BANGKOK, Thailand, December 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― Pope Francis told Jesuits in Thailand that how the Church should behave pastorally to Catholics who are “divorced and remarried” is found in chapter 8 of his controversial 2016 exhortation Amoris Laetitia, a teaching that has been used by bishops around the world to allow Catholics living objectively in adultery to receive Holy Communion.
The pope indicated that such teaching is the “Magisterium of the Church.”
While meeting with a group of Southeastern Jesuits in Bangkok last month, Pope Francis invited their questions. One stated that they had “divorced and remarried” Catholics in their communities and asked how they are to “behave pastorally with them.”
“I could answer you in two ways: in a casuistic way, which however is not Christian, even if it can be ecclesiastical; or according to the Magisterium of the Church as in the eighth chapter of Amoris Laetitia, that is, journey, accompany and discern to find solutions,” the pontiff replied. “And this has nothing to do with situation ethics, but with the great moral tradition of the Church.”
Francis did not explain how something that is ecclesiastical could not be Christian, instead moving to a question about his experience of the Church in Thailand.
The word “magisterium” has several potential meanings, including the teaching office of a pope or a bishop in union with the pope, or the doctrine being taught. John Zmirak, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism, told LifeSiteNews that the word is typically used two ways:
“One, the infallible parts that reflect the Deposit of Faith, either sacred tradition or authoritatively taught Natural Law judgments, and two, whatever some pope said that another pope hasn't contradicted yet.”
Zmirak took exception to Pope Francis’s use the words “casuistry” and “Magisterium.”
“As usual, Pope Francis is equivocating, using language sloppily, and relying on the anti-Catholic connotations that perfectly innocent words were given by anti-Christian pamphleteers,” he said.
“‘Casuistry’ means nothing more or less than the application of general rules to particular cases. It’s a Latinism best translated as ‘case law.’ Imagine a judge denouncing ‘case law.’ That’s how much sense it makes for a moral teacher to denounce casuistry,” he continued.
Zmirak also criticized the pope of elevating “his own baseless and un-Catholic opinions, issued in fallible documents, to the level of Magisterium.”
“For Francis the Marxist sympathizer, [Magisterium] appears to mean essentially ‘Party Line,’ the author said. “It can shift as the Party leadership does.”
“To understand this papacy you don't need to read Francis, but Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon.”
Dr. John Rist, professor emeritus of the University of Toronto, told LifeSiteNews that Pope Francis’s answer to the question is a typical example of “Peronism.”
“Step one is to deny ‘casuistry,’ apparently understood by [Pope] Bergoglio as some form of consequentialism/situation ethics (which he rightly dubs non-Christian),” Rist stated.
“The second step is to try to muddle us by using traditional words like ‘discernment’ but to imply that trying to discern what to do will get you an answer which is non-consequentialist while simultaneously disregarding the norms the Church has traditionally taught, and appealing to the Magisterium, i.e. to himself, to justify this procedure,” the philosopher continued.
“What it all amounts to is readmitting consequentialism/situation ethics by the back door and giving it another name (i.e. discernment).”
Chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia attracted a torrent of criticism after the apostolic exhortation was published on April 8, 2016 because it allows for interpretations that undermine or even contradict perennial Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church teaches that sacramental marriages end only by death, and that anyone in such a marriage who divorces and attempts to marry again commits adultery (cf. Matt. 5:31–32; 19:3–12; Mk. 10:2–12; Lk. 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:1–16). As adultery is a mortal sin that cuts off sanctifying grace to one’s soul, Catholics in so-called irregular marriages are not considered in a fit state to receive Holy Communion. Amoris Laetitia was criticized for overturning these teachings in a footnote.
Recognizing the post-conciliar explosion in the number of Catholics who have divorced and illicitly remarried despite the doctrine, St. John Paul II taught in Familiaris Consortio that such Catholics may go to confession and receive Holy Communion as long as they live in perfect continence, or, in other words, as “brother and sister”:
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.” [Familiaris Consortio, 180]
Amoris Laetitia, however, has been used to permit people who have divorced and “remarried” to receive the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion without a promise to live in continence (footnote 351) and even to suggest that it would be wrong for people in adulterous unions to stop committing adultery.
This suggestion, perhaps one of the most explosive innovations of Pope Francis’s pontificate, was all but buried in a footnote, Footnote 329, which misrepresented Gaudium et Spes:
329. … In [adulterous so-called second marriages], 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” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).
Gaudium et Spes was referring not to irregular unions here, but to legitimate marriages in which spouses are abstaining from marital union for a protracted period so as not to engender children.
While the confusion and debate over Amoris Laetitia raged, four cardinals followed the normal procedures in sending Pope Francis questions or “dubia” regarding the theological implications of Amoris Laetitia. The pontiff has still not answered the dubia. However, on September 9, 2016, Francis wrote a private letter to the bishops of Argentina, which was leaked to the press, that their interpretation of Amoris Laetitia — i.e. to permit some irregularly married Catholics, even some with no intention of living in continence, to receive the sacraments after a period of penitential preparation — was the correct one.