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The Amoris Laetitia Game:
Keep Them Guessing While
We Do What We Planned to Do

by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 4, 2017

Only the terminally naïve continue to maintain that, with the publication of Amoris Laetitia (AL), Pope Francis and his collaborators have not knowingly and willingly authorized the absolution and admission to Holy Communion of “certain” people who are involved in adulterous “second marriages” and who intend to continue their adulterous relations.

Recall the infamous guidelines for implementing AL, published by the bishops of Buenos Aires, wherein we read:

“When the concrete circumstances of a couple make it feasible, especially when both are Christians with a journey of faith, one may propose that they commit to living in continence.”…

“In other more complex circumstances, and when it is not possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the aforementioned option may not, in fact, be viable. Nonetheless, it is equally possible to undertake a journey of discernment…. [I]f one arrives at the recognition that, in a concrete case, there are limitations that diminish responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), particularly when a person judges that he would fall into a subsequent fault by damaging the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia opens up the possibility of access to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (cf. notes 336 and 351).”

In other words, the constant teaching of the Church — affirmed by John Paul II in Familiaris consortio — that no one involved in an adulterous union may be admitted to the sacraments without a commitment to continence is now reduced to a mere “proposal” from which one may be exempt depending on “complex circumstances.”

Recall also the letter Francis sent to the bishops of Buenos Aires wherein he approved of their guidelines as the only correct interpretation of AL: “The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.”  That letter was later published in the original Spanish on the Vatican website.

Since then, the “normalist” brigade has been working furiously to deny that Pope Francis has done what he has done, seizing on bits and pieces of his other pronouncements to argue, in desperation, that AL has been misinterpreted by its critics and that Francis never intended to allow the admission of public adulterers to the sacraments in any case.

For example, the normalists cite Francis’ address to the Roman Rota on November 25, wherein he described his radical reform of the annulment process as a way “to be close to the solitude and suffering of the faithful who expect from ecclesial justice the competent and factual help to restore peace to their consciences and God’s will on readmission to the Eucharist.”  

See!, the normalists declare, Pope Francis does not intend that anyone in a “second marriage” be admitted to the sacraments unless he or she has first obtained an annulment.  But, as Father Brian Harrison notes, “the Pope’s observation fails to state or imply what the dubia cardinals and others troubled by Amoris Laetitia rightly wish to hear him teach, namely, that if and only if a declaration of nullity is granted may those in question eventually be readmitted to the Eucharist. Francis’ November 25 speech leaves open the possibility that some such persons may be absolved and readmitted to the Eucharist by a different path – one of ‘dialogue,’ ‘accompanying’ and ‘discernment’ – that requires neither a commitment to continence nor the Church’s recognition that the first marriage was invalid.”

And, sure enough, Francis’ “no other interpretations” letter to the Buenos Aires bishops was published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), the Holy See’s official compilation of papal pronouncements, in the volume designated 2016/10, with a papal rescript, dated June 5, 2017, in which Cardinal Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, declares on behalf of Pope Francis that the letter is “authentic Magisterium.”

In August of this year, the canonist Ed Peters minimized the import of the letter precisely because it had not been published in the AAS, which, under Canon 8 § 1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, is the place where “Universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated by publication…” Peters (evidently unaware of publication in the AAS two months before) argued at the time that “for over a century the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Documents of the Apostolic See)… has been the nearly-exclusive vehicle for publishing the official, binding documents of the Holy See.”

Well, what now Dr. Peters?  And what now for the normalist brigade in general?

What is going on here is an old game from the Modernist playbook of ecclesial subversion. It is well explained here by Professor Claudio Pierantoni:

“[T]o think that a few orthodox sentences that ‘could be taken’ to express the correct doctrine in the disputed issues can quiet papal critics shows a thorough lack of understanding of Francis’ tactics. He has been shown on quite a number of occasions ‘quieting’ his interlocutor with sentences that ‘can be taken’ in an orthodox sense; but without excluding ‘exceptions’ or ‘precisions’ that come from the opposite point of view…. So, there is nothing surprising in the fact that he can say many things that can be, or at least sound orthodox.”

It is long past time for the normalists to face reality.  As Prof. Pierantoni observes, one must conclude “after more than one year and a series of occasions that have been given to the Pope in order that he clarify his position, that he [Francis] doesn’t really maintain the doctrines to which the dubia make reference…”

While Pierantoni concludes that Francis has “fallen into heresy,” that ultimately is not for any of us, but only for the Church (an ecumenical council or subsequent Pope as in the case of Honorius I), to judge definitively. What is undeniable, however, is that the Church is now afflicted by an unprecedented pontificate that is openly undermining “the dogma of the Faith,” to recall the beginning of the Virgin’s prophecy in the Third Secret of Fatima, the remainder of which the Vatican has not permitted us to see — for reasons that, by now, should be obvious.