Three Must-Read Articles That Zero In on Dangers of Amoris Laetitia

Three Must-Read Articles That Zero In on Dangers of Amoris Laetitia

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In his May 23, 2015 address to the “John 17 Movement”, Pope Francis said that he feels “like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps.” More and more Catholics are beginning to question whether this impulse is habitual for the pontiff.

BY STEVE SKOJEC ON SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

The volume and scope of the analysis by Church scholars, theologians, and other Catholic writers on the topic of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (AL), is little short of staggering. But in recent weeks, since the pope’s brazen approval of the Argentine Bishops’ letter making clear that there is “no other interpretation” than that AL chapter 8 provides a path for Catholics who are sexually active in post-marital second unions to receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, the urgency and forthrightness of these analyses have intensified.

I’ve spent a good portion of my day reading through and comparing three of these, and I think their importance cannot be overstated. It is worthy of note that the three publications in which they appeared — Catholic World Report, First Things, and The New York Times, respectively — while not averse to reasoned critiques, are also not among those outlets known for the staunchest of opposition to Francis’ agenda. That such thoughtful criticism is appearing in the larger world with increasing regularity is, I think, a sign that for the revolutionaries who have somehow captured the helm of Peter’s barque, their time to implement the program is running out.

The first of the articles in question is by E. Christian Brugger, a professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and Senior Fellow of Ethics at the Culture of Life Foundation in Washington, D.C. Having previously treated of the subject of AL’s problems in a widely-shared analysis in April of this year, Dr. Brugger returned to the subject in a September 20 essay that addresses the inherent dangers of AL’s attempt to subjectivize acts of conscience on matters of objective moral certitude:

Other authors have commented and reported on the papal reply, so I will not do so here. The purpose of this article rather is to critique the account of moral conscience implicit in the reasoning of the ABs and AL as defended in a recent article in National Catholic Reporter by Michael Lawler and Todd Salzman entitled: “In Amoris Laetitia, Francis’ model of conscience empowers Catholics”. The Salzman-Lawler (SL) duet made fame in 2008 for its publication of the book The Sexual Person, which set forth a fulsome defense of same-sex genital acts from Scripture, tradition, and natural reason, and which wascensured by the Committee on Doctrine of the USCCB in 2010.

In the NCR article, the authors consider what they refer to as two “diametrically opposed” understandings of conscience, one which they say overly emphasizes the “objective realm” of moral truth, and the other which, in their opinion, rightfully emphasizes the “subjective realm” of freedom and individuality. Let’s call these the “objectivist” and “subjectivist” models.

SL say that St. John Paul II,1 Archbishop Charles Chaput (“Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing Amoris Laetitia”) and Germain Grisez2 represent the objectivist model; and Pope Francis (in Evangelii Gaudium 231-232 and Amoris Laetitia Ch. 8), the German Jesuit theologian Josef Fuchs, and German Redemptorist theologian Bernard Häring represent the subjectivist school.

[…]

Before summarizing SL’s account, it’s important to understand a presupposition of their theory. They follow the reasoning of Fuchs and Häring, who in the years after Vatican II became Europe’s foremost defenders of the moral theory known as “Proportionalism”.3Although it comes in different flavors, common to all proportionalists is the insistence that intending evil as an end or means (what defenders refer to variously as “premoral evil”, “ontic evil”, “disvalue”, etc.) does not by that fact make an action morally wrong. If there are “morally relevant circumstances” justifying the commission of the evil—what they call “proportionate reasons” (not to be confused with proportionate reason as used in the classical Principle of Double Effect)—then it can rightly be chosen.

Why do I say this is important to understand? Because Proportionalism denies the existence of intrinsically evil actions, types of behavior that when freely chosen always constitute a disorder of the will. If there are no intrinsically wrongful types of action, then the Church, when it has taught that there are (e.g., adultery), has taught illicitly. And so whereas according to the Church’s teaching, conscience never rightly deliberates over whether or not to have sex with someone other than one’s valid spouse, conscience in the proportionalist account may indeed (in fact sometimes must) remain open to it. Why? Because if there are proportionate reasons for doing so, then under the circumstances it may be the right thing for me to do.

Subjectivizing the acts of conscience are a notable and consistent theme of this papacy, perhaps most infamously in the now twice-asked “Who am I to judge?” of Pope Francis. One sees evidence of this also, for example, in the permissive attitude offered by the pope as regards Lutherans making a personal decision to receive Holy Communion in a Catholic Church: “Life is bigger than explanations and interpretations,” the pope said in a meeting with Lutherans last November. “Always refer back to your baptism. ‘One faith, one baptism, one Lord.’ This is what Paul tells us, and then take the consequences from there. I wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it’s not my competence. One baptism, one Lord, one faith. Talk to the Lord and then go forward. I don’t dare to say anything more.”

Brugger expands on this mentality:

They [SL] bitterly criticize Archbishop Chaput’s statement that “the subjective conscience of the individual can never be set against objective moral truth.” On the contrary, they say, Vatican II’s advocacy for religious liberty demonstrates that what’s most central to conscience is its “sincere…search for goodness”, not necessarily its identification with what’s objectively good: “conscience is not at the service of doctrine.” To be sure, they say, objective moral truth is not irrelevant. But “the authority of conscience is not identified with whether or not it obeys the objective norm.”

And where have we heard this idea before of a “sincere…search for goodness”? Not long after his “Who am I to judge” statement, Pope Francis conducted the first of several papal interviews with La Reppublica’s Eugenio Scalfari. And in it, the following question and answer between journalist and pontiff transpired:

Your Holiness, you wrote that in your letter to me. The conscience is autonomous, you said, and everyone must obey his conscience. I think that’s one of the most courageous steps taken by a Pope.

“And I repeat it here. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

Dr. Brugger then makes the reasonable assertion that the solution to this problem of subjective inculpability for sin due to poorly-formed consciences is not to create loopholes so that these people may continue in their sin unawares, but to form them:

This leads to an unavoidable conclusion. If faced with a putatively ignorant conscience, Catholic pastors should make every reasonable effort to assist it to step out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of moral truth. We should form consciences, not leave them in error. How can one “prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2), if one lacks knowledge of God’s law and the principles of the moral order (cf. VS 64)? When JPII exhorts pastors to put themselves “at the service of conscience”, he means at the service of true human freedom. Unless consciences are formed in the truth, they won’t be able to avoid being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles (Eph 4:14).” Forming consciences assists them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man,” it helps them, especially in more difficult questions, not only “to attain the truth with certainty”, but also “to abide in it” (VS 64). Only through a “frank and open acceptance of the truth” can conscience attain to authentic freedom.

To authors who say that it is better to leave people in ignorance than to teach them truths that might be hard for them to bear, we should reply that every conscience has a right not to be left in confusion and error (RP, 33). Pastors entrusted with the care of consciences have a responsibility to serve the truth.

[…]

[C]onscience in the Catholic view does indeed stand in obedience to the moral law. But this obedience is not servile and passive, not the obedience of a slave to his master. It’s the obedience of a scientist to the truth, or a famished man to a feast, or the ear to sound and the eye to color, or an explorer to his longed-for destination, or of a hunting dog to his quarry. Conscience is made for moral truth. It searches for, finds, probes and understands more deeply, then directs action as best as it can in accord with it. How can this be a threat? Is a hand a threat to a glove, or a key to a lock? A healthy conscience doesn’t close us down and restrict us. It opens us up to the good and ultimately to God. It makes possible the flourishing of the gift of freedom (See JPII,General Audience, Aug. 17, 1983, 2; Insegnamenti, VI, 2 (1983), 256).

Dr. Brugger also tackles the thorny question of whether AL demands the assent of the faithful:

One of my seminarians recently came to me with a worried look on his face wondering whether because this was taught in a papal document he was obliged in conscience to accept it as true. I told him that Vatican II teaches that Catholics are obliged to receive the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, which the teaching of Amoris Laetitia constitutes, with a “religious submission of mind and will” (“religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium”;Lumen Gentium 25). I said this obsequium is different from the “assent of faith” (de fide credenda) required for the truths of Divine Revelation (cf. CDF, Donum Veritatis, no. 23). Obsequium means we come to the teaching with intellectual docility, giving it a presumption of truth, with a readiness to assent to it, and, if it’s moral instruction, to apply it to our lives.

But neither intellectual docility, nor readiness of will implies that we accept the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium without subjecting it to the authority of faith and reason. We are obliged in conscience to accept what’s true. The Holy Spirit guards the Church from error when she teaches infallibly, and so we can be confident that teachings taught infallibly are true. But the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the pope and bishops when they exercise their Ordinary Magisterium does not guard them from error.

And so we must always consider these teachings of the Church in the light of what we already know to be true concerning Catholic faith and morals. If after careful consideration we conclude that some teaching of the pope or bishops is inconsistent with the teaching of Christ or with moral or pastoral issues that the Church has already authoritatively and rightly settled, then we have no obligation to assent to it and we may be obliged to oppose it.

It is on this point that I would like to turn from Dr. Brugger’s analysis to that provided by Dr Jessica M. Murdoch, a professor of fundamental and dogmatic theology at Villanova. In her September 27 article at First Things, entitled, “Creeping Infallibility”, she grapples more extensively with the question of whether AL requires our assent — particularly in light of Cardinal Schönborn’s comments — made after he was tapped by Francis as the official interpreter of AL — that AL is “an act of the magisterium” and “an authentic teaching of sacra doctrina.” Murdoch breaks down the Viennese prelate’s claims:

The Cardinal’s statement does not equivocate. It can be translated into four propositions. First,Amoris Laetitia is a binding document of the ordinary magisterium. Second, it is meant to be universal in scope. Third, it bears a doctrinal character. Fourth, it is to be understood as an authentic interpretation of the deposit of the faith. These assertions, if correct, are extremely consequential. Under settled doctrine, Catholics would be required to assent intellectually and submit their minds and wills to the pronouncements in the Exhortation. The Cardinal’s conclusions, however, do not withstand scrutiny in light of principles governing the interpretation of magisterial documents.

Space will not permit me to cite her examples as to why his conclusions fall flat, but they bear reading. Murdoch’s examination of papal authority — when it is binding and when it is not — is simultaneously one of the most accessible and comprehensive I’ve seen. I’ll excerpt some of the meatiest bits here:

The basic principles of the Church’s doctrine of infallibility provide substantive guidance here. First and foremost, the Petrine ministry participates in the infallibility of the deposit of Revelation. This is crucial to hold in view, because Revelation is ultimately the criterion of truth. The special, divine assistance of infallibility is a privilege attached to the Holy Father as the center of unity of the Church, yet this privilege is always given for the entire Church. Besides the infallibility attached to the Pope’s pronouncements taught with the fullness of his supreme authority (the “extraordinary magisterium”), the “ordinary magisterium” can also be a source of infallible teaching, when it concerns de fide doctrine (concerning faith and morals), when it is marked by unity and unanimity, and when it is proposed to be definitive and absolute teaching. Not every teaching of the ordinary magisterium, however, fulfills these criteria. Some teachings of the ordinary magisterium can be fallible, and do not command interior assent of mind and will, if such teachings are clearly contrary to reason, or to the natural law, or to the divine positive law.

And in all of this one must keep ever in mind that the charism of infallibility is one of assistance and not of inspiration. In other words, the Holy Father cannot create doctrine, but can only explain the deposit of the faith more clearly. This consideration of assistance versus inspiration raises another question, namely, what is to be done when a direct contradiction appears between one pontificate and another, or between pontifical documents? Cardinal Schönborn suggests that in such cases the older pronouncements must yield to the newer. The Cardinal said that we read Nicaea in light of Constantinople I, and Vatican I in light of Vatican II. But the Church’s longstanding practice is precisely the contrary. It emphasizes that which is prior, that is, the Church’s tradition, over and against that which is posterior and, therefore, untested. Thus, the typical hermeneutic of the Church is to read Vatican II in light of Vatican I, Vatican I in light of Trent, Trent in light of what has preceded it and so on. In other words, tradition is always privileged as the remote rule of faith.

Responding faithfully to the trans-temporal magisterium of the Church (and not simply to the magisterium of one’s own times) requires holding in view two other principles of interpretation. First, “the minor must give way to the major.” Second, the “one must give way to the many.” Taking the first principle: If there is question of conflict between two pontifical documents, the privilege must be given to the document that bears higher magisterial authority. For example, an apostolic exhortation of one pontificate does not possess more authority than an encyclical of a prior papacy. Thus, Amoris Laetitia cannot supersede the encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Now, when the documents are of the same authoritative rank, the second principle comes into play: One must privilege the harmony of the many pontificates in union with each other, and their unanimity with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, over the one seemingly dissonant voice. This concept was famously expressed over 1,500 years ago in the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins: “Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” Although Amoris Laetitia and St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio are both apostolic exhortations, this principle would justify privileging John Paul’s document, because it seems to be more harmonious with prior magisterial teaching, both extraordinary and ordinary.

Ultimately, however, this level of discernment cannot be a matter of private judgment, but of magisterial decision. In case of real conflict between the teaching of various popes or between the teaching of one pontificate and natural or divine positive law, only the magisterium bears the obligation and authority to clarify any errors publicly.

One of the most important takeaways from the preceding four paragraphs is that we never read older or more authoritative Church documents “in light of” newer or less authoritative ones. I’ve been hearing the contrary from theologians — even at “orthodox” Catholic colleges — for years now. I’m deeply grateful that Dr. Murdoch puts this error to rest as part of her larger exposition.

So the question is: where does this all leave us?

That’s where Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, comes in. In an op-ed yesterday at The New York Times, Schmitz asks the fundamental question: “Has Pope Francis Failed?”

In a certain sense, things have changed. Perceptions of the papacy, or at least of the pope, have improved. Francis is far more popular than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Sixty-three percent of American Catholics approve of him, while only 43 percent approved of Benedict at the height of his popularity, according to a 2015 New York Times and CBS News poll. Francis has also placed a great emphasis on reaching out to disaffected Catholics.

But are Catholics actually coming back? In the United States, at least, it hasn’t happened. New survey findings from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggest that there has been no Francis effect — at least, no positive one. In 2008, 23 percent of American Catholics attended Mass each week. Eight years later, weekly Mass attendance has held steady or marginally declined, at 22 percent.

[…]

In spite of Francis’ personal popularity, young people seem to be drifting away from the faith.

Schmitz admits that it may take time to evaluate the full effect of the Francis papacy, but offers a compelling theory as to why the pope’s popularity hasn’t translated into actual bottom line results:

Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

Such denunciations demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return. Why join a church whose priests are little monsters and whose members like to throw stones? When the pope himself stresses internal spiritual states over ritual observance, there is little reason to line up for confession or wake up for Mass.

[…]

Francis has built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads. Those who wish to see a stronger church may have to wait for a different kind of pope. Instead of trying to soften the church’s teaching, such a man would need to speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom. Confronting a hostile age with the strange claims of Catholic faith may not be popular, but over time it may prove more effective. Even Christ was met with the jeers of the crowd.

The hallmark of this papacy — the legacy that Francis will leave behind — is one of confusion and discord. He is a bringer of chaos. The debate rages on in many corners of the Catholic world about whether he’s even a legitimate pope at all. As I’ve said before, it’s not our place to decide, and in practical terms, it makes little difference in terms of the aftermath he will leave in his wake. (If anything, proving that Francis was an anti-pope will make cleanup easier; at least then, some of his catastrophic decisions could be nullified.)

What we are left with is a Church being systematically dismantled by the man who should be its fiercest guardian. Honest, everyday Catholics wishing to be faithful and obedient do not know what to do or whose lead to follow. Pope Francis could die tonight in his sleep, and the damage that has been done would take decades to undo. Even then, things will never be the same. They may be repaired, but the scars will remain: souls lost, divergent paths ossified in the unchangeable paths that were laid down, leading many astray. The kind of scandal being wrought here on a global scale makes Christ’s parable of the millstone seem like a slap on the wrist.

In his analysis of the 2014 Synod on the Family, Bishop Athanasius Schneider said, referring to the now-infamous mid-term relatio:

Such a synod document, even if only preliminary, is a real shame and an indication to the extent the spirit of the anti-Christian world has already penetrated such important levels of the life of the Church. This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.

Would that it were the only such black mark. Wherever one looks in Rome, such defacements of the beauty doctrinal truth is in evidence for all to see.

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7 comments on “Three Must-Read Articles That Zero In on Dangers of Amoris Laetitia

  1. [More on the New York Times article]

    “Francis has built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads.

    Did Saint John Paul II, in numerous addresses and major documents, not give the Church enough to ponder and unpack about the meaning of marriage, sexuality, family, the feminine genius, and so many related matters?

    September 28, 2016
    Carl E. Olson

    The September 28th edition of The New York Times contains an op-ed by Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things, which poses the question “Has Pope Francis Failed?”—and then makes a succinct and pointed argument for a fairly resounding “Yes.” Schmitz’s focus is on the famous but increasingly hazy “Francis effect”:

    Observers predicted that the new pope’s warmth, humility and charisma would prompt a “Francis effect” — bringing disaffected Catholics back to a church that would no longer seem so forbidding and cold. Three years into his papacy, the predictions continue. Last winter, Austen Ivereigh, the author of an excellent biography of Pope Francis, wrote that the pope’s softer stance on communion for the divorced and remarried “could trigger a return to parishes on a large scale.” In its early days, Francis’ Jesuit order labored to bring Protestants back into the fold of the church. Could Francis do the same for Catholics tired of headlines about child abuse and culture wars?

    Schmitz says that perceptions “of the papacy, or at least of the pope, have improved.” Francis is, here in the U.S., more popular than his his predecessor: “Sixty-three percent of American Catholics approve of him, while only 43 percent approved of Benedict at the height of his popularity, according to a 2015 New York Times and CBS News poll. Francis has also placed a great emphasis on reaching out to disaffected Catholics.”

    But, Schmitz asks, “are Catholics actually coming back?” His negative answer to that question is based on the results of a recent survey from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate suggesting “there has been no Francis effect — at least, no positive one. In 2008, 23 percent of American Catholics attended Mass each week. Eight years later, weekly Mass attendance has held steady or marginally declined, at 22 percent.”

    In addition, religious observance among younger Catholics has taken a notable turn for the worse:

    In 2008, 50 percent of millennials reported receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, and 46 percent said they made some sacrifice beyond abstaining from meat on Fridays. This year, only 41 percent reported receiving ashes and only 36 percent said they made an extra sacrifice, according to CARA. In spite of Francis’ personal popularity, young people seem to be drifting away from the faith.

    We can also note that the attendance numbers for papal events in Rome have not been on the rise, with a precipitous drop from 2014 to 2015 in the number of people at general audiences, Angelus, and other events. Numbers, of course, only tell part of the story, and they are not, ultimately, the primary indicator of faithfulness, fidelity, and witness. But the second part of Schmitz’s essay is not about numbers, but about the specific tone, approach, and vision of Francis for the Church:

    Francis is a Jesuit, and like many members of Catholic religious orders, he tends to view the institutional church, with its parishes and dioceses and settled ways, as an obstacle to reform. He describes parish priests as “little monsters” who “throw stones” at poor sinners. He has given curial officials a diagnosis of “spiritual Alzheimer’s.” He scolds pro-life activists for their “obsession” with abortion. He has said that Catholics who place an emphasis on attending Mass, frequenting confession, and saying traditional prayers are “Pelagians” — people who believe, heretically, that they can be saved by their own works.

    Schmitz can only touch on some of these matters in passing, but those of us who have been following this papacy closely from the start know how the past three years have witnessed a steady stream of confusion, hyperbole, “ambiguities, inconsistencies, mixed messages, imprecisions, thinly veiled insults”—not to mention the odd use and misuse of language in the service of more confusion.

    “Such denunciations,” Schmitz insists, “demoralize faithful Catholics without giving the disaffected any reason to return.” I agree. And reading some of the comments left at Schmitz’s op-ed only reinforces the overall impression that Francis is mostly liked and lauded by those who see his pontificate as the start of a revolution overthrowing the usual litany of criticisms tossed at the Church: it is too patriarchal, rigid, narrow-minded, moralistic, judgmental, bigoted, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., etc. Yes, there are Catholics who are upset and even angry at Francis, but the overwhelming response, in my experience, is simply, “What is he doing? And why?”

    These are legitimate and good questions. As veteran Vatican journalist John Allen, Jr., mused in a recent Crux feature:

    Towards the end of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s document on the family, the pontiff writes that when priests have to make judgments in concrete cases such as pastoral care of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, they are to do so “according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop.”

    One wonders if he knew at the time just what a conflicting welter of responses that injunction would elicit.

    As Allen correctly notes, since the Apostolic Exhortation was released this past spring, “various bishops and groups of bishops around the world have issued guidelines for its implementation, and surveying the landscape, it’s abundantly clear they’re not all saying the same thing.”

    Put simply: if Francis knew that confusion would result, then we have to wonder at his motives, especially in light of his scathing address at the end of the 2015 Synod. After all, the papacy is supposed to be a clear sign and source of unity, even if the matters addressed are sometimes complex and difficult. And if he didn’t suspect that his 55,000 word document would elicit consternation and wildly differing interpretations, then we have to wonder about his foresightedness and prudence.

    No Catholic should ever be surprised that there is discord and fighting within the Church, but they should be bothered when a pope is so often at the middle of constant conflict, and when that conflict is so often originating in his own perplexing words and actions. Put another way, this is not like dissenting Catholics raging against John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, which was quite clear in its denunciation of flawed understandings of moral doctrine; rather, it is the unease and bewilderment of Catholics who know or suspect that accomodation, compromise, and sentimentality disguised as “pastoral” kindness are not good for the Church or the world. As I wrote earlier this month:

    … I am increasingly convinced that this papacy, for all of its strengths, weaknesses, and oddities, could well be known, down the road, as the Papacy of Sentimentality. It surely is not a papacy adhering to theological rigor or consistency. It wasn’t long ago that Francis made news for telling some Polish Jesuits that “in life not all is black on white or white on black. No! The shades of grey prevail in life.” But he is quite selective (and, I think, sentimental) in that regard. When it comes to marriage, sexuality, and family, there are apparently numerous shades of grey and very little that is clearly black and white. Thus, references to “sin” are avoided. But when it comes to the environment and global warming, which Francis has strong emotions about, there appears to be plenty of black and white, and almost no grey at all. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality,” warned Benedict XVI, “Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.” Mercy is not something that can be redefined in an arbitrary way, however good or appealing the sentiment involved.

    Meanwhile, back to Schmitz, who concludes:

    Francis has built his popularity at the expense of the church he leads. Those who wish to see a stronger church may have to wait for a different kind of pope. Instead of trying to soften the church’s teaching, such a man would need to speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom. Confronting a hostile age with the strange claims of Catholic faith may not be popular, but over time it may prove more effective. Even Christ was met with the jeers of the crowd.

    Those are strong words. Is Francis trying to soften Church teaching? Personally, I see no way around that conclusion. After all, if Francis never meant to change or soften Church teaching, why the constant reliance on Cardinal Kasper and other Germans, the two Synods, the regular confusion, the jostling and posturing, the endless “gestures”, the angry address at the conclusion of the 2015 Synod, the often tortured and purposeful ambiguity of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, and so forth?

    Did Saint John Paul II, in numerous addresses and major documents, not give the Church enough to ponder and unpack about the meaning of marriage, sexuality, family, the feminine genius, and so many related matters? Has human nature changed so much in the past decade? Has Church teaching become outdated or “out of touch” in a matter of a few years? It is unfortunate—indeed, deeply painful—to see the such confusion, turmoil, and frustration so often generated by the Barque of Peter, which should instead be providing solace, comfort, shelter, and clarity amid the dark waves of an increasingly antogonistic and volatile world.

  2. Just a note on Skojec. I’m boycotting him just as I do LaVoris. And for the same reason.

    Skojec gratuitously attacked John Vennari, Chris Ferrara and Mike Matt very recently, most likely in order to attract neo-kathlyckx to his blog and at the expense of objectivity, doctrine and integrity.

    It matters not whether his other, non-abusive, snark-free comments are the best stuff written since Dr. Johnson. He’s a calumniator against three deeply fair, exactingly scrupulous men I admire and he will be criticized by me until he apologizes.

    Chris Ferrara did respond to Skojec’s tripe, disemboweled and nonsensical claims and it went, predictably, right over the Skojec’s head.

  3. @gmptrad

    Skojec did offer a disembodied “apology” – using the logic that those who were subsequently banned from his website used to elicit said apology. But whereas others on the thread, namely Mr. Ferrara and Fr. RP apologized directly to posters, Steve didn’t. And the return thanks of others, again, was similarly disallowed because Steve forgot his own policy of play nice.

    Here it is:

    “Does anyone here really think that continuing to foment divisions among people on the same side is going to help our cause?

    Do we really want to waste energy fighting each other?

    I know that my comment came across badly, and for that I apologize. Looking back, I was irritated at the reaction that Fr. RP’s fairly benign criticism was getting. That showed in how I handled my own responses. I am not just lecturing from an ivory tower when I talk about having sharp elbows. I know what anger does when it’s an ever-present thing. It’s one of the chief vices I fight every day. And it’s hurt a lot of people close to me.

    So yes, I do think tone matters. (It certainly mattered in my comment that started all of this, don’t you think?) And yes, I do think that how we approach these topics matters — sometimes almost as much as the truth of what we’re saying. It’s not about some false dichotomy between being nice or mean, it’s about removing the rhetorical stumbling blocks that could keep someone who is just waking up to the crisis (in a way that only Francis could make happen) from being willing to commit to the answers that tradition offers. I have family members and friends who have had this reaction. I’ve even experienced it myself, over a decade ago, when I first found tradition. Sometimes you can agree with what is being said while still finding the way it’s said so abrasive that you almost regret your agreement.
    We make lots of strong statements here. We have earned a lot of enemies of our own doing it. I’m not selling Jesus as a fluffy butterfly from the mountain. I don’t think I hold back on the crisis. I just try to avoid, wherever possible, the ad hominem and impugning motives that so often distracts from the larger point (unless you already agree with it.)

    But again, we are supposed to all be on the same side here, so why not act like it? I have no animosity towards the folks at The Remnant (or CFN; I met John Vennari last year and he was very gracious, and I was very sad to hear about his recent illness). I don’t see the point in forming up sides for a brawl.

    I have my own ideas about the best way to do things, and that’s why I started my own publication. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and I expect others will do the same. We are wasting precious time and energy, though, if the few of us who really see things for what they are turn on each other rather than face the enemy in the field.

    Can we all please move on? This isn’t worth it.”

    I just can’t help feeling like Steve plagiarized the material of those who were seeking to correct him when he was forced to clean up his own mess, to include the empty shell casings of the shots he was firing wildly in an attempt to tell everyone to play nice.

    He’ll learn.

    • Thanks for the info, pgm.

      At least Sojec “kinda/sorta-ed” here and there and became a little more humane when he mentioned John V’s situation.

      So, okay. I’ll call off the boycott. The sentence for calumny is hereby lifted and the matter forgotten.

      So all two of my fanatically loyal followers on the internet can now go read Sojec, again. Although, since both of them are Irish Setters, I can’t vouch for how closely they interpret the fella’s remarks…

      As for me, I’ll just stick with hunting down the latest Dilbert cartoons.

  4. Holy pugilistics, pgmgn! (Not meaning you, and not to start it up here — being nice, you know! Then again, maybe you recall the old days on AQ ca 2005: bam! boom! Right, Serv?) You really got Steve going, just for giving Fr. RP a mirror?! Wrong place, wrong time, I guess. It had heated up rather quickly, putting folks on edge.

    There’s got to be a better way to discuss the merits of the Remnant / CFN letter without what happened over there. Steve won’t live very long if he keeps that up — I mean, that’s very weathering.

    Now to cause trouble: I’d prefer the Remnant / CFN letter toned down a hair if I were writing it. The example I’d raise is any of the Letters of Accusation written by Abbe de Nantes. This isn’t to say they’re wrong in what they did. Some saints, if I recall, got really fired up in arguments, way beyond the Remannt / CFN letter. So, more salt, less pepper, but it’s not worth getting bent out of shape.

    How are you doing? I haven’t looked at more recent comments over there and don’t plan to.

    • A simple, “I would have pulled back a little more if I’d written it, but I didn’t write it. So bully for our brothers-in-arms! Let’s thank the Good God that someone did what needed doing. Now onward together.”

      That and an even handed admonition to “play nice” all around, even to those wearing collars. The tendency to treat religious with kid gloves, with editors coming to bear like body guards is entirely unnecessary if the objective is to foment genuine understanding.

      Everyone, not just priests, should be treated as a welcome guest. And folks should be allowed to explain themselves. Not be typecast and shunted to time out because despite a polite “tone” they present a different, and valid, POV. (That’s just another example of hypocrisy.)

      But learning the hard way is just another style. So the kerfuffle served its purpose. I’m just disappointed at the growing elitist attitude. THAT is what causes division and can, potentially, ruin what was slated to be a very good thing.

      See ya round the internet ;^)

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