The Current Ecclesial Chaos Originates from One Subversive Error
by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 31, 2018
In this, the fifth year of the current pontificate, the signs that Pope Francis is preparing for another disastrous “paradigm shift” — to go along with his approval of the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion — are beginning to multiply. I have noted some of the signs in this column, whereas Sandro Magister has already connected enough of the dots to write a piece entitled “Farewell, Humanae Vitae. Francis liberalizes the Pill.”
None of this should have come as a surprise, however. For Francis the liberal Jesuit long ago announced the error that would constitute the mainspring of his astounding, relentless attack on the absolutely binding negative precepts of the divine and natural law, made explicit in the Sixth Commandment. All of the verbiage in Amoris Laetitia boils down to the subversive proposition Francis uttered in a book-interview back in 2014 with Ferruccio De Bortoli, director of Corriere della Sera. In that book, entitled I’m a priest, I like it, we read the following concerning Pope Francis’ view of Humanae Vitae, the document he praises even as he undermines it completely:
“Everything depends on how Humanae Vitae is interpreted….The question is not that of changing doctrine, but of going deep and making sure that pastoral practice takes into account the situations and what persons are able to do.”
[Tutto dipende come viene interpretata L’Humanae Vitae….La questione non è quella di cambiare la dottrina, ma di andare in profondità e far sì che la pastorale tenga conto delle situazioni e di ciò che per le persone è possibile fare.]
In other words, according to Francis, people are not bound absolutely to obey the negative precept of the natural law forbidding contraception if, so they claim, they are not able to do so in their particular “situations.” By this utterance — as incredible as it may seem — the current occupant of the See of Peter would reduce the natural moral law to a mere benchmark to be achieved if “possible,” not the strict Commandment of God that His grace enables one to keep. The moral law is deemed impossible of fulfillment for certain people who believe they have good excuses for their immoral behavior and the Sixth Commandment is rewritten to state: Whenever Possible, Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.
Pope Francis thus pits himself against the constant and infallible teaching of the Catholic Church as summarized (addressing the errors of the Protestants) by the Council of Trent:
“But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should use that rash statement, once forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified.
“For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes thee to do what thou canst and to pray for what thou canst not, and aids thee that thou mayest be able.
“His commandments are not heavy, and his yoke is sweet and burden light.”
Francis’ view that the faithful, even with the assistance of divine grace, are unable to fulfill the Commandments of God, and are thus bound by the moral law only to satisfy whatever portion they deem “possible” also encounters Trent’s anathema:
“Canon 18. If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe, let him be anathema.”
If anyone can explain how Francis’ opinion that adherence to the moral law is to be limited in “pastoral practice” by “what persons are able to do” does not incur the Tridentine anathema, I would be interested to hear the explanation. Let the explainer also address how Francis’ utter novelty can be reconciled with the teaching of John Paul II in line with all of Tradition:
As the truly apocalyptic contours of an unparalleled pontificate threaten to overshadow the entire Church, we can only appeal with confidence to the Virgin Mother of God for the maternal intercession that will bring an end to this madness — in God’s good time and according to the plan His Mother revealed at Fatima. Until then, God willing, this apostolate will continue to defend the truth that makes us free against the spirit of the age to which so much of the Church’s human element has surrendered.
“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behaviour is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbour. It is prohibited — to everyone and in every case — to violate these precepts. They oblige everyone, regardless of the cost….
“[T]here are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response — a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.
“The Church has always taught that one may never choose kinds of behaviour prohibited by the moral commandments expressed in negative form in the Old and New Testaments. As we have seen, Jesus himself reaffirms that these prohibitions allow no exceptions: ‘If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments... You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness’ (Mt 19:17-18).” [Veritatis Splendor, n. 52]