ROME, Italy, April 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.”
With this comment from Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, one of the four cardinals who signed the dubia regarding Amoris laetitia, Riccardo Cascioli of La Bussola Quotidiana opened a convention last Saturday at the foot of the Vatican, just a few hundred meters down the Via della Conciliazione.
Some would call it provocative. But in calling for “clarity” regarding the Apostolic Exhortation one year later, the organizers created an occasion where learned lay people could voice the grave concerns of many ordinary Catholics.
It was a case of begging for bread from the highest authority in the Church and of explaining why. The “bread,” or clarification, is not forthcoming. But many points were made. The voice of reason and thoughtful analysis cannot be a provocation. The absence of a response is all the more disturbing.
One main impression was made: Amoris laetitia is ambiguous and confusing, deliberately so, and it urgently needs to be clarified before more damage is done.
More than 100 lay people from many countries came to two conference rooms at the Hotel Columbus at the invitation of La Bussola Quotidiana, but few priests were there. It was clearly an event for the laity, but this is perhaps an indication the public questioning of Amoris laetitia and therefore of the precise authority that Pope Francis has brought to the text is seen as risky by the clergy.
Entry was free and many media were present, including Italian national TV broadcaster RAI 3, making clear that in Italy at least a meeting of Catholics who claim fidelity to Rome and the traditional teachings of the Church is big news.
“Our objective is to recall our pastors to their duty,” Cascioli said. “Ours is not an act of rebellion, nor an ultimatum, nor a threat of schism. We are only asking for clarity to be made and manifest. We have never called the Pope’s authority into question.”
On the contrary, it is indeed the Pope who can ultimately resolve the crisis caused by Amoris laetitia.
In the same way, French Catholic lay thinker Jean Madiran in 1972 addressed a public “Appeal to the Holy Father” – then Paul VI – respectfully beseeching him to “Give us back the Catechism, Sacred Scripture and the Mass.” In 2007, Pope Benedict did just that with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
Madiran lived to see his plea fulfilled, after 35 years of grassroots action to save the traditional liturgy in the Latin rite. He saw Pope Benedict’s rehabilitation of the traditional Mass as the indispensable act to restore order in the Church. The Church’s time is not our time, but lay people have their role to play.
Six speakers came to Rome last Saturday from every corner of the world to make clear ordinary Catholics’ love of the Church, the truth she must teach and the responsibility it has toward the sacraments that Our Lord entrusted to her.
German philosopher and sociologist Jurgen Liminski spoke from a naturalistic point of view to make clear that indissoluble marriage conforms to man’s nature and to human beings’ own good. That is the first step: to show that “in all human societies since the time of Herodotus, the conjugal principle constitutes the axis of communal life,” a principle that “Christianity has inflamed and insufflates with a soul,” because “marriage was in a way co-created with Man” (Pope Benedict XVI).
Since recorded history began, and it involves 4,000 to 5,000 societies about which we have at least some to a great deal of information, Liminski insisted, the conjugal family, as characterized by monogamous marriage where the young newlyweds live apart from their respective parents, is the most frequent model.
Christianity was to add the equal dignity of spouses in marriage, and to fully develop the understanding of “conjugal friendship” where the spouse is “in a way the sacrament personified.” Taken in conjunction with duties to the children of the marriage and the good of the children, all things that are so beneficial to society as a whole, one understands that undermining this institution is tragic for human society as a whole.
Liminski left his audience with this fascinating statistic: According to an American study, “Among couples who are religiously married and who also pray together, only one marriage out of 1,429 breaks down.”
This is the good that should not be neglected or minimized. It is also an answer to the crisis of divorce.
Claudio Pierantoni, a doctor of philosophy and professor of Church history and patristics of Roman origin who teaches mediaeval philosophy in Chile, followed with a reminder that in the history of the Popes, there have been examples of favoring heresy or even of professing heresy.
In the case of Honorius in the first half of the 7th century, he insufficiently clarified the position of the Church as to the two wills of Jesus Christ corresponding to his dual divine and human nature in one Person. Pope Leo II was to condemn Pope Honorius’ answer to the outright heretical letter on the matter of the Patriarch of Constantinople Sergius in 681, accusing his predecessor of not having “illuminated that apostolic Church with the doctrine of the apostolic Tradition, instead trying to subvert the immaculate faith with profane treachery.”
This shows that Popes are obliged with regard to the unity and the coherence of Church teachings to respect the Tradition as received from the Apostles, the definitions of the Councils and the witness of the Fathers, all of which can and must be taken into account to value the pronouncements of Pope Honorius in this case and of popes in general. This clearly indicates that a Pope is not certainly infallible in his ordinary teachings, one might add, and that his negligence in professing the true faith can be condemned.
Dr. Pierantoni also evoked the case of Pope Liberius, elected in 352, and the well-known Arian heresy, which he resisted courageously before caving in to deadly threats by the Oriental Emperor Constantine. At that point, only three bishops openly opposed the heresy concerning Christ’s divine nature as Son of God, “consubstantial” to the Father; and they were exiled.
Interestingly, Liberius was to reaffirm the true faith shortly before his death when Julian the Apostate’s opposition to the Church as such put an end to the Oriental emperor’s attempts to modify her doctrine. The affair shows that the Pope can err – dare we add, even with the approval of the “synodality” of so many of his bishops?
Pierantoni added, however, that their case was different from today’s because their heresy or favoring of heresy came at a time when the doctrine was being disputed and subsequently fixed and defined. Having shown that the question of allowing the divorced and civilly remarried to receive Communion is not a simple point of sacramental discipline but affects the “whole edifice of Church doctrine.” Introducing one “incoherent or erroneous element” because it exists as a whole in which all elements are interconnected.
He called the present process one of “destruction.” First, because creating an exception to the rule of refusing Communion to the validly married who enter into a new union cannot be done without negating the very “nature of the sacrament of matrimony which is not a simple promise before God but an action of grace that acts at an ontological level.” “The action that makes out of two, one flesh, therefore has a definitive character and cannot be cancelled,” the more so because it symbolizes the union of Christ the Bridegroom with His Church, as “a sign but also a reality.”
Second, Amoris laetitia uses a “subjective” approach that suggests that the divorced and remarried can remain ignorant of the gravity of their situation, as if proper “discernment” would not lift this subjective and excusing ignorance. The Exhortation uses this element that can in fact diminish responsibility to arrive to an absurd conclusion: “That the subject would be able to firmly establish that God wants from him a behavior that is objectively contrary to His own law, that law that emanated from His eternal and infallible Wisdom.”
Third – to the amusement of the audience – Pierantoni showed that the very notion of Divine Law is contradicted by creating exceptions. You can break a speed limit because of an emergency because that rule is just, but not absolute, but you cannot put diesel in a benzene car because “no emergency or exception, nor any discernment will make that the car designed to run on benzene can function with diesel.” Filling it with diesel is not bad because it is “prohibited by some external law but because it is intrinsically irrational, because it contradicts the very nature of the car,” he said.
It is that sort of “grave confusion” that resides in Amoris laetitia’s eighth chapter, confirmed by “repeated attacks against the Pharisees and the hypocrites who invoke the law,” where Christ Himself distinguished between “positive,” manmade laws and precepts and “the fundamental Commandments.”
Finally, Pierantoni showed that “subjectivism” is the most profound point at issue, insofar as it resides in a “subjectivist or immanentist gnoseology.”
“If the object of the human mind is not based, ultimately, on the transcendent Truth that illuminates it, (…) then the mind cannot truly know things and its concepts are an empty form that cannot reflect reality,” he said.
“Pope Francis likes to say that ‘reality is superior to ideas’ – this is only meaningful in a vision where true ideas cannot exist, ideas that not only faithfully reflect reality but can judge and guide it.” If the Verb of God is eternal wisdom, then that wisdom is “a model that is superior to historical reality” and can give it its law. “The Gospel, taken in its whole, supposes a metaphysical and gnoseological structure where Truth is in the first place the adjustment of things to the intellect, and where intellect is in the first place the divine one: precisely, the Divine Word.”
In this light, the dubia of the cardinals are above all affirmations of a Truth that is already known, explained Pr Pierantoni. They put Pope Francis in a very difficult position. Either he must respond by contradicting them and thus “denying the Tradition and the Magisterium of his predecessors, becoming formally a heretic, and that he cannot do,” or “if he responded in harmony with the preceding Magisterium, he would contradict a large part of the relevant doctrinal actions of his pontificate, and that would be a very difficult choice,” said Pierantoni.
“He therefore chose silence because, humanly speaking, the situation can appear to have no way out. But meanwhile, confusion and a de facto schism are extending within the Church,” he added, concluding his conference with a passionate appeal for a formal “correction” of the Pope to be made.
In the afternoon, the participants at the Rome convention heard the crystal clear critiques of Amoris laetitia by French philosophy professor Thibaud Collin and Australian patristics university professor Anna M. Silvas.