by Christopher A. Ferrara
December 5, 2016
In the turbulent wake of Amoris Laetitia, Francis may think he can calm the waves of disturbance he has unleashed throughout the Church and force an acceptance of his utter novelties in the realm of moral theology even despite the historic Four Cardinals Letter. The chosen modus operandi seems to be the use of mitered henchman — strategically vested with cardinal’s hats in a move akin to promoting pawns to queens in a chess endgame. Their role on the Bergoglian chess board is to denounce the four cardinals and other objectors as fomenters of “disunity” and “disloyalty” to the Pope, as if Francis were the head of a political party who must be defended no matter what he says or does.
But the sensus fidei of faithful Catholics cannot be suppressed, even by a Pope. Rather, the opposition to Francis’ — one must say it — moral demolition project continues to mount. The Four Cardinals Letter, it would appear, is but the opening salvo in what promises to be a civil war within the ecclesiastical commonwealth — a war between the teaching of all the Popes and the teaching of one Pope.
Now even resolutely “mainstream” [neo-]Catholic sources are sounding the alarm, however guardedly. At thecaholicthing.org, for example, Father Mark Pillon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, writes that the five dubia (questions) in the Four Cardinals Letter
“were very carefully and succinctly written and followed the traditional method of presentation of such questions to the Holy See. They ask the pope to explain how certain statements in Amoris Laetitia were to be understood in the light of the authoritative teachings of his predecessor Pope John Paul II [citing texts]. These texts are foundational for the Church’s teaching on moral principles, for an upright confessional practice, and for sacramental discipline.”
Regarding Francis’ stony silence in the face of the dubia, Fr. Pillon notes that it is “a stunning response from the Chair of Peter. One might almost call it reckless, given the very real potential for dividing the Church.”
Coming from a diocesan priest, publishing on a “mainstream” Catholic website, these remarks are a devastating implicit indictment of this pontificate: i.e., that we have a Pope whose novel teaching appears to contradict prior papal teaching at the very foundation of the Church’s moral edifice and her integrally connected sacramental discipline, thus threatening the Church with a papally provoked schism.
Going further, Fr. Pillon cites the distinguished Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann, a leader of the lay opposition to the errors of Amoris, who observed last year that “This pope is one of the most autocratic [popes] that we have had in a long time.” Also cited is the Reuters contributor Philip Puella, an admirer of Francis, who writes approvingly that “Francis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down” and that “after he was elected, he appointed trusted people to lower or mid-level positions in Vatican departments, where they can be his eyes and ears.” That sounds awfully like a dictator intent on imposing his personal will, with the aid of secret police, rather than a Roman Pontiff intent on preserving and defending what has been handed down to him,
But Francis and his collaborators will not be able to mock, scorn, demote and remove the loyal Catholic opposition into silence. An iron fist cannot extinguish the sensus fidei any more than it can extinguish the Holy Ghost Himself. What will be extinguished, in God’s good time, is Francis’ attempt to overturn the constant teaching of the Church.
Indeed, we, or those who follow us, may see the day when a successor issues — concerning this Pope — the same sort of condemnation Leo II issued regarding Honorius I, who aided and abetted the spread of the Monothelite heresy (no human, but only a divine will in Christ) by sending to a leader of the heretics (Sergius) a letter agreeing with his heresy. Following is Pope Leo’s condemnation:
“We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, betrayers rather than leaders of the Church of Constantinople, and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.”
Will this be the fate of the “inventor of a new error” who now declares, contrary to the teaching of the very Pope he canonized, that certain public adulterers in “second marriages” can receive Holy Communion following “discernment” of the acceptability of their adulterous “unions”? History will be the judge of that. But God has already judged the errors of Amoris: Verdict for the plaintiffs, who are opposing those errors in the name of the Truth that makes us free.