Amoris Laetitia conclusions

It has now been 11 days since Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) was released to the public. It is the Holy Father’s reflections and conclusions on the Synod of Bishops meetings on the family. Apostolic Exhortations in the hierarchy of document authority are below Papal Bulls, Apostolic Constitutions, Motu Proprios, and Encyclicals. They are not legislative documents nor do they contain dogmatic definitions or changes to discipline. Amoris Laetitia is unusually large, weighing in at over 250 pages.

Pope Francis has long been rightly concerned with Catholics who feel estranged from the Church. He knows, due to secular propaganda and poor catechesis, that fallen-away Catholics feel rejected and do not participate in the life of the Church. These include those in same sex relationships, those struggling with gender identity and – the largest group – those who are married but living in an attempted “remarriage” outside of the Church.

Amoris Laetitia in many ways is a beautiful presentation, and even defense, of the teaching of the Church. It is also an invitation to those who have separated themselves to return and join all of us in responding to the universal call to holiness. Additionally, it is a document for the faithful intended to strengthen marriages and families.

Much of Amoris Laetitia is very good. It could have been in the same league of Humanae Vitae, but it sadly falls short due to critically muddled messages. A small part of it (particularly in chapter 8 and footnote 351) addressing pastoral care are ambiguous and problematic to the point of overshadowing the rest of the document. The text in question leaves open, for those inclined to interpret it in a certain way (debatably including Pope Francis), “pastoral practices” which are contrary to the timeless teaching of the Church everywhere and in every place, the direct words of Christ Jesus and the explicit warnings of St. Paul on receiving (“taking” is a more appropriate word in this instance) communion unworthily.

That scandal has already begun. Scandal, BTW, means evil actions which occasion others to sin. “Liberal” minded bishops (particularly in Germany, but other places too such as Chicago) have already declared these ambiguous words to be a game changer. For their part in the scandal, the biased liberal media was quick to affirm the same. To wit:

While Amoris Laetitia officially changes nothing, certain priests and bishops through their own interpretations of the ambiguity, are quite likely to offer a path to receiving communion for the “divorced and remarried.” To be clear, these are people who are already married to others and either have not sought a declaration of nullity or whose previous marriages were found to be valid but are unwilling to live in continence (i.e. as “brother and sister”) with their new partners. This acceptance over true repentance may be devastating to their eternal souls. The scandal will be harmful not only to the partners, but their children, their parish and the entire Body of Christ.

Amoris Laetitia, for all of its true and beautiful text, fails to clearly identify such immoral unions as sinful. Quotes from prior documents seem to selectively exclude that too. Instead, the immoral unions are normalized as simply “irregular.” Yes, they are indeed irregular because of their mortally sinful nature. Calling them irregular is misleading.

Likewise, the clear teaching of Christ on marriage, while strongly affirmed, is referred to as the “ideal.” It is ideal only in that any lesser sexual union is mortally sinful. Then again, Jesus’ teaching is described as “proposed” which it is, in the sense of free will to accept or reject Christ.

It is understandable for a pastor to (initially perhaps) use gentle words like irregular, ideal and proposed to open a dialog with those who have strayed. When they appear in an official teaching document and facilitate an interpretation implying acceptance of sin, which some appear determined to do, then they lead to scandal.

Lastly, Amoris Laetitia gives prominence to the “internal forum” and the person’s conscience. A well-formed conscience (i.e. in concert with God’s will) is valid and ancient Church teaching, but internal forum is somewhat technical and readily abused by misunderstanding. Without giving clear direction, the text in Amoris Laetitia can easily lead to the heresy of relativism. Already, America Magazine has declared simply and without qualification “the role of [sic] conscience is paramount in moral decision making” as a key takeaway from the document. With all due respect, that is absurd.

FWIW, my predictions are:

  • Amoris Laetitia will fail in its goals, but will be seriously divisive for the Church.
  • Those who are “divorced and remarried” will increasingly receive communion (and thereby, as St. Paul warned, “eats and drinks judgment on himself”) — with and without pastoral guidance.
  • In areas where bishops tolerate (or worse, promote) this abuse, actual applications for annulments will decline in preference to this express approach.
  • Young people contemplating marriage, will have ever more reason to doubt the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. What they see in actions will speak much louder to them than the words to the contrary.
  • Likewise, struggling marriages will be weakened as a new acceptance for “remarriage” may appear to be normalized.
  • A future “pope of clarity” will have to unambiguously correct this and other official ambiguities which have appeared in recent years.

Amoris Laetitia has much to recommend it, particularly for those who will read it with faithful eyes. Many who have been closely following the shennigans surrounding the Synod on the Family have feared it would be worse. For that at least, they are relieved.

EWTN’s highly respected news program The World Over with host Raymond Arroyo had excellent coverage of the issues raised by Amoris Laetitia last Thursday evening:

I strongly recommend further reading:

Fr. Zuhlsdorf has insightful posts on the topic too:

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What saves us?

We Christians are a confused lot. All of us would agree that we are saved by the cross of Christ, but many are fuzzy on the details. That extends to what we must do, if anything, to be saved.

Some would say we need not do anything. Many say we need only have faith. A few accuse others of trying to merit heaven by their works. Many say it is by baptism or perhaps only through baptism of those who have reached the age of reason. Others say that baptism is symbolic and we are saved only by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, typically responding to an “altar call.”

They can not all be right! Yet, there is some truth in all of these conflicting ideas.

The short answer is that the baptized are saved by grace through faith. Grace comes to us as God’s infinite divine mercy, fully merited for us by Christ. It is a pure gift which we are free to accept or reject. Grace is not forced upon us. We accept it — we “open the gift” — through faith.

Faith is believing, but alone without a living response would be but an empty declaration. Faith without works is dead. St. James is quite direct and powerful on this point (James 2:14-26). It is indeed, the only place in scripture where faith and works are mentioned together and only to stress the futility of “faith alone”. As St. James notes, even the demons believe in God.

This in no way implies that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient or that we could merit salvation through our efforts. Rather, our faith must be fruitful (Matthew 7:16-20), reflecting God’s will:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’

Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

Consider two men, both of whom self-identify as farmers. The first man is a avid reader about all aspects of farming and knows the topic thoroughly. His fields however, lay uncultivated and bear no fruit. The second man may be less of a farming expert than the first, but works in the fields – plowing, planting, harvesting.

Both of these men know farming, but which one would we call a farmer? So it is with Christians.

Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

As it is written: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

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7 Quick Takes Friday (set #196)

This week: The latest issue of New Evangelists Monthly awaits your perusal. Chris Stefanick explores the truth about YOU. Billy Kangas determines your Medieval vocation. Stephen Colbert talks about religion. Lutheran Satire asks if Christians and Muslims worship the same God? CollegeHumor envisions a church for those who are “spiritual, but not religious.” Will Stephen gives a TEDx talk about absolutely nothing (but looks sharp doing it).

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New Evangelists Monthly

Issue #40, April 2016, of New Evangelists Monthly is ready for your enjoyment! Scores of faithful Catholic bloggers have contributed their very best pieces from March. Contributing authors this month include: Virginia Lieto, Fr. Stephen Morris, Adam Crawford, Ellen Kolb, Dave Wanat, Susan Fox, Fr. John Paul Shea, Ellen Gable Hrkach, Birgit Jones, Mike Landry, Melanie Jean Juneau, Karee Santos, John Donaghy, Nancy Shuman, Laura Pearl, Christian LeBlanc, Lisa Laverty, Chris Capolino, David Cooney, Tony Agnesi, Robert Collins, Stephen Korsman, George Sipe, Kim Padan, John Schroeder, Kathleen Laplante, Barbara Szyszkiewicz, Dn. Scott Dodge, Rita Buettner, Leslie Klinger, Jennifer Short, Larry Peterson, Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Thomas and Deborah Richard, Reese Cumming, Fr. Conrad Saldanha, Roxane Salonen, Rich Maffeo, David Torkington, Carolyn Astfalk, Laura McAlister, Jamie Jo, Michael Seagriff, Rick Becker, Sr. Maresa Lilley, Sue Elvis, De Maria, David Wong, Fr. Richard DeLillio, Carissa Douglas, James Milliken, Jennifer Elia, Monica McConkey, Godwin Adadzie, Fr. Adrian Danker, Alexandrina Brant, Emily Davis, Lyn Mettler, Dn. Chris Anderson, Fr. Errol Fernandes, Barbara Hosbach, Joseph Shaw, W.L. Grayson, Justin Soutar, Kirby Hoberg, Jeff Walker, Bonnie Way, Larry T, Erin Cupp, Mary Nicewarner, Bartimaeus Timeo, Catherine Prady, Katie O’Keefe, Msgr. Charles Pope, Rick Rice, Dianna Kennedy, Tracy Smith, Melissa Overmyer, Frank Rega, Julian Barkin, Brian Gill, Joyce, Ruth Ann Pilney, Lianna Mueller, Anthony Layne, John Russell and Lisa Ponchak.

This monthly “meta-magazine” showcases faithful Catholicism from theology to family life and “everything in between.” Enjoy it now at NewEvangelists.org.

Read Now

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Chris Stefanick asks “why don’t you like yourself?” This is his new video on God’s love:

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Which Medieval Religious Order do you fit in? Billy Kangas has a fun, 8 question online Q&A thingy. I would not put a lot of trust into it and theorize that the answer will vary day-to-day based on your mood. Except, I keep getting told I would be a Benedictine…   Give it a spin at his blog.

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Stephen Colbert is an odd duck. That is, a Catholic duck, but an orthodox Catholic duck? It is really hard to tell, yet this is interesting:

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Here is a question that has no definitive answer: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” If our conception of God is so extremely different, is it really the same God just understood differently? I would say not. The folks at Lutheran Satire also tackle the problem, answering it in about 10 seconds:

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There is a weird class of person who describe themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” The folks at CollegeHumor (therefore WARNING: language at the end) imagine what a “church” might be like for them:

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Those who value intellect (particularly their own) above all else (specifically God), are drawn to “TED” talks. What might slip by their piercing gaze and deep thought, is just how formulaic they are. Comedy writer Will Stephen noticed and to their credit, the TED folks allowed this:


Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was begun by Jennifer Fulwiler and is now continued by Kelly Mantoan. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Kelly for hosting this project!

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New Evangelists Monthly – April 2016, Issue #40

This is the April 2016 issue of New Evangelists Monthly. With this announcement, participating Catholic bloggers link their best stories from last month right here at NewEvangelists.org. Revisit anytime to see up-to-the-minute posts in this dynamic format!

Contributor links are accepted beginning at noon (ET). Most contributions are received in a day or two. To see this new issue of New Evangelists Monthly, click below:

Preview Now

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From the archive (set #17)

Happy Easter! Tomorrow is time for New Evangelists Monthly to begin a new edition. Today, I would like to bring to your attention 3 original, brief essays that you may have missed. If you don’t have time to read all three, the first one is an especially fun, (fictional) newspaper-style report of Good Friday in […]

RIP, Mother Angelica

Easter Sunday, late afternoon, God called Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation home. We lost a truly amazing woman on this side of eternity, but her work will live on for a very long time. Mother Angelica was, of course, the foundress of EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) and a whole lot more. Her calling […]

Easter

O God, who on this day, through your Only Begotten Son, have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant, we pray, that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up in the light of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, […]

Good Friday

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said […]

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