“Amoris Laetitia” and the chasm in modern moral theology

Can the apostolic exhortation help bridge the chasm that, since 1968, has divided moral theologians in matters of sexual morality?

Pope Francis prays at the tomb of Blessed Paul VI in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica Aug. 6, the 39th anniversary of Pope Paul's death. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Editor’s note: The following essay is the first of two pieces by Father Twomey about the continued controversy over Amoris Laetitia

The controversy surrounding Amoris Laetitia continues unabated. Throughout the world, bishops are issuing at times radically contradictory guidelines to their flocks on the implementation of this apostolic exhortation, the end-product of two Synods of Bishops. The dubia submitted by the four cardinals to the Pope and the prefect of the CDF remain unanswered.

What has gone wrong?

Ever since the publication of Humanae Vitae, the Church has been, it seems to me, in a quasi-material schism (if one can use such a term), divided between those relatively few theologians who accepted HV and the majority (at least in the northern hemisphere) who rejected it—and who claimed to be “mainstream.” The teaching of HV was about two interrelated levels of discourse: sexual morality (quite obviously) and fundamental moral theology (the preserve of the expert, as it were, though it profoundly affects all). In turn, both discourses resonate massively with those powerful cultural currents—such as the 1960s’ sexual revolution and moral relativism—which characterize our times. It is those cultural currents that give a certain plausibility to those who rejected HV .

With regard to the first level, that of sexual ethics, it seems to me that with AL the Pope has in effect brought the two sides of the existential “schism” together in his rich elaboration of the nature of conjugal love in Chapters Four and Five, which Francis himself considers to be the most important chapters of his apostolic exhortation. He quotes or reiterates the essential teaching of HV five times and uses many of the insights of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body. His synthesis here, I think, does indeed amount to a genuine evolution of doctrine with its emphasis on the subjective level and, especially, the recovery of the significance of love as a passion inspired by St. Thomas Aquinas (# 142-162). Both dissenting and non-dissenting theologians can benefit from these central texts.

What is not so impressive is the total silence on the virtue of chastity, apart from one innocuous mention in #206, without which the specific teaching of HV cannot be fully appreciated. Indeed to speak of love as a passion, as AL does so eloquently, implies at the very least the need to moderate and channel passion, which is the role of the virtue of chastity. The virtue of chastity, in turn, is measured by the virtue of justice: what is owed to the other (including third parties) involved in a sexual relationship.

Where does AL stand in relation to the second level, that of fundamental moral theology? One bishop, who does not claim to be a moral theologian, perceptively observed that, by swinging the pendulum back to the subject pole, the Pope is taking an approach which in our milieu has been in vogue since 1968. Indeed, this approach is redolent of what became known in moral theology as proportionalism, at the core of which is the rejection of intrinsically wrong actions or, in other words, non-negotiable, absolute moral norms. The possibility of admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments in certain, severely restricted circumstances does, at first glance, appear to echo proportionalism. And this, it would seem, it the primary concern of the four cardinals as well as lay theologians such as John Finnis, Germain Grisez, and Robert Spaemann, to mention but a few.

Another echo of proportionalism is the description of the Church’s teaching on marriage as an ideal. When I first encountered this more than 30 years ago in my students in Maynooth, I fought many a battle to convince them that in morals we speak not about ideals but norms. Ideals are by implication assumed to be practically unattainable. Norms determine what is normative or even normal; they are the standards by which to judge the moral quality of our actions. It could be argued that the author of Amoris Laetitia is aware of this distinction, since, although the text often speaks of the “ideal” we should have in mind, on one occasion “excessive idealization” (#36) is expressly denounced. Perhaps it is more correct to say that “ideal” in this context is to be understood in terms of a spiritual goal, and not some (non-existent) “ideal marriage” per se.

It is long accepted that the pre-Vatican II moral theology of the manualist tradition was characterized by a legalistic mindset. What is not always recognized is that both those who initially rejected the fundamental moral theological teaching of  HV (#14) and those who defended it shared in fact the same fundamentally legalistic mindset. Veritatis Splendor attempted (authoritatively and convincingly) to resolve that debate, but the debate itself was based on a legalistic approach to morality. With the publication of the Catechism, thanks primarily to the influence of the Dominican moral theologian Father Servais Pinckaers, the Church recovered a radically different approach, that of St. Thomas and the whole classical tradition. Virtue now is—or should be—the overarching context for moral discourse (intrinsic to which are also moral norms and rules but now understood in the context of the process of becoming virtuous). But this paradigm shift, it seems, has not yet, on the whole, seeped into the consciousness of many theologians and bishops. Has the adoption of this new approach to morality (the language of virtue) influenced Amoris Laetitia?

The matter of casuistry

Casuistry is one of the most salient traits of a legalistic approach to moral theology—and it marked the controversy surrounding the two Synods on the Family from the very start. Cardinal Kasper’s address to the consistory in February 2014 set the (legalistic) parameters for the debate. That address culminated in two difficult moral casus affecting the divorced and remarried. In other words, the cardinal was engaging in casuistry. It is surely significant that there is no mention of such specific cases in the apostolic exhortation, though there are echoes of them in the footnotes. Indeed, Pope Francis states that “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules [Spanish: una nueva normative general; Italian: nuova normativa generale] canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (#300).

Nonetheless, the term “case” or “cases” occurs on a number of occasions, above all in Chapter 8 (# 79, 241, 294, 298,300, 302, 305), admittedly without mentioning any specific casus in detail. [1]  Moreover, by speaking about “particular situations” (#304) or “exceptional situations” (#307) the text would appear to be simply using other terms (preferred by situation ethicists) for the traditional term of casus. And yet, casuistry is rejected as “intolerable” in the first reference (#304), while relativism is explicitly rejected in the second (#307). [2]

Of note is the fact that three times in Chapter 8 (#300 and 302) the term “consequences” is used, a term that is peculiar to the school of proportionalism, which is a type  of consequentialism. Characteristic of this moral theology is the denial of moral absolutes, intrinsically wrong acts; instead it is claimed that moral actions receive their moral quality from the foreseen consequences of an action (the calculus of which is thought to define the moral weight to be given to an action). Proportionalists claim that, “in exceptional circumstances,” one may, for sufficient reasons unique to the acting subject, do something that would otherwise be termed immoral or wrong and so, generally speaking, should be avoided.

Pope Francis has left us in no doubt as to his attitude to casuistry, which he castigated in no uncertain terms in one of his daily meditations at Mass (May 20, 2016). But he seems to be blissfully unaware of the fundamentally casuistic approach of those, who like Cardinal Kasper, campaign to admit remarried divorcees to Communion. One key text for a proper interpretation of compassion in AL is, it seems to me, the following: “The answers given to the pre-synodal consultation showed that most people in difficult or critical situations do not seek pastoral assistance, since they do not find it sympathetic, realistic or concerned for individual cases.  This should spur us to try to approach marriage crises with greater sensitivity to their burden of hurt and anxiety” (#234).

That Our Lord’s approach to sinners should be our model today as pastors, is, I believe, the main message of what is truly an exhortation—and it is to be welcomed. But it should also be noted that the emotive drawing power of proportionalist proponents was the claim that their theology was the compassionate option, when compassion amounted to little more than indulgence to human weakness. Perhaps the most encouraging result of the controversies surrounding the Synods and AL is that those in “irregular” situations who seek help can now expect to find a more sympathetic ear when they approach a confessor.

The trouble is that some interpreters of Chapter 8, including prominent bishops, encourage them to expect more.

The avoidance of any explicit mention of Kasper’s two case studies could be understood as an attempt to move away from legalism. That would seem to be the main thrust of the text’s explicit rejection of casuistry (reiterated by the Pope in his address to the General Congregation of the Jesuits on October 24, 2016). More significant is the stress on the fact that we are viatores journeying on the way to perfection, to what AL calls the ideal (used here, I think, in the sense of the goal of our spiritual lives). All of these are associated with the discourse of virtue. Even more important is the Pope’s stress on the working of God’s grace in the hearts of all. (The term grace occurs some 54 times.) In other words, there is recognition of the need for continuing conversion. The recovery of virtue as the language of ethical discourse does introduce a more dynamic understanding of morality.

What is often ignored is that the recovery of virtue should also help to recover the centrality of the New Law of Christ for moral reflection and for living, as we know from St. Thomas’ treatment of virtue. By the New Law is meant our participation in the divine life, theōsis. We are all, without exception, called to holiness—and, it could be added, heroic virtue—and, thanks to the sacraments and the life of grace which makes us sharers in the divine life, are capable of attaining it. [3] Al refers four times in passing to sanctification (#301, 305, 316) but does not develop the theme.

The real question is: do the recommendations of Chapter 8 aid or do they undermine the universal call to holiness?

Communion and conscience

With regard to what one commentator called the “objective” storm-center of the debate, i.e., the admission of remarried divorcees to Communion in rare situations, Church tradition is unambiguous that there is something non-negotiable on the need for (unannulled) divorced and remarried couples to live in continence or at least to strive to live thus, if they are to receive the sacraments. That nuance (the decision to strive to live in continence) is of great pastoral significance. It will involve a difficult struggle, one aided by grace; and there is no holiness without a share in the Cross. Continence in such situations is non-negotiable because of the human/sacral significance of the conjugal act. But it is also because of the demands of the virtue of chastity, chastity being a conditio sine qua non for human flourishing and achieving the goal of holiness.

What Chapter 8 clearly addresses are those “situations” concerning remarried divorcees, where the first marriage is assumed to be valid and so cannot be annulled. Paragraph 300 describes possible ways of approaching on examination of conscience in the internal forum (the sacrament of reconciliation). Paragraphs 301-312, which cover the Church’s teaching on mitigating circumstances, provides the key to understanding Chapter 8. And here the accent is not on objective morality but on subjective culpability, which calls for “practical discernment in particular circumstances” (#304), whereby the penitent seeks to discern what God is saying to him.  On the part of the confessor, “understanding in the face of exceptional circumstances” (#307) is called for. Which brings us into the realm of conscience.

The notion of conscience as found in AL has come in for considerable criticism. The term as used in the text is indeed lacking in clarity, and so is potentially misleading. Sometimes the term is used to mean prudential judgement (#37, 42, 265), and once to mean the virtue of prudence (#265). Three times it refers in general terms to the formation of conscience (#37, 222, 302). In one crucial paragraph (#298) it is used twice to mean “being conscious of the moral significance,” though the second usage could be understood to mean a clear conscience in the strict sense of the term. There is no mention of our proneness to self-deception (cf. Ps 18[19]:12-13). The spiritual practice known as the examination of conscience (as in preparation for confession) is mentioned twice (#300, 302). What has caused most controversy is the use of the term “conscience” in #303.

Firstly, the text calls for a better incorporation of conscience (with regard to mitigating factors affecting subjective guilt about past actions) “into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.” That is fine, but what is meant by “conscience” here? We are told that “every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace.” What is an enlightened conscience? Is it one enlightened by the Church’s moral teaching?  The context seems to suggest otherwise, since we read:

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, 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.

This is a description of prudential judgement arrived at through the process of “discernment.” It is not what the classical tradition calls synderesis, or primordial conscience. This is conscience in the strict sense of the term (our sensorium of transcendence, according to Eric Voegelin) which is awakened by our encounter with the truth, with goodness and with beauty. As recent scholarship (correcting Josef Pieper) has demonstrated, primordial conscience cannot be identified with the virtue of prudence since it measures every aspect of the exercise of the virtue (cf. Stuart P. Chalmers, Conscience in Context: Historical and Existential Perspectives, 2013, pp 303-317). And when we speak of primordial conscience, we are no longer speaking about “rules” or guidelines extrinsic to the person, but rather the moral demands arising from our common humanity. Conscience in the original sense of the term (rooted in our instinct to do good and avoid evil), as Newman understood and Joseph Ratzinger has clarified in our own day, is what defines us as human; it is the measure of every motivation, action, and circumstance (including consequences). Enlightened by Revelation, Church teaching confirms and clarifies what we all know in our heart of hearts about the moral order written into our being by the Creator (cf. Rom 2:14-15).

A deficient understanding of conscience (reducing it to, or conflating it with, a prudential judgement) enabled the West German Bishops’ Conferences in the Königsteiner Erklärung to give verbal assent to the teaching of Paul VI while in effect undermining it by having recourse to the proportionalist notion of conscience, i.e.  reducing it to a prudential judgement. Since that can be ruled out here, the use of the term “conscience” in Amoris Laetita #303 can only mean making a prudent decision as to where a spouse in an irregular situation stands with regard to their striving to live in harmony with the Church’s full teaching on marriage and what steps can be taken to reach that goal.

In his address to the Jesuit General Congregation, Pope Francis claimed that modern moral theology (with explicit reference to Bernard Häring as an example) is no longer a “casuistry” and that AL is part of the recovery of the moral theology of St. Thomas. Let us leave aside the question as to whether or not we can do moral theology, including virtue ethics, without recourse to some form of casuistry. The crucial question we must pose here is the following: is it possible that, while using terms taken from the post-Vatican II school of proportionalism, AL is now putting them to new use, namely in terms of virtue ethics?

The traditional list of factors that impede subjective culpability (#302), which were developed in the legalistic, manualist tradition of moral theology (intended for training confessors to use in the internal forum) refer to individual human actions (in the past). They retain their validity. It is right to be reminded that the guilt or personal responsibility for past actions that have placed people in their present irregular situation could have been mitigated by various factors, so that “ it is 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” (#301; cf. #305). AL seems to be speaking about helping people to find a way out of their present, objectively wrongful situation so that they can live more in accord with the fullness of Church teaching. In other words, it is to be presumed, that they are people whose primordial conscience has been touched anew by God and who now must show signs of being willing to move towards abstinence in their irregular marital situation—or, at least, who are sincerely resolved to strive to do so.

This willingness is, it seems to me, what the apostolic exhortation calls the law of gradualness (cf. # 295), following St. John Paul II. The assumption here is that the penitent honestly recognizes that his or her present situation is objectively wrong as taught by Church teaching (and known inchoately to all in their heart of hearts). Further, it is assumed that he or she shows some genuine willingness to strive to live in harmony with Church teaching (i.e., chastely, though the term is not used), while honestly recognizing that such would be very difficult in the present circumstances for various reasons, such as those suggested in #298. In traditional parlance, the penitent must give some indication of a genuine purpose of amendment. In footnote 364, the Pope notes: “Perhaps out of a certain scrupulosity, concealed beneath a zeal for fidelity to the truth, some priests demand of penitents a purpose of amendment so lacking in nuance that it causes mercy to be obscured by the pursuit of a supposedly pure justice…” (cf. also footnote 351).

What AL offers pastors are a number of practical guidelines to help confessors better to understand the plight of faithful caught in such situations, for which they may not be entirely responsible, and to discern the authenticity of such a purpose of amendment, however fragile. Here access to the sacraments may be possible, or even recommended, so that the one seeking guidance from the priest receives the grace to progress step by step, presumably towards the goal of complete abstinence from sexual intercourse—despite frequently failing (cf. especially footnotes 336, 351). In another footnote, Pope Francis recalls that “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties” (#305, quoting Evangelii Gaudium #44; see also #60, 164, 271). The frequent mention of the reality of grace in the document reminds us that it is God who is at work in the souls of all those in irregular situations, and that to him nothing is impossible, something we pastors don’t always, perhaps, take sufficiently seriously. This does not take away from the fact that, failing in their resolve, they need to return to confession for absolution and receive the grace to continue to struggle.

Positives and negatives

To return to the broader question as to the implications of the apostolic exhortation for fundamental moral theology, it seems to me that AL, though echoing many of the assumptions, and even using some of the language, of proportionalism, avoids its pitfalls, namely the denial of intrinsically wrong acts (objective morality) or the notion of a fundamental option (only mentioned in footnote #344, with reference to St. John Paul II’s critique of same). It could be said that those theologians who initially defended the fundamental moral teaching of HV were so focused on upholding the notion of intrinsic moral evil actions (I prefer the term “intrinsic wrongdoing”) that they tended to downplay the other two sets of conditions which determine the moral quality of a human act, namely motivation and circumstances. The latter were developed by the proportionalists who denied absolute moral norms. Likewise, the classical distinction between objective sinfulness and subjective guilt, so important in the confessional, tended to be downplayed or even forgotten, especially by lay moral theologians who wouldn’t have the experience of hearing confessions. What was, perhaps, the seed of truth in the notion of fundamental option was the understanding that morality involves more than isolated, individual actions. The recovery of virtue, it seems to me, has resulted in a more dynamic and personal understanding of morality: now the significance of each moral act for the acting subject is recognized but also the fact that each particular human action conditions, as it were, the following one, positively or negatively, leading to a habitus of virtue or of vice.

Evidently, there is more to be said on this, but this must suffice for the present. To reiterate, AL simply mentions the possibility of admittance to the sacraments (in a footnote!). What is not recommended is a general procedure. The text calls for understanding and discernment amidst the ambiguity that characterizes the human condition. In moral matters, as Aristotle recognized, we don’t have the clarity of mathematical exactness.

But it must also be admitted that the silence on absolute moral norms, negative in nature, precisely where one would have expected a mention in the text, is open to misunderstanding, despite an explicit rejection of priests “quickly granting ‘exceptions’ (#300)”. And that, it seems to me, is the reason why the four cardinals, in the spirit of the Pope’s appeal for frankness (parrhesia), wrote for clarification on the dubia. The inadequate understanding of virtue ethics is most evident in AL #302, in its interpretation of St. Thomas (STh I-II, q 94, art. 4): “Although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects.” As has been pointed out by others, this applies to the general principles of natural law, not to its negative prohibitions, which are always to be avoided.

The four cardinals’ call for clarification on the negative prohibitions is both understandable and urgent. The CDF needs only reply in the traditional mode of a simply denial or affirmation to dubia to clear the air. Theologians and pastors can then begin to work towards a new synthesis. For what is at stake is the question of the existence of certain actions, which by their very nature contradict our human nature created in the image of God and so profoundly affect our relationship to God and neighbor. They are the non-negotiable limits set by primordial conscience, within which every prudential judgement is made. Doubt as to their existence is existentially unsettling. It also undermines the Church’s mission to liberate humanity by speaking the truth in love.

In conclusion, I am convinced that Amoris Laetita can help to bridge the chasm that, since 1968, has divided moral theologians in matters of sexual morality. My hope is that, in time, the apostolic exhortation might also lead to the bridging of the even deeper chasm which still divides fundamental moral theologians. It is part of a work in progress.

Endnotes:

[1] AL seems to come closest to casuistry in ## 302 and 305, and in the footnotes 336 and 351, where the text appears to be very ambiguous indeed.

[2] The fact that the Italian and Spanish term norma is rendered in English as “rule” furthers the impression for the English speaker that the mindset of the writer(s) of Chapter 8 is a legalist one.

[3] One misses in the public discussion of AL – and in the statements of various bishops and episcopal conferences – sufficient attention to the call to holiness.

About Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, SVD 7 Articles

Fr. D. Vincent Twomey, S.V.D. holds both a Ph.D. in Theology and is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland. A former doctoral student under Joseph Ratzinger, Twomey is the author of several books, including The End of Irish Catholicism?, Pope Benedict XVI: The Conscience of Our Age (A Theological Portrait), and Moral Theology after Humanae Vitae. In 2011, Benedict XVI awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal to Fr. Twomey for outstanding services rendered to the Church and to the Holy Father.

64 Comments

  1. It is almost shocking how anyone can maintain at this point that AL does not depart from basic moral principles, or at least opened the door for such by a deliberate ambiguity, and does not provide a general procedure for admitting people in situations of grave sin to receive the eucharist. In the last 1-2 weeks we had two further signs of all this: Fr. Antonio Spadaro(whom evidence suggests was also one of the ghostwriters of AL) gave an interview expressing, for example, that it is possible for something to be justified in willfully, knowingly, transgressing an absolute moral prohibition through “discernment.” And he attributes this and his other positions to Francis. And a few days later Francis’ letter to the Argentine bishop’s conference was published on the Vatican website, obviously trying to confer on it some formal/official status, and Spadaro argues it is an authoritative act of the magisterium. (Whether this qualifies as some authentic act of his teaching office is another question). In this letter Francis states that the conferences’ interpretation of AL is correct and the only one. Francis has also given direct approval to the guidelines of the Maltese and German conferences. If one reads these three guidelines it is clear they contradict perennial moral principles as well as undermining the sacraments of confession and marriage.

    • David, there is no way that you know that all divorced and re-married couples are committing the grave sin of adultery. It all depends whether the first marriage was valid or not. The obtainment of, or the lack of, a declaration of nullity does nothing to alter the underlying reality of whether or not the marriage was truly valid or not. Although Judicial Vicars may be very bright people, they are not God, and they do not judge a person’s soul, nor can their sentence alter reality. The most that D&R folk without annulments can be accused of if they receive Holy Communion is, and only possibly, the sin of presumption.

      • And if no one can judge a person’s soul then neither can the divorced and remarried judge their own.

        Therefore, since they cannot condemn nor acquit themselves, they are therefore sinning because they know that the objective rule is that they should not be having sexual relations other than their legally deemed spouse.

        • Hi Marc Alcan, Thanks for the reply and the attempt to answer my point. My response to you would be that the person is in different relationship to his own soul than an outsider is to his soul. Although no one is the judge of their case, or the judge of their own soul, they are their own soul and so they must choose their acts, and therefore, it is these “actions” that will either acquit or condemn their soul before Our Lord Jesus Christ at their particular judgments. (By their “actions” he shall know them.) So although every person is supposed to follow the objective rules of the Church, the objective rule may not correctly apply to them, and so any action on their part that contradicts the objective rule may not “condemn” them to the Judge who knows all, and can read their hearts. A person is obligated to follow what they perceive is reality and the truth. If the person does otherwise, they would be a hypocrite, and living a lie – being a white washed sepulcher.

          • “A person is obligated to follow what they perceive is reality and the truth.”

            No, a person is obligated to follow reality and truth. Given that a person’s “perception” is very likely to be heavily influenced by what he wants to do (“oh, but I am so in luuuuuuuuuuv with this person that I just know my first marriage was invalid!”), he needs to submit his case to a tribunal that is less likely to be influenced by wishful thinking.

            Otherwise we end up with things like, “oh, but my *perception* is that contraception is just fine.” “Well, I know stealing is wrong but my perception is that his ownership of the item was invalid and therefore it is not wrong fo me to take it.”

            One is to follow one’s *well-formed* conscience.

          • You said: The most that D&R folk without annulments can be accused of if they receive Holy Communion is, and only possibly, the sin of presumption.

            Well that is just flat out false. If their previous marriage is valid, then they are committing adultery.

            Since they cannot make a determination of the validity of their own marriage, then it is not “just” presumption (presumption is a very grave sin), there is also willful disobedience of the teaching of the Church.

            “Thou shalt not judge” cuts both ways. We cannot judge our own state of soul so we defer to the wisdom of the Church. We are fallen creatures who give ourselves a free pass and more likely to excuse our sins than not.

            If one refuses to obey the teaching of the Church on this, then we ask: is one really a Catholic after all?

          • Further, as Leslie has pointed out, your post is mire in relativism where one makes one’s own rules and determines the truth for one’s self.

            Conscience is more than just our perception of reality and truth. If “A person is obligated to follow what they perceive is reality and the truth” then Hitler and Stalin and every vile human being that ever lived are very moral men.

          • Hope this helps:

            Session 24 Council of Trent

            Canon XII.-If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema

  2. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that Pope Francis merely stated a problem, or a set of conundrums, and then did not resolve them. Or, that Pope Francis brings up some interesting questions, that might, upon further reflection by some deep people, ultimately bring about some sort of new development in moral theology.

    If so, then this is thin gruel for the guidance of bishops, and bishops should not change church practice based on AL.

    What I don’t get is the idea that Pope Francis is said to bring up the question of subjective culpability for the first time and how it should be applied. Certainly all of that has been addressed for years by the catechism, etc. Priests have been doing that juggling act for years in the confessional. Or are you saying that in the presence of absolute moral norms, there might be cases where culpability should be taken into account without somehow getting into proportionalism?

  3. The appeal of AL is compelling. Fr Twomey discusses the manner in which the Pontiff seeks to offer a solvency to the dilemma of many D&R who desire it. If AL is an intended bridge to resolve the chasm its effect is divisive. Fr Twomey suggests the theological rudiments are contained in AL for the Church to eventually construct a unifying moral theology for D&R. But he doesn’t identify what these premises are expect to quote the misinterpretation of the Pontiff on Aquinas in ST 1a2ae 94, 4, which addresses the variable conditions for implementing Justice. Justice remains intact whereas the Pontiff suggests this may be applied to the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. The theme of AL is to suggest even confirm that exceptions are virtually inevitable and “We can no longer say D&R are living in sin”. While that is hypothetically true there is no means to prove it without the tangible evidence required by a tribunal. Discernment cannot possibly determine that. The fallacy is a “religious deception” [see CCC 675) that encourages all priests, now compelled to discern and decide, a value judgment based on possibility in favor of mercy that will resolve and satisfy all. There is no other option in this proposal when there is no evidence. Fr Twomey’s view is benign but inaccurate and accomplishes nothing more than to increase the chasm by opining someone will eventually pull the rabbit out of the hat. There is one determinant for resolution. That is the recognition that morality is determined by acts. The object of all human acts must be ordered to God. Confirmed by Aquinas and John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. And the only verification of that are Christ’s words.

    • “While that is hypothetically true there is no means to prove it without the tangible evidence required by a tribunal. Discernment cannot possibly determine that. The fallacy is a “religious deception” [see CCC 675) that encourages all priests, now compelled to discern and decide, a value judgment based on possibility in favor of mercy that will resolve and satisfy all. There is no other option in this proposal when there is no evidence.”

      This is a very astute remark. I wonder, however, is Fr. Twomey and others might not respond that there is no necessary reason to presume that a tribunal is infallible in its determination regarding this matter, since ultimately, it too requires ‘discernment’ and interpretation on the part of those exercising its juridical role.

      On the other hand, it is possible that a well-formed pastor might make a true discernment of the particulars in a given case.

      Of course, one ought not, and can not, presume that well-formed pastors are commonly available.

      • Leon. BXVI addresses the dilemma that inevitably transpires. It’s true a good pastor may make a correct discernment without evidence. Without evidence there’s no reasonable certitude. If evidence were discovered the D&R’s case should be referred to a tribunal. Nonetheless that isn’t the true dilemma. What some clergy have done long before AL is exactly what you suggest. Although I disagree with that the Pontiff as seen in the words quoted by BXVI despite his appeal elsewhere for a narrowly focused policy is promoting a universal policy encouraging all priests to make this discernment. He appeals to the widely held sentiment that we’re concerned with a broken system of matrimony with many unfairly refused the sacraments and that we should be merciful. The effects and intention of this policy is apparent in the wide acceptance by individual clergy here and abroad and the increasing number of National Bishops Conferences that are implementing more of an open door policy based on conscience. It’s the most severe crisis affecting the Church because it mitigates the sacrament of confession and disassembles the indissolubility of sacramental marriage. The very foundation of the Catholic Church. The Apostasy [denial of the Deposit of Faith] and schism [a split from the Authentic Magisterium evident in John Paul II and Benedict XVI] within the Church is real and spreading.

  4. Pope Francis:

    “The temptation is always the uniformity of the rules… take for example the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. When I speak of families in difficulty, I say: ‘We must welcome, accompany, discern, integrate…’ and then everyone will see open doors. What is actually happening is that people hear others say: ‘They can’t receive communion,’ ‘They can’t do it:’ There lies the temptation of the Church. But ‘no,’ ‘no,’ ‘no!’ This type of prohibition is the same we find with Jesus and the Pharisees. The same! The great within the Church are those who have a vision that goes beyond, those who understand: The missionaries.”

    Get it? St. John Paul II said “no”. So, he’s a Pharisee? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “no”. Is he also a Pharisee? And every Pope before them?

    • Not just every Pope, but every Ecumenical Council that treats of marriage and divorce.

      Pope Bergoglio comes close to sounding like the English bishops who defended Henry VIII and his right to divorce.

      • I think you’re referring to Henry VIII’s “request for an annulment” of his marriage to Catherine, rather than a “right to divorce.”

    • Yes – under the Kasper/Francis smear campaign – all Catholics – invluing all Popes – who taught and obeyed Christ’s defense of marriage against the Pharissees – are now to be smeared as Pharisees – in order to finish “conquering” the Catholic faith. And all Catholic students at “Catholic colleges” will be taught that their faithful parents are hateful, racist cretins because they refuse to bend their knees to the new “Jez-Kirk” cult of Kasper/Francis.

      Year 5 (2018) of Cdl. McCarricks 5-yr plan for Francis’ “Made-over Church” fast approaches…

  5. Forgive my ignorance. Pope Francis lambastes “casuistry” while seeming to apply the term to those who rigidly apply norms without the particular circumstances of particular cases. A little basic research reveals that this is not casuistry.

    The following is given as an example of casuistic reasoning:
    “While a principle-based approach might claim that lying is always morally wrong, the casuist would argue that, depending upon the details of the case, lying might or might not be illegal or unethical. The casuist might conclude that a person is wrong to lie in legal testimony under oath, but might argue that lying actually is the best moral choice if the lie saves a life. (Thomas Sanchez and others thus theorized a doctrine of mental reservation, which developed into its own branch of casuistry.) For the casuist, the circumstances of a case are essential for evaluating the proper response.”

    Based on the common definition and the above example, it is Amoris Laetitia that appears to engage in casuistry. What am I not understanding here?

    • When Pope Francis uses a word, it means precisely what he wants it to mean, no more and no less. when he uses the word, it seems like he means to use in a nagative sense, not too far from the word ‘sophistry”. But as we have seen, casuistry can also mean a sort of proportionalism that he likes to use.

  6. First, let me state that I don’t think D&R are allowed to take communion, but not because they are necessarily committing adultery (because I don’t believe that to be necessarily true) but simply because, if they haven’t received an annulment, it is simply the Church rule that they shouldn’t because the Church believes they have a valid marriage and that therefore, by receiving the sacrament, they could cause scandal to those who know that they have not received an annulment. Basically, the Church is asking the D&R to be polite and respectful, no biggee. A

    Second, we all need to remember that none of us knows the eternal destiny of our own soul let alone the fate of another person’s soul. With this in mind, I think we need to chill out.

    Third, Pope Francis, in the spirit of decency and politeness, should answer the dubia.

    • I disagree with “chilling out.”

      That’s what Kasper and Francis want for their new cult.

      We should be on fire for the truth – despite the difficulties.

      • Being on fire for the truth is good, but not on fire to judge the action of others, or on fire to bar others from doing (i.e. receiving communion) that which may or may not be their right.

        • We must judge actions, as we are all judged. Otherwise there is no possibility of finding or imparting or defending the truth.

          We do not pass sentence – that is reserved to the Divine Judge.

    • While I’m not convinced all of Fr. Twomey’s arguments, CWR ran his piece because it is a learned, measured, and charitable reading of AL. I think your accusation of clericalism is way off the mark; I’ve had many communications over the years with Fr. Twomey, and clericalism is not a fault, in my estimation.

    • Joe –

      I share your disagreement with Fr. Twomey, but please consider Mr. Olson’s reply.

      We can respond with the reasons why we disagree.

  7. In all the discussion and controversy over Amoris Laetitia (especially the contentious Ch 8), as a humble lay person, I would like to offer a view.
    The church is the church of the people, all of its people and not just of the Pope, the Vatican, nor the clergy.
    The church, therefore, exists in the real world of the people, their hopes and joys, their disappointments and mistakes, their failings and successes, their pain and their suffering.
    Enough has been said for now about the sexual abuse scandals. But an equally significant problem for me is the church’s inability to reach out and be receptive to the many other ‘lost sheep’ of its flock. Many of these lost sheep are in ‘irregular’ situations and many are lost to the church forever. Is that what the church wants?
    Is the gate now firmly shut, bolted from the inside, sealed and silenced from that one lost sheep now lost to the wilderness – forever?
    Have we become too obsessed with doctrinal purity that we have lost sight of the wonders of the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ – the words he used himself as recorded in the holy gospels?
    Have we lost sight of the Lord’s ability to speak to the people with words they could understand, with stories with real power and real meaning in their lives?
    Have we lost sight, too, of the fact that the power of communication comes from the ability to listen first? Not to judge, but to listen. Not to preach but to listen. Not to talk – but to listen. Only then – only then – I believe, is the church able to offer the pastoral care to those who so badly need it.
    That for me is the fundamental lesson arising from Amoris Laetitia.

    • If he had wanted to, the Pope could have talked in AL about being nice to those who are separated from the church in one way or another. He could have spoken about all of the things you mention above. The problem is that he could not stop there, he had to directly attack many aspects of catholic doctrine. As the dubia makes clear, the implications of aL tends to undercut Catholic teaching in many areas. And, the church does not exist to listen. It exists to help people understand the Gospel in its fullness. It was JESUS who said that to divorce and remarry is to commit adultery. Its nice to listen, but in the end the church makes judgments, just as Jesus did. Jesus was not some fuzzy puffball that sat around failing to judge anyone. He did it all the time. Let’s not wish into existence a New Jesus that does not exist.

    • “Enough has been said for now about the sexual abuse scandals. But an equally significant problem for me is the church’s inability to reach out and be receptive to the many other ‘lost sheep’ of its flock. Many of these lost sheep are in ‘irregular’ situations and many are lost to the church forever. Is that what the church wants?
      Is the gate now firmly shut, bolted from the inside, sealed and silenced from that one lost sheep now lost to the wilderness – forever?”

      No. They need only repent, and sin no more; or if they do sin, confess with a firm purpose if amendment and be forgiven.

      The other option is to leave them wallowing on sin. Why would you think that a good thing?

  8. It warms my heart to read Dr. Fr. Twomey’s defense of AL. He certainly has a gift for meliorism and magical thinking wherein AL’s flights away from the orthodox teachings of the Catholic Church as contained in the Catechism, are scryed as trajectories of an even-better-than-orthodox “pastoralism”. That no other serious reader, whether pro or con, has advanced such a strange hermeneutics of this heterodox document warns us that Fr. Dr. T, as nice as he may seem, is probably completely wrong.

  9. Thank you to Dr. Carl Olson for choosing to post Fr. Twomey’s piece (I look forward to reading part 2). Thank you also to Fr. Morello for his explanatory post.

    In light of the brief biographical sketch of Fr. Twomey’s impressive history; also that it is posted here at catholic world report, I began reading in a hopeful spirit.

    This spirit almost immediately encountered an obstacle: “… both discourses resonate massively with those powerful cultural currents – such as the 1960’s sexual revolution and moral relativism – which characterize our times. It is those cultural currents that give a certain plausibility to those who rejected HV.” Fr. Twomey’s meaning must be that the dissenters from HV were powerfully affected by “those cultural currents” that he mentions. His words might be misinterpreted to mean that “those cultural currents” were plausible, as in one definition of the word, “reasonable” – and not only to the HV “dissenters”.

    But, pressing on, I came to Fr. Twomey’s clear defense of chastity, as opposed to the absence of such “apart from one innocuous mention in #206), Also “to speak of love as a passion … implies at the very least the need to moderate and channel passion …” etc. These words reassure the reader.

    Fr. Twomey’s discussion of the difference between “primordial conscience” and the virtue of Prudence is, to me, invaluable. “And when we speak of primordial conscience, we are no longer speaking about ‘rules’ or guidelines extrinsic to the person, but rather the moral demands arising from our common humanity. … Enlightened by Revelation, Church teaching confirms and clarifies what we all know in our heart of hearts about the moral order written into our being by the Creator …”.

    Fr. Twomey then proceeds to discussion of trends in moral theology which, for the ordinary reader, will require study.

    The last section “Positives and Negatives” sets forth at least this: “But it must be admitted that the silence on absolute moral norms … is open to misunderstanding.” He supports to Cardinals submission of the Dubia. He advises a response.

    The end notes seem to contradict Fr. Twomey’s hopes; but perhaps not.

  10. The real question, we as a Church, need to ask ourselves about the issue of D&R couples without annulment receiving communion, is to ask why so many of these couples obviously feel that their first marriage was invalid, but are unable, presumably, to prove this fact to the Marriage Tribunal. Pope John Paul’s exhortation for D&R couples to live as brother and sister, would obviously only be embraced by those couples who truly feel their first marriage was valid (whether they received a declaration of nullity or not) and that they are indeed sinning and committing adultery. Perhaps, not enough annulments are being granted despite all the people complaining that marriage tribunals are rubber stamping annulment requests. Perhaps we need to revisit the annulment procedures and the grounds that are considered sufficient to warrant a declaration of nullity.

    • Now once again you are way off base. It is not that these couples feel their first marriage was invalid. Most of them simply think that they have a right to divorce, because they have in their mind, a good reason for divorcing. Every divorced person has “good reasons” for divorcing. Yet Jesus specifically said that divorce was not allowed. So quite frankly, it does not matter that lots of people want the church to approve of their divorce and subsequent adultery when they get remarried. They want the church to approve their sin, it is not much more complicated than that. Your comments continually show that you believe that the church is here as some sort of organization that should be approving of their sin, because they want it to. And that it should simply ignore what Jesus said.

      • Samton, what are you talking about? Your interpretation of what I am saying is completely off the mark. Please re-read what I have said.

  11. I reject AL for a number of reasons – and one big reason I reject it it is rooted in the ideology of a “theologians” like Cdl. Kasper who deny the Gospel and the Council of Nicea.

    Another reason I reject AL is because it attempts to subvert Familiaris Consortio – which is a restatement of the Church’s eternal defense of the the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Communion, and the objective meaning of these sacraments.

    And no – I do NOT fall for the suggestion that AL has recovered recourse to virtue as a guide in this discussion. That is giving credit where it is NOT DUE (to Cdl. Kasper and Bishop Fernandez), and robbing credit from men who are to be commended for Familiaris Consortio (Pope JP2 and then-Cdl. Ratzinger) and all they defended before the 2nd civil war on marriage by Kasper et al (the 1st being the civil war they waged and lost when FC was written).

    AL is eternally wrong – and rooted in disbelieving ideologues like Cdl. Kasper and his promoters.

    • Chris thanks for making the important reference to virtue. St Thomas Aquinas’ ethics has been rightly called virtue ethics. That means deliberating and acting upon an act ordered to God. “Virtue now is—or should be—the overarching context for moral discourse (intrinsic to which are also moral norms and rules but now understood in the context of the process of becoming virtuous). But this paradigm shift, it seems, has not yet, on the whole, seeped into the consciousness of many theologians and bishops. Has the adoption of this new approach to morality (the language of virtue) influenced Amoris Laetitia?” (Fr Twomey). Fr Twomey here is asking the question if the appeal is to virtue in an entirely different context, a “paradigm shift” that does not incorporate for example chastity and the virtue of justice, justice understood as what is owed the other. The error Twomey seems to make is that Justice is primarily what is owed to God, not simply what is owed regarding conjugal relations with the “other”. Only by virtue of ordering all our acts to God is it really virtue ethics. Twomey raises the question whether the Pontiff is instead providing a paradigm shift to an anthropocentric ordering of virtue, that is ordered to man rather than God. It is evident that’s exactly what the Pontiff is doing. He’s seeking to establish a secular humanistic approach to morality obviating redemption based on the Cross and the saving power of grace. Man becomes his own savior.

      • Father – thanks for deepening and clarifying – as you always do.

        Yes – and this truncated / distorted / tortured “appeal to virtue” is nothing other than profaning true virtue – since it fits right into the arrogant theology of Cdl. Kasper, the man “offended” by the unchanging Lord of the world and history.

  12. History offers insight, the logic offered in Amoris Laetitia and in the above article rings a bell:

    In their 1930 Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Communion approved the use of contraception within marriage under “Morally Sound Christian Principles.” In retrospect their official statement is noteworthy: “Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.” Voting: For 193; Against 67.

    Faithful Catholics are now confused: How long will uncertainty be allowed to fester within the Church? Is living in a state of Adultery sinful or not? Is receiving the Eucharist while knowingly in a state of serious sin acceptable after “Honest Discernment?” What is “Honest Discernment?” How does ‘Honest Discernment’ differ from ‘Morally Sound Christian Principles?’ Does Amoris laetitia potentially contain another 1930 Lambeth style disaster for Christianity?

  13. Fr. Twomey is 100 percent wrong in the article on AL’s “denial of intrinsically wrong acts.”

    World-renown philosopher and friend of Pope John Paul II Josef Seifert said:

    “AL says God himself asks us to commit intrinsically wrong acts… (AL 303) which is being applied by Pope Francis to cases of adulterous or ‘irregular couples’…:’God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.'” (AL303).

    Pope Francis’s AL says God wills evil.

    This is straight out of C. S. Lewis’s “Last Battle” where the fake Aslan now permits evil.

    Fr. Twomey and Mr. Olson have to defend “God wills evil” according to AL or in depth show how the world-renown philosopher is wrong.

      • While Fred’s aim is definitely off, his insight to unholster seems sound. Recently Mr. Olson has allowed authors on CWR whose approach s much more receptive to the errors and difficulties of Pope Francis’ many troubling writings and remarks. There certainly seems to be a softening of his opposition …

        If not, and I’m merely misperceiving it, then why not invite Josef Seifert (for example) to write a post for CWR replying to Fr. Dr. T’s shambolic piece? Maybe explore some the balance WRT AL?

        • If we are going to understand all aspects of AL, we need to hear from both sides. I don’t understand the constant calls to air only one side of a debate, as if the church were some sort of political rally where we only allow one side to be heard. Fr. Twomey was quite clear that he supported the idea that the dubia should be answered. He seems to be seeking a way to read AL without destroying any Catholic doctrine, and he is entitled to do this. These types of articles are very helpful in understanding what is going on.

          • 1 Peter 5 has a post showing just how merciful and dialogue-seeking the clerics in power really are:

            “2016, in response to Professor Seifert’s first essay, the Archbishop of Granada, Spain, where Professor Seifert had been teaching, excluded him from his teaching of seminarians in his archdiocese. Moreover, as of 31 August of this year, Archbishop Javier Martínez Fernández has announced that he decided, rather abruptly, to force Professor Seifert into retirement as a direct response to the Austrian scholar’s second critique of Amoris Laetitia. Without any discernable sign of mercy, the archbishop claims that Seifert’s essays are confusing to the faithful…”

            Spanish Archbishop Fires Professor Seifert for Amoris Laetitia Critique
            https://onepeterfive.com/spanish-archbishop-fires-professor-seifert-for-amoris-laetitia-critique/

    • Yes, Fred, this is one of the major examples of what I referred to in my earlier comment as Fr. Dr. Twombley’s “magical thinking”. He simply wishes away this and several other problems, covering them all up with a downey covering of “pastoralism”. In Fr. Dr. T’s world it’s simply “pastoral” to accompany these poor blighter D&R Catholics as they struggle to do good, yet through no subjective fault of their own, cannot avoid doing evil: alas such is the inscrutable will of God! That this is theological nonsense that no truth-seeking Catholic could countenance is where the meliorism comes in, so Dr.FR. T recommends “always look on the bright side!” The Pope is leading us to a place where … “intrinsic moral evil actions” are replaced by “intrinsic wrongdoing”, and virtue ethics will be tempered with the bestest “assumptions, and … language, of proportionalism.” [Nevermind that proportionalism in all its forms was rejected by St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor.]

      And further, Fred and the rest of you (excepting a few clerical commenters), you’re just bunch of laity and can’t really understand “the classical distinction between objective sinfulness and subjective guilt, so important in the confessional, [that has] tended to be downplayed or even forgotten, especially by lay moral theologians who wouldn’t have the experience of hearing confessions.” So all you laity just back off! Fr. Dr. T won’t have you mucking about in theology!

  14. To Marc Alcan and Leslie: Before being obedient to decisions of a fallible human being (i.e. a judicial vicar or canonist) I am (as are all good faithful Catholics) obedient to God and the Truth first. As you are well aware clerics cannot only make wrong decisions but they can commit some very vile sins. If I were to follow their judgments blindly I would be being very imprudent and unwise. I would advise you against doing this and making yourselves subservient before other human beings, before your own conscience. If this makes me not a Catholic then so be it: I am God’s and the Church’s servant 1st, and servant to the decisions of fallible (and possibly criminal) clerics 100th or 101st…maybe! If Catholics were meant to learn anything from the clerical sexual abuse scandal, surely this had to be one of the lessons too.

      • Really, and how would you know that? Do you have anything to say about my point? Are one of those Catholics who conflates “the Church” with the clerics?

        • You never have a point. We went back and forth on another site, and it is clear that you never have the faintest idea what you are talking about. The most you have is a confused jumble of ideas that misconstrues everything. That much is clear.

          • You never had an answer on the other site. You simply did the same thing that you did on this site. You prefer to simply insult people and tell them you don’t think that they are following your understanding of God’s will. From now on I would prefer that you actually say something rather than simply acting like an internet troll – a behaviour unbecoming of a virtuous Catholic.

    • “As you are well aware clerics cannot only make wrong decisions but they can commit some very vile sins.” And you can’t?

      What you have just said in essence is, “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…”

      Your reasoning is circular: “Clerics can be wrong and can be sinners, so rather than accept their judgment I will rely on my own, because my judgment about whether I am sinning or not is perfect because I am not wrong or a sinner like they are.” The odds of your deciding “Yes, I am sinning” when your premise is “Only I am sufficiently sinless to decide whether I am sinning” are slim to none.

      If I were to bet that you or people with your mindset would never think something like, “Well, the tribunal said that my marriage is invalid, but it is possible that they have made a wrong decision and are vile sinners, so I am going to ignore their judgment and assume that my marriage is in fact valid and therefore I will refrain from marrying someone else, however much I love and desire her,” I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t lose any money. Somehow, it’s always license to do what you want to do that is the “informed decision.”

      You could also boil what you said down to “Non serviam.” Our Lord founded a Church and empowered his priests to loose and to bind. But that isn’t good enough for you. So, yes, I would say that you are not a Catholic.

  15. The common theme shared between the sexual abuse victims of the clerics, and the abused and/or abandoned and/or cheated on spouse who is denied an annulment because she has no proof that the abused/abandonment/adultery occurred before or at the time of consent is that the Church’s laws fail to protect the victims. This is what needs to change. The victims are never believed by the Church. The Church, through her canon laws, encourages the victim to forgive the abuser, or rather more accurately the canon law put her in a situation which “forces” (rather than “encourages”) her to forgive abuser. However, the canon law is wrong to do this. People should never be “forced’ to forgive! The Church needs to make it so that the laws protects the victims, and respects their conscience, and explains that forgiveness is a good, but it has to be given willingly in order to be genuine and effective, and therefore the Church is not going to force it.

    These situations are indicative of where the objective teaching (forgive your enemy) is a legitimate good teaching, but its creation as a rule/law creates all kinds of nonsense. It is probably best not to create laws based on this teaching, because by doing so it negates one of the very conditions that would make the carrying out of the teaching meaningful, namely it negates the freewill of the forgiver, and coerces her/him to do so. Any merit that may have accrued to the forgiver is surely diminished if it is done only because she was forced to do it.

        • Perhaps you missed the part about “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

          Nobody is forcing anybody to forgive anybody. The fact remains that a valid marriage is a valid marriage however swinishly or abusively one of the partners may behave. The Church does not prevent someone who is being abused from separating from the abuser, or even from obtaining a civil divorce if it is necessary for protection. But the marriage itself is presumed to be valid, unless proven otherwise. The bond is innocent unless proven guilty.

          Is that an easy thing to bear? No. But then I don’t imagine that being tortured and nailed to a Cross to die in agony for sins that aren’t Yours was easy, either.

          • You nailed it the Church thinks the “bond is innocent unless proven guilty.” The Church has personified the marital bond.

            And the Church “presumes” it to be valid – so no one should be judging the D&R Catholics who may know, in good conscience, that the Church’s presumption about their marriage is in error. No Catholic should be generating ill will towards D&R Catholics for receiving communion. As mere human beings we don’t know whether their previous marriage was valid or not. We don’t know if they are truly committing adultery. D&R Catholics should abstain from receiving communion because they could cause scandal because outsiders don’t know if they have an annulment or not, and therefore, some very judgmental people will possibly be offended. It is a rule for the Church, not a ruling or judgment against the D&R couple.

          • By not allowing these individuals who have suffered abuse the option to remarry the Church is in effect forcing them to forgive. It is odd that the Church is okay with civil divorce and separation but not for allowing the abused victim to remarry. It seems rather cruel to me. I think Jesus would find it odd that it is His Church that is straddling his followers unnecessarily with Crosses.

          • Your problem, Tyler, is that you seem unable to grasp the simple concept that it isn’t that the marriage is valid because the Church says it is valid; it’s that the Church says the marriage is valid because it is valid. Our Lord said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” The Church has made quite plain what constitutes a valid marriage. You are mad at the Church because She refuses to lie and tell people they’re not committing adultery when they are; and that she warns them that by taking Communion in a state of mortal sin they are thereby committing yet another sin. The Eucharist isn’t some sort of public honor of which they are being unjustly deprived.
            “Both the wicked and the good
            Eat of this celestial Food;
            But with ends how opposite!
            Here ’tis life; and there ’tis death;
            The same, yet issuing to each
            In a difference infinite.”

            The Church is “okay” with separation and civil divorce when it is necessary to protect the spouse and children from abuse and neglect. The divorce dissolves only the legal aspects of the marriage and provides for maintenance. The civil divorce is irrelevant to the actual marriage, which continues to exist.

            Those Catholics who “in good conscience” say their marriages were invalid when the Church says they were aren’t in good, that is well-formed, conscience. They are simply determined to have their own way and try to force everyone to agree with them, in flat denial of reality. Sort of like those males who claim to be females and insist that everyone else play along with their delusion.

  16. Leslie, once again, the Church does not declare marriages to be valid, it only presumes them to be. A Marriage Tribunal has never, ever issued a Declaration of Validity. Please research what I am saying and confirm that what I am saying is true before responding.

    With respect to your other point that a marriage is valid or not, irrespective of what the Church says about its validity, I agree with you. However, I would qualify your statement by saying that, to the Church, a marriage is only valid because the Church says it is. But to the people who are party to the actual contract, the marriage is only valid if they believe it to be so and if it is so. The parties to the contract cannot escape their own conscience and perspective about their own marriage. Your implicit request that the couple simply ignore their consciences and perspectives and submit to the perspective of the individuals employed at the Tribunal smacks of promoting irresponsibility. If individuals were required to ignore their own conscience and always submit to the views of “the Church”, there would be no need for a marriage tribunal in the first place because no one would ever be permitted to consider their marriage to be invalid.

    • Needed to edit one line in the above post so that it reads:

      However, I would qualify your statement by saying that, to the Church, a marriage is only valid because the Church *presumes* (not “says”) it is.

    • Tyler,

      When you wrote “I think you’re referring to Henry VIII’s “request for an annulment” of his marriage” what you really meant was that he wanted a declaration of nullity. It was simply another way of putting it.

      When a tribunal declares that no convincing evidence to declare that the marriage was invalid has been presented and that therefore the marriage is presumed to be valid, shortening that to “declared the marriage valid” is not some sort of twisting of the statement, it’s just shortening it. But if it makes you happy you can go back to all of my posts and mentally change the wording to whatever the technical language of the decision is. It doesn’t change the fact that the poorly-formed conscience of the person denying that judgment does not override it.

      “But to the people who are party to the actual contract, the marriage is only valid if they believe it to be so and if it is so.”

      And a woman who thinks she is a man can claim that because she believes it to be so it is so. And a man who thinks that he should be able to marry five or six women in the Church should be able to do so because he believes those marriages would be valid. And a woman who decides to abort her child and without repenting still receive Communion because she believes that it was not wrong is perfectly okay. You are attempting to substitute subjective (and extremely biased) opinion for objective reason.

      ” If individuals were required to ignore their own conscience and always submit to the views of “the Church”, there would be no need for a marriage tribunal in the first place because no one would ever be permitted to consider their marriage to be invalid.”

      Don’t be simpleminded. If they went to a tribunal and the tribunal agreed that in fact the marriage was invalid, then of course they would be permitted to consider it invalid. If they thought perhaps their marriage might be invalid, they would go to a marriage tribunal to see if their doubts are true or not. You, however, appear to think that one should be able to say, “Well, I think my marriage is invalid and therefore even though I can produce no convincing reason for that belief beyond ‘but my feeeeeelings!’ then it is invalid and I am free to remarry.”

      And, interestingly, you ignore the cases in which one party thinks that the marriage is invalid and the other thinks it is valid. If they are both “following their consciences,” do you think that somehow they are both right? Which means something is true and not-true at the same time. Yeah, right.

    • Tyler, there is a difference between obedience and willful disobedience of lawful authority based on pride, arrogance, and a determination to do whatever one wants to do.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. “Amoris Laetitia” and the chasm in modern moral theology - Catholic Daily
  2. Amoris Laetitia, l’ambiguità è un grande pericolo – Il fumo di Satana
  3. Amoris Laetitia, l'ambiguità è un grande pericolo - CAV Voghera
  4. The refined, problematic casuistry of Abp. Fernández’s defense of chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia” – Catholic World Report

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