Why the Resistence to “Amoris Laetitia”?

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Those who reject AL as morally incorrect, get creation wrong. And if you get creation wrong, you get the Metaphysics wrong. To say the thesis outright: people are not understanding Amoris Laetitia because the notion of creation, according to the testimony of Joseph Ratzinger, has dropped out of theological consciousness, and has left the created order to an abstract rationalism, certainly including matrimony. The correct interpretation of the created order must be made in the light of the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ such that creation is to the Creator as the human nature of Christ is to His divine Nature. The relation of creation to Creator is to be found in the relation of Christ’s humanity to His divinity, and that in the Person of Christ Himself. Creator and creation are really distinct as are human nature in Christ to His divine nature. The human nature of Christ is what the Church understands by the created order. The human nature of Christ is the medium through which the divine Person lives out His relation to the Father. The nature don’t act. The human intellect doesn’t think. The human will does not will. The divine Person thinks and wills through them. His “I” is the protagonist of both. They are not in parallel, but are compenetrated by His Persona. The take away is that the created nature, although distinct from the divinity, cannot be what it really is without being compenetrated by the sanctity of persons who are “other Christs.” And if they live the vocation to be “other Christs,” they will put Christ at the summit by their lives and work, and they will perceive Him there. The conclusion is that the pope’s documents Amoris Laetitia cannot be reduced to morality when its reality is Christ’s Love and Mercy. It is not a document reducible to morality, but a supernatural phenomenology of self-giving. It is a work of the subject living outo who He is as Mercy.

Creation from Nothing – Unavailable to Human Reason Without Revelation

The Greeks got the metaphysics on contact with Abrahamic faith in the 6th c. B.C.,[1] but they did not get creation.  As evidenced by Sokolowski’s ‘Christian Distinction” between God and the world. The Greeks did not “get” creation because creation is not “gettable” by reason alone. Creation from nothing is unavailable to human reason without revelation. One can reason to a supreme being, to a first cause, to a necessary being, to a perfect being, to a final cause of all things. But one cannot reason to a Creator who creates from nothing. That has to be revealed to us. And in the case that the mind reasons to a Supreme Being –  first cause, necessary being, perfect being and final cause –  since they are all in the genus “being,” it becomes a competition, a zero sum such that the more we explain the supreme being, the less we need explain the world (miracles), and the more we explain the world, the less need we have for the supreme being (science and ideology replace religion).

         And, as it is revealed to us, the God-Man Jesus Christ becomes the cognitive key insofar as He is both Creator and divine (as Person) and created (His humanity). The Council of Chalcedon (451) proclaimed that there is one Person and two natures in Christ and that they are not in parallel but dynamized by the same one Person of the Son of God. Such a misunderstanding has in fact developed a two-tiered image of reality as supernatural/ natural, grace/nature, faith/reason, Church/state… and which continually defy resolution because they are false problems arising from a false Christology. The natures in Christ are not tiered in parallel but compenetrated by the same one Person of Christ. There is no divine Will distinct from the divine Persons. So also, there is no human will in Christ that wills independent of Himself. Such a suggestion betrays abstractive and objectifying thought that is not realist. Only persons will. Hence, the one divine Person of Christ wills as both God and man, divine and human, and the uncreated and created natures find themselves one (although really distinct as uncreated and created) in the one Person. The necessary conclusion must be that the created, human nature of Christ must be shot through with the dimensions of the diving Person. And this must mean that we should find the intelligibility, relationality, love of Christ throughout the entire created material order, particularly in the human order. In a word, the meaning of man must be Christ. Gaudium et spes #22 reads: “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart.

Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”

And so He, the Son of God, is the prototype of all man’s actions. And so, “You have heard that it was said to the ancients…, You have heard what was said to the ancients…,  But I say to you…. You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. ”  (Mt. 5, 21-43).

                And this is the light in which Amoris Laetitia is to be interpreted:

                 I consider that the persistent resistance to the papal document “Amoris Laetitia” comes as the result of the pervasive absence of creation as the context of the universal consciousness of the world. And since the media pervasively control public opinion, and is shot through with an empiricist, abstract and reductive ideology, we would do well to consider the remarks of Joseph Ratzinger to comment on what I consider the context forcing the non-reception of the document.

The Correct Interpretation of the Created Order as the Context to Understand Christ’s Mercy  in Matrimony              

  “I [Ratzinger] would like to list three areas within the world-view of the Faith which have witnessed a certain kind of reduction in the last centuries, a reduction which has been gradually preparing the way for another ‘paradigm.’”

In the first place, we have to point out the almost complete disappearance of the doctrine on creation from theology.[2]  Nature still appears as an irrational form even while evincing mathematical structures which we can study technically. That nature has a mathematical intelligibility is to state the obvious, the assertion that it also contains in itself a moral intelligibility, however, is rejected as metaphysical fantasy. The demise of metaphysics goes hand in hand with the displacement of the teaching on creation (my underline).

Enter Duns Scotus and William of Occam

Blogger: What produced the mentality that perceives reality reductively and in abstraction whereby there is no room for gradualness of healing and restoring what was lost? In a word, how was the millennium with Creation understood correctly transmuted into the second reductive millennium?

Let me introduce here what many today consider to be the source of the most profound yet subtle deviation in Western [and therefore global] thought today, that damaged the millennial faith-experience concerning creation: the introduction of univocal thinking that embraces God and the world within the same abstract notion of “being.” I offer Robert Barron: “In an effort to make the ‘to be’ [esse] of God more immediately intelligible, Duns Scotus proposed a univocal conception of existence, according to which God and creatures belong to the same basis metaphysical category, the genus of being. Though God is infinite and therefore quantitatively superior to any creature or collectivity of creatures, there is nevertheless no qualitative difference, in the metaphysical sense between the supreme being, God and finite beings. Whereas Aquinas insisted that God is categorizable in no genus whatsoever, Scotus held that God and creatures do belong together to a logical category that, in a real sense, transcends and includes them. The implications of this shift are enormous and, to my mind, almost entirely negative”.[3]

And on pg. 193 of his “Priority of Christ,” Barron writes that, “A principal consequence of this epistemological decision was that God and worldy things can be compared, since they can be gathered together under thd same general metaphysical category. Though God remains infinite and creatures finite, nevertheless, both God and creatures on this reading, are beings and hence mutually commensurable. As the late medieval world gave way to the modern, this conception of the God-world relationship became solidified. As a result a great confidence that one could speak of God in a rationally clear manner took hold of many moderns.”

[1] The Axial Period

[2] As typical instances, we may cite two compendia of modern theology in which the doctrine on creation is eliminated as part of the content of the faith and is replaced by vague considerations from existential philosophy, the 1973 edition of the ecumenical “Neues Glaubensbuch” published by J. Feiner and L. Vischer, and the basic catechetical work published in Paris in 1984, “La foi des catholiques.” In a time when we are experiencing the agonizing of creation against man’s work and when the question of the limits and standards of creation upon our activity has become the central problem of our ethical responsibility, this fact must appear quite strange. Notwithstanding all this, it remains always a disagreeable fact that “nature” should be viewed as a moral issue. An anxious and unreasonable reaction against technology is also closely associated with the inability to discern a spiritual message in the material world.

[3] R. Barron, “The Priority of Christ,” Brazos (2007) 13.

 Understanding Francis and the internal forum

Holy Father does not change doctrine in family document, pushes for careful formation of conscience 

Kurt Martens


The ink of the post-synodal apostolic exhortationAmoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) is not even dry, and already various commentators, particularly in the secular press, have decreed that Pope Francis now allows Communion for the divorced and remarried, adding that he permits it through the use of the internal forum for the formation of a correct judgment, which then grants that access to the Eucharist. It is hard to find even the slightest support for such a headline in a document that is, on the one hand, very pastoral in nature, and that, at the same time, presupposes knowledge of the Church’s teaching on the subject matter. Some explanation is warranted other than the simplistic statements we find in the secular media. To put it in the words of Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto: the exhortation states that everybody needs to be welcomed back more fully into the life of the Church, but that welcome is not necessarily going to include Holy Communion.

No change in doctrine

First of all, and to be clear, Pope Francis does not change Church doctrine. On the contrary, he confirms the teaching of his predecessors, in particular Familiaris Consortio of Pope St. John Paul II andSacramentum Caritatis of Pope Benedict XVI, both documents also being post-synodal apostolic exhortations. As recently as 2007, in Sacramentum Caritatis, Benedict XVI wrote: “The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2-12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist.” He added immediately: “Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving Communion, listening to the word of God, Eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.”

Pope Francis explicitly states that neither the two family synods in 2014 and 2015, nor the exhortationAmoris Laetitia, provide “a new set of rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (No. 300). In other words, he rejects the internal forum solution as proposed by Cardinal Walter Kasper and others, which would have required change of the law and practice of the Church in how to solve, in the internal forum, the readmittance of the divorced and remarried persons to holy Communion. Unlike the external forum — in other words, the tribunal for marriage cases — the internal forum — sacramental (confession) or nonsacramental (e.g. spiritual direction) — is not something that is public. What happens in the internal forum, stays in the internal forum; once something is out, it becomes part of the external forum. No new doctrine is proposed, and no new rules are promulgated.

Understanding the internal forum

So what then does Pope Francis mean when he mentions the internal forum in Amoris Laetitia? Here, the pope is concerned with accompanying divorced and remarried persons in order to help them to understand their situation, in accordance with the unchanging teaching of the Church. The recommended forum for this accompaniment is the internal forum, that is, in the confessional or in spiritual direction, as a private and discrete way of assisting those most vulnerable. Pope Francis writes that this conversation 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 on what steps can foster it and make it grow” (No. 300).

There are two elements that are important to highlight here. First of all, the Holy Father encourages the use of the internal forum as the place for the conscience to be formed and the place where the Church accompanies her children back to the path of faith: the Way that is Jesus Christ. There is no mention anywhere in Amoris Laetitia of an internal forum solution as proposed by some — or the “anything goes” approach. In this context, an anecdote shared by Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is illustrative. In addressing the assembled body of Mundelein Seminary, the late Cardinal Francis George congratulated the orthodox seminarians for their devotion to the dogmatic and moral truths proposed by the Church, but added that it is insufficient to simply drop the truth on people and walk away. Being “pastoral” in this context means that you also help them to integrate that truth and live the logical fruits of embracing that truth. Pope Francis proposes the same thing in Amoris Laetitia, albeit without the eloquence of a Cardinal George or Bishop Barron.


  • * * * * * * * * * * * 

My email to Kurt Martens

Dear Dr. Martens,

 It was refreshing to read your short piece in the June-July “Inside the Vatican.” What  most interests me is that you move the discourse from a reductive and objectified horizon ruled by a morality of rules and propositions where the entire discussion on AL – both pro and con – seems to take place, to the realist-subjective horizon of the “I” and conscience. And by “conscience” I do not mean the Stoic-Greek practical syllogism leading to an objective practical judgment, but the Christian conscience which is the experience and consciousness of the acting “I” as imaging the creating and redeeming God. You say it: “By putting such an emphasis on the conscience and the internal forum, the pope makes… higher demands on the faithful and the priests than before.”


   Of course, the exhortation is not about the moral question of whether divorced-remarried Catholics can receive Communion, but the deeper and more important question of whether matrimony is a way of sanctity. And since the “bond” is the mutual gift of two “I’s,” unless the discourse be phenomenological, the discussions become ships passing in the night. As you say,the internal forum is not a place to solve every problem, “but rather a place to discover first that there is a problem to be solved, and secondly that the solution is Christ.” The problem, of course, is to understand that the prototype of marriage is Christ and the Church, and that the bond is the gift of the very self. The entire Church has to go through that consciousness raising to understand what Francis is after. And with that, of course, is the understanding of conscience as explained by Ratzinger in his “Conscience and Truth.” In that light, AL makes immense good and supernatural sense. Fr. Bob Connor

Let me clarifiy the use of words like “phenomenological” and “conscioiusness.” When Cardinal Ratzinger speaks of “conscience,” he uses the Christian and Platonic word “anamnesis” as in non-amnesia, not forgetting. He refers to St. Basil of the 4th c. and early Christian literature of conscience as a consciousness, and not a concept or idea. It has much to do with the way the Person of Christ can be known. As divine Person, He cannot be objectified in the sense that we could place Him in a larger context of intellegibility since He is Creator. What can be greater than the “I” of the Creator. Hence, He cannot be known abstractively in a concept whereby we could render Him an object of our knowing.  That’s why to speak of “knowing” God, or “knowing” Christ is sui generis.

Joseph Ratzinger did us an immene service with the depth and simplicity of his “Behold the Pierced One” because in his first three theses he explains in the most straight forward and scriptural way that one can know Christ only by becoming Christ and experiencing the Christ that one has become in oneself. Mt. 11, 27 proclaims this outright: “no one knows the Son except theFather; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Hence, only persons know persons. And the only person that one experiences personally is the self in the self-determination of freedom. “Conscience” is that consciousness. And – this is critical – if that free action resulting from self-determination (not an interplay of intellect and will as accidents of substance, but the self mastering/subduing self), is  an act of going out and beyond oneself, then there is an imaging of the divine Person of the Son. One then experiences and becomes conscious of self as Son.” One knows Christ “from within,” that is, in one’s own consciousness. And since “Son” is total receptivity from the Father, one, moved by the Love that is the Spirit, cannot but stammer “ABBA.”

Ratzinger explains that the tendency to go out of self is primarily an ontological thrust to act in a certain way and not in another due to the dynamic of the person made in the image of the divine Person. Hence, conscience is consciousness – “not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is, so to speak, an innner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within. He sees: That’s it ! That is what my nature points to and seeks.” This consciousness is conscience.

This is what Pope Francis means by “internal forum.” It is not a conceptual “solution” but a raising of consciousness ab intus by permitting Christ to look at us and draw us out of ourselves – with wise spiritual direction into an exerience of Himself. In that experience, we will know if we are in grace or not in grace and how to access the sacraments.

I repeat the remarks of Kurt Martens:

“So what then does Pope Francis mean when he mentions the internal forum in Amoris Laetitia? Here, the pope is concerned with accompanying divorced and remarried persons in order to help them to understand their situation, in accordance with the unchanging teaching of the Church. The recommended forum for this accompaniment is the internal forum, that is, in the confessional or in spiritual direction, as a private and discrete way of assisting those most vulnerable. Pope Francis writes that this conversation 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 on what steps can foster it and make it grow” (No. 300).

There are two elements that are important to highlight here. First of all, the Holy Father encourages the use of the internal forum as the place for the conscience to be formed and the place where the Church accompanies her children back to the path of faith: the Way that is Jesus Christ. There is no mention anywhere in Amoris Laetitia of an internal forum solution as proposed by some — or the “anything goes” approach. In this context, an anecdote shared by Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is illustrative. In addressing the assembled body of Mundelein Seminary, the late Cardinal Francis George congratulated the orthodox seminarians for their devotion to the dogmatic and moral truths proposed by the Church, but added that it is insufficient to simply drop the truth on people and walk away. Being “pastoral” in this context means that you also help them to integrate that truth and live the logical fruits of embracing that truth. Pope Francis proposes the same thing in Amoris Laetitia, albeit without the eloquence of a Cardinal George or Bishop Barron.”

“Amoris Laetitia: Doctrinal Orientation For a Pastoral Discernment

See last paragraph for the final point in English

“Amoris laetitia: Pautas doctrinales para un discernimiento pastoral”


© Angel Rodríguez Luño:  Rector of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross


La Exhortación Apostólica Amoris laetitia ofrece las bases para dar un nuevo y muy necesario impulso a la pastoral familiar en todos sus aspectos. En el capítulo VIII se refiere a las delicadas situaciones en las que más se pone de manifiesto la debilidad humana. La línea propuesta por el Papa Francisco puede resumirse con las palabras que componen el título del capítulo: “Acompañar, discernir e integrar la fragilidad”. Se nos invita a evitar los juicios sumarios y las actitudes de rechazo y exclusión, y a asumir en cambio la tarea de discernir las diferentes situaciones, emprendiendo con los interesados un diálogo sincero y lleno de misericordia. “Se trata de un itinerario de acompañamiento y de discernimiento que ’orienta a estos fieles a la toma de conciencia de su situación ante Dios. La conversación con el sacerdote, en el fuero interno, contribuye a la formación de un juicio correcto sobre aquello que obstaculiza la posibilidad de una participación más plena en la vida de la Iglesia y sobre los pasos que pueden favorecerla y hacerla crecer. Dado que en la misma ley no hay gradualidad (cfr. Familiaris consortio, 34), este discernimiento no podrá jamás prescindir de las exigencias de verdad y de caridad del Evangelio propuesto por la Iglesia’”1 . Parece útil recodar algunos puntos que conviene tener en cuenta para que el proceso de discernimiento sea conforme a las enseñanzas de la Iglesia 2 , que el Santo Padre presupone y que en ningún modo ha querido cambiar. Por lo que concierne a los sacramentos de la Penitencia y de la Eucaristía, la 1 Francisco, Exhortación Apostólica Post-sinodal Amoris laetitia, 19-III-2016, n. 300. La cita interna es del n. 86 de la Relación final del Sínodo del 2015. 2 El Santo Padre así lo dice explícitamente en Amoris laetitia, n. 300. 1 2 Iglesia ha enseñado siempre y en todo lugar que “quien tiene conciencia de estar en pecado grave debe recibir el sacramento de la Reconciliación antes de acercarse a comulgar”3 . La estructura fundamental del sacramento de la Reconciliación “comprende dos elementos igualmente esenciales: por una parte, los actos del hombre que se convierte bajo la acción del Espíritu Santo, a saber, la contrición, la confesión de los pecados y la satisfacción; y por otra parte, la acción de Dios por ministerio de la Iglesia”4 . Si faltase del todo la contrición perfecta o imperfecta (atrición), que incluye el propósito de cambiar de vida y evitar el pecado, los pecados no podrían ser perdonados, y si no obstante la absolución fuese impartida, la absolución sería inválida5 . El proceso de discernimiento tiene que ser coherente también con la doctrina católica sobre la indisolubilidad del matrimonio, cuyo valor y actualidad el Papa Francisco subraya fuertemente. La idea de que las relaciones sexuales en el contexto de una segunda unión civil son lícitas, comporta que esa segunda unión se considera un verdadero matrimonio, y entonces se entra en contradicción objetiva con la doctrina sobre la indisolubilidad, según la cual el matrimonio rato y consumado no puede ser disuelto, ni siquiera por la potestad vicaria del Romano Pontífice6 ; si, en cambio, se reconoce que la segunda unión no es un verdadero matrimonio, porque verdadero matrimonio es y sigue siendo sólo el primero, entonces se acepta un estado y una condición de vida que “contradicen objetivamente la unión de amor entre Cristo y la Iglesia, significada y actualizada en la Eucaristía”7 . Si, además, la vida more uxorio en la segunda unión se considerase moralmente aceptable, se negaría el principio fundamental de la moral cristiana según el cual las relaciones sexuales sólo son lícitas dentro del matrimonio legítimo. Por esa razón, la Carta de la Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe del 14 de septiembre de 1994 decía: “El fiel que está conviviendo habitualmente ’more uxorio’ con una persona que no es la legítima esposa o el legítimo marido, no puede acceder a la Comunión eucarística. En el caso de que él lo juzgara posible, los pastores y los confesores, dada la gravedad de la materia y las exigencias del bien espiritual de la persona y del bien común de la Iglesia, tienen el grave deber de advertirle que dicho juicio de conciencia riñe 3 Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica, n. 1385. 4 Ibid., n. 1448. 5 Cfr. Ibid., nn. 1451-1453; Concilio de Trento, Sess. XIV, Doctrina de sacramento paenitentia, cap. 4 (Dz-Hü 1676-1678). 6 San Juan Pablo II, en su discurso a la Rota Romana, del 21-I-2000, n. 8, declaró que esa doctrina ha de tenerse definitivamente. 7 San Juan Pablo II, Exhortación Apostólica Familiaris consortio, 22-XI-1981, n. 84. 3 abiertamente con la doctrina de la Iglesia”8 . El Papa Francisco recuerda justamente que pueden existir acciones gravemente inmorales desde el punto de vista objetivo que, en el plano subjetivo y formal, no sean imputables o no lo sean plenamente, a causa de la ignorancia, el miedo o de otros atenuantes que la Iglesia ha tenido siempre en cuenta. A la luz de esta posibilidad, no se podría afirmar que quien vive en una situación matrimonial así llamada “irregular” objetivamente grave esté necesariamente en estado de pecado mortal9 . La cuestión es delicada y difícil, porque siempre se ha reconocido que “de internis neque Ecclesia iudicat”, acerca del estado de lo más íntimo de la conciencia ni siquiera la Iglesia puede juzgar. Por eso la Declaración del Consejo Pontificio para los Textos Legislativos acerca de canon 915, citada por el Papa Francisco10, en la que se decía que la prohibición de recibir la Eucaristía comprende también a los fieles divorciados vueltos a casar, puso mucho cuidado en precisar qué debe entenderse por pecado grave en el contexto de ese canon. El texto de la Declaración dice: “La fórmula ’y los que obstinadamente persistan en un manifiesto pecado grave’ es clara, y se debe entender de modo que no se deforme su sentido haciendo la norma inaplicable. Las tres condiciones que deben darse son: a) el pecado grave, entendido objetivamente, porque el ministro de la Comunión no podría juzgar de la imputabilidad subjetiva; b) la obstinada perseverancia, que significa la existencia de una situación objetiva de pecado que dura en el tiempo y a la cual la voluntad del fiel no pone fin, sin que se necesiten otros requisitos (actitud desafiante, advertencia previa, etc.) para que se verifique la situación en su fundamental gravedad eclesial; c) el carácter manifiesto de la situación de pecado grave habitual”11 . La misma Declaración aclara que no se encuentran en esa situación de pecado grave habitual los fieles divorciados vueltos a casar que, no pudiendo interrumpir la convivencia por causas graves, se abstienen de los actos propios de los cónyuges, permaneciendo la obligación de evitar el escándalo, puesto que el hecho de no vivir more uxorio es de suyo oculto12. Fuera de 8 Congregación para la Doctrina de la Fe, Carta a los Obispos de la Iglesia Católica sobre la recepción de la Comunión eucarística por parte de los fieles divorciados vueltos a casar, 14-IX-1994, n. 6. 9 Cfr. Francisco, Amoris laetitia, n. 301. 10 Cfr. Ibid., n. 302. 11 Consejo Pontificio para los Textos Legislativos, Declaración sobre la admisibilidad a la Sagrada Comunión de los divorciados que se han vuelto a casar, 24-VI-2000, n. 2. 12 Cfr. Ibidem. No está de más tener en cuenta que no se puede exigir que los fieles que 4 este caso, en la atención pastoral de estos fieles habrá que tener también en cuenta que parece muy difícil que quienes viven en una segunda unión tengan la certeza moral subjetiva del estado de gracia, pues sólo mediante la interpretación de signos objetivos ese estado podría ser conocido por la propia conciencia y por la del confesor. Además, habría que distinguir entre una verdadera certeza moral subjetiva y un error de conciencia que el confesor tiene la obligación de corregir como se ha dicho antes, en cuanto que en la administración del sacramento el confesor es no sólo padre y mé- dico, sino también maestro y juez, tareas todas éstas que ciertamente ha de cumplir con la máxima misericordia y delicadeza, y buscando ante todo el bien espiritual de quien se acerca a la confesión.


Los aspectos doctrinales mencionados, que pertenecen a la enseñanza multisecular de la Iglesia, y muchos de ellos al magisterio ordinario y universal, no deben impedir a los sacerdotes empeñarse con espíritu abierto y corazón grande en un diálogo cordial de discernimiento. Como escribe Papa Francisco, se trata de “evitar el grave riesgo de mensajes equivocados, como la idea de que algún sacerdote puede conceder rápidamente ’excepciones’, o de que existen personas que pueden obtener privilegios sacramentales a cambio de favores. Cuando se encuentra una persona responsable y discreta, que no pretende poner sus deseos por encima del bien común de la Iglesia, con un pastor que sabe reconocer la seriedad del asunto que tiene entre manos, se evita el riesgo de que un determinado discernimiento lleve a pensar que la Iglesia sostiene una doble moral”13. Por el contrario, sabiendo que la variedad de las circunstancias particulares es muy grande, como muy grande es también su complejidad, los principios doctrinales antes mencionados deberían ayudar a discernir el modo de ayudar a las personas interesadas a emprender un camino de conversión que les conduzca a una mayor integración en la vida de la Iglesia y, cuando sea posible, a la recepción de los sacramentos de la Penitencia y de la Eucaristía.


“The above mentioned doctrinal aspects, which belong to the millennial teaching of the Church and many of them to the ordinary and universal Magisterium, should not stop  priests from entering with an open spirit into a cordial dialogue of discernment [blogger: “discernment” of what? Ans. Conscience]. As pope Francis writes: we are trying “avoid the grave risk of mistaken messages such as the idea that some priest can quickly grant ‘exceptions,’ or that there are some persons who have sacramental privileges in exchange for favors. When one finds a responsible and prudent person who does not try to impose his or her desires above the common good of the Church, with a pastor who knows how to recognize the seriousness of the business that he has in his hands, one avoids the risk, one avoids the discernment that could lead one to think that the Church has a double standard.” On the contrary, knowing that the variety of particular circumstances is very great as well as their complexity, the doctrinal principles mentioned above should be of help in discerning the way to help the interested person to undertake the way of conversion [Blogger: to what? The gift of oneself, in conscience, before God]:which may lead him/her to a greater integration in the life of the Church, and when possible to the reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist.

Remember: Having informed self of the Magisterial and perennial teaching of the Church, and having sought  prudent and informed consultation with a spiritual director, the ultimate court of appeal is one’s conscience where one decides about oneself alone with God. Re-read Ratzinger’s “Conscience and Truth” in this blog.

Marriage Is Good News: A Way of Sanctity

“Marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells” [Amoris Laetita, 315]
by Livio Melina:

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family welcomes with filial gratitude and respect the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia with which Pope Francis has completed the path begun by the Synod two years ago. We have also walked this path and wish to make our contribution by opening our mind and heart with clarity and parresia (speaking with frankness). We rely on the fruitful inspiration from St. John Paul II, “the Pope of the family,” developed throughout these 34 years of research and teaching, always founded on the experience of pastoral work with families.

Here I want to offer some brief reflections after a first reading of the apostolic exhortation. Later there will be time and opportunity to go deeper into the teachings of Pope Francis which are characterized above all by his great pastoral zeal to proclaim the Good News about the family from the point of view of mercy. He strives to meet families in the midst of their problems and weaknesses, while opening to all a path to conversion and growth in love.

In ecclesiastical circles and in public opinion at large, there has been great interest in one particular question which is definitely not the most important one from a pastoral perspective: the possibility of allowing divorced persons who have entered a new civil marriage to receive the Eucharist. But as Pope Francis himself has said, this was not the central issue in the Synod. We only need to consider the great challenges the Church faces regarding the family in the world today: the fact that young people hardly bother to get married; the loss of the role of marriage in society; the new ideologies that threaten the family; and above all and especially, the great task of bringing Christ to all families in a new evangelization…. Nevertheless, attention has centered on one specific point, seen as the ultimate test for an eventual change of position on the part of the Church (some even speak about a “revolution”), although perhaps, as has been said, only at the pastoral and not the doctrinal level.

A path to accompany and to integrate persons who are distanced

Consequently, we might legitimately ask: does this recently published text really represent a change in the traditional discipline of the Church, finally allowing divorced persons who have “married again” to receive Communion, at least in some cases? After having read the eighth chapter in which the question is considered, there is only one possible conclusion: the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia does not change the discipline of the Church which is based on doctrinal reasons set forth in Familiaris Consortio 84 and confirmed in Sacramentum Caritatis 29. Indeed, the body of the text in chapter eight does not even mention the Eucharist. Nowhere in the new post-synodal exhortation does Pope Francis say that divorced persons who have “married again” can approach the Eucharist without the condition of “living as brother and sister.” Hence this requirement of Familiar Consortio 84 and Sacrametum Caritatis 29 remains totally valid as a reference point for discernment. The minimum that should be asked to legitimize a change in a discipline rooted in the tradition and doctrine of the Church, firmly established by the Church’s Magisterium (cf. Mt 5:37), would be a clear statement free from all ambiguity. In fact, St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio and Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis expressed themselves with absolute clarity.

It is evident, then, that Pope Francis, who has insisted on the importance of the principle of synodality in the Church, has not wanted to go beyond the decisions of the Synod. Hence, we must clearly state that now too, after Amoris Laetitia, admitting divorced persons who have “married again” to Communion outside the situations foreseen in Familiaris Consortio 84 and Sacramentum Caritatis 29, goes contrary to the discipline of the Church, and that pointing to this as a possibility is contrary to the Magisterium of the Church.

On the other hand, what this new exhortation from Pope Francis offers is a path of integration that would allow these baptized persons gradually to come to a Gospel way of life. The objective norms do not take into account subjective culpability. Only God can judge what is in a person’s heart. But these norms express the demands and the goal to which all evangelization aspires: a life in complete conformity with the Gospel which the Church is called to offer to all men and women, without exceptions and without casuistry. This goal is possible because it is what the Gospel demands (no. 102). With respect to the negative moral norms that forbid intrinsically evil acts, there can be no exception or gradualness, no discernment that would legitimize such acts. This is the unambiguous teaching of St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.

What then is new in chapter eight? It is not the newness of a change in doctrine or in discipline. It lies in the merciful pastoral viewpoint of Pope Francis: in his desire to bring the Gospel to those who are estranged, doing so by following a logic of progressive integration. The exhortation points out that there can be circumstances in which those who objectively live in a state of sin, may not be subjectively guilty because of ignorance, fear, disordered affections or other reasons, which moral tradition has always recognized and the Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions in no. 1735. This is important to keep in mind: it means that we ought not to judge or condemn these persons, but rather be merciful and patient with them, as God the Father is with each one of us. We need to help each person find the path to convert from sin and grow in charity. While Amoris Laetitia states that it is impossible to declare that a person is in mortal sin without taking into account personal responsibility, which may be attenuated or even lacking (no. 301), this does not take away the need to make clear that, despite everything, we are dealing here with an objective state of sin (cf. no. 305).

A new pastoral perspective for the Church

But then, once we have excluded casuistic and tendentious interpretations, what does the Holy Father really want to tell us with this text? Here is the simple and decisive answer: he wants to announce a new way of evangelizing the family and invite everyone, in whatever situation they might find themselves, to undertake this journey: “Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together!” (no. 325) He himself suggested this key for interpretation in his interview when returning from the Holy Land in May 2014, when he said that the key question that inspired him to convoke the synod was not a matter of casuistry, but the urgency to proclaim “what Christ brings to the family.” In his exhortation, the Holy Father points out that unfortunately in our Western societies, even among many baptized persons, marriage is no longer perceived as good news. This is the true pastoral problem that the apostolic exhortation addresses in a courageous way. The Pope wants to open up a new path to proclaim the good news of marriage and the family in the life of the Church.

In order to understand this correctly, we need to realize that the Pope places at the center of his meditation the hymn to charity found in 1 Cor 13 (chapter IV), in which the apostle St. Paul speaks about charity as a “more excellent way.” Thereby the Pope shows that for him love is an ever new path to travel in complete fidelity to God’s plan for human love.

God’s design for human love naturally includes the fundamental dimensions that we find in St. John Paul II’s theology of the body and that have been taken up and highlighted by Pope Francis in the current document (cf. no. 150 ff): sexual differences, indissoluble and faithful unity, and openness to life.

[Blogger Comment: Notice that these three dimension are the Trinitarian meaning of person as relation: the sexual difference of male-female as mutually opposing relations of donation and reception; indissoluble because each person is  the action of self-giving; openness to life: unavoidable if the self-gift is total.]

Regarding this path of love, we highlight below several decisive elements in Amoris Laetitia that have great value for pastoral renewal.

  1. The centrality of the educational question, teaching people that matrimony is a vocation to love (chapter VII). The exhortation frequently speaks about a “journey,” “history,” “narration.” These are terms that show the importance of freedom in time: the Church not only “goes out” and draws close to people, embracing them as they are, but she makes herself their traveling companion, meeting them where they are and helping them to reach an attainable goal. Facing affective illiteracy and the frailty of freedom when it comes to making demanding and irrevocable decisions (“forever”), the answer can only be a renewed commitment to formation in the family, the Church and social groups.
  2. Clear teaching on conjugal love and fruitfulness stemming from the encyclical Humanae Vitae. We are asked once again take up the encyclical of Paul VI (the 50th anniversary of this document will be celebrated in 2018), finding there the Church’s teaching on how to bring the Gospel’s light to bear on sexual intimacy. It is a light that is very much needed in a culture that, after the sexual revolution, has forgotten the language of the body and sexuality (no. 222). This truly prophetic magisterium corresponds perfectly to the perspective of an integral human ecology.
  3. The recognition of the pastoral importance of the family in the Church. The family is not principally a pastoral problem among many other problems that need to be resolved. Rather it is the foremost means for evangelization in a more “family-based” Church, a Church that has the profile of the “family of God.” We need to set up a “virtuous circle and synergy” between the Church and the family. Just as the family is a “small domestic church,” so too the Church at large ought to have the features of “the family of God” (nos. 86-87), and these aspects should be lived in practice.
  4. The sacramental character of Christian life. Christianity is based on an historical event that affects us in the flesh and transforms our flesh. Pastoral plans drawn up over a table will not save us, and still less those that seek to adapt Christian morality to the mentality of a Western world in a state of crisis. That is why we need to overcome any tendency to view human love as merely emotional or conventionally contractual, and recover the meaning of marriage as the vocational “hinge” of Christian life, for those called to it. To weaken matrimony in its constitutive demands would mean to lose, along with the ontological realism of the sacraments, the divine gift that sustains the Church’s life.

Rising above a logical casuistry, there comes into view the expansive positive horizon that Pope Francis’ exhortation opens up for the Church’s mission, byemphasizing the educational question as the decisive pastoral question. The Pontifical John Paul II Institute feels a special responsibility here, because of the mission it has received and its extensive experience in the theological and pastoral fields.

Msgr. Livio Melina:  (born in Adria, Italy, on August 18, 1952) is a priest of the Catholic Church and an Italian theologian. Currently Melina is President of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, where he is also a tenured Professor of Moral Theology.

April 10, 2016



Consciousness and “Amoris Laetitia”

Karol Wojtyla does the phenomenology of consciousness in the following way: consciousness is the cognitive dimension of the experience of the self in act. The self is NOT consciousness, but becomes conscious of itself as the most real being I have access to since I experience myself directly in the moment of moving myself to act. There is no medium between me and myself. Hence, the greatest realism for the human person is the experience of myself in the free act. I can form a concept of myself – that is, I become an object for myself – by reflecting on the consciousness that took place in the experience of being a freely acting person Continue reading “Consciousness and “Amoris Laetitia””

Quick Before I Forget


It seems that the conservative backlash against “Amoris Laetitia” and Francis in general  is his jolly vagueness, or a happy-go-lucky imprecision.

This is unacceptable by those who have fought the hard fight against the fast and easy liberalism of the late 60’s and 70’s who took Vatican II and ran with it seemingly doing whatever they wanted. The doctrinal shibboleth was contraception, the clear violation of truth was legalized abortion and the peaceniks were against war which was supposedly waged on the altar of a just world order. Continue reading “Quick Before I Forget”