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Francis Invokes the Papal Primacy
What is coming next?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
August 29, 2017

Amoris Laetitia’s condonation of situation ethics via “discernment” of “concrete situations” among those living in adulterous “second marriages” threatens “to destroy the entire moral teaching of the Church” as a matter of “pure logic,” to quote the renowned philosopher Josef Siefert. Now there are rumors — well-founded Roman rumors, which tend to be true — of a coming application of the same “discernment” model to the Church’s teaching on the intrinsic evil of contraception.

Siefert’s concern centers on paragraph 303 of Amoris Laetitia (AL), wherein the following astonishing proposition is put forth:

“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God (Relatio Finalis 2015, 85) and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”

As Siefert rightly queries: “If only one case of an intrinsically immoral act can be permitted and even willed by God, must this not apply to all acts considered ‘intrinsically wrong’? If it is true that God can want an adulterous couple to live in adultery, should then not also the commandment ‘Do not commit adultery!’ be reformulated: ‘If in your situation adultery is not the lesser evil, do not commit it! If it is, continue living it!’?”

From this proposition, Siefert continues, would it not follow that “also the other 9 commandments, Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, and all past and present or future Church documents, dogmas, or councils that teach the existence of intrinsically wrong acts, fall? Is it then not any more intrinsically wrong to use contraceptives and is not Humanae Vitae in error that states unambiguously that it can never happen that contraception in any situation is morally justified, let alone commanded by God?”

These concerns take on even greater urgency in view of Pope Francis’ conspicuous invocation of the papal primacy during Mass on August 27. Quoth Francis:

“Jesus wanted for his church a visible center of communion in Peter and in those who would succeed him in the same primatial responsibility, which from the origins [of the Church] have been identified in the bishops of Rome, the city where Peter and Paul gave the witness of blood….

“Jesus understood that thanks to the faith given by the Father, there is a solid foundation on which he can build his church. And so he says to Simon: ‘You are Peter — that is, a stone, a rock — and on this rock I will build my church.’”

Perfectly true, of course. But what does it mean in the context of this tumultuous pontificate? The message was not lost on the Jesuit magazine America, the ultra-progressive journal which has consistently featured and promoted what the world hails as “the Francis revolution.” America notes approvingly that “Though he [Francis] makes no direct reference to them, his words would appear to be a gentle but firm reminder especially to that tiny minority of cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful, who are challenging his authority, especially over his post-synod exhortation on the family, ‘The Joy of Love.

Quite simply, prepare for the worst: an attempt to abuse papal authority to compel acceptance of that which is clearly contrary to the Faith — a demand that whatever Pope Francis says about contraception or any other matter of faith and morals must be accepted simply and only because he has said it and he is the Pope, even if he has contradicted all of his predecessors on the same matter. That is, an attempt to impose sheer papal positivism upon the Church without regard to objective truth.

That would be the last act in the drama now playing itself out in the Church, whose climax can only be that heavenly intervention promised by the Mother of God at Fatima. And so it is that our fear of the worst is mingled with confidence in Heaven’s ultimate resolution of this ongoing disaster, a kind of Hurricane Harvey in the Church.