a disagreement about something he says or writes, the respectful thing is not to shut your mouth and pretend there’s no problem. The respectful thing is to do what Cardinal Burke [is doing], ‘Holy Father, we’re at a loss to understand what this means. Please make it clear.’

What do we have now? Basically got this kind of boxing match going on. One cardinal says this, one cardinal says that, and we’re supposed to what, applaud for one side or the other? That’s ridiculous. We wanna know what the truth is. We wanna know that the Catholic Church continues to proclaim it, and that’s what we’re asking the Holy Father to do.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Robert Royal…

ROBERT ROYAL: It’s very odd when you have a vote of full confidence in a pope. In the entire history of the Church I don’t think this has ever happened before. Yet – I think that this is an important, maybe negative to the actual positive – it was felt necessary. So there must be, even among that very close group of advisors, there must be a sense that they needed to affirm something because of a threat that seems to be from the outside. And it’s not just Cardinal Burke…

RAYMOND ARROYO: Well, Coccopalmerio referenced the posters that were all around Rome that we reported on last week, with those kind of snarky things about ‘where’s your mercy now?’ And there was the spoof of the L'Osservatore Romano that also got into some of this.

Perhaps it was the collection of those snarky critiques and they wanted to put on a public face to show, look, we’re all with the pope.

ROBERT ROYAL: The joke is often that when you, in a parliamentary system, express full confidence in someone, it’s at the point where they’re about to be dismissed from office.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Run out of office.

ROBERT ROYAL: I guess there is a sense at the highest level that there not only is opposition, but it’s serious. And that there’s something that has to be done to kind of affirm the loyalty to the Holy Father, which – I agree with Father, we all feel this – the problem is that he [Pope Francis] has now put all of us in a situation where it’s impossible. We wanna be loyal to him personally and to him as the head of the Church, the successor to Peter, but what are we being loyal to, and what is he telling us?

RAYMOND ARROYO: I want to get to a few viewer emails and they’re coming in fast and furious and on twitter. Here’s the first one: ‘What is the role of the faithful in correcting clerics who support a heterodox reading of Amoris Laetitia?’ Father Murray?

FR. MURRAY: Well, the [laity] have to give witness to their adherence to the truth of the faith and they do that by expressing in their own lives that they will never take advantage of so-called permission to receive Communion unworthily, they won’t encourage people to do that. And they’ll make known to their pastors, as provided for in canon law, make known their concerns.

It’s interesting. Clerics often talk about popular piety as being a strength in the Church. It certainly is. Well, so is popular fidelity. You know, how many priests have gone off the rails since the Council, you know, more than 50 years now, and the lay people stood by with their mouths agape, and they [said], ‘Father, you really believe that?’ And they kind of like, tried to knock sense into these priests who had gone off in bad directions. The laity are to give witness to the faith.

RAYMOND ARROYO: I wanna run through this other question that came, and this is a fairly common one: ‘If there is schism, is the Church automatically on the side of the Pope? How do we discern which side is correct?’ Robert Royal.

ROBERT ROYAL: This is a very difficult question, because we’ve never had a circumstance with a pope obstinately teaching something that seems to be contradictory to the longstanding, permanent tradition of the Catholic Church. I think that we’ll find ourselves sorting this out and it’s gonna be very, very painful. It may go on for decades. Things like this have happened in the past. But there’s no – I don’t think there’s any automatic mechanism here, or automatic pricinple that you can apply.

RAYMOND ARROYO: Wow. Uncharted territory. Father Gerald, I’m going to give you the last word and the last question: ‘Cardinal Mueller and Cardinal Coccopalmerio represent polar opposite interpretations of Amoris…and since the Pope won’t definitively answer, where does that leave us?’

FR. MURRAY: Well, you know, I think part of the – the good thing about the ongoing debate, even though at times [it] can be acrimonious, is that it’s getting the pope’s attention. The non-response to the dubia is a mistake in my opinion. The pope says he’s a man of dialogue and encounter. I believe him. I take him at his word. But sometimes the dialogue may not be subjects that he himself chooses. So when people go to him and say, ‘Holy Father, we don’t like this confusion, this kind of mess that’s come after Amoris Laetitia, please solve it for us.’

The criteria for judgment is always the truth proclaimed by the Church from the beginning. And I’ll be very clear again. I’ve said this on your show many times: never in the history of the Church has the Church said people who are living in an adulterous state and plan to continue to do so have a right to receive Communion. It’s never been said [and] the reason is it can’t be said. It’s a direct contradiction of Christ’s words. So make that point, you know, however the point is made by cardinals, lay people, priests, it’s all to the good because maybe the pope will say, ‘look, I gotta pull back and say I can’t go this way any more…I’ve gotta say you’re right. It’s a mistake to go this way.’

That’s my prayer and hope on this matter.

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