Top Down or Bottom Up?

I can’t say I’m waiting on baited bated breath for Bryan and the Jason’s response to Pope Francis’ latest encyclical apostolic exhortation (on the genres of papal communications, see this), Amoris Laetitia (why continue to use Latin titles when you write in the vernacular; imagine how down-with-the-peeps Pope Francis might have appeared had he used Spanish for the title). Since the main article at CtC was posted seven months ago and the current blog post is almost two months old the Reformed-turned-Roman Catholics have hardly established themselves as the go-to site for inquiring minds who want to inquire about all things audaciously papal during the tenure of one of the more audacious popes in recent history.

That being said, when you read reports like this one from John Allen, who reads more and more like the press secretary for Pope Francis, you do wonder why all the hubbub about the longest encyclical in the saeculum (and here I thought John Paul II and Benedict XVI were the thinking person’s popes). For it seems that Pope Francis is merely catching up to what is already going on in the parishes:

In effect, what he’s saying is that there may be cases in which a given divorced and remarried Catholic, after talking things out with a priest, could be justified in reaching the decision that they don’t carry the guilt that should exclude them from the sacraments, including Holy Communion.

In truth, that may not change very much in terms of in-the-trenches experience in the Church.

For one thing, that sort of pastoral adaptation, sometimes referred to as an “internal forum” solution, is already happening. In many parishes, you can find divorced and remarried Catholics who come forward for communion, and many pastors have either quietly encouraged them to do so or, at least, never discouraged them, choosing to respect whatever decision they’ve made in conscience.

For another, the language in Amoris Laetitia on the Communion question is sufficiently elastic that both sides in the debate can take consolation, meaning that those pastors and bishops inclined to a stricter reading of Church law probably won’t feel compelled to revise their thinking, and neither will those given to a more flexible stance.

In another sense, however, Amoris Laetitia represents a breakthrough of no small consequence, because for once in a Vatican text, what got enunciated wasn’t simply the law but also the space for pastoral practice – which is where the Church’s long-underappreciated capacity for subtlety and compassion usually enters the picture.

In other words, what may be astounding about Pope Francis is the recognition that the papacy doesn’t set the agenda, resolve controversies, maintain unity the way CtCer’s audaciously claim. It may be that the papacy merely reflects what already happens in the church. In which case, converting to the post-Vatican 2 church was a Doh! moment on the order of the Second Vatican Council’s determination to open the church’s windows to the modern world after four centuries of opposition. Could anyone think of a more audacious time to catch up to modern times than the decade of women’s liberation, sexual revolution, and anti-western radicalism?

Brilliant!

Postscript: David Gibson offers this perspective on Amoris Laetitia:

Yet others would in fact see Francis’ nuanced approach as precisely in keeping with the church’s tradition of developing doctrine over time in the light of changing historical realities, and the gradual movement — guided by the Holy Spirit — “towards the entire truth,” as Francis put it.

Reformed and always reforming.

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68 thoughts on “Top Down or Bottom Up?

  1. Can I make any money offering counseling services to disillusioned converts? “Welcome to the RC church or all the things you missed but would’ve known by the time you were thirteen had you been here.” Ratzinger really sold those poor slobs a pig in a poke.

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  2. That papal magic:

    That seems to be a definite gain, but the Pope and Cardinal Schönborn also invoke St. Thomas in ways that will inevitably lead to controversy. One comes near the point when the possible, if limited, change in pastoral practice is being introduced. The Holy Father points out that even the Angelic Doctor taught that general principles can fail us when they come down to having to judge actual, concrete cases.

    The point seems to be that if we are too rigid and abstract we stay at a level of principle that doesn’t really engage the reality of people’s lives. Cardinal Schönborn also remarked that it’s possible to err in the opposite direction by being too lax in proposing the fullness of truth. This means that in difficult cases there are “no simple recipes.” We have to follow a process of “discernment” in which we don’t merely take people as instances of some general rule, but evaluate them and their circumstances, face to face, one by one.

    There are opportunities, but also dangers lurking here, and this approach will no doubt lead to many controversies, and not only among the Thomists. It’s true that every case is unique, but is it so unique that general norms do not come into play, as they have since the earliest days of the Church on divorce and remarriage?

    And so is this a new outpouring of God’s mercy or an acceptance of an all-too-common attitude in the modern world that such matters are not deeply sinful, calling for repentance and change of life, but are mere irregularities and imperfections. And what is sin, which gets little attention in Amoris Laetitia? And who’s regular or perfect anyway?

    Among the contrasts in the exhortation, Pope Francis openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children and much more.

    It’s only on the divorced and remarried that he’s tentative, if persistent. There’s much that will give rise to much-needed dialogue in this text, but also much that will vex the Church for no little time to come.

    Audelicious.

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  3. Good grief. This Jesus-in-a-biscuit stuff creates problems, don’t it?

    If Jesus really is in that narly piece of pseudo-bread just give him out to everybody.

    Then, leave it to him to make the choice to leave the biscuit if he doesn’t like morality of the recipient.

    Who is He to judge? He only been bred for public consumption.

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  4. But can an authoritarian be humble?

    With the promulgation Friday of his new, extensive apostolic exhortation, Francis has shown once again that he is a man clever enough to get what he wants against all odds.

    As has been the Vatican playbook since the 1960s, the document is packed with careful language, layers of nuance, and ambiguity offering a buffer against cries of “heresy.” At the same time, these openly semantic doors offer opportunities for exploitation by means of subjective “discernment” by those who have most longed to see the church change its teachings to “get with the times.”

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/08/the-dictator-of-the-vatican-pope-francis-amoris-laetitia-divorce-communion/

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  5. On the other hand, perhaps there wouldn’t be this need for development if Rome hadn’t adopted the “no divorce ever” stance when the Bible doesn’t.

    But if annulment was the way out, why not just make it easier to get an annulment. Oh wait, they already did that.

    At least Protestants are honest about calling a spade a spade and a change a change. Is honesty better than epistemic superiority?

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  6. But what happens when the leaders at the top don’t know what to do about the dogma and discipline?:

    There are many differences of opinion amongst high-up Catholic leaders about matters where the church has long held there’s no room for difference of opinion—for example, Cardinal Schornborn, the archbishop of Vienna, has taken positions on same-sex relationships that conflict with established church teaching. Archbishop Blase Cupich of the archdiocese of Chicago has made erroneous, misleading comments about conscience and Holy Communion.

    Just say that this letter isn’t an infallible teaching:

    Thankfully, the scandalous language in “Amoris Laetitia” isn’t necessarily an exercise of papal infallibility,

    Question the audacity of the papacy:

    The Catholic Church has had unfaithful, confused, and erroneous popes before.

    And make the distinctively Protestant move of noting that the dogma is above the Magisterium and that the church can survive as one body without having the same-home-office:

    The fact that the church and her doctrines have been able to survive in spite of them is a testament to its resilience.

    http://thefederalist.com/2016/04/11/pope-francis-is-part-of-the-catholic-churchs-identity-crisis/

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  7. Robert :At least Protestants are honest about calling a spade a spade and a change a change.

    protestants- honest? about the enlarged-self-justifying for ‘legit’ divorce, Jesus having been wrong about it?

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  8. Is the pope Roman Catholic? Or is Roberto de Mattei?

    Yet the doctrine of absolute morality and of the intrinsece malum is neutralized by Amoris laetitia, which is conformed to the “new morality” condemned by Pius XII in numerous documents and by John Paul II in Veritatis splendor. Situation ethics allow the circumstances and, in the final analysis, the subjective conscience of man, to determine what is good and what is evil. Extramarital sexual union is not considered intrinsically illicit, but inasmuch as it is an act of love, assessable according to the circumstances. More generally, evil does not exist in itself just as grave or mortal sin does not exist. The leveling-out between people in a state of grace (regular situations) and people in a state of permanent sin (irregular situations) is not only linguistic: it seems to be subject to the Lutheran theory simul iustus et peccator, condemned by the Decree on justification at the Council of Trent (Denz-H, nn. 1551-1583).

    The post-synod Exhortation is much worse that Cardinal Kasper’s report, against which there has rightly been directed much criticism in books, articles and interviews. Cardinal Kasper had asked some questions; the Exhortation, Amoris laetitia, offers an answer: open the door to the divorced and remarried, canonize situation ethics and begin a process of normalization of all common-law cohabitations.

    Considering that the new document belongs to the non-infallible ordinary Magisterium, it is to be hoped that it is object of an in-depth analytical critique, by theologians and Pastors of the Church, under no illusion of applying “the hermeneutic of continuity” to it.

    If the text is catastrophic, even more catastrophic is the fact that it was signed by the Vicar of Christ. Even so, for those who love Christ and His Church, this is a good reason to speak and not be silent.

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  9. Pope Francis brings to mind certain predecessors:

    The Catholic Faith is not something invented anew by each pope according to his own opinions, predilections, understanding, or whims. The pope is only good as a “yardstick” when he formally teaches in accordance to “the Faith once delivered unto the saints,” as St. Jude the Apostle wrote.

    When Pope Liberius assented to the unjust excommunication of St. Athanasius the Great, and signed off on an ambiguous creedal formula that could be accommodated to the Arian or semi-Arian heresies, every faithful Catholic was then “more Catholic than the pope.”

    When Pope Honorius I uttered false theological opinions and failed to correct and condemn the Monothelite heretics, every faithful Catholic was then “more Catholic than the pope.” Indeed, they were so much more Catholic than Honorius that the Church posthumously condemned him as a heretic, a decision that Honorius’ successor St. Leo II approved. “We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Sergius, … and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.” For most of the Church’s history, priests praying their Office repeated the anathema pronounced against Pope Honorius.

    When Pope Stephen VII desecrated the remains of Pope Formosus during the hideously shameful Synodus Horrenda (the “Cadaver Synod”), every Catholic who strove to practice justice and who respected the sanctity of the human body was then “more Catholic than the pope.”

    When Pope John XII effectively “turned the Lateran palace into a brothel,” as contemporary historians so colorfully put it, and when Pope Benedict IX gave himself over to unchastity and bloodshed, every faithful Catholic who strove to cultivate the virtues of chastity, purity, mercy, and peace in their personal conduct was then “more Catholic than the pope.”

    When Pope John XXII preached in his sermons the error that the faithful departed do not enjoy the Beatific Vision until after Judgment Day at the end of the world, every faithful Catholic was then “more Catholic than the pope” — and the loud and outraged cry of the faithful against him led him to retract his error, and his successor then infallibly defined John XXII’s opinion as heresy.

    Papal infallibility doesn’t mean papal impeccability or papal omniscience. The obligations of docility and obedience do not extend so far that one must stand on one’s head and cross one’s eyes in order to see how a scandalous, erroneous papal utterance is in fact true after all. Most of what a pope says is not infallible, and papal authority has never extended to having the right to introduce teachings and laws that contradict or go counter to the Faith. It’s no dishonor or disrespect or disobedience to the Holy Father to point out and to believe those truths of the Catholic Faith.

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  10. Can popes be ambiguous (purposefully)?

    An operation of “double-truth” is hidden in the ambiguity of vague and misleading declarations. Why? Is it to camouflage the “revolution”, given that the law of God cannot be overturned in the Church?

    Yes, it is. However, mostly with cautious gradualism: the ‘boiled frog’ strategy is being applied to the Church. A frog thrown into a pot of boiling water would jump out immediately. If, instead, it is put into a pot of tepid water which is gradually heated up, it ends up being boiled without being aware of it.

    So little by little for months now, we have been witnessing the continuous demolition of Catholic doctrine. Each day a new blow. In the end the Church will be driven to melt into a sort of United Nations of religions, with a touch of Greenpeace and the Cgil (an Italian Labour Union).

    I repeat – it was Cardinal Kasper who spoke of a “first step” in the “revolution” and he was also the one used by Bergoglio at the Consistory in February 2014 to throw the “bomb” of Communion for the divorced and remarried.

    This “revolution” is being carried out by cancelling the notion of “mortal sin”. Cardinal Mueller correctly warned: “The greatest scandal the Church can give is not that there are sinners inside Her, [it is that of] ceasing to name the difference between good and evil, making them relative; i.e. ceasing to explain what sin is or claiming to justify it so as to have greater closeness and mercy towards the sinner.”

    John Paul II had explained that the Church’s greatest maternal charity is precisely to sound the warning about sin and the risk of damnation.

    This should be the Pope’s fundamental mission: Jesus Christ’s mandate to Peter is that of “confirming the brethren in the faith” not to confuse, destabilize and mislead. But this is the age of Bergoglio. Cardinal Mueller, custodian of the faith, in an interview to a Die Zeit journalist three months ago, said he didn’t believe Bergoglio was a heretic, but added: “ [It is] something completely different when a teaching of the Church officially presented, is expressed perhaps in an unfortunate, misleading or vague manner.”

    Apparently so.

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  11. Who is Edward Peters to judge?

    1. Speaking of divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics, Francis writes: “In such situations, 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 [i.e., sexual intercourse] are lacking ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ ( Gaudium et spes, 51).” AL fn. 329. I fear this is a serious misuse of a conciliar teaching. Gaudium et spes 51 was speaking about married couples observing periodic abstinence. Francis seems to compare that chaste sacrifice with the angst public adulterers experience when they cease engaging in illicit sexual intercourse.

    2. Speaking of “Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church”, Francis writes “Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way.” AL 292. This simple phrasing requires significant elaboration: forms of union that most radically contradict the union of Christ and his Church are objectively adulterous post-divorce pseudo-marriages; forms of union that reflect this union in a partial, but good , way are all natural marriages. These two forms of union are not variations on a theme; they differ in kind, not just in degree.

    3. Speaking of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2384 describes as “public and permanent adultery”, Francis writes that some post-divorce marriages can exhibit “proven fidelity, generous self-giving, [and] Christian commitment”. AL 298. Many will wonder how terms such as “proven fidelity” can apply to chronically adulterous relationships or how “Christian commitment” is shown by the public and permanent abandonment of a previous spouse.

    4. In AL 297, Francis writes: “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” To the contrary, it is precisely the logic of the Gospel that one can be condemned forever. CCC 1034-1035. If one meant, say, that no one can be ‘condemned for ever’ by earthly authority, one should have said so. But, of course, withholding holy Communion from those in “public and permanent adultery” is not a “condemnation” at all, so the point being made is not clear.

    5. In AL 280-286, directly discussing sex education for youth, I did not see any acknowledgement, indeed not even a mention, that parents have rights in this important area. Perhaps that is to be gleaned from comments about parents made elsewhere in AL.

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  12. Michael Sean Winters is pleased not to judge:

    In Paragraph 37, we read, “We have long thought that simply by stress­ing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were provid­ing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden. We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are ca­pable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”

    Actually, I think Pope Francis told a fib there. He includes himself by saying “we” but it is clear that he has not actually “long thought” that it was enough to stress issues and issue dictats. And, the reminder that pastors are called to form, not replace, consciences is critical. As I indicated yesterday, the Holy Father does not believe the pastor, still less the magisterium, should tell people what to do, but that a pastor should accompany people so that they can discern God’s activity and calling in their own lives. The pastor encourages spiritual maturity, not memorization of a hodgepodge of canonical requirements.

    In the next paragraph, we see more evidence of the large and explicit change for which Pope Francis is calling. He cites instances of happy families, and praises the extended family structures still present in more traditional, less secularized cultures. Then he writes, “Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denounc­ing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness. Many people feel that the Church’s message on mar­riage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show com­passion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery.” The words “wasting pastoral energies denouncing” leap off the page.

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  13. What happens when you break bread with Lutherans:

    In fact, on the second run through this video, Msgr. Harrington’s comment elevating a relationship with Jesus Christ as primary and the law as “what comes afterwards” sounds positively Lutheran. Gospel vs. Law; love vs. justice; Simul iustus et peccator. Luther couldn’t have put it more clearly himself. Thing is, in the Catholic view, law and justice are themselves expressions of God’s love and mercy. Very un-Lutheran. But how’s anyone to fathom that these days? It might take more than a sound bite.

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  14. Not even the papacy can destroy the church (even though the church’s coherence hangs on the papacy):

    The astonishing secular-relativist content of Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, released Friday, threatens to drown traditional Roman Catholics in a flood of despair. Do not succumb to it. At moments like this, it is well to remember that this is not the first time the Church has been run aground at the helm of lesser men. We can take comfort in knowing God uses these occasions to purge, purify, and renew His church. The cure may be unpleasant—even deadly—but it is applied in proportion to the severity of the disease, and this is a very serious disease, indeed. I believe it’s a powerful combination of Relativism and Marxism—two delusions that so easily allow men to justify sinning while believing they do no harm, but I leave it to better minds than my own to provide the final diagnosis. Happily, the faithful are certain that the patient shall, in God’s time, be restored to full health. Now is the time for determination, not despair. Nothing—absolutely nothing—is capable of destroying the Church.

    But that’s a reason not to convert, right?

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  15. Been here, seen this:

    But there is also now a new papal teaching: A teaching in favor of the truce itself. That is, the post-1960s separation between doctrine and pastoral practice now has a papal imprimatur, rather than being a state of affairs that popes were merely tolerating for the sake of unity. Indeed, for Pope Francis that separation is clearly a hoped-for source of renewal, revival and revitalization, rather than something that renewal or revival might enable the church to gradually transcend.

    Again, this is not the clear change of doctrine, the proof of concept for other changes, that many liberal bishops and cardinals sought. But it is an encouragement for innovation on the ground, for the de facto changes that more sophisticated liberal Catholics believe will eventually render certain uncomfortable doctrines as dead letters without the need for a formal repudiation from the top.

    This means that the new truce may be even shakier than the old one. In effectively licensing innovation rather than merely tolerating it, and in transforming the papacy’s keenest defenders into wary critics, it promises to heighten the church’s contradictions rather than contain them.

    And while it does not undercut the pope’s authority as directly as a starker change might have, it still carries a distinctive late-Marxist odor — a sense that the church’s leadership is a little like the Soviet nomenklatura, bound to ideological precepts that they’re no longer confident can really, truly work.

    A slippage that follows from this lack of confidence is one of the most striking aspects of the pope’s letter. What the church considers serious sin becomes mere “irregularity.” What the church considers a commandment becomes a mere “ideal.” What the church once stated authoritatively it now proffers tentatively, in tones laced with self-effacement, self-critique.

    Francis doubtless intends this language as a bridge between the church’s factions, just dogmatic enough for conservatives but perpetually open to more liberal interpretations. And such deliberate ambiguity does offer a center, of sorts, for a deeply divided church.

    The Vatican rendition of the PCUSA.

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  16. Eight thumbs up:

    Catholic News Service reported a series of April 8 reactions to Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation:

    “‘Amoris Laetitia’ is a joyful invitation for families to live the works of mercy and to receive the gift of God’s healing where there is sin and brokenness. As he has done time and again, Pope Francis challenges us to approach the weak with compassion, to ‘enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness.'” — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

    “All of us at Priests for Life welcome the document issued today by Pope Francis called ‘Amoris Laetitia,’ which summarizes his teaching following the two worldwide synods of bishops held in the last two years on the topic of the family. We encourage all the clergy and laity to carefully read, study, discuss and apply this document, which repeats the church’s teaching on life, marriage and family, and urges all of us to encourage one another with compassion and care as we strive to live that teaching.” — Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

    “He (Pope Francis) demonstrates exquisite sensitivity to the way that poverty, housing problems, violence, drugs, migration, arranged marriages, abandonment and persecution affect the family. Indeed, part of his rationale for pastoral sensitivity toward the divorced and remarried is his recognition that financial pressures often lead to remarriage. Francis’ compassion runs out when it comes to the kinds of marital problems associated with the wealthy. No compassionate caveats are offered for those using contraception or reproductive technology. Surrogacy is denounced in scathing terms and contraception (is) tied to greed and consumerism.” — Candida R. Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.

    “The Vatican offers seeds of hope for a church moving away from general and strict doctrinal rules to one of grace and growth. This challenging, and at times poetic document exhibits highs and lows, both championing pastoral discernment, the primacy of conscience, and even ‘the women’s movement,’ but is riddled with an incomplete and painful understanding of feminism, reproductive health, gender, and sexual identity.” — Women’s Ordination Worldwide.

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  17. TMI:

    Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich welcomed Pope Francis’ reflection on marriage and family life released today, saying that while not changing any church doctrine, the apostolic exhortation “makes clear that doctrines are at the service of the pastoral mission.”
    Cupich, whom Francis appointed as a delegate to the Synod of Bishops on the family last October, called Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) “an authoritative teaching document” that was faithful to what the bishops had approved with a two-thirds majority vote at the synod.

    Cupich, who addressed a press conference in Chicago Friday morning, the day Amoris Laetitia was released, also said it reflects Francis personality and pastoral style.

    “He demonstrates his closeness to the real lives of people,” Cupich said, “someone who knows the smell of the sheep as he takes up a wide spectrum of the complexity that defines family living in our time.”

    Ewwww.

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  18. Reclassify mortal sin as “irregular” by the wand of pastoral practice:

    Of course, he speaks about “irregular” situations because objectively there are irregular situations when people live together without marriage, it’s irregular. When people divorce and remarry, it’s an irregular situation, but this is one side.

    What Pope Francis shows very clearly is that all families, even those that are ‘regular,’ need God’s mercy, need God’s help. All families, whether regular or in difficult situations, are on the way to perfection, on the way to holiness, all need steps, all need perfection, all need pardon and forgiveness. He tries to show that there’s not, on the one side, the good families, and on the other side the bad families, but I think it comes very much from his experience with poor families. Poor families are very often heroic in their efforts, in their struggles in daily life, in their exhausting struggles for survival leading difficult lives, and he has great empathy for them. There’s a beautiful thing that he says: A little effort, a little step done in difficult situations can be more valuable than a great achievement in a very comfortable situation. So this is typical for Pope Francis: Have a merciful, attentive look to what people are going through, in daily difficulties, and admire the heroism of so many poor people in standing together, in holding together as families under difficult circumstances.
    So I would say, to conclude, that Amoris Laetitia is a great hymn to love, and the healing and the comforting and the strengthening power of family love. So it’s an encouragement, it’s an invitation — an invitation when many seem not to believe any longer in the family.

    Do parents regard children taking the family car without permission “irregular”?

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  19. Frankly, I’m still a bit perplexed as to why this letter and synod was even necessary. If marriage can’t be dissolved and the answer is to say that marriage never really happened (annulment), why not just make annulments easier? But they already did that.

    Conservatives may be breathing a sigh of relief, but what this document has done has opened the door to basically allowing priests on an individual level to de facto annul marriages and admit people to the Eucharist. Now, that may be fine practice, but it goes against so much of what Rome has said about marriage and annulments.

    I mean, what really is the point of a document that says, “We need to be nicer and not come across as so mean to all of those RCs in our midst who got divorced without permission and then remarried.” Just say that even if you have remarried, you can get an annulment of the first marriage.

    I’m thinking pragmatically here. The whole annulment practice is an absolute joke. You can get an annulment for anything. Its no different than no-fault divorce. The widespread divorce and remarriage within the Roman Communion shows that the laity recognizes this. Why go through all the trouble to get the bishop to pretend the first marriage was never valid? Just always let your conscience be your guide, it’s a lot cheaper.

    We are seeing the problems that arise when you add to Scripture. Add to Scripture the notion that divorce is never acceptable. Couple that with a theology of glory that says success=billions of people. And the only way to hold the two together is to effectively deny the first by annulment and conscience. People are left being able to read this document as an endorsement of divorce on demand, because for all the caveats that are in the document, we all know that nobody is going to be disciplined for following their conscience. Hasn’t happened in decades.

    I really feel for conservatives here. I just wish they would be less credulous. But when you go all in on the Magisterium, you can’t do anything else.

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  20. DG: signed by the Vicar of Christ.
    ears hurt, vicar -instead of Christ, no thank you

    DG: do parents regard children taking the family car without permission “irregular”?

    well, if you don’t like that further step down to that neutrality/offense-less/conviction-less word, you could start with discussing with your children that you understand taking the car was just a small ‘error in judgment’, a ‘mistake’, perfectly understandable, since we all commit ‘errors’ and make ‘mistakes’; no big deal

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  21. Robert, the funny thing is is that Susan, Mermaid, and James Young wind up being as critical of outspokenly negative voices like Douthat as National Catholic Reporter or Commonweal are. So you have the converts needing to hope that the critics will go away, even though the critics understand the faith far more the way Douthat does than the liberals.

    And Protestants have problems.

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  22. I can’t say I’m waiting on baited breath

    That’s ‘bated breath’, as in an obsolete, contracted version of ‘abated’, which lives on only in this phrase.

    Grammar Nazi out!

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  23. Darryl,

    I honestly don’t follow talk about what’s going on post-synod. I should probably try to stay informed about how things will be addressed pastorally, but since there won’t be any change in dogma, I simply don’t stay on top of it all. There is still one universal heirarchal church invested with authority to bind and to loose, the mass is still being said daily and Jesus is in the bread and the wine. Those were the issues that made me Catholic and keep me Catholic.

    My interests primarily are theology, and understanding the spiritual life. So some of the journalism( to me) is fruitless speculation.

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  24. Susan,

    Your church just opened a huge door, with its authority to bind and loose, to let liberals do what they want with marriage and annulments and let conservatives do what they want with marriage and annulments. It’s essentially endorsed divorce on demand without calling it divorce on demand.

    This is what the PCUSA, ECUSA, etc. have done on a host of issues.

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  25. Susan, Jesus is in heaven and the pope is in Rome. And the zeitgeisty genie is out of the ornate, gilded bottle.

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  26. Susan,

    Name one priest who will be disciplined for, in his pastoral discretion, allowing a divorced and remarried person to take communion. Name one priest who has been disciplined for that.

    You need to read the commentary on Francis’ puff piece. Some people aren’t sticking their heads in the sand because the “dogma hasn’t changed.” Well, the Constitution hasn’t changed either, but are you going to tell me that the Supreme Court of 1900 would have found gay marriage in there?

    I know, development.

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  27. “Constitution hasn’t changed either”

    There’s things called amendments.

    “would have found gay marriage in there? I know, development.”

    Only RCism and AL isn’t approving and allowing gay marriages – it actually taught the exact opposite in language ssm proponents aren’t pleased with. Again, I’m waiting for the dogma AL supposedly contradicted.

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  28. Susan, this is really unthinking. You join a communion whose hierarchy gives you rock solid certainty and then it turns out you don’t follow what the bishops do or say.

    What kind of Roman Catholic are you?

    Like

  29. James Young, is divorce a “mortal sin” or an “irregular” situation?

    Don’t act dumb. You can parse Protestant statements for the slightest bit of silliness but you turn a blind eye to papal silliness.

    Pay, pray, obey. Own it.

    Like

  30. Darryl,

    From AL:
    “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”
    “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”
    “Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17). Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.”

    Try again.

    Like

  31. Clete,

    Nobody reading the Constitution in 1900 would have gotten gay marriage out of it, and no one reading JPII would have got pastoral discretion and irregular situations out of him. But the words are still there so it’s all good. I know, development.

    Like

  32. The only people confused by the trajectory of Rome since Vat II are the converts. Even Ratzinger is a higher critic, just a more conservative one and he’s aristocratic German, he didn’t sign up for the turmoil.-Nein, Nein ve must have orderrrrrrr!!!! Vhat’s sex abuse? They can’t have my apartment. This is little more than what’s been going on at the parish level for more than fifty years. Francis is the quintessential Vat II magisterial charism. Maybe Kasper could give him a run.

    Like

  33. Clete,

    it “can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,”

    Translation: get divorced and remarried without an annulment and go to the priest who will tell you that your irregular situation has not deprived you of sanctifying grace. Development.

    Like

  34. Robert,

    The catechism under JP2 stated that culpability is person-variable and subject to mitigating factors, and affirmed the 3-part definition of mortal sin. That’s not new. Which is what AL is focusing upon. So we’re still waiting for the dogma AL contradicts that will tailspin RCism into certain and utter liberalism next year, or 20 years, or 100 years, or who knows what timetable you’ll give it now.

    Like

  35. “culpability is person-variable and subject to mitigating factors, and affirmed the 3-part definition of mortal sin” — Tullian Tch-unpronounceable wants some of that.

    Like

  36. This is where it all goes haywire, this step; “The catechism under JP2 stated……………………” Rolling, laughing. If only. Clete, your first step needs to be; “The pastoral application since Vat II………………..”

    Like

  37. Again, this goes the way of the money and the vocations. If the conservatives raise the money and churn out the vocations, they’ll get their turn at the wheel. If not………….it’s all over and Ratzinger was smart enough to pull the cord and get a place in the Abbey.

    Like

  38. Sean,

    Last I checked, people still go to confession and are encouraged to do so by pastors since Vat2. Last I checked, divorced people still have to undertake an annulment process to remarry since Vat2. Last I checked, ssm marriages weren’t being performed since Vat2.

    Like

  39. Sean, come on. James Young isn’t confused. Susan? What does she know? James knows exactly what’s he’s doing (and some used to call it mortal sin).

    Like

  40. Clete, I told you where to pay attention, “pastoral application”. They’re driving big bubba trucks through that opening. I know that’s rough on you, but please don’t try to move the posts. “The catechism under JP2”! That’s a good effort though.

    Like

  41. Darryl,

    Still waiting. That dogma AL contradicted again please? Don’t be so coy – here’s your chance to bash RCism some more and correct the UNTHINKING catholics – take it.

    Sean – the point with the catechism was to Robert’s assertion that AL’s emphasis is completely foreign to JP2. You’re reading far too much into it. There was no moving posts – my points above involve “pastoral application” – pastors are involved in recommending and hearing confessions, prohibiting ssm marriages, and ensuring divorced RCs go through annulment process if they wish to remarry.

    Like

  42. Clete, I’m focused here:

    “Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich welcomed Pope Francis’ reflection on marriage and family life released today, saying that while not changing any church doctrine, the apostolic exhortation “makes clear that doctrines are at the service of the pastoral mission.”
    Cupich, whom Francis appointed as a delegate to the Synod of Bishops on the family last October, called Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) “an authoritative teaching document” that was faithful to what the bishops had approved with a two-thirds majority vote at the synod”

    Now, this isn’t new with this ‘exhortation’ this move has been going on since Vat II. Your precious dogma is at the service of the pastoral mission. I prefer pastoral application but I won’t be choosy. This is the RCC.

    Like

  43. Clete,

    Yeah, and JP2 also said that those who divorce and remarry should live together as brother and sister. Yeah, that’s happening.

    Again, I question the reason for the document in the first place if the dogma hasn’t change. Divorced? Get an annulment. End of story. What’s new? Now if you get remarried without an annulment, you can find a sympathetic priest and bishop who will do for you that which was not doable before and give you an annulment after the remarriage. But nothing has changed. Hey, our country’s laws still advocate the goodness of marriage but no-fault divorce laws have done nothing to our understanding and shape of marriage in this country. Look to that as your model. No-fault annulments are sure to have no effect on dogma. Yeah right. The conservatives who are freaking out aren’t idiots.

    Like

  44. If I’m not mistaken we had a former OL commenter (who shall remain nameless) who implied that he was living with his wife sister-style. How is he feeling now? Elated or as if he’s been sold a bill of Roman goods?

    Like

  45. James Young, I still didn’t see your explanation of America, Commonweal, NCR. And did you mention how you are smarter than Douthat? I missed it.

    At least give us credit for noticing that not everyone agrees with or shills so shamelessly as you.

    Were you one of the writers for “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”?

    Like

  46. Robert,

    “What’s new?”

    Dogmatically – nothing. Which is the point. Glad we agree.

    “Now if you get remarried without an annulment, you can find a sympathetic priest and bishop who will do for you that which was not doable before and give you an annulment after the remarriage.”

    AL:
    “Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and the steps that can foster it and make it grow. Given that for the same law there is no graduality (cf. FC, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the demands of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. For this to happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidence, love for the Church and her teaching, in the sincere search for God’s will and the desire to achieve a more perfect response to it, must be secured. These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions”, or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favours. When a responsible and tactful person, who does not presume to put his or her own desires ahead of the common good of the Church, meets with a pastor capable of acknowledging the seriousness of the matter before him, there can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard.”

    “I question the reason for the document in the first place if the dogma hasn’t change.”

    So the only reason for papal documents is to “change” dogma? That was a lot of wasted ink and effort by the current and past popes then.

    “The conservatives who are freaking out aren’t idiots.”

    Right – you cited 1P5’s article from “a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.” And Darryl gave me grief for citing a Catholic school and catechesis teacher instead of a professor. Douthat didn’t freak out, Burke didn’t freak out, CNA didn’t freak out – http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/no-doctrine-change-from-pope-francis-but-a-call-for-better-pastoral-care-85474/, Schall didn’t freak out – www(DOT)catholicworldreport.com/Item/4696/in_iamoris_laetitiai_who_is_admonishing_whom.aspx, etc. even if they grant AL has problems and far from perfect.

    Like

  47. Darryl,

    Got it. So you can’t show me the money. Glad we got that cleared up.

    Since I cited Douthat in support, does that make Douthat a shameless shill as well? To jog your memory:
    “the pope does not endorse a formal path to communion for the divorced and remarried, which his allies pushed against conservative opposition at two consecutive synods in Rome, and which would have thrown Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage (and sexual ethics writ large) into flagrant self-contradiction…
    There is still a formal teaching that remarriage without an annulment is adultery, that adultery is a mortal sin, that people who persist in mortal sins should not receive communion. And there is no structure or system in church life that contradicts any of this.”

    Douthat needs to THINK I guess.

    Like

  48. @cvd Let’s continue…

    But there is also now a new papal teaching: A teaching in favor of the truce itself. That is, the post-1960s separation between doctrine and pastoral practice now has a papal imprimatur, rather than being a state of affairs that popes were merely tolerating for the sake of unity. Indeed, for Pope Francis that separation is clearly a hoped-for source of renewal, revival and revitalization, rather than something that renewal or revival might enable the church to gradually transcend.

    Again, this is not the clear change of doctrine, the proof of concept for other changes, that many liberal bishops and cardinals sought. But it is an encouragement for innovation on the ground, for the de facto changes that more sophisticated liberal Catholics believe will eventually render certain uncomfortable doctrines as dead letters without the need for a formal repudiation from the top.

    This means that the new truce may be even shakier than the old one. In effectively licensing innovation rather than merely tolerating it, and in transforming the papacy’s keenest defenders into wary critics, it promises to heighten the church’s contradictions rather than contain them.

    And while it does not undercut the pope’s authority as directly as a starker change might have, it still carries a distinctive late-Marxist odor — a sense that the church’s leadership is a little like the Soviet nomenklatura, bound to ideological precepts that they’re no longer confident can really, truly work.

    Like

  49. Here’s what another, prolific, well known trad has to say about AL. Here’s a taste in case you don’t want to follow the link,

    “Perhaps worse than Pope Francis’ official invitation to sacrilege is the document’s cowardice, cynicism, and pessimism.”

    Does this count as a freak out?

    Like

  50. sdb,

    “this is not the clear change of doctrine, the proof of concept for other changes, that many liberal bishops and cardinals sought.”

    Doh.

    Yup, people freaked out during JP2 and Benedict’s pontificate as well. Rad-Trads, novus ordo haters, etc. aren’t new. Housewives who like to write articles in their spare time and editors of a “newsletter about baseball” freak out too.

    Like

  51. Doh? I think you meant “But…” I guess obfuscation of what is happening is better than seeking clarity. How very Jesuitical of you.

    Like

  52. b, sd, have you noticed that James Young has more of a presence here when his holy father is more objectionable to the very same Roman Catholics who don’t want doctrine to change? James Young would have made a great evangelical PCUSA Presbyterian.

    Like

  53. Meanwhile, someone who converted to Rome for CTC reasons actually continued to think and came to realize that truth about Rome:

    I once wanted that, too — the Catholic Church serving as the final, infallible guardian and guarantor of timeless, immutable Truth — though I never really believed it. Now I don’t even want to believe it. (I have no wish to be taken in by a lie, no matter how beautiful.)

    http://theweek.com/articles/617870/retrograde-intransigence-conservative-catholics

    Like

  54. From the same article, Francis the stealth reformer:

    A straightforward reformer of the church seeks to change its doctrines. A stealth reformer like Francis, on the other hand, keeps the doctrines intact but invokes such concepts as mercy, conscience, and pastoral discernment to show priests that it’s perfectly acceptable to circumvent and disregard those doctrines in specific cases. A doctrine officially unenforced will soon lose its authority as a doctrine. Where once it was a commandment sanctioned by God, now it becomes an “ideal” from which we’re expected to fall short. Before long it may be treated as a suggestion. Eventually, repealing it is no longer controversial — or perhaps even necessary.

    As long as it’s on paper, who cares who believes it. The modern RC way. You know, a lot of Protestants would not have died during the Reformation if only those popes got the memo.

    It’s like Machen was a prophet or something.

    Like

  55. Darryl,

    So you can’t still show me the money. Eat what? That Douthat affirms no dogma changed and that no structures were implemented to contradict dogma? Nom nom nom. There’s no need to address critical bits – I never said AL was perfect, which is why I referenced conservatives criticizing it above while those same people are not “freaking out” over it.

    Why would Francis’ focus on love in his call to prayer cause me grave concern when those popes you listed above such as Stephen VII. John XII, Benedict IX, or John XXII wouldn’t cause me grave concern? THINK.

    Like

  56. Robert quote: (I have no wish to be taken in by a lie, no matter how beautiful.)

    and of course, to clarify, a lie is never beautiful; that ’s also the lie – that a lie is ever beautiful…and why….
    we are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Cor 10: 5

    Like

  57. James Young, I get it. Nothing causes you concern except Protestantism.

    Still haven’t explained why dogma doesn’t change but only gets interpreted. Odd that Pius X, someone without a lot more charism than you, was concerned about modernism. And no dogma had changed.

    WHEN will you stop DRINKING the koolaid?

    Ya think Pius X would make that video? Leo XIII? Pius XII?

    Like

  58. Protestants have so many interpretations of the Bible, Roman Catholics of the interpreter-in-chief:

    “I’m puzzled by those who say the Kasper proposal was turned down: that’s certainly not what Cardinal Schönborn said in his presentation, and this is where the problem is going to really manifest itself in the days and weeks following the publication of this document. We have something here which is not in accord with what the Church has said up till now.”
    Father Murray stressed that he did not “want to criticize the Pope. I think the Pope is a wonderful man. I think he’s a holy man in so many ways. I hope to be a good man and holy myself. I don’t judge.

    “But what I will say is when you do something in public that contradicts what your predecessor did, there has to be an accounting for it and a responsibility to upholding the Gospel. And I think that’s what many bishops, cardinals and priests will call for.”

    United like the United States is united.

    Like

  59. Definitely, top down with flourish:

    If you remain canonically autonomous for too long, you run the risk of losing a characteristic of the Catholic Church, that is, to be subject to the pope. We cannot make our subjection to the Vicar of Christ dependent upon the person of the pope; this would not be faith. You cannot say that “I don’t believe in this pope, I don’t submit, I am going to wait until one comes along that I like.” This is not Catholic, it is not supernatural; it is human. It is a lack of supernaturality and trust in Divine Providence, that God is the one who guides the Church. This is a danger for the SSPX.

    That clears up papal authority. Marriage, not so much.

    Like

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