Calling a spade a spade above no one’s pay grade

Calling a spade a spade above no one’s pay grade

June 22, 2016

On 29 April, Bergoglian [i.e., EEEEWTN and National neo-Catholic Register’s] News Agency published an interview with Robert Spaemann, a renowned professor of philosophy who served as a papal advisor during the last two pontificates (according to my count, anyway).

The topic of conversation concerned the dreadful document Amoris Laetitia, and Spaemann’s sharp criticism of the text as offered therein continues to garner worldwide attention; in particular, the following:

“That it is an issue of a breach emerges doubtlessly for every thinking person, who knows the respective texts.”

Well, apparently, Spaemann now has some doubts.

In a Bergoglian [i.e., EEEEWTN and National neo-Catholic Register’s] News Agency follow-up article published on 20 June, Spaemann back peddled on the notion of a “breach,” writing:

What I wanted to say was that several of the Holy Father’s expressions are contrary to the words of Jesus, to the words of the Apostles, as well as the traditional Doctrine of the Church.

One should only speak of a breach when a Pope clearly and explicitly teaches something by formally invoking his apostolic authority – so not casually in a footnote – that contradicts the aforementioned doctrinal tradition … Even if what the Holy Father expressed does not fit well with what I read in the scriptures and what comes to me in the Gospels, then it is not a sufficient reason to speak of a breach…

Apparently, in citing the formal invocation of “apostolic authority,” Spaemann is referring to the First Vatican Council’s dogmatic definition of papal infallibility:

The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra — that is, when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church — is, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals; and consequently that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature (ex sese) and not by reason of the Church’s consent. (Denzinger no. 1839 — old no. 1680).

With this in mind, doubtlessly every thinking person will not fail to see the folly of Spaemann’s latest argument.

The Holy Ghost simply will not allow a pope to explicitly teach that which is contrary to the words of Jesus, to the words of the Apostles, as well as the traditional Doctrine of the Church by formally invoking his apostolic authority.

If, however, as Spaemann suggests, this is the “only” situation that rises to the level of a “breach,” then one can never use the “B” word with respect to a papal proclamation.

This looks like a page taken straight from Cardinal Burke’s book, Oh, but it’s not magisterial!

Speaking of Cardinal Burke, where has the esteemed Doctor of Canon Law been these past several weeks as Archbishop Gänswein pleaded the idea of a “transformed” and “expanded” Petrine ministry (we’ll return to this momentarily), and Jorge the Horrendous openly declared that the “great majority” of sacramental marriages are invalid?

I digress…

All of this said, the word “breach” has no place in this conversation; rather, let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we?

The reality is that Amoris Laetitia contains unadulterated blasphemy and blatant heresy, but good luck finding a churchman, philosopher or theologian (or Catholic commentator for that matter) with the spine to call these evil things by their proper names.

All in all, Spaemann’s commentary is worth reading. He offers well-reasoned, cogent, Scriptural criticism of Amoris Laetitia in terms that would make most bishops blush. As such, it does have value.

Even so, he appears to have succumbed to the ludicrous notion that those of us who are presently living through this terrible crisis are somehow unqualified to render certain firm judgments; in favor of deferring in some way to the wisdom of persons yet to come.

For instance, Spaemann ended his first interview by stating:

Every single cardinal, but also every bishop and priest, is called upon to preserve uprightly the Catholic discipline of the sacraments within his realm of responsibility and to confess it publicly. In case the Pope is not ready to make corrections, it remains reserved for a later Pope to officially make things right.

While all of this is true, personally doing, preserving and speaking the truth is only half of a faithful response; missing is the responsibility that every single one of us has to condemn blasphemy and heresy by name regardless of the source. We need not wait for the verdict of history, or the advent of a future pope to so defend the truth.

As for cardinals and bishops, they have a special duty to plainly denounce grave errors and to caution the faithful against them. They also have an obligation to publicly challenge a dangerous pope should he prove to be recalcitrant in his offenses against the Faith; all for the salvation of souls.

In short, there is no reason whatsoever for any well-formed Catholic to presume himself incompetent to render judgment and to speak out publicly when the Faith is so very clearly under attack.

Even so, we see this same weak line of argument being applied to the matter of Benedict’s resignation, with most Catholic commentators as yet unwilling to touch the situation with a ten foot pole.

Provided one isn’t so naïve as to think that Archbishop Gänswein was freelancing in his presentation of 20 May; i.e., merely offering a personal opinion that does not accurately reflect Benedict’s true intentions (good luck making that argument), one cannot help but draw some grave conclusions as to the validity of his so-called “resignation,” and likewise, therefore, the conclave that followed.

Consider, if you will, how Benedict’s Declaratio of 11 February 2013 would have read if the would-be Pope Contemplatus had spoken his intentions as plainly as Archbishop Gänswein did:

I hereby declare that I am taking a step that has never before been taken by a pope: With full freedom I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005. However, I am not abandoning the Office of Peter — something which would be entirely impossible for me.

Rather, my intent is to profoundly and permanently transform the Petrine ministry; expanding it, so as to include an active member to be chosen in an upcoming conclave, while I myself shall remain a participant in said munus as the contemplative member. In this way, I shall endow the papacy with a collegial and synodal dimension, as a quasi-shared ministry.

Allow me to repeat it once again — my intent is entirely different from that of Pope Celestine V, who after his resignation in 1294 would have liked to return to being a hermit. I, by contrast, shall continue to live within the Vatican; I shall continue to wear the white papal cassock, and I shall continue to be addressed as His Holiness.

My friends, it doesn’t take a doctorate in sacred theology, a canon law degree, the grace of Holy Orders, or a perspective afforded only to those who dwell in the future in order to know that the scenario described above represents an utter impossibility.

Had Benedict stated his intent in this way, is there anyone with even a drop of Catholic credibility who would have spoken of the alleged conclave that followed as anything other than a charade, and the man it allegedly “elevated” as anything other than a pretender?

The bottom line is simple – some things (like the blasphemy and heresy in Amoris Laetitia, as well as the impossible nature of Benedict’s intentions with respect to transforming the Petrine ministry) are so clearly incompatible with the true Faith that no authentic soldier for Christ can fail to recognize them as such; much less fail to condemn them and their consequences plainly within whatever sphere of influence one has.

Essentially claiming that “it’s above my pay grade” to do so is neither humility nor wisdom; it’s a dereliction of duty.

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2 comments on “Calling a spade a spade above no one’s pay grade

  1. Louie Verrecchio says:

    The reality is that Amoris Laetitia contains unadulterated blasphemy and blatant heresy, but good luck finding a churchman, philosopher or theologian (or Catholic commentator for that matter) with the spine to call these evil things by their proper names.

    [Rather according to the same Bergoglian (i.e., EEEEWTN and National neo-Catholic Register’s) News Agency, it’s “full speed ahead” on the implementation of Amoris Laetitia]

    Pope’s Marriage Comments Highlight Urgency of Diocesan Rethink of Marriage Ministry

    The Holy Father’s remarks last week refocused attention on a topic he addressed in depth in Amoris Laetitia, with practical pastoral suggestions about how to accompany and form engaged and newly married couples.


    BALTIMORE — Pope Francis called for a new vision and reform of marriage formation in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. But in candid comments last week, the Holy Father appeared to give family-life offices worldwide a stark assessment that marriage preparation today is a substantial failure, when he controversially suggested many sacramental marriages today are null.

    For diocesan and parish marriage-prep coordinators who have not read Amoris Laetitia, the Pope’s message was a not-so-subtle hint that they should get cracking on learning its lessons and applying them to their situation. The reform of marriage formation that Pope Francis calls for will require dioceses to retool their approaches to a missionary model “going out to where people are” and scrapping an approach that serves “small and select groups.” Instead, Pope Francis, in the apostolic exhortation, sees the parish having the main role in the “pastoral care of families,” based on the call from the bishops who participated in the two-year synod on the family process for “a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in preparing those who are about to be married.”

    The grand vision for a new model of marriage formation is heavily steeped in the Church’s principle of subsidiarity, where the parish is ground zero for pastors, pastoral workers and experienced married mentor couples to build relationships with the couples and help them grow in love as they approach marriage. Marriage-preparation programs need to integrate couples into the life of the parish, where they can learn the benefits to their marriage that come from having family spirituality and prayer and participation in the Eucharist on Sundays.

    The Pope sees the parish as a place where pastoral accompaniment continues as couples take their first married steps together and where they can find resources and support they need as they grow or encounter challenges.

    Seeking the Right Balance

    Christian Meert, director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo., told the Register that he agrees with the Pope’s assessment: that the way marriage preparation is generally structured needs to change.

    “Our hope is that it is the last nail in the coffin of the one-day, overcrowded classes,” he said.

    Many of today’s engaged couples, he said, do not understand the faith or the sacrament as couples generally did 40 or 50 years ago.

    Due to this fact, he said it is helpful that the exhortation outlines how to evangelize engaged couples and “outlines a whole program of what they should go through — but with one step at a time.”

    “We have to find the right balance of: How much can they take? How much time can they devote to marriage prep, and what do they need to start? I think that’s what the Pope is saying, too,” he said.

    Meert said the plan is to strengthen the mentor-couple component of live classes and online classes at Mentor couples are a feature of the “Ministry to the Newly Married” program that Meert’s organization, Agape Catholic Ministries, provides parishes looking to strengthen newly married couples in the first five years of marriage. The witness of older married couples allows the engaged to see another married couple that has their own flaws and has faced joys and challenges of life together. In addition, personal stories can assure newlyweds that “we all went through the process.”
    “It is nice for an engaged couple to be in dialogue with a married couple, one-on-one, where they can ask any question they want,” Meert said. Having those mentor relationships after the wedding can develop a bedrock network for couples as they seek how to put the Church’s teaching into practice in their lives.

    Laying the Groundwork

    At the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Edward Herrera, the director of marriage and family life, told the Register that the archdiocese has been focusing for the past four months on how marriage and family life can be a time of evangelization. They are looking at how the archdiocese and parishes can work together to concretely implement Amoris Laetitia at the parish level.

    The archdiocese is looking at putting more efforts into divorce recovery and supporting children of divorce, as well as working with the Vocations Office to give seminarians in-depth pastoral training in the issues raised by Pope Francis. The archdiocese is also piloting in the parishes “Witness to Love,” a parish-based marriage-prep renewal program that uses mentor couples chosen by couples that meet the approval of the pastor and evangelize the engaged.

    “If RCIA is the way in which individuals are welcomed into the Catholic community, I think that’s the same way we ought to look at marriage preparation, where we are walking with the couple [helping them to] enter more deeply into their relationship with one another and their relationship with Christ,” Herrera added.

    He also liked the Pope’s challenge to couples to have the courage to opt for a “more modest and simple celebration” and reject the consumerist expectations of the wedding industry that may discourage couples with fewer economic means from getting married. He noted that the archdiocese already has had parishes where Hispanic priests would celebrate multiple couples getting married together — most of them convalidations.

    “There are still the ways the Church can lead and say, ‘No, it doesn’t have to be this huge, several-thousand-dollar celebration, but it can be more simple and fix our gaze on what the sacrament is all about,” he said.

    In the San Francisco Archdiocese, the groundwork is being laid for a discussion on Amoris Laetitia. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is preparing a short series of longer reflections that will run in the archdiocesan paper.

    Mike Brown, the archdiocese’s communications director, told the Register that the archdiocese has already been taking stock of the results from the survey it conducted before the synod on the family and discussing how to respond to those challenges.
    The survey noted that just 42% of respondents thought marriage preparation was effective, while 41% said they “don’t know.”

    Brown added that an upcoming archdiocesan conference in September, “Together in Holiness,” “will undoubtedly rely quite a bit on the apostolic exhortation.”

    Update and Renewal

    The Archdiocese of New York is undergoing a comprehensive process of updating and renewing marriage ministry, in response to a directive from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of the U.S. participants in the synod on the family.

    Kathleen Wither, director of the archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office, told the Register that Amoris Laetitia came right in the middle of discussions that will conclude this month.

    “We’ll probably be focusing on Chapters Four, Five and Six, as we look at both content and delivery,” she said.

    Chapter Four covers marital love and features the Pope’s deep dive into St. Paul’s hymn to love in First Corinthians — a favorite of Catholic weddings — that explains how each verse shows the sacrificial character of true love, not sentiment. Chapter Five covers married love through the different stages of parenting and helping children grow in freedom and virtue.

    Chapter Six contains many of the Pope’s pastoral suggestions for marriage ministry: particularly in making marriage formation a time to evangelize the couples, provide them older married couples as mentors and teach them how to pray together routinely since, “the family that prays together stays together.”

    The Archdiocese of New York is planning a priest study day, where Msgr. Leslie Ivers, director of ongoing priest formation, is preparing to lead priests through an overview of the apostolic exhortation. Part of the discussions will explore what marriage preparation needs today and how to provide ongoing support to newly married couples.

    “We have been looking at some marriage-mentor models as part of our approach to building and strengthening of marriage,” Wither said. She noted that the “Witness to Love” organization also came to the archdiocese in April to give a presentation to a working committee of priests and lay marriage-ministry leaders.

    Wither explained that archdiocesan staff are currently discussing a number of options and enhancements, including greater online programming and processes, and incorporating the “Prepare-Enrich” and “Catholic Couple Checkup” online relationship inventories into the programming. She sees marriage preparation as an iterative process which they will continue to enhance, year over year, in progressive stages.

    “At our current stage, we delineated three goals for our new marriage-prep program,” she said. “The first one was getting the couples to participate in the Sunday Eucharist; our second one was ensuring they are welcomed and become engaged with their parish; and the third one was assuring that they develop the virtues and have the tools to help them live their vocation joyously and generously.”

    • Edward Herrera, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s director of marriage and family life, says:

      If RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] is the way in which individuals are welcomed into the Catholic community, I think that’s the same way we ought to look at marriage preparation …

      If RCIA is the model, then the project is “doomed from the start.”

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