BY MAIKE HICKSON ON JUNE 17, 2016
An article published on 12 June by kathpress.at — the Catholic news agency partly funded by the Austrian bishops — has received a great deal of attention in Europe. Two Italian websites — La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and Il Timone — have both reported on it. So has the Austrian Catholic website kath.net. The reason for all the attention is that the article at kathpress.at includes several important statements from progressive Catholic theologians who have unmistakably read Amoris Laetitia in a very lax and sentimentally liberal way.
One statement is taken from the Swiss theologian Eva-Maria Faber, who, in a paper written together with a colleague (Martin Lintner), proposes to adapt the Catholic Catechism to the new developments as proposed by the papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Additionally, Rainer Bucher — another theologian from Graz, Austria — proposes now to “re-contextualize moral theology and canon law” in light of Amoris Laetitia. According to kathpress, another theologian, Stephan Goertz — a strong defender of homosexuality — sees that Amoris Laetitia has “made free [sic]the path for different interpretations in the local dioceses.”
According to kathpress, another German theologian with a well-known progressive background, Klaus Lüdicke, stresses that Pope Francis has now re-defined “irregular relationships” in general, saying that they cannot per se be any longer regarded as gravely sinful. He has therefore come to the conclusion that all these couples – to include the “remarried” divorcees – should now be permitted access to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Faber and Lintner reached a similar conclusion, claiming that no “irregular situation” can per se be described as being gravely sinful – according to Amoris Laetitia itself.
Important to remember in this context is that Professor Faber of Chur, Switzerland, was one of the speakers at the controversial May 2015 “Shadow Council” at the Gregorian University in Rome. As German Catholic author Mathias von Gersdorff says, Professor Faber had previously written a book where she puts in doubt the indissolubility of marriage. Martin Lintner had also caused a stir when he was interviewed last summer by the German branch of Vatican Radio, which first published the interview accompanied by a picture showing two women kissing. It was Rome Correspondent Edward Pentin who first reported on the story to the English-speaking world. In the interview, Lintner proposed that it was time to “rethink the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
The Austrian Catholic news agency’s editorial tone on these issues is noticeably neutral, concluding with these words: “To sum it up: after Amoris Laetitia, it is now up to the local churches and Bishops’ Conferences to draw their own pastoral conclusions from the document.” By way of contrast, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana offers commentary that is more faithful to the Catholic Church’s own traditional moral teaching. The latter publication questions whether the “novelty of Amoris Laetitia” – which seems to be pastoral, but might also actually lead to a doctrinal “revision of the Catechism” – has, after all, anything to do with a “harmonious development.”