Theologian Deathmatch: Round 2

And the fun never stops…

https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/11/02/open-letter-father-weinandy-his-predecessor-amoris-laetitia-and-pope-francis

Dear Father Weinandy,

You may remember me as your predecessor as executive director of the Secretariat for Christian Doctrine at the U.S.C.C.B. You replaced me in January 2005.

Do I detect a note of snark? 

I am writing this open letter to you in response to your open letter to Pope Francis in which you address what you describe as a “chronic confusion” that seems to mark his pontificate.

According to Sandro Magister’s introduction to your letter, you had asked Jesus for a sign as to whether you should write your letter, you received that sign and thus “no longer had any doubt that Jesus wanted me to write….” I cannot enter into the subjective conditions that inspired you to write, but I need to note that “Amoris Laetitia,” toward which you express great concern, was the fruit of two synods and broad consultation throughout the church, is widely recognized as an act of ordinary Magisterium, and thus enjoys presumption as having been guided by the Spirit of the Lord.

Stop right here.  I have to wonder if you also prayed for a sign before writing this, or if you simply wrote out of anger, Monsignor?  By the way, Father, if you’ll note, the dubia and Fr. Weinandy’s letter are simply seeking clarity.  Do you really have a problem with this?  Can you deny that there are divergent interpretations of the infamous chapter 8 footnotes? Still, you are framing this as something it’s not.  Fr. Weinandy isn’t rejecting ordinary Magisterium anymore than the four cardinals were when they put forth the dubia.  I also think that you might be tugging at the heartstrings of the people in the pews by saying that Fr. Weinandy is rejecting something by seeming to suggest “ordinary Magisterium” a little more, well, ordinary than it actually is.  Not quite that simple.

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2016/04/12/the-slow-decline-of-the-ordinary-magisterium/

But, that said, most of “what’s in” Amoris, or at least most of the controversial passages of Amoris, are not ‘magisterial’ because most of those of Amoris, and most of ‘those passages’, seem to address (if sometimes ambiguously) pastoral practices (not propositional points), or they indicate how the pope perceives (accurately or otherwise) pastors coming across to people in irregular unions (and so at most are empirical surmises), or they urge a given demeanor with persons as Christ would relate to them, and so on. In other words, while Amoris is quite capable of contributing to the ordinary papal magisterium based on its authorship, audience, and circumstances, and while it does contribute to that magisterium in some respects, most of Amoris is, in fact, not ‘magisterial’ in content. Just as most utterances that popes and bishops use to contribute to the ordinary magisterium are mixed in with many non-magisterial comments having no teaching value, so Amoris mixes several, rather minor, uncontroversial ‘magisterial’ comments on Scripture and marriage with a few controversial, but not magisterial (because they are not propositional, and are instead exhortatory) comments on pastoral approaches. And, no, I do not think that this is to read Amoris the way I would prefer to read it; I think it is to read Amoris the way the Church reads her teaching documents.

So, it sounds a little like you’re trying to get people to think that every last letter of Amoris Laetitia is an exercise of ordinary Magisterium.  Is that correct?

Your first concern is centered on Chapter 8 of “Amoris Laetitia.” You maintain that the Holy Father’s “guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous.” I believe that the vast majority of bishops and theologians do not agree.

I might actually agree with you when it comes to the word “intentionally”, as I stated in my last post.  There’s little to no way of knowing what the intention was.  Regardless, it was ambiguous.  How do we know this?  Duh.  There are two very distinct interpretations of it.  If it was clear, this would not be the case.  And, while I can’t say “intentionally”,  I also don’t really believe you can say “vast majority of bishops and theologians.”  If wishes were ponies… 

The pope does indeed open the door to the possibility that some divorced and civilly remarried Catholics can be admitted to the sacraments after careful discernment. Rocco Buttiglione, one of the foremost interpreters of the teaching of St. John Paul II, sees no contradiction, but rather continuity between “Familiaris Consortio”and “Amoris Laetitia.” And most recently Cardinal Gerhard Müller stated that there are conditions which open the way for those in second marriages to receive sacraments.

First, does anyone remember the Holy Father saying, “Being integrated into the Church does not mean ‘taking Communion.’”? Anyone?

Next, Cardinal Muller can’t seem to make up his mind on much of anything in the past year.  (Anyone else think that?) He might be having the same problem as many of us.  He’s just another reason clarification is needed, because he’s also said this

There have been different claims that Amoris Laetitia has rescinded this (previous) discipline, because it allows, at least in certain cases, the reception of the Eucharist by remarried divorcees without requiring that they change their way of life in accord with Familiaris Consortio 84 (namely, by giving up their new bond or by living as brothers and sisters).

The following has to be said in this regard: If Amoris Laetitia had intended to rescind such a deeply rooted and such a weighty discipline, it would have expressed itself in a clear manner and it would have given the reasons for it. However, such a statement with such a meaning is not to be found in it [Amoris Laetitia]. Nowhere does the pope put into question the arguments of his predecessors. They [the arguments] are not based upon the subjective guilt of these our brothers and sisters, but, rather, upon the visible, objective way of life which is in opposition to the words of Christ.

Let’s actually look at Familiaris Consortio https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2famil.htm, because I’m betting Msgr. Strynkowski’s banking on you not.

4. Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that like the others is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The synod fathers studied it expressly. The church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.

Pastors must know that for the sake of truth they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is, in fact, a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned and those who, through their own grave fault, have destroyed a canonically valid marriage.

Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

Together with the synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope.

However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the convenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.

This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”[180]

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful forbids any pastor for whatever reason or pretext, even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new, sacramentally valid marriage and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way the church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to his truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.”

So, do two footnotes in Amoris Laetitia negate what’s very clearly stated in Familiaris Consortio AND what some bishops around the world are holding their flock to?  This is why the dubia is so important.  We have two opposing sides (or none at all) when it comes to admitting divorced and civilly remarried couples to Communion.  Again:

Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the convenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.

This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”[180]


Like Fr. James Martin, SJ, says, I am not a theologian.  All I can do is give you my view from the pew and say that clarification is needed big time, since we should never be forced to judge moral decisions based on footnotes. That would certainly be lacking in charity. I think all of the “theologians” sometimes miss the fact that the vast majority of members of the Church are people like me.  They need to come down from their ivory towers and understand that if we’re saying that we need clarification, we need it. I’m thankful to those members of the clergy who are willing to represent us in these affairs, because, clearly, they are sticking their necks out.

Back to the “open rant”:

Your second concern is that the pope’s manner “seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.” I would note, first of all, that the Holy Father’s homilies, based on the Gospel, call us to a discipleship that is rigorous and uncompromising. Second, I interpret his criticism of those who make doctrine an ideology as a challenge for us to never isolate doctrine from its source in the mercy of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”

So, it’s your interpretation that, because Fr. Weinandy feels that it’s important not to demean Church doctrine, he isolates doctrine from mercy?  Your proof for that is?????

Your third concern is the Holy Father’s “choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them.” Unless you are willing to name these bishops and the views counter to Christian belief that supposedly they tolerate, this remains a gratuitous assertion and damages the unity of the church.

Oh!  Me! Me! Me! I’ll name them.  Elevating Cardinal Cupich, Cardinal Farrell, Cardinal Joseph Tobin (not, not, not Bishop Thomas Tobin), and appointing Bishop McElroy were all nightmares. Then there’s the Fr. James Martin, SJ, appointment. And that’s just in the U.S. 

And now you want me to name the views counter to the Church?  OK.  When Bishop Paprocki told priests that gays and lesbians in same-sex marriages should not receive Communion or be given Catholic, Cardinal Cupich said that wasn’t his policy. Martin just admitted he can’t say what he really thinks because he’s a priest.  Bishop Joseph Tobin – how about we just look at what New Ways thinks of him:

But Cardinal Tobin’s welcome to Mass on May 21 has been the most significant of such recent gestures, because of the symbolism of a cardinal welcoming a group of gay Catholics, some of whom were married to same-sex spouses, to participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the center of a cathedral, no questions asked. 

Pretty much sounds like he didn’t give ANY instruction on the reception of the Eucharist.

Bishop McElroy has adopted the same stance as Cupich in regard to the Paprocki order.  Ross Douthat does a good job here of dissecting his recent “synod” in San Diego.   Besides this, McElroy also has a super deformed idea of “internal dialogue” and “primacy of conscience” 

Bishop Farrell?  Well he and Archbishop Chaput directly contradicted each other on Communion for those in irregular circumstances.  https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/popes-new-point-man-on-family-rips-abp.-chaputs-amoris-guidelines-on-commun

Your fourth concern is the pope’s encouragement of a “‘synodality’ that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church.” Here, again in an open letter to the pope, it would have been more responsible to specify what these various options have been. To do anything less is to foster suspicion of bishops and theologians by some circles in the church.

Let’s look at what synodality is: https://www.catholic.com/qa/what-is-synodality

Synodality is related to collegiality. Collegiality refers to the individual authority of each bishop as a successor of the apostles. Each bishop is essentially autonomous and equal (with the exception of the Bishop of Rome). On matters of local governance, one bishop cannot tell another bishop how to run his diocese.

Synodality refers to groupings of bishops. An example would be the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to canon law, national episcopal conferences can set certain laws and practices for their regions above and beyond what an individual bishop can do. However, because these groupings of bishops have no authority outside of each individual bishop’s authority, the group needs to have its authority specifically declared by Church law. Otherwise it carries no weight other than encouragement.

Both methods of Church governance have practical pros and cons.

That said, we can’t have doctrine subject to synodality.

I also have to laugh at your proposal that a lack of specifics can cause suspicions.  Sounds a little like “Pot meet kettle.”  It seems like you keep asking for specifics but then don’t even come close to doing so yourself.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

Your fifth concern is that bishops feel that the pope is not open to criticism and indeed resents it. What is your source for this? Indeed, there has been much criticism of the pope, but he has remained silent. I am not aware of anything that he has said in public to indicate that he resents criticism.

Really?!  The “change of jobs” for Muller, Burke, Father Samir Khalil Samir, etc., by the Holy Father himself, not to mention a myriad of replacements by the liberal fan club is kind of telling.  And then there are all of those labeled as Pharisaical, rigid, etc. for their worries.  My gosh!  There is a whole website full of them papal insults.  Fine, it’s his prerogative.  I’d probably expect some resentment.  Quite frankly, I enjoy some of them because they’re sometimes funny and creative, kind of like Shakespeare’s.  That said, you can’t say they’re not happening. 

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged that dissent from ordinary Magisterium should be disclosed privately to church authority—see “Donum Veritatis” (No. 30). In a world and even an ecclesial environment of sound bites and facile partisanship, that becomes even wiser advice.

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Msgr. John Strynkowski

As you say, specifics would be nice.  Maybe you could tell us who is dissenting from what?  You asked Fr. Weinandy for specifics, now I’m asking you for some.  Fair’s fair!  Is style now considered “ordinary Magisterium?”  Fr. Weinandy’s letter talked of ambiguity and flame throwing.  It didn’t talk of doctrine other than to say “There’s so much ambiguity nobody can discern what we’re talking about when it comes to the indissolubility of marriage and the liberals are running away with it.” 

This isn’t the first time Catholics have had a problem with “papal style.”  Anyone remember St. Catherine of Siena?  She chastised not one but two popes about everything from where they lived to controlling their tempers.  Are we going to say she was a dissenter???

For those who haven’t bothered to read the dubia yet, please at least read this excerpt:

Most Holy Father,

Following the publication of your apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting, above all in regard to Chapter VIII. Moreover, the media have emphasized this dispute, thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation among many of the faithful.

Because of this, we the undersigned, but also many bishops and priests, have received numerous requests from the faithful of various social strata on the correct interpretation to give to Chapter VIII of the exhortation.

Now, compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility and desiring to implement ever more that `synodality to which Your Holiness urges us, with profound respect, we permit ourselves to ask you, Holy Father, as supreme teacher of the faith, called by the Risen One to confirm his brothers in the faith, to resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to the dubia that we attach the present letter.

May Your Holiness wish to bless us, as we promise constantly to remember you in prayer.

Cardinal Walter Brandmüller

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra

Cardinal Joachim Meisner

Despite the spin, clarification, not rejection is the name of the game for the dubia authors and Fr. Weinandy. They are not dissenting. If they were, why would they appeal to the Holy Father for clarification at all?

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Theologian Deathmatch: Round 2

  1. Msgr. John Strynkowski writes:

    “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, urged that dissent from ordinary Magisterium should be disclosed privately to church authority…”

    Well duh! The dubia and Fr. Weinandy’s letter were sent privately.

    And ignored.

    So that’s what they want, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Your third concern is the Holy Father’s choice of some bishops.”

    I’ll name them.too: Fr. spadaro S.J.; “Heal me with your mouth” TuchoFernandez (Ghost-writer of Amoris Laettita); Archbishop Paglia, who ordered homoerotic murals for his Church; Cdl.Cocopalmiero of the cocaine-fueled homosexual orgy in the Vatican…and the list goes on.

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  3. The “correct” interpretation of AL comes from its ghostwriter, Abp. Fernandez. I did a small series dissecting his article – it is a bit technical, but if you’re really interested in going down the rabbit hole then it’s worth a try.

    The Muller article is interesting. I saw it break the other day. It’s unfortunate he did not clearly state the limits of the internal forum solution, a la “conflict marriages,” where tribunals are unable to give a judgment due to an external impediment (like all of the witnesses being dead).

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    1. Don’t you ever wonder why they just don’t change canon law for situations like that? or the spouse that’s not able to be found? Etc. I’m just curious. Sadly, that’s not the type of situation listed. That’s not what they noted in the footnote at all.

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      1. There is an implicit framework present which, in the case of conflict marriages, theoretically allows for an “internal forum marriage,” but its effects would only exist on the internal forum – one could not present himself/herself as married to this new person, though one could presume a marriage privately.

        If this mess is teaching us anything, it is that quick changes to major canonical issues like this are exactly what we DON’T need. There is some slow progress in circles which discuss these kinds of things, but it is indeed slow – as it ought to be.

        It is definitely not what has been discussed, by and large, but it is actually the one real “live issue” that could be developed. It affects an extremely small number of people, but those few people have souls too.

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        1. …and yet will be applied to FAR more people than it should and at lightning speed.

          I hate that they are being allowed to say “re-married.” There is no marriage to a second spouse unless death. Either the first union was invalid or the second one was. “Irregular situation” is a softer and definitely better than “re-marriage.”

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          1. Yes.

            I might write an article on what this would look like in civil law – “I saw him rob my store, so I kept him locked in my basement for 10 years. He would have gone to prison for that long anyway, why bother with the court? I was subjectively certain he was guilty.”

            The real power behind all of this, most likely, is that many men are trying to justify their ministries retroactively – they have already been doing this a long time, and so they want to rubber stamp it (but without changing the law… so they can say they were following the law the whole time). They are, ironically, driven by their aching consciences.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. In the meantime though, the discussion regarding conflict marriages is about having tribunals become somehow equipped to take even these cases. It is impossible to catch every deceitful petitioner, even in normal cases, but a tribunal is certainly better equipped than a parish priest.

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