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?
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.
68 thoughts on “Top Down or Bottom Up?”
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.
That papal magic:
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.
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.”
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?
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.
Robert, as long as the magisterium is still in power and the laity can do what they want, all’s well. Feel the tradition, unity, and charism.
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?
Is the pope Roman Catholic? Or is Roberto de Mattei?
Pope Francis brings to mind certain predecessors:
Can popes be ambiguous (purposefully)?
Who is Edward Peters to judge?
Michael Sean Winters is pleased not to judge:
What happens when you break bread with Lutherans:
Not even the papacy can destroy the church (even though the church’s coherence hangs on the papacy):
But that’s a reason not to convert, right?
Been here, seen this:
The Vatican rendition of the PCUSA.
Eight thumbs up:
Reclassify mortal sin as “irregular” by the wand of pastoral practice:
Do parents regard children taking the family car without permission “irregular”?
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.
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
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.
The CTC converts are unrecognizable. They don’t have a home in Rome. Malta, maybe.
That’s ‘bated breath’, as in an obsolete, contracted version of ‘abated’, which lives on only in this phrase.
Grammar Nazi out!
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.
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.
Susan, Jesus is in heaven and the pope is in Rome. And the zeitgeisty genie is out of the ornate, gilded bottle.
No it hasn’t. Show me the document.
Yikes. I get it; OLTS is your territory.
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.
Susan, I wander to and fro about the earth. The unficator’s lot is a lonely one.
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“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.
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?
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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………………..”
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.
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.
James Young, so you mean a guy who writes for the New York Times is going hysterical like a SSPXer?
And why do you leave out all the ambiguous parts?
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).
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.
James Young, last I checked Roman Catholics still have no Index of Blogs. Aren’t you worried about your soul?
Sean, but James has his catechism blankie (not Trent’s of course).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”?
cw, you mean, is he a “looooooser”?
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.”
“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.
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.
@cvd Let’s continue…
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?
“this is not the clear change of doctrine, the proof of concept for other changes, that many liberal bishops and cardinals sought.”
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.
Doh? I think you meant “But…” I guess obfuscation of what is happening is better than seeking clarity. How very Jesuitical of you.
James Young, still no word about the critical bits of Douthat, the German priests blessing gay unions, America, Commonweal, NCR.
And you didn’t ever address Pope Francis’ prayer video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6FfTxwTX34
Why you seem to be one of those cafeteria Roman Catholics. Own it, eat it.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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?
Protestants have so many interpretations of the Bible, Roman Catholics of the interpreter-in-chief:
United like the United States is united.
Definitely, top down with flourish:
That clears up papal authority. Marriage, not so much.