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Pope answered four Cardinals in Argentina letter approving Communion for ‘remarried’: confidante

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

December 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a new interview, Jesuit and papal confidant Father Anthony Spadaro defended the pope's lack of response to the dubia of four cardinals asking for clarification on Amoris Laetitia and said opposition to the exhortation is a sign of a "bad spirit." In an emailed interview with Crux, Spadaro said that his famous "Wormtongue" tweet was comparing himself, not cardinals, to the Lord of the Rings character. 

Spadaro also blasted reports that Pope Francis is "boiling with rage" over criticism of the exhortation. He said that the exhortation does open the door for sexually active divorced and "remarried" Catholics to access the Sacraments, and that Pope Francis's response to the dubia can be seen in the interpretations of the exhortation he has approved, such as the guidelines of the Buenos Aires bishops. The Buenos Aires bishops' implementation of Amoris Laetitia allows for remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion, something the Church has long taught is sacrilegious because of the indissolubility of marriage. 

Spadaro is often called the pope's "mouthpiece" because the two enjoy a famously close relationship. He is editor for the Jesuit Rome-based publication La Civiltà Cattolica. However, Spadaro told Crux he was speaking on behalf of himself, not on behalf of the pope or anyone else.

Spadaro said it's "painful" to watch people "exploiting the cardinals’ letter in order to ramp up the tension and create division within the Church." Such people sometimes go as far as to attack the magisterium, and they are "incapable of articulating a thought without at the same time turning it into an attack," the Jesuit said.

The reason there has been such opposition is because "Francis's actions have been highly effective," said Spadaro. The "hatred and viciousness directed against" the pope "are always signs of the bad spirit which has nothing to do with the Gospel," he said.

"Those who are hostile to Francis are in the main self-enclosed groups who cannot handle an open, serene debate, and who simply repeat each other, like in an echo chamber," he said.

However, these "attacks are an inescapable part of the process" and all that's needed to overcome them is "patience," Spadaro said. "We need patiently to...just trust in the process that’s underway."

'Witless worm' debacle 'ridiculous,' 'deeply offensive'

In one of the most recent melees in the Catholic blogosphere, Spadaro deleted a tweet in which he appeared to compare cardinals of the Church to the character Wormtongue from the Lord of the Rings. He then said the tweet actually referred to himself and the Pope as Wormtongue and Saruman.

Spadaro stated that those who find the exhortation problematic should stop asking the “same question until you get the answer *you* want.”

IMPORTANT: To respectfully express your support for the 4 cardinals' letter to Pope Francis asking for clarity on Amoris Laetitia, sign the petition. Click here.

He then tweeted a screenshot from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy where the hero Gandalf confronts the traitor Wormtongue for poisoning the King’s ear to accept the reign of evil. In the screenshot, Spadaro included the subtitle of Gandalf stating, in reference to the traitor, that he refuses “to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.”

"The whole thing is ridiculous," Spadaro told Crux. "And deeply offensive, that anyone should believe that I could ever refer to a cardinal as a ‘worm’. I might not agree, or make a light-hearted joke, but offense is something else together."

Spadaro also admitted to using multiple puppet Twitter accounts to amplify his message, something Catholic bloggers discovered during the "witless worm" fallout.

"The account was simply an under-used one of three or four I operate, including that of the journal," he said. "I often re-tweet from one to the other."

Pope isn't going to give a 'binary' answer, but his answer can be found in Buenos Aires letter

"The pope doesn’t give binary answers to abstract questions," Spadaro said of the yes-or-no questions four cardinals sent to Pope Francis asking for him to clarify whether the exhortation is at odds with Catholic moral teaching. "But that does’t mean he hasn’t responded. His response is to approve and to encourage positive pastoral practices. A clear and obvious example was his response to the Buenos Aires area bishops, when he encouraged them and confirmed that their reading of Amoris Laetitia was correct."

In September, the Vatican confirmed the authenticity of a letter Pope Francis wrote to the bishops of Buenos Aires saying that there is "no other interpretation" of Amoris Laetitia than one that allows for Communion for divorced and remarried "in some cases."

"The four cardinals’ questions had in truth already been posed during the Synod, where the dialogue was broad, deep and above all frank," Spadaro continued. "The approval of all the points in the synod final report by a qualified majority is testimony to the high degree of convergence that was achieved. Amoris Laetitia is the mature fruit of the synod."

RELATED: Who are these four cardinals who wrote the ‘dubia’ to the Pope?

The answer to whether those who are "remarried" and having sexual relations with someone other than their valid spouse may receive Holy Communion has already been "clearly" answered, Spadaro said.

"When the concrete circumstances of a divorced and remarried couple make feasible a pathway of faith, they can be asked to take on the challenge of living in continence," he said. "Amoris Laetitia does not ignore the difficulty of this option, and leaves open the possibility of admission to the Sacrament of Reconciliation when this option is lacking."

Making reference to the so-called internal forum, Spadaro continued:

In other, more complex circumstances, and when it has not been possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, this option may not be practicable. But it still may be possible to undertake a path of discernment under the guidance of a pastor, which results in a recognition that, in a particular case, there are limitations which attenuate responsibility and guilt - particularly where a person believes they would fall into a worse error, and harm the children of the new union.

In such cases Amoris Laetitia opens the possibility of access to Reconciliation and to the Eucharist, which in turn dispose a person to continuing to mature and grow, fortified by grace.

"The pope’s letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires leaves no doubt both that bishops must implement AL according to local needs, and that AL must be correctly interpreted," said Spadaro. He also said he believes that "the vast majority of the cardinals and bishops" support Pope Francis "and very few are resisting Amoris Laetitia."

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