"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Thursday 9 June 2016


“Amoris laetitia takes a step in the direction marked by Wojtyla”
An interview with the philosopher Rocco Buttiglione, an expert on the teaching of St. John Paul II: “The perspective of Francis is perfectly traditional. The novelty is in applying the possible mitigations provided for all other sins, as they are quoted in the Catechism of St. Pius X, to the sin committed by the divorced and remarried as well”
Rocco Buttiglione

“Amoris laetitia involves pastoral risks. Some may say it is a pastoral decision that is mistaken, but please let us do away with the apocalyptic tones, and stop saying that the doctrine on indissolubility is being put into question when we are dealing with a pastoral choice that relates to the discipline of the sacraments and which is grafted on a path whose foundations were laid by Pope John Paul II.” Professor Rocco Buttiglione, a philosopher, scholar and profound connoisseur of the magisterium of Pope Wojtyla, was struck by some of the criticisms of the post-synodal exhortation by Francis. Vatican Insider interviewed him. 

What do you think of the exhortation Amoris laetitia as a whole? 

“It seems to me to be a great effort to speak the word of faith within the context of today’s world. Which was also the biggest concern of John Paul II: the real man, the existing man, the man of reality, not the one described in the books or the one we would wish him to be.” 

What relationship do you see between this document by Francis and the magisterium of Pope Wojtyla? 

“Once, the Church excommunicated the divorced who had remarried. It did so for the sake of a valid concern: to avoid scandal and to not put into question the indissolubility of marriage. But then we were living in a concise Christianity. It was presumed that everyone knew what marriage was, a sacrament in which the spouses become mutual guarantors of the love of God and therefore if one leaves, in some way it is as if God has left too. John Paul II said that the divorced and remarried could not be excommunicated, remembering that in every sin there are objective and subjective factors. There are people who can do the wrong thing, which remains an evil, but without being totally responsible. So Pope Wojtyla opened up, inviting the divorced and remarried to enter the Church, receiving them, baptizing their children, reintegrating them into the Christian community. But without readmitting them to communion - as in point 84 of Familiaris Consortio - unless they came back with the legitimate spouse, or separated from the new spouse, or lived in the second marriage as brother and sister, that is abstaining from sexual relations.” 

And now what does Amoris laetitia propose?  

“Francis is taking a further step forward in this direction. He does not say that the divorced and remarried can receive or expect communion, hurrah! No! Divorce is awful and there can be no sexual acts outside of marriage. This moral teaching has not changed. The Pope says that now the divorced and remarried can go to confession, starting a path of discernment with the priest. As is done in every confession, for every sin, the priest must evaluate whether all the conditions exist for a sin to be considered mortal. To those of my colleagues who uttered strong words against Amoris laetitia I should mention that St. Pius X - not exactly a modernist Pope - in his Catechism recalled that mortal sin requires a grave matter, but also full awareness and deliberate consent, that is, full freedom to assume total responsibility for what I did.” 

Why is this so important for the case we are talking about?  

“Because today, in many cases, there is not full awareness. There are huge masses of the baptized who are not evangelized. One might say, but in these cases, there is the process of matrimonial nullity. Yes, this is true, although we must remember that in many parts of the world it is not as easy to access the ecclesiastical courts and it is not always so easy to find out the truth. We live in a world of wounded families, of wounded people, people who may find themselves in situations which they are unable to escape. You have to evaluate everything and help them get out of the situation of sin, to begin a journey, but without doing violence to spouses who accompanied them in a second marriage and who might have been close to them in a dramatic moment of their lives: think of the case of a mother with small children, abandoned by her husband, who has joined a man who took care of those children. We are talking about issues that require discernment, sensitivity, great humanity, compassion, guidance....” 

With what as the final outcome, Professor? 

“The question is: at what point of this process will the priest give communion? When he considers that the conditions are there, with nothing automatic and no shortcuts, but also without slamming the door in someone’s face before the personal stories have been seriously evaluated. This is the idea of the Church as a field hospital, which is so dear to Pope Francis. If we were at Bethesda Naval Hospital where the President of the United States is treated, the patient would come out perfectly healed, after all the necessary interventions have been made. In the field hospital, they begin to staunch the wounds.”  

What relationship does this perspective have with the tradition of the Church?
“This perspective is perfectly traditional. Amoris laetitia says: let us also evaluate the subjective conditions for the sin of those who have been divorced and now live in a new union. It is an eminently pastoral question. I remember Don Luigi Giussani when he said: “You must judge the acts, and never judge the person, because that belongs only to God.” Only to God, and also a little to the confessor. I have read dramatic and unacceptable commentaries on the document, and in particular on a footnote.” 

With the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia something has changed, then?

“Of course something has changed! But neither the morality nor the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage have changed. The pastoral discipline of the Church is changing. Until yesterday, for the sin committed by the divorced and remarried, there was a presumption of total guilt. Now even for this sin the subjective aspect will be evaluated, as is the case for murder, for not paying taxes, for exploiting workers, for all the other sins we commit. The priest listens and also assesses the mitigating circumstances. Do these circumstances change the nature of the situation? No, a divorce and a new union remain objectively evil. Do these circumstances change the responsibility of the person involved? Maybe yes. You have to discern.” 

Does the emphasis on the subjective aspect risk turning into of form of subjectivism?  

“It is not subjectivism. It is the fair consideration of human subjectivity. This is taught by St. Thomas Aquinas: you did something wrong but you cannot always assume all of the responsibility. Fundamentally this moral doctrine began on Calvary, when the crucified Jesus says: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’” 

Some say that by readmitting the Eucharist, only in certain cases and after a path of discernment, the people in this situation would be changing the doctrine of the Church. What do you think?  

“It is not a matter of doctrine. The doctrine remains as it is concerning the assessment of what is evil and what is not. Instead, we are talking about subjective accountability and any possible mitigating circumstances. In announcing the Gospel we have to ask ourselves what should be said first and what should be said later. Jesus did not say to John and Andrew: ‘First keep the commandments,’ but ‘Come and see!’. When St. Paul went to the Areopagus of Athens, his heart boiled in anger over all those altars to various deities. But when he took the floor, he said to the Athenians: ‘I admire your religion ...’ and then focused on the altar to the unknown God, proclaiming Jesus Christ. He began there. The time would come later to say that the other altars should be removed. Pope Francis declares that Jesus loves every man and woman in any situation in which they may find themselves, and wants every man and every woman to be saved by meeting the embrace of his mercy. Then there will be the commandments, but we cannot allow a mistake made in life to exclude anyone from this embrace.” 

And yet Saint John Paul II fought against situational ethics, which is based on the subjective aspect ... 

“What I see in some opponents of the Pope is the desire to remain only on the side of objectivity. It is true, as you recall, that Pope Wojtyla fought against situational ethics, according to which there is no objectivity, but only the subjective intention. Obviously this is not the case: there is the objective nature of an act. But John Paul II never thought, even remotely, of negating subjectivity. There are situations of sin from which it is difficult to extricate oneself. We live in a society of pansexualism in which there is less consciousness of certain ethical evidence. Because certain truths are assimilated by all, it takes patience and it takes the effort of going on a journey. Are there risks? Sure! Some might be inclined to think that a divorce and a new union are no longer an evil; someone who has remained faithful, even when separated from his marriage, might think there has been some mistake; someone else might fear the risk that consciences will weaken. There are pastoral risks, without a doubt. For this reason we must guide and explain. But it is a pastoral decision. Some may say it is wrong but please let us do away with the apocalyptic tones, and stop saying that the doctrine on indissolubility is being put in to question when we are faced with a choice that relates to the discipline of the sacraments and which is grafted on a path whose foundations were laid by Pope John Paul II.” 

please click on:
by David Bentley Hart

Perhaps it would be a good idea to compare the above article with an article, not directly related, on the words of Pope Francis at the end of the Synod when he spoke on "synodality" and the pope.

" What is essential is that the unity that the whole Church has through the celebration of one and the same Eucharist in all of the particular churches, both East and West, must be made visible.‘Charity’, agape, was actually a patristic term for the Eucharist, and that led Cardinal Ratzinger to suggest that ‘presiding in charity’, to recall St Ignatius’ term, actually means, quite simply, caring for the Church’s eucharistic unity." Msgr. Paul McPartlan

Pope Francis Appears to Be Discerning “Decentralization” of Authority
Synod acts "with Peter and under Peter," says Pope, while suggesting Peter's role may evolve
Elizabeth ScaliaOctober 17, 2015Pope Francis (C) attends a vigil prayer on the eve of the XIV General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at St Peter's basilica on October 3, 2015 at the Vatican.  

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis spoke of the many and distinct challenges facing pastors as they strive to understand and serve the people of the church with a synodal spirit that expresses an evolving unity with the faithful. He urged the bishops, all the clergy, and the laity to listen mindfully to each other, saying, “A synodal church is a listening church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which each one has something to learn.”

“The only authority is the authority of service,” said the Pope, adding, “the only power is the power of the cross.

“Those who exercise authority are called ‘ministers,’ because, according to the original meaning of the word, they are the least of all. It is serving the people of God that each bishop becomes, for the portion of the flock entrusted to him, vicarius Christi, vicar of the Jesus who at the Last Supper stooped to wash the feet of the apostles.”

Signalling an openness toward an idea of what might be called “spiritual subsidiarity,” the pope referenced his Petrine ministry as one that has been intended “to enhance the role of synod, which is one of the most precious legacies of the last Vatican council. The pope is not, by himself, above the Church [but] called at the same time—as successor of Peter—to lead the Church of Rome,” which has primacy within all the churches, and that the synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro—with Peter and under Peter—which, rather than indicating a restriction of freedom, is a guarantor of unity. “Indeed, it is the path of collegiality that God expects from the Church of the third millennium.” The bishop of Rome, he said, is “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the multitude of the faithful.”

Citing Pope Saint John Paul II, Francis then expressed a sense of discernment that may bring discomfort to some—words that will challenge the “listening skills” of many. In a synodal church, said Francis, “it is not appropriate for the Pope to replace the local Episcopates in the discernment of all the problems that lie ahead in their territories. In this sense, I consider the need to proceed with a healthy ‘decentralization.’ While I reiterate the need and urgency to think of ‘a conversion of the papacy,’ I willingly repeat the words of my predecessor Pope John Paul II, who said, ‘As Bishop of Rome I know […] that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells.'”

“I am convinced,” continued the pontiff, “that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing all that is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation.”

All that God asks of us “is already contained in the word ‘synod.’ Walking together—lay faithful, pastors, the Bishop of Rome—it is an easy concept to put into words but not so easy to put into practice.”

Journeying together requires respectful engagement and—referencing the current synod—Francis gave an example of what reciprocal listening means: “How would it be possible to talk about the family without consulting families, listening to their joys and their hopes, their sorrows and their troubles? Thanks to the responses we received to the questionnaires that were sent to the local churches, we were able to hear at least some of these, covering issues that affect them closely and on which they have a great deal to say … a synodal church is a church that listens. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. Faithful people, the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome: one listening to others; and all listening to the Holy Spirit.

“Synodality as a constitutive dimension of the Church, gives us the most appropriate interpretive framework to understand the hierarchical ministry, if we understand, as St. John Chrysostom said, that the ‘church and synod are synonymous'” because the Church is none other than the “‘walking together of the flock of God on the paths of history to meet Christ the Lord. We understand well that inside no one can be ‘higher’ than the other. On the contrary, the Church needs those who ‘lower’ themselves in service to their brothers and sisters along the way.”

Jesus’ admonition that “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be as a servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be as a slave,” is relevant to this, the pope reminded, as “the successor of Peter is none other than the servant of the servants of God.”

Today’s event opened with an introductory speech by the General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops , Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, and a commemorative address by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna and President of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, who pointed out, “The aim of the [synod] discussions, the aim of these witnesses is to achieve a common understanding of God’s will. Also, when we vote (as we do at the end of every synod), it is not about power struggles, faction formation (which the media is only too glad to pounce on), it is about this process of forming a communal judgement.

“The final outcome, we hope, will not be a political compromise on a lowest common denominator, but an ‘added value’ given by the Holy Spirit so that in the end we can say: ‘We have decided, the Holy Spirit and us.’

“For the past fifty years the same question of whether there should just be one ‘consultative vote’ as well as a ‘deliberative vote’ has emerged again and again. But bishops are not representatives in the same way members of parliament are. Representation takes on a different meaning in the ecclesial structure that is founded on the principle of communion and known through faith. Faith, however, cannot be represented but only testified. The aim of the [synod] discussions,” Schönborn concluded, “the aim of these witnesses is to achieve a common understanding of God’s will.”

Excerpted from Vatican Insider. Writer John Thavis has a provisional translation of the pope’s full remarks.

- See more at:

My Notes on the Subject:

We have the advantage of being able to listen in on the preparation for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox churches which will help us understand what Pope Francis is trying to do.

Let us take the Orthodox attitude to ecumenism.  With Patriarch Bartholomew and many from the Greek tradition, they acknowledge that, if there were a healing of the schism, Pope Francis, as successor of St Peter, would be "first among equals", and, as "protos", would be able to actively promote collaboration at a universal level, so that all the local churches would be able to act as one single organic body.  The Patriarch of Moscow, on the other hand, would deny any authority whatsoever of the Roman Church over Moscow or any other regional church.  However, the Patriarch is in favour of as close a cooperation as possible and, even now in spite of the schism, close cooperation between Rome and Moscow in mutually agreed activities on a world scale.   On the other hand, there are many Orthodox, on Athos, in Russia, and among converts from Protestantism in America, who believe that there is no grace outside the Orthodox communion, and hence no sacraments.  For them, the Pope is simply a non-Christian layman. Nevertheless, they all accept and identify themselves as members of the same Orthodox Church.  In a council they can only declare as the doctrine of their Council what they can agree on with unanimity.  The rest must be kept for a future council.

This is also the option adopted by Pope Francis.  Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Schornborn and the pope all agree that Christian marriage is indissoluble; that someone who is validly married cannot have a valid marriage to another person while the first spouse lives, and that sex outside the valid marriage is adultery. This is the teaching of the Church.  Where they differ is in the pastoral consequences of that teaching. 

 Cardinal Burke believes that Catholic teaching and canon law are identical, that the canon law cannot be changed because that involves changing the teaching, and that pastoral practice must conform to canon law.   

Pope Francis and Cardinal Schonborn, on the other hand, believe that, in pastoral practice, there are more factors at work than those covered by the law.  God is a Saviour, not a lawyer  They don't disagree with the basic doctrine, but by applying traditional categories of thought used in other areas of theology but not, till now, applied within the context of marriage, they favour a different, more flexible pastoral practice.

Professor Rocco Bertiglione shows us how this is done.  Here is another example: Protestant ministers are not validly ordained and their Eucharist is invalid as well; and hence, they are ecclesial communities and not churches; yet close contact with them can reveal that they live a profoundly Christian life, and their invalid sacraments are an intricate part of that life.  God is he who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and saves the sheep that is lost where he finds it.  The same can be said for an invalid marriage - invalid because one or both were validly married before, so they contracted a second marriage in a registry office.Then they are converted and become fervent Catholics and they bring up the children as Catholics, pray, are generous to their neighbours and active in the parish.  They seem to be model Catholics, and their pastor believes that they are living a deep, authentic Christian life and love the Lord.  Only one thing is missing: they are not married validly.  They are too weak to live as brother and sister, and cannot separate because of the children.   The priest can discern that, in spite of their irregular situation, their invalid marriage has many Christian features, and there are many signs that the family is  a source of grace, just like the ecclesial community we have mentioned, and he does not believe that trying to break up the union would have good results.  Can he direct them to receive communion, seeing that they are not excommunicated?

There is a connection between the way  we understand the Church and the way we understand marriage.   Vatican I based its  teaching on the Church as an institution in legal terms, on the pope as the centre of a universal jurisdiction over the whole Church and everyone in it.   Being"in communion" with the pope involves accepting his jurisdiction.  All power was given by Christ to St Peter and his successors.   Vatican II dug deeper and sees the centre of unity to be the Eucharist and the Church as the body of Christ, united organically by participation in the Eucharist.  The "fullness of Catholicism" is Christ himself whom we receive. 

Christian unity is expressed in the Church's communal life by unity with the bishop in the local church and with the Pope in the episcopal college at a universal level.  By contact with the Orthodox churches, we have come to recognise the importance of regional patriarchates and the organic unity of churches with the same liturgical tradition as a concrete realisation of Catholic Tradition. Moreover, the Jurisdiction that held central stage in Vatican I is based, not on force which is the basis of civil law, but on the obligation to practise ecclesial charity that arises from being in communion with one another and this eccclesial love makes visible the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Vatican I ecclesiology that interprets the Church in legal terms is reflected in Cardinal Burke's theology of marriage which sees it as a legal contract.  However, there is no legal contract in a Byzantine rite marriage!   Without denying the truth of Cardinal Burke's understanding of marriage, we must dig deeper and discover marriage as a particular way of  expressing and putting into practice our ecclesial communion with Christ.

This opens the way to discover genuine elements of ecclesial communion in invalid marriages as we also. find in the invalid  but spiritually potent Communion Service of the Protestants.  This is because Christ does not just sit back and do nothing when we make mistakes: as Good Shepherd, he come out looking for us.  That is why he became man in the first place.

Hence, Pope Francis has suggested that we adopt the Orthodox teaching that there are two ways of treating a pastoral problem, according to the Law or according to the "economy", or Christ's thirst for souls.  The Law is important, as is the "economy"; so it is the decision of the bishops of a region to decide on pastoral grounds, within a particular cultural context.  Pope Francis recognises that there is real disagreement between the pastoral advice given in Africa and that given in Germany.  He believes that these differences should be acknowledged instead of being swept under the carpet, and that differences should be borne with ecclesial love..  

  This has been acknowledged by Cardinal Burke, that Amoris Laetitia is not an exercise the the pope's magisterium: just a personal view which leaves people who support a more rigourous view perfectly free to differ.  In line with this open acknowledgement of differences, Pope Francis is trying to persuade th Lefebrist Society of Pius X to return to Catholic unity.  If we really share the same faith and receive the same body of Christ, we are stuck with one another.   In Christ, we are family and have no other option but to be one, even as we pray to God to increase our unity

The Disagreement between Pope Francis and some Bishops
my source: Catholic Say

These days, when the classic Catholic parlor game of deciding who in the Vatican is for the pope and who’s against him gets underway, German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller often figures near the top of most lists for the latter camp.

Prefect of the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and thus an indirect heir to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Müller is perceived as a doctrinal conservative often struggling to hold the line against the more revolutionary tendencies unleashed under Pope Francis.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Müller, for instance, is a close friend of Gustavo Gutierrez and a supporter of a moderate form of liberation theology. In general, however, he’s not seen as an especially “Francis" kind of guy, often perceived as representing the traditional yin to the pope’s maverick yang.

To hear Müller himself tell it, however, that’s just plain bunk.

On May 3, Müller was at the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, Spain, taking some questions from students and faculty. Inevitably, one was about whether the Vatican’s doctrinal czar feels uncomfortable with some of the more “ambiguous" things this pope says and does.

In fact, Müller claimed, there’s an explicit division of labor at work between his office and Francis, hatched from the very start three years ago. (Remember that Müller, 68, took office under Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.)

“At the beginning of his pontificate, we spoke with Pope Francis, observing that during the previous pontificates the press accused the Church of talking only about sexuality, of abortion and these problems," Müller said.

“For this reason, we decided, with Francis, to always, always, always speak in a positive way. If you look at the complete texts of Pope Francis, there’s gender ideology, abortion … yes, these problems are still there, but we concentrate on the positive."

That’s not a matter of “revolution," Müller said, insisting that Francis “is in line with his predecessors."

“His originality," he said, “is his charisma, thanks to which he succeeds in overcoming people’s blocks and their hardened positions."

To hear Müller tell it, the strategy is paying off.

“I think all of us can see, from the reaction of the press, that today there’s less aggression against the Church," Müller said. “It’s not that everybody is becoming Catholic, clearly, but at least they’re talking about other things."

He gave a concrete example of how the pope’s cachet actually allows him to push traditional Catholic messages in ways that other popes would have found difficult.

“Pope Francis has the courage to speak of the devil," Müller said.

“If Benedict would have said what Francis says today about the devil, he would have been called retrograde and medieval. But our pope has the charisma to say these things: the devil exists, he’s at work and is very evil, and whoever welcomes his suggestions is guilty."

According to Müller, his ability to rupture such taboos is the fruit of Francis’s pastoral nature.

“Pope Francis has his own style," he said. “He says he feels like a pastor, and that the doctrine is already very clear in the texts of Benedict XVI … He says, ‘go forward with the theology,’ but he maintains his charisma of knowing how to communicate with people, who need that charisma."

One could, of course, look on these statements with a degree of skepticism.

It’s natural to ask if Müller is perhaps slightly exaggerating his own role in crafting Francis’ spontaneous, shoot-from-the-hip style. It’s also possible to wonder if Müller’s insistence that what we have is a “positive" pope, not an “ambiguous" one, is to some extent a PR exercise calculated to calm anxious conservatives.

Nonetheless, Müller’s robust defense of the pope in Madrid does confirm one key point about reaction to Francis, both within the Vatican and among many Catholic bishops around the world.

Speaking to many prelates these days, especially those of a more conservative bent, you can often find a degree of ambivalence on certain points – whether Francis’ eco-encyclical Laudato Si’, for example, was too uncritical in embracing the agenda of the secular environmental movement, or whether his cautious opening to Communion for the divorced and remarried in Amoris Laetitia may lend itself to abuse.

If you phrase the question, however, as whether those prelates would like to roll the clock back to March 12, 2013, before Francis was elected, and see things turn out differently, a solid majority will say “no," and mean it.

In the main, that’s because many agree with Müller, that whatever its downside, this pope’s “charisma" has reduced hostility towards the Church in many sectors of the culture, including the press, and thereby created some breathing room for Catholicism to go about its business without the same constant fear of assault.

In effect, it allows Church leaders to catch their breath, to take a break from always putting out fires, and to ponder what comes next.

The next time, therefore, the “blues v. grays" exercise heats up about which bishops are with the pope and which are against him, this is a point worth recalling: At the end of the day, you don’t have to be with Francis on everything to regard him, net-net, as a blessing.

By By John L. Allen Jr.

No comments:

Search This Blog

La Virgen de Guadalupe

La Virgen de Guadalupe


My Blog List

Fr David Bird

Fr David Bird
Me on a good day

Blog Archive