Top philosopher: Pope must revoke ‘objectively heretical’ statements to avoid schism
September 21, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Josef Seifert, Austrian Catholic philosopher and close friend of the late Pope St. John Paul II, said in a new interview that he hopes Pope Francis revokes the “objectively heretical” statements in Amoris Laetitia to avoid “schism,” “heresy,” and “the complete split in the Church.”
Speaking to Gloria.TV about a letter he wrote Pope Francis and an essay he penned outlining some of his concerns with the exhortation, Seifert explained that there are four conclusions one can draw from Amoris Laetitia.
These four conclusions “are radically distinct and therefore I think one must clarify which is the true answer,” he said.
The first conclusion is that it remains sacrilegious for those in a state of unrepentant mortal sin to receive Holy Communion, even though footnote 351 opens the door for this.
Supporters of this argument “can say that the text is not a magisterial document, like Cardinal Burke says, that it is not a document that has the proper form to change the Catholic catechism [and] the 2,000-year-old tradition of sacramental discipline by a few stroke[s] of pen. … So nothing changed, basically, and the document perhaps tried to change something but it didn’t change anything.”
“The second [conclusion] is the opposite — the contrary and absolute and radical opposite,” Seifert said. “And that is that every couple, all homosexuals, all lesbians, all adulterers, all remarried, not remarried — everybody is welcome at the table of the Lord.” He noted that this is essentially the interpretation embraced by the bishops of the Philippines, who “made a big pronouncement to this effect.”
“This interpretation cannot be what the pope really means — must not be what the pope really means because it leads to countless sacrileges, all kinds of grave sinners [coming] out to the Sacrament of Holy Communion,” Seifert said. Allowing this “opens the door to transforming the Church, temple of God, [into] a kind of temple of Satan.”
Seifert called on Pope Francis to “absolutely and obligatorily declare that this [interpretation] is a completely false understanding of the Church teaching.”
Internal forum would be a ‘pastoral catastrophe’
The third possible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is that couples may “discern” with the help of a priest whether they are really guilty of the actions they continually commit, which the Church labels objectively sinful.
“How should that be applied?” Seifert asked. “Should a priest say to the one adulterer, ‘you are a good adulterer, you are in the state of grace, you are [a] very pious person, so you get my absolution without changing your life and then [you can] go to Holy Communion. … And then come another, and he says, ‘Oh, and you are a real adulterer. You must first confess, you must revoke your life, you must change your life, and then you can go to Communion.’ I mean, how should that work?”
This “seems completely inappropriate” and could become a “pastoral catastrophe,” Seifert warned. He said it could also confuse Catholic divorced and remarried couples, some of whom might be told by their priest to go ahead and receive Holy Communion and others who might be told by the same priest to live abstinently in order to receive Holy Communion. Seifert noted that this third conclusion contains “the problem of logical fallacy” that assumes that if a person “doesn’t understand that what he does is wrong, that he is innocent and in a state of grace, but the blindness for the wrongness of an action can be itself gravely [sinful].”
“It’s a false assumption that the many couples who do not find anything wrong with remarrying and getting divorced are all innocent sinners in the state of grace, because their blindness [to the fact that they are committing adultery] itself [may be a sin],” Seifert said.
Seeming ‘denial of hell’ must be corrected ‘for clarity’s sake’
According to Seifert, the fourth possible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia is people can say in good conscience that their first marriage was invalid, even if an ecclesiastical court has said otherwise, and therefore may divorce, “marry” again, and receive the Sacraments while maintaining a sexual relationship with their second spouse.
“It must not be left to the conscience of the individual to judge whether or not his marriage was valid, and also not to the judgment of a single priest, because to judge … the existence of a Sacrament requires a careful investigation and that’s [exactly] the task of Church tribunals and therefore one simply cannot … in conscience say, I was not married and now I marry again,” Seifert explained. He also said the notion that a person can declare for himself that his marriage was invalid was condemned by the Council of Trent and therefore is not harmonious with Church teaching.
It is “objectively heretical” to claim, as Amoris Laetitia does, that someone may be simply unable to live according to the demands of the Gospel, Seifert said. Amoris Laetitia suggests that people can “recognize that it’s God’s will to live in an adulterous relationship,” but “that contradicts clearly quite a few dogmas of the Tridentine Council and it clearly contradicts Veritatis Splendor and other solemn teachings of the Church,” he said.
Seifert stressed that he was not calling the pope a heretic, simply pointing out that he made heretical statements that should be corrected.
“He says that nobody is condemned forever … which in the context can be interpreted in different ways, but it’s hard to interpret it in any other way than denial of hell,” he said. Christ “warns us for the great, real danger of eternal damnation,” as have many saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary in apparitions approved by the Church, “and therefore, for the pope to invite people in a serious state of sin to go to the Sacraments and at the same time to say nobody will be condemned forever, I think risks to be understood that he denies the possibility of damnation.”
“So I told the pope that he has to first of all clarify that he didn’t want to deny hell in this statement, which would be against the Holy Scripture, and against several [dogmas],” Seifert said. Even if Pope Francis didn’t mean the statement to seem to be a denial of hell, “I think many people understand it in that way and he should therefore clearly say what is the truth of the Gospel and not appear to deny hell,” he said. This must be done for “clarity’s sake and for pastoral care.”
Seifert will speak up ‘even if I am murdered for it’
Pope Francis would only “grow in esteem and respect in the world” if he retracted the statements in Amoris Laetitia that seemingly contradict Catholic doctrine, Seifert said. If he “persists in it,” then there is the “danger of schism.”
“To avoid schism and to avoid heresy and to avoid the complete split in the Church, I think it is necessary that the pope … be told [these] problems” and revoke them, Seifert said.
Seifert pointed out that he is not the only Catholic academic raising the alarm about Amoris Laetitia. Professor Robert Spaemann, a leading German philosophy professor and close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Dr. Jude P. Dougherty, the dean emeritus of the School of Philosophy at Catholic University of America, both raised serious concerns with the exhortation. The former called it a “breach” with Catholic tradition and the latter wrote that Pope Francis’ ambiguity means “what was certain before has become problematic.”
“Even if I am murdered for it, I think I have to speak up because one cannot remain silent if one feels that important truths which are also very important for the eternal salvation of the faithful are obscured … in the document,” Seifert said.
Watch Dr. Seifert's interview with Gloria.TV here: