Deceptus laetitia

Deceptus laetitia – Part I

by Christopher A. Ferrara
April 26, 2016

A vast amount of critical commentary has already been written about Amoris laetitia (AL), a document the Rorate Caeli blog site rightly summarizes in a single word: “catastrophe.” The focus of this series is suggested by the comment of Carl E. Olson at Catholic World Report (Father Fessio’s publication): “Francis apparently plays a bit fast and loose with some of his arguments and sources.”

That’s putting it mildly, although it is remarkable that even a “mainstream” commentator on a “mainstream” Catholic website feels compelled to note the lack of honesty in the document. But it must be said in all candor that Francis does not apparently, but rather actually “plays fast and loose” with both arguments and sources — and not just “a bit” but quite gravely. This alone is sufficient to cover this scandalous document with opprobrium for all time. In fact, Amoris Laetitia — the “Joy of Love” — might be more aptly entitled Deceptus Laetitia — the “Joy of Deception.”

I grant that this may sound unduly harsh to the reader who has not plumbed the depths of this document. But anyone who does so might have even stronger things to say about its verbal trickery.

Let me begin this series with an example that is thematic to the document: its truly fraudulent mischaracterization of a phrase by John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, paragraph 84 that “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of the situation.”

This lone sentence is quoted at paragraph 79 of AL to be followed immediately by the proposition that “The degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases and factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision. Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.”

Having plucked the word “discernment” from its context in Familiaris consortio, AL uses it no fewer than 32 times in the course of its advocacy of a new form of “pastoral discernment” that would allow for a new “integration” into ecclesial life of divorced and “remarried” persons living a state that even the new Catechism (following the words of Our Lord) calls “public and permanent adultery.” The theme of “discernment,” repeated again and again on the pages of AL, culminates in the section entitled “Discernment of ‘Irregular’ Situations.” The word “irregular,” appearing always between skeptical quotation marks, is AL’s new name for “permanent and public adultery.” That section in turn culminates in the now infamous paragraph 305 and its footnote. Quoth paragraph 305:

For this reason, a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in “irregular” situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, “sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families”. Along these same lines, the International Theological Commission has noted that “natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions”…

[It] is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.

Here we see the moral law itself belittled as “black and white,” and even the natural law reduced to a mere “objective ideal.” It is almost impossible to believe that a Roman Pontiff could write in this way.

And then the fateful footnote, number 351, which both Francis and AL’s co-presenter, Cardinal Schonborn, now admit opens the door to Holy Communion for public adulterers living in mere civil unions while their valid marriages to others continue to exist. By “receiving the Church’s help” Francis means, says the footnote, that:

In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

Again, all of this is hinged on the lone sentence AL plucks from paragraph 84 of Familiaris consortio, with its reference to “discernment.” But now we must look at what John Paul II actually teaches in the same paragraph following the reference to “discernment”:

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 Covenant 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.”

This is the constant teaching of the Church, affirmed not only by John Paul II and the Catechism he promulgated, but also by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during his reign and also by Benedict XVI in his own post-synodal apostolic exhortation. And yet there is not a single mention of this teaching anywhere in AL, except in footnote 329, which engages in another deception by reducing John Paul II’s reaffirmation in Familiaris of the moral imperative of divorced and “remarried” people observing “complete continence” to a mere “possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them…”

The deception at work in footnote 329 will be the subject of my next column. Suffice it to say for now that AL confirms the prophecy of Sister Lucia to Cardinal Caffarra that “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.”

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2 comments on “Deceptus laetitia

  1. Deceptus laetitia – Part II

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    April 27, 2016

    In my first column in this series on how Amoris laetitia (AL) engages in deceptive arguments and use of sources, I noted AL’s systematic and indeed fraudulent suggestion that in Familiaris consortio John Paul II endorsed a form of “pastoral discernment” that would allow public adulterers living in so-called “second marriages” to receive absolution and Holy Communion in “certain cases,” along with other habitual public sinners of the sexual variety, without any firm purpose of amendment.

    I also showed how AL literally hides from the reader, throughout 256 pages, John Paul II’s insistence in paragraph 84 of Familiaris, in line with all of Tradition, that under no circumstances can the divorced and “remarried” be admitted to the sacraments because “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” and “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.”

    Finally, I showed how in footnote 329, this teaching of John Paul II is deceptively reduced to a mere “possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them.” As footnote 329 is a little nest of deception in and of itself, it is the subject of this Part II.

    First of all, John Paul’s teaching is not only demoted to a mere “possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them [i.e. public adulterers]” — when in fact it is a moral imperative admitting of no exceptions — it is also slyly rejected as impractical and unreasonable. To quote the footnote in full:

    In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility [!] of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 51).

    So, we have a Roman Pontiff who seriously proposes that, according to “many people,” John Paul II’s teaching in line with Tradition — which AL has already hidden from the reader and reduced to a “possibility” — would deprive an adulterous couple of “intimacy” and that their “faithfulness” to this adulterous union could be “endangered” as well as “the good of the children.” In support of this utterly outrageous proposition, AL plucks one phrase from paragraph 51 of the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes. Here another deception is perpetrated. To quote the full paragraph from which the lone phrase was plucked as it appears in English at the Vatican website:

    This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased. As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain. But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered.

    In context, the Council is speaking of validly married couples who avoid marital relations or compromise them with contraception out of fear of having children. Moreover, this paragraph appears in a section of the document entitled “Fostering the Nobility of Marriage and Family,” which, a few paragraphs earlier, speaks of “the plague of divorce….” Worse still, AL’s cropped quotation is grossly inaccurate: the phrase “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” does not even appear in paragraph 51; it appears to be some sort of paraphrase tailored to AL’s rhetorical needs.

    What can one say when a Roman Pontiff, albeit in a footnote, falsely implies that Vatican II supports the monstrous idea that divorced and “remarried” people need “intimacy” in order to be “faithful” to their partners in adultery? We can say that AL represents an apocalyptic turn of events in what is already the most profound crisis in Church history — truly the “final battle” between the devil and the Church of which Sister Lucia warned Cardinal Caffarra.

    But that is only the beginning of the way AL attempts to mislead the faithful. More to come in subsequent columns.

    Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us!

  2. Deceptus laetitia – Part III – The Abuse of Saint Thomas

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    May 3, 2016

    The reason Amoris laetita (AL)is rightly called a “catastrophe” is summarized in the already infamous paragraph 301, in which Francis announces nothing less than an excuse from culpability for those living in relationships — divorce and “remarriage” and cohabitation — which the Church has constantly reprobated as living in sin. According to Francis, however:

    “The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it 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. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

    Consider the implications of this absolutely astonishing papal pronouncement: According to Francis, it can “no longer” be said that all those who are objectively living in sin are actually guilty of sin, but rather some — and how would Francis or anyone else know which of them — are living in a state of grace. This would mean that people engaging in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “permanent and public adultery” and as well as those engaging in habitual fornication could continue to engage in adultery and fornication without need of absolution even if they know they are contradicting the moral law, whose “inherent value” they have “difficulty in understanding…”

    Francis dares to support this monstrous proposal — for which alone this document should be covered with opprobrium until the end of time — with a blatantly misleading citation to Saint Thomas’s observation in the Summa Theologiae, concerning the infused moral virtues (i.e., those animated by supernatural charity), that “Certain saints are said not to possess certain [infused] virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues.”

    This is utter nonsense. Infused virtues, unlike the corresponding acquired ones, are animated by divine grace, not merely the habit of acting virtuously. Saint Thomas is not discussing sinners who engage in continuing adultery and fornication, but rather canonized saints who possessed supernatural charity, and thus the infused virtues, but had some difficulty exercising certain of them. None of the saints, at least once they became saintly, engaged in any form of habitual and objectively mortally sinful conduct.

    What a shameful abuse of the Angelic Doctor, and for such a wretched purpose as the coddling of habitual sins of the flesh! As a clearly aghast Fr. Gerald Murray observed during the EWTN panel discussion sharply critical of AL: “I can’t believe a good group of Thomists won’t have a response to that.”

    In paragraph 304, AL commits another outrageous abuse of the teaching of the Angelic Doctor. Francis selectively quotes Saint Thomas as follows concerning the general precepts of the natural law:

    “Although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects… In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles; and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all… The principle will be found to fail, according as we descend further into detail. (ST, I-II, Q. 94, art. 4).”

    Based on this cropped quotation, Francis opines that “general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.”

    But Saint Thomas is not discussing “formulation” of “rules” but rather the basic precepts of the natural law that God inscribes in our nature, which are not mere “rules” but rather “the first principles of human actions.”

    What Saint Thomas is really addressing is human failure in applying the precepts of the natural law to more complicated factual situations, such as (the example Thomas gives) whether goods in trust must be restored to their owner even if the owner intends to use them for an immoral purpose. Such detailed applications often require written laws in civil society, and if those human laws err in their application of the natural law, says Saint Thomas, it is only because “reason is perverted by passion, or evil habit, or an evil disposition…” (I-II, Q. 94, Art. 4).

    To apply this teaching of Saint Thomas to a moral precept as fundamental as “thou shalt not commit adultery” by way of divorce and “remarriage,” which even the new Catechism, following the words of Our Lord Himself, condemns as “a grave offense against the natural law,” is perhaps the single most egregious example of AL’s pattern of deception.

    More and more Catholics are awakening to the shocking fraudulence of this document. For example, writing in the “mainstream” Catholic Herald, Father Raymond J. de Souza concludes: “Amoris Laetitia suffers from selective citations throughout which, though apparently clever in the short term, will diminish the enduring value of this magisterial text by undermining its continuity with authoritative teaching in the recent past.”

    Not diminish, Father de Souza, but destroy. For no document that attempts to deceive us with “clever” misuse of sources can really belong to the authentic magisterium. Deception comes from another source, and his name is legion.

    Our Lady of Fatima, intercede for us!

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