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Pope Francis’ teaching has ‘split’ the Church: Philosopher

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German philosopher Robert Spaemann

October 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis’ 2016 exhortation on marriage and family has already “split” the Catholic Church, causing division among bishops and marginalizing priests, a prominent German Catholic philosopher said.    

The split within the Church concerning Amoris Laetitia (AL) has already taken place,” said Professor Robert Spaemann in an interview with OnePeterFive’s Maike Hickson. “Different bishops’ conferences have published contradictory guidelines. And the poor priests are left alone,” he added.

Spaemann, a former member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and long-time friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict, discussed during the interview Dr. Joseph Seifert’s removal from a Spanish university for having criticized the pope’s teaching in AL. He also discussed some of the other chilling effects the pope’s exhortation has had throughout the Catholic Church globally.

The philosopher related how an African priest recently visited him and tearfully shared the prospect the priest faces of suspension should he refuse Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics living in habitual adultery.

“The Commandment ‘Thou shalt obey God more than man’ also applies to the teaching of the Church,” said Spaemann.

“If the priest is convinced that he may not give Holy Communion to the ‘divorced and remarried’ then he has to follow the word of Jesus and the 2,000-year-old teaching of the Church. If he is being suspended for it, he has become a ‘witness to the Truth,’” he added.

Spaemann said the Church’s doctrine prohibiting adultery is likely the most ignored today.

He urged Catholics, whether laity or priests facing the demand to give Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, to remain faithful to the unchanging teaching and practice of the Church.

“Those priests, who would be now forced by their superiors to give Holy Communion to public and unrepentant adulterers, or to other notorious and public sinners, should answer them with a holy conviction,” said Spaemann, namely that ‘Our behavior is the behavior of the entire Catholic world throughout two thousand years.’”

When Spaemann, who grew up under National Socialism, was asked how he would advise Catholics in the current difficult state of the Church, he replied: “It was easier during Nazi times to be a faithful Christian than today.”

When Spaemann was asked if, as a philosopher, he agreed with the argument that new social changes must also bring forth a change of the moral laws, he answered in the negative. He adding that even should applications of the law change, “the principles of the moral law are always and everywhere the same.”

“If there exists a dominant view and that dominant view contradicts the moral law, the essence of man,” Spaemann said, “then the whole society is in a sorry state.”

'Unity...based upon the truth'

Spaemann related during the interview how he was shocked at Dr. Seifert’s removal from his teaching post. Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández, bishop of Granada, Spain, removed Seifert — a close friend of the late Pope St. John Paul II — from his position at the International Academy of Philosophy in Granada in August after Seifert had published a critique of Pope Francis’ exhortation. 

Spaemann criticized Archbishop Martinez’s claim that Seifert was confusing the faithful and undermining the Church’s unity.

“The unity of the Church is based upon the truth,” he said.

“What Seifert criticizes is the breach with the continuous teaching of the Church and with the explicit teachings of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II,” Spaemann said. “Saint John Paul once, in Veritatis Splendor, stressed, explicitly, that there is no exception to the rejection of the 'remarried' divorcees with regard to the Sacraments. Pope Francis contradicts the teaching of Veritatis Splendor just as explicitly.”

The philosopher said that the removal of Seifert has sent shockwaves to all Catholic centers of higher education.

“Every philosopher who works in an ecclesial institution now has to ask himself whether he can still continue his service there,” he said.

Not long after the April 2016 release of AL, Spaemann had said that changing the Church’s sacramental practice would be “a breach with its essential anthropological and theological teaching on human marriage and sexuality.”

“It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that [with Amoris Laetitia] there is a breach” with the Church’s Tradition, he said at that time.

Last December Spaemann said the four cardinals who had submitted the five yes-or-no questions (dubia) to Pope Francis for clarification on AL had chosen the right path. He said it was deplorable that only four cardinals had done so.

Spaemann said that the Church’s magisterium was “debased” by Pope Francis’ refusal to answer the four cardinals.

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