Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] Pope Francis as Public Heretic: The Evidence Leaves No Doubt
Posted on 11/24/2023 9:59:51 AM PST by ebb tide
Editorial Note: Rorate Caeli’s position is that Francis is the pope and that sedevacantism or any of its variants is mistaken. For the sake of enriching the public debate, we publish this study by frequent contributor Dr John Lamont concerning heresies in documents signed by Pope Francis (PDF here for those who prefer that format). While Dr. Lamont agrees that Francis is the pope, he considers that the questions that the pope's heretical statements raise need to be addressed in order to prepare theologians and prelates for what is to come.
Since human beings are totally dependent on God as their Creator and Lord, and created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are obliged to yield to God the revealer full submission of intellect and will by faith. This faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church professes to be a supernatural virtue, by means of which, with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us, we believe to be true what He has revealed, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived.
First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, ch. 4:
For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated. Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy Mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding. May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole Church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding.
First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, ch. 4, can. 3:
If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, with the progress of knowledge, a sense should be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the Church which is different from that which the Church has understood and does understand: let him be anathema.
Pope Francis’s distinction between the “perennial substance” of the testimonies of Tradition and the “cultural conditioning” of these testimonies asserts that only a part of the content of these testimonies must always be accepted by Catholics. This part is their so-called “perennial content.” The rest of the content of all of the testimonies of tradition is produced by the cultural conditions of their time. This element is not part of their perennial content, and hence does not need to be accepted by all Catholics at all times.
This position might be acceptable if applied solely to some non-infallible expressions of Tradition, but Pope Francis does not apply only to these non-infallible expressions, He applies it to all expressions of Tradition whatsoever, which includes infallible teachings. Moreover, the first dubium to which he is responding specifically asks about Divine Revelation to which the obedience of faith is due. This includes only expressions of Tradition that are infallibly taught. Pope Francis’s response should be understood as referring entirely or at least primarily to the expressions of Tradition that are referred to in the dubium to which he is responding. The response therefore applies to expressions of Tradition that infallibly teach divinely revealed dogmas.
The bare statement that not all of the content of any testimony of tradition needs to be accepted in its entirety is heretical. Pope Francis does not limit himself to this bare statement; he asserts that some elements of the culturally conditioned content of the testimonies of tradition may or must be rejected as deficient. But the teaching of Dei Filius cited above asserts that the entire meaning of the dogmatic teaching of the Church must be accepted by all Catholics at all times in the sense that the teachings had when they were first made. It does not deny that dogmatic utterances are expressed in the cultural and conceptual forms of their time. It asserts that the utterances that these cultural and conceptual forms were used to produce give an entirely true description of what is, and do not and could not contain any false or dispensable elements.
Purely human assertions can contain erroneous elements because of the influence of the cultural and conceptual forms of their time. This is not true of God. The statements made by the Scriptures and by Sacred Tradition are uttered both by God and by human beings. The fact that these statements are made by the free action of human will and human intellect does not make them any the less fully and directly divine statements. Since God is all-knowing and all-powerful, He can ensure that any statements that He makes in human language, using human instruments, are entirely free of error of any kind. Since He is perfectly good and truthful, He will ensure that His statements are free of any error. These are the reasons given by the First Vatican Council for holding that Catholic dogma cannot be mistaken, cannot change, and must be believed by Catholics. Pope Francis’s claim that all of the testimonies of tradition may contain erroneous elements because of the influence of the cultural and conceptual forms of their time thus implies that none of these testimonies are divinely revealed.
In paragraph g) of his reply to the first dubium, Pope Francis states:
In this regard, I would like to recall what St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed: “The more one descends to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects” (Summa Theologiae I/II q. 94, art. 4).
Since the dubium refers to Divine Revelation and the question of whether or not this revelation is immutable, the natural sense of this statement should be understood as applying this affirmation of St. Thomas Aquinas to Divine Revelation. In this sense, the statement asserts that Divine Revelation contains defects, and that the more one descends into the details of Divine Revelation the more defects are to be found in it. This expresses and expands on the heresy plainly stated in paragraph f). The citation from St. Thomas Aquinas does not support this heresy, because St. Thomas is referring to practical, contingent matters that are the subject matter of the practical reason (“contingentia, in quibus sunt operationes humanae”), not to Divine Revelation or to speculative truths in general. However, the words of this citation by Pope Francis, taken in isolation independently of their original meaning when used by St. Thomas, and are heretical as applied to Divine Revelation, the subject of the first dubium.
The contradiction between Pope Francis’s statement and this teaching of the First Vatican Council is apparent from the explication of this teaching given in other magisterial statements:
Pius IX, Bull Ineffabilis Deus:
For the Church of Christ, watchful guardian that she is, and defender of the dogmas deposited with her, never changes anything, never diminishes anything, never adds anything to them; but with all diligence she treats the ancient documents faithfully and wisely; if they really are of ancient origin and if the faith of the Fathers has transmitted them, she strives to investigate and explain them in such a way that the ancient dogmas of heavenly doctrine will be made evident and clear, but will retain their full, integral, and proper nature, and will grown only within their own genus—that is, within the same dogma, in the same sense and the same meaning.
John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 27:
Every truth, if it is authentic, presents itself as universal and absolute, even if it is not the whole truth. If something is true, then it must be true for all people and at all times.
John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 95:
The word of God is not addressed to any one people or to any one period of history. Similarly, dogmatic statements, while reflecting at times the culture of the period in which they were defined, formulate an unchanging and ultimate truth.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration “Dominus Iesus” on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, 6:
The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God.
Pope Francis might reject the teaching of Vatican I and of these magisterial pronouncements as products of cultural conditioning, and therefore as not binding on Catholics. But such a move would simply reveal the depth of the rejection of faith involved in the modernist heresy that he is espousing. Since every part of every magisterial pronouncement is influenced by the cultural conditions in which it was produced, this approach permits the modernist to reject any part of the teaching of the Church that he chooses, while still claiming to be Catholic. It is a strategy that has been used by modernist theologians to reject various Catholic teaching on faith and morals.
Pope Francis does not specify if all the testimonies of Tradition require interpretation in order to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning, or if only some of them do. Either one of these position is heretical.
If all the testimonies of Tradition require interpretation in order to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning, then the perennial substance of magisterial teaching can never be set forth by the magisterium of the Church. This is because every magisterial teaching exists in some cultural context or other. A magisterial teaching that attempts to identify the perennial substance in a previous teaching will thus itself be a compound of perennial substance and cultural conditioning, which must be distinguished in order to know what part of it must be accepted; and so on ad infinitum. We will never get to a magisterial teaching whose content can simply be accepted as it stands.
Pope Francis does not seem to hold that all the testimonies of Tradition require interpretation in order to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning, because he expects his own statements to be accepted as they stand. This position makes him the supreme and sole arbiter of revelation, since he can reject any part of Scriptural and magisterial teaching as culturally conditioned while requiring that his own position on the contents of the faith be accepted in its entirety.
Now this supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, as declared by the sacred council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us. The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical. These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and were as such committed to the Church.
Chapter 2, canon 4:
If anyone does not receive as sacred and canonical the complete books of sacred scripture with all their parts, as the holy council of Trent listed them, or denies that they were divinely inspired : let him be anathema.
Pope Francis does not give what he understands to be the meaning of the Scriptural passages that he asserts to be false. He is not distinguishing between different possible understandings of these passages, and maintaining that some particular interpretation of these passages is not what God in fact meant to express by them, and should be rejected as false; he is claiming that the passages themselves are false. Denying that some Scriptural passage is true is heretical in itself, since the Catholic faith holds that every assertion of Scripture is a divinely revealed truth.
Pope Francis uses this claim about these Scriptural passages to argue for the general claim that some or all of the Scriptures must be rejected as false in their original meaning. This general claim is heretical, since it contradicts Catholic dogma on the divine inspiration and consequent complete truth of the Scriptures. The different methods of interpreting the Scriptures, the varying interpretations of Scriptural texts, and the original meaning of the Scriptural passages that he mentions are immaterial when it comes to the heretical character of this general claim. It is however easy to show the falsity of Pope Francis’s claim that the Scriptural passages he mentions are unacceptable in their original meaning (see Annexe I below).
Pope Francis’s general claim about the Scriptures is a far graver heresy than his more circumscribed heresy of denying the truth of several Scriptural passages. As well as denying the Catholic teaching that Scriptural passages must be true because they are divinely revealed, it asserts that any part of a Scriptural passage can be judged to be false on the grounds of the cultural conditioning of that passage. But every Biblical text, like every other text, is culturally conditioned in its entirety. Biblical texts are expressed in human languages, which are cultural forms, and they are of necessity formulated using the concepts and assumptions of their human authors. Pope Francis’s position lets us reject any part of a Biblical text on the grounds that it is culturally conditioned, if we come to disagree with something that the people of the culture that produced it assumed or held to be true. It is a heresy that permits any Scriptural assertion to be dispensed with at will.
The teaching that divine inspiration extends to every part of the Scriptures and that this inspiration rules out any error is asserted in the following pronouncements, which repeat and explain the teaching of the First Vatican Council on this subject:
Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, 20:
For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.” Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write—He was so present to them—that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture.
Pius XII, Providentissimus Deus, 3–4:
It is absolutely wrong and forbidden “either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred,” since divine inspiration “not only is essentially incompatible with error but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and constant faith of the Church.” This teaching, which Our Predecessor Leo XIII set forth with such solemnity, We also proclaim with Our authority.
Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum, 11–12:
For Holy Mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself. In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted.
Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore ‘all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text). [The encyclicals Providentissimus Deus and Providentissimus Deus as cited above are referenced in the footnotes to this passage from Dei Verbum, in order to explain the doctrine that is being asserted.]
In his apostolic letter Ad Theologiam Promovendam, Pope Francis asserts:
- theology must develop using an inductive method, which starts from the different contexts and concrete situations in which peoples are inserted, and allows itself to be seriously challenged by reality
- the knowledge of people’s common sense is a “locus theologicus” that must be privileged first of all by theology
- theology must enter into the culture, worldview, and religious tradition of a people, and develop into a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian denominations and different religions
These statements contradict the following teaching of the Catholic Faith.
First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, ch. 3:
Since human beings are totally dependent on God as their Creator and Lord, and created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are obliged to yield to God the revealer full submission of intellect and will by faith. This faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the Catholic Church professes to be a supernatural virtue, by means of which, with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us, we believe to be true what He has revealed, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived....
Ibid., Canon 2:
If anyone says that divine faith is not to be distinguished from natural knowledge about God and moral matters, and consequently that for divine faith it is not required that revealed truth should be believed because of the authority of God who reveals it: let him be anathema.
Ibid., chapter 4:
Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the Church, or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason. Therefore we define that every assertion contrary to the truth of enlightened faith is totally false (see Lateran council V, session 8). Furthermore the Church which, together with its apostolic office of teaching, has received the charge of preserving the deposit of faith, has by divine appointment the right and duty of condemning what wrongly passes for knowledge, lest anyone be led astray by philosophy and empty deceit (see Col 2, 8). Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth. Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.
Hence, so far is the Church from hindering the development of human arts and studies, that in fact she assists and promotes them in many ways. For she is neither ignorant nor contemptuous of the advantages which derive from this source for human life, rather she acknowledges that those things flow from God, the lord of sciences, and, if they are properly used, lead to God by the help of his grace. Nor does the Church forbid these studies to employ, each within its own area, its own proper principles and method: but while she admits this just freedom, she takes particular care that they do not become infected with errors by conflicting with divine teaching, or, by going beyond their proper limits, intrude upon what belongs to faith and engender confusion. For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated.
Ibid., Canon 2:
If anyone says that human studies are to be treated with such a degree of liberty that their assertions may be maintained as true even when they are opposed to divine revelation, and that they may not be forbidden by the Church: let him be anathema.
Catholic theology takes God as its object, and it takes the study of divinely revealed truths contained in Scripture and Sacred Tradition as its method. Its knowledge of these truths is based on an act of the theological virtue of faith, which assents to the truths divinely communicated by God in Scripture and Sacred Tradition ‘because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived.’ The goal of theology is to understand these divinely revealed truths more deeply, discern the connections between them, and discover the conclusions that logically follow from them.
If theology starts from the different contexts and concrete situations in which peoples are inserted, then these contexts and concrete situations are where divine revelation is to be found. But this is incompatible with the definition of divine revelation given above. The contexts and situations in which peoples are inserted do not have the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived, and they cannot be believed on the grounds of God’s authority, or provide material for beliefs that are accepted because of the authority of God who reveals it. They are not divine communications that demand the assent of faith. They provide natural knowledge that is not divine revelation and cannot be identified with it. The same applies to the knowledge of people’s common sense. This is a natural form of knowledge that is not divine revelation. It is not a “locus theologicus,” that is, it is not a fundamental principle or source of theological science. Human common sense is subject to instruction and correction by divine revelation and has no authority over it.
Nor can divine revelation be known through induction. Belief in divine revelation does not involve inductive inference. It is directly based on the authority of God who cannot be deceived or deceive. Belief on this basis involves a deductive inference from properties that God possesses necessarily. It confers absolute certainty—as the Church teaches—which inductive inference cannot do. The absolute certainty of divine knowledge, and the absolute trustworthiness of divine revelation, are the reasons why the Church anathematizes the claim that human studies can be treated with such a degree of liberty that their assertions may be maintained as true even when they are opposed to divine revelation. The apostolic letter Ad Theologiam Promovendam thus goes farther than the denial of individual divinely revealed truths. It proposes a theological message that denies the existence of divine revelation as the Catholic Church understands it.
Ad Theologiam Promovendam describes the task of theology as reading and interpreting the Gospel, as penetrating and communicating the truths of faith and transmitting the teaching of Jesus in today’s languages, and as the proclamation of the salvific event of God-agape communicated in Jesus Christ. This presents the object of theology as the Christian revelation, and the task of theology as being the understanding and communication of this revelation. This description of the object and task of theology is in accordance with Catholic teaching, as far as the ordinary meaning of its words go. But these words do not make explicit mention of divinely revealed truths or of the theological virtue of faith. And as noted above, the theological method prescribed in Ad Theologiam Promovendam indicates that the apostolic letter does not understand the truths of faith and the teaching of Jesus as being divinely revealed in the sense of Catholic teaching. It excludes the possibility of these truths and these teachings being divinely revealed in this sense.
The apostolic letter in fact proposes a common understanding of theology and divine revelation; it is the understanding that is held by progressive theologians who deny that divine revelation is propositional in nature—they deny the existence of truths that are communicated by God, and reject the conception of faith as consisting in or including belief in such truths on the grounds that God has literally asserted them. Pope Francis is correct in asserting that Catholic theology is called to a turning point, a paradigm shift, and a cultural revolution by Ad Theologiam Promovendam: the apostolic letter requires the rejection of the Catholic conceptions of divine revelation, faith, and theology. The term “cultural revolution” is an apt one. This term refers to the movement launched by Mao in China in 1966. The method proposed by Ad Theologiam Promovendam aims at complete destruction of Catholic tradition and belief, just as Mao’s Cultural Revolution aimed at complete destruction of Chinese tradition.
Exodus 20:14. You shall not commit adultery.
Matthew 19:3–12. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
Mark 10:2–12. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Luke 16:18. Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
1 Corinthians 6:9–10. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 7:10–11. To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
1 Corinthians 11:27–30. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
He also contradicts the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio of Pope John Paul II issued in 1981. Familiaris Consortio states (no. 84):
Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The Synod Fathers studied it expressly. The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.
Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.
Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.
However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.
Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.’ [John Paul II, Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, 7 (Oct. 25, 1980)].
Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.
By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner. With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord’s command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.
Familiaris Consortio clearly states what Amoris Laetitia denies: the divorced and remarried who do not undertake to live as brother and sister cannot be granted absolution, and cannot be admitted to Eucharistic communion. This is not the full extent of the contradiction between the two documents. Familiaris Consortio explicitly considers those “hard cases” that Amoris Laetitia raises, such as persons who are subjectively convinced that their previous marriages were not valid, those who have been unjustly abandoned by their spouses, and those who enter into or remain in civil partnerships for the sake of their children’s upbringing. It teaches that these “hard cases” cannot be a basis for changing the Church’s discipline concerning absolution and reception of the Eucharist. It agrees with Amoris Laetitia in saying that the Church cannot abandon to their own devices those Catholics who have entered into second unions. However, its understanding of what it means for the Church to not abandon these people is the opposite of the one proposed by Amoris Laetitia. Familiaris Consortio describes the pastoral help of the Church in these cases as having the object of enabling such persons to cease their adulterous and bigamous relations. Amoris Laetitia does not propose this as the object of their pastoral care; instead it proposes that in some cases they should be assisted to live their adulterous and bigamous relations in a good way.
Amoris Laetitia recognizes “limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability” for the situations of the civilly divorced and remarried living more uxorio with one another, and that in consequence permit them to be absolved and to receive the Eucharist. But the character of these limitations is not plainly specified. There are two possible ways in which such a specification could be made. The limitations in question could be understood as circumstances that make the actions and lives of such persons objectively good, and hence not in need of forgiveness. This is certainly what is suggested by the text of Amoris Laetitia. However, these limitations could instead be understood as circumstances that do not make the actions and lives of such persons objectively good, but do make them subjectively guiltless for their cohabitation and sexual relationship. It is therefore necessary to determine what Scripture and tradition teach on both these possibilities.
The above Scriptural passages express an absolute prohibition upon adulterers receiving the Eucharist. They state that those guilty of grave sins may not receive the Eucharist, that adultery is a grave sin, and that those who divorce their spouse and marry someone else commit adultery. The Scriptural texts are much clearer on this subject that they are on many doctrines that have been solemnly defined as divinely revealed. The question is therefore whether the Eucharist can be received by persons who are objectively acting in an evil way by their cohabitation and sexual relationship, but whose responsibility for this evil action is for some reason reduced or nonexistent.
The possibility of such persons receiving the Eucharist can be excluded in two ways. The first way is through a divine commandment addressed to the civilly divorced and remarried that absolutely forbids them to receive the Eucharist. The second way is through a divine commandment addressed to priests and bishops absolutely forbidding them to dispense the Eucharist to persons who are civilly divorced and remarried.
It is certainly true that Catholics are forbidden to choose to receive the Eucharist when they are in a state of mortal sin. But it does not follow from this that it is the defiled state of the soul in mortal sin that furnishes the sole reason for the prohibition on grave sinners receiving the Eucharist, so that the absence of this defiled state of soul removes the basis for this prohibition. The Scriptural passages that express this prohibition do not qualify it by saying that those who commit grave sins with full knowledge and consent of the will must not choose to receive the Eucharist. What the Scriptural texts say is that committing grave sin is a bar to reception of the Eucharist. It is not hard to see why this commandment is not qualified by adding that the grave sin in question is one that is done with full knowledge and consent of the will. The Eucharist is the holiest thing in the universe, and nothing evil can be permitted to approach it. In the hypothetical case of a person blamelessly living in an adulterous relationship, the evil of mortal sin in the person’s soul is lacking, but the objectively evil act, with its violation of the order of justice and its evil consequences, remains. Reception of the Eucharist by a person committing this evil would be a profanation of the sacrament, and hence is contrary to divine law. As the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique states, receiving communion in a state of merely material sin is in itself a very grave sacrilege, because objectively speaking it involves a profanation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
This requires that the civilly divorced and remarried be forbidden by the Church to attempt to receive the Eucharist, regardless of their degree of responsibility for their state. Are priests also required to refuse the Eucharist to such persons? The profanation of the sacrament involved in reception of the Eucharist even by someone in a merely material state of grave sin is one reason why this is is required. Such reception could not benefit the persons receiving the Eucharist in any way, because the benefit that is sought in receiving the Eucharist is grace and union with Christ. This benefit will not be granted by a communion that profanes the Eucharist, even if the persons receiving it are guiltless of the profanation that occurs. Scandal given to other Catholics by such reception is another compelling reason for refusing it.
There is also a divine command that forbids giving the Eucharist to public grave sinners. Such a command is to be found in a number of places in the Scriptures. There are several Scriptural texts that command the expulsion of public grave sinners from the Christian community. We may take it that such expulsion includes refusal of the Eucharist. 1 Corinthians 5:1-6 refers to the expulsion of a man for an irregular marriage (to his father’s wife). The chapter then generalizes this measure in verses 10 to 11 (quoted above), commanding the expulsion of a number of categories of public sinners, and concludes ‘Put away the evil one from among yourselves’ (v. 13). 1 Timothy 1:20 refers to another such expulsion. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 states ‘And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.’ These passages together constitute a clear Scriptural command to refuse the Eucharist to public sinners. This includes public adulterers such as the civilly divorced and remarried. Some obvious reasons can be suggested for this command; respect for the meaning and function of the Eucharist as the bond of union in Christ, the avoidance of the desecration of the Eucharist by a sacrilegious communion, and the prevention of the spiritual harm caused to those who make sacrilegious communions. To them may be added the grounds that Familiaris Consortio provides for the specific prohibition on giving the Eucharist to the civilly divorced and remarried.
There is a general moral issue at stake as well. The assumption behind the position of Pope Francis is that it is not reasonable to assert that there is situation where complete sexual continence can be demanded of Catholics. The teaching that Christians must accept that there are circumstances where complete sexual continence is required of them, and that they cannot refuse such continence under those circumstances if they wish to be saved, is plainly asserted in the Scriptures. It is essential to all Christian teaching on sexual activity. By rejecting it, Pope Francis makes a clean sweep of Christian sexual morality.
Pope Francis’s position on the reception of the Eucharist is thus heretical on a number of counts. It should be noted that this position implements the heretical positions put forward in his response to the dubia of the five cardinals and in the apostolic letter Ad Theologiam Promovendam. The teaching of the Scriptures on this subject could not be clearer. Pope Francis flatly contradicts these Scriptural teachings, without troubling to offer any justifications or explanations for doing so. His theological method and his positions on Scripture and tradition enable him to do this.
Neither is it always demanded in the external forum that there be a warning and a reprimand as described above for somebody to be punished as heretical and pertinacious, and such a requirement is by no means always admitted in practice by the Holy Office. For if it could be established in some other way, given that the doctrine is well known, given the kind of person involved and given the other circumstances, that the accused could not have been unaware that his thesis was opposed to the Church, he would be considered as a heretic from this fact… The reason for this is clear; the exterior warning can serve only to ensure that someone who has erred understands the opposition which exists between his error and the teaching of the Church. If he knew the subject through books and conciliar definitions much better than he could know it by the declarations of someone admonishing him then there would be no reason to insist on a further warning for him to become pertinacious against the Church.
Such warnings are mentioned in the Epistle to Titus, which requires that a person who rejects admonition one or two times be avoided (Titus 3:10-11). However, the epistle does not require that a person be admonished one or more times before avoiding him. These warnings are in some circumstances issued or required to be issued by ecclesiastical superiors out of pastoral solicitude for the person being warned, and as an effective way of verifying pertinacity in heresy. In the past, rejection of such warnings and perseverance in heresy after receiving them has been considered by the Church to be the crime of obdurate heresy, a crime that was considered to be graver than the crime of simple heresy and that had more severe penalties attached to it. What is universally required of evidence of pertinacity for heresy is that it be public evidence that suffices to establish pertinacity beyond a reasonable doubt.
There is moral unanimity among canonists and theologians that a pope who is a public heretic can and must lose the papal office. As Suárez states:
It would be extremely harmful to the Church to have such a pastor and not be able to defend herself from such a grave danger; furthermore it would go against the dignity of the Church to oblige her to remain subject to a heretic Pontiff without being able to expel him from herself; for such as are the prince and the priest, so the people are accustomed to be.
This unanimity also extends to the position that the pope cannot be deposed by the Church for heresy. Deposition is the act of a superior, and the pope has no superior on earth. The deposition of a pope for heresy cannot be the implementation of canon law on heresy. The pope is not subject to canon law as such, and in any case this law describes the actions to be taken by superiors judging inferiors. The juridical procedures prescribed by canon law for dealing with heretics therefore do not apply to the case of a heretical pope, except to the exent that they are independently required by natural justice and divine law. The divine law on heresy indicated in the Scriptures governs the situation of a heretical pope. There is disagreement among theologians about what action if any the Church must take to bring about the deposition of a heretical pope; no definite account of how a heretical pope must fall from office can be proposed as certainly correct.
When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.
The punishment referred to in verse 21 is the punishment for murder, as appears from verse 20; so the meaning of the text is that the master will not be given the punishment for murder if his slave survives a day or two after being struck by his master. This is a standard legal principle in many legal codes—an injured person must die within a certain period of time after an injury, for the person responsible for the injuries is to be charged with murder. The text does not say that there are no consequences at all for a master who injures his slave. This is not the case, as appears from later verses of that chapter (vv. 26–27):
When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free for the eye’s sake. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free for the tooth’s sake.
The Mosaic law differed from other legal codes of antiquity in giving rights to slaves, rather than conferring on masters the absolute right of life and death over the slave. The text of Exodus 21:20-21 is an indication of this.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
The teaching in this verse refers to teaching the faith. This appears from the context of the epistle, which is addressed to Timothy, the leader of a local Christian church, and discusses the problem of false doctrines and false teachings in the Church. The prohibition of women teaching and having authority over men is thus a prohibition on women functioning as authoritative teachers, i.e., as priests. The assertion that women may not be ordained as priests is a magisterial teaching that all Catholics must accept. The New Testament does not rule out all prophesying by women, as the text of 1 Cor. 11:5 cited below indicates. The text does not assert that women must bear children in order to be saved, as is apparent from other New Testament texts that recommend celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. The meaning of the statement that women will be saved through childbearing is not transparent. It is meant to be a contrast to Gen. 3:16, where Eve is told by God that she shall bear children in sorrow as a punishment for her sin. There is probably also a Marian reference in the text. There is no identifiable meaning of the text that is objectionable.
1 Corinthians 11:3-12
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.) That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.
The assertion that the husband is the head of the wife is made in other New Testament passages (Eph. 5, Col. 2). It is a part of Christian teaching that is directly connected by the New Testament to the mystery of Christ. It must not be understood as conferring a tyrannical authority on the husband, but it must be believed by Catholics in its proper sense. The assertion that the man is in the image and glory of God does not imply that women are not also made in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:27; So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.) St. Paul’s apostolic authority gave him the right to command men to bare their heads during worship and women to cover their heads during worship. There is no reason for objecting to this disciplinary regulation. The reference to angels in verse 10 is obscure, but there are no grounds for objecting to it.
Bull Dum diversas of Pope Nicholas V
The bull Dum diversas of Pope Nicholas V to which Pope Francis refers is not a magisterial teaching that requires assent, but a legal enactment that did not have the authority to require Catholics to agree to the truth or justice of its content.
1 Dubium about the claim that we should reinterpret Divine Revelation according to the cultural and anthropological changes in vogue.
After the statements of some Bishops, which have been neither corrected nor retracted, it is asked whether in the Church Divine Revelation should be reinterpreted according to the cultural changes of our time and according to the new anthropological vision that these changes promote; or whether Divine Revelation is binding forever, immutable and therefore not to be contradicted, according to the dictum of the Second Vatican Council, that to God who reveals is due “the obedience of faith”(Dei Verbum 5); that what is revealed for the salvation of all must remain “in their entirety, throughout the ages” and alive, and be “transmitted to all generations” (7); and that the progress of understanding does not imply any change in the truth of things and words, because faith has been “handed on … once and for all” (8), and the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but teaches only what has been handed on (10).
Pope Francis responded to these dubia in a letter of July 11th, 2023 that was signed with his own hand. His response to the first dubium was as follows (the Spanish text is the original);
a) La respuesta depende del significado que ustedes den a la palabra “reinterpretar”. Si se entiende como “interpretar mejor” la expresión es válida. En este sentido el Concilio Vaticano II afirmó que es necesario que con al tarea de los exégetas —yo agrego de los teólogos— “vaya madurando el juicio de la Iglesia” (Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. Dei Verbum, 12).
b) Por lo tanto, si bien es cierto que la divina Revelación es inmutable y siempre vinculante, la Iglesia debe ser humilde y reconocer que ella nunca agota su insondable riqueza y necesita crecer en su comprensión.
c) Por consiguiente madura también en la comprensión de lo que ella misma ha afirmado en su Magisterio.
d) Los cambios culturales y los nuevos desafíos de la historia no modifican la Revelación, pero sí pueden estimularnos a explicitar mejor algunos aspectos de su desbordante riqueza que siempre ofrece más.
e) Es inevitable que esto pueda llevar a una mejor expresión de algunas afirmaciones pasadas del Magisterio, y de hecho ha sucedido así a lo largo de la historia.
f) Por otra parte, es cierto que el Magisterio no es superior a la Palabra de Dios, pero también es verdad que tanto los textos de las Escrituras como los testimonios de la Tradición necesitan una interpretación que permita distinguir su substancia perenne de los condicionamientos culturales. Es evidente, por ejemplo, en los textos bíblicos (como Éx 21, 20-21 ) y en algunas intervenciones magisteriales que toleraban la esclavitud (cf. Nicolás V, Bula Dum diversas, 1452). No es un tema menor dada su íntima conexión con la verdad perenne de la dignidad inalienable de la persona humana. Esos textos necesitan una interpretación. Lo mismo vale para algunas consideraciones del Nuevo Testamento sobre las mujeres (1 Cor 11, 3-10; 1 Tim 2, 11-14) y para otros textos de las Escrituras y testimonios de la Tradición que hoy no pueden ser repetidos materialmente.
g) Es importante destacar que lo que no puede cambiar es lo que ha sido revelado “para la salvación de todos” (Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. Dei verbum, 7). Por ello la Iglesia debe discernir constantemente entre aquello que es esencial para la salvación y aquello que es secundario o está conectado menos directamente con este objetivo. Al respecto me interesa recordar lo que Santo Tomás de Aquino afirmaba: “cuanto más se desciende a lo particular, tanto más aumenta la indeterminación” (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 94, art. 4).
h) Finalmente, una sola formulación de una verdad nunca podrá entenderse de un modo adecuado si se la presenta solitaria, aislada del rico y armonioso contexto de toda la Revelación. La “jerarquía de verdades” implica también situar cada una de ellas en adecuada conexión con las verdades más centrales y con la totalidad de la enseñanza de la Iglesia. Esto finalmente puede dar lugar a distintos modos de exponer la misma doctrina, aunque “a quienes sueñan con una doctrina monolítica defendida por todos sin matices, esto puede parecerles una imperfecta dispersión. Pero la realidad es que esa variedad ayuda a que se manifiesten y desarrollen mejor los diversos aspectos de la inagotable riqueza del Evangeli” (Evangelii gaudium, 49). Cada línea teológica tiene sus riesgos pero también sus oportunidades.
[a) The answer depends on the meaning you give to the word ‘reinterpret.’ If it is understood as ‘interpret better,’ the expression is valid. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council affirmed that it is necessary that with the work of exegetes—and I would add of theologians—‘the judgment of the Church may mature’ (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 12).
b) Therefore, while it is true that the Divine Revelation is immutable and always binding, the Church must be humble and recognize that she never exhausts its unfathomable richness and needs to grow in her understanding.
c) Consequently, she also matures in her understanding of what she has herself affirmed in her Magisterium.
d) Cultural changes and new challenges in history do not modify Revelation but can stimulate us to express certain aspects of its overflowing richness better, which always offers more.
e) It is inevitable that this can lead to a better expression of some past statements of the Magisterium, and indeed, this has been the case throughout history.
f) On the one hand, it is true that the Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but it is also true that both the texts of the Scripture and the testimonies of Tradition require interpretation in order to distinguish their perennial substance from cultural conditioning. This is evident, for example, in biblical texts (such as Exodus 21:20-21) and in some magisterial interventions that tolerated slavery (Cf. Pope Nicholas V, Bull Dum diversas, 1452). This is not a minor issue given its intimate connection with the perennial truth of the inalienable dignity of the human person. These texts need interpretation. The same applies to certain considerations in the New Testament regarding women (1 Corinthians 11:3-10; 1 Timothy 2:11-14) and other texts of Scripture and testimonies of Tradition that cannot be materially repeated today.
g) It is important to emphasize that what cannot change is what has been revealed ‘for the salvation of all’ (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 7). Therefore, the Church must constantly discern between what is essential for salvation and what is secondary or less directly connected with this goal. In this regard, I would like to recall what St. Thomas Aquinas affirmed: ‘The more one descends to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects’ (Summa Theologiae I/II q. 94, art. 4).
h) Finally, a single formulation of a truth can never be adequately understood if it is presented in isolation, detached from the rich and harmonious context of the entire Revelation. The ‘hierarchy of truths’ also implies placing each of them in proper connection with the central truths and with the entirety of the Church’s teaching. This can ultimately lead to different ways of presenting the same doctrine, even though ‘for those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel’ (Evangelii gaudium, 40). Every theological current has its risks, but also its opportunities.]
The cardinals reformulated their dubia and resubmitted them to Pope Francis on August 21st, 2023. The first dubium was reformulated as follows:
We therefore re-propose our questions to You, so that they can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Your Holiness insists that the Church can deepen its understanding of the deposit of faith. This is indeed what Dei Verbum 8 teaches and belongs to Catholic doctrine. Your response, however, does not capture our concern. Many Christians, including pastors and theologians, argue today that the cultural and anthropological changes of our time should push the Church to teach the opposite of what it has always taught. This concerns essential, not secondary, questions for our salvation, like the confession of faith, subjective conditions for access to the sacraments, and observance of the moral law. So we want to rephrase our dubium: is it possible for the Church today to teach doctrines contrary to those she has previously taught in matters of faith and morals, whether by the Pope ex cathedra, or in the definitions of an Ecumenical Council, or in the ordinary universal magisterium of the Bishops dispersed throughout the world (cf. Lumen Gentium 25)?
This resubmission gave Pope Francis an opportunity to withdraw or correct the statements he made in his response. Pope Francis did not respond to these reformulated dubia. Instead, he made public his response to the original dubia. This response was placed on the Vatican website on October 2nd 2023. Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, publicly reprimanded the cardinals for submitting refomulated dubia rather than publishing Pope Francis’s original response after receiving it; ‘Instead of publishing those answers, they now make public new questions, as if the pope were their slaves for errands.’ These steps indicate that Pope Francis is firmly committed to the contents of his response to the dubia, and chooses to make them public.
AL 298: The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self-giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate [footnote 329: In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers”.] There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”. Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family. It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family. The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place “by adequately distinguishing”, with an approach which “carefully discerns situations”. We know that no “easy recipes” exist.
AL 299: I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. They are baptized; they are brothers and sisters; the Holy Spirit pours into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. … Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.”
AL 300: Since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same. [footnote 336] This is also the case with regard to sacramental discipline, since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists.
AL 301: It is [sic] can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”
AL 303: Conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.
AL 304: I earnestly ask that we always recall a teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas and learn to incorporate it in our pastoral discernment: “Although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects… In matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles; and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all… The principle will be found to fail, according as we descend further into detail”. It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations.
AL 305: Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. [footnote 351: In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy. I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”]
AL 308: I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”
These passages had already been the subject of dubia proposed to Pope Francis by Cardinals Burke, Brandmüller, Caffarra, and Meisner in 2016. These dubia asked:
1. It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (nn. 300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the Sacrament of Penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio (in a marital way) without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia n. 34 and Sacramentum Caritatis n. 29. Can the expression “in certain cases” found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live “more uxorio”?
2. After the publication of the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (cf. n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 79, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?
3. After Amoris Laetitia (n. 301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?
4. After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (n. 302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 81, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
5. After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?
No response to these dubia was officially given by Pope Francis or any organ of the Roman Curia. Their content was however addressed in the response given by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to the dubia proposed by Cardinal Duka. This response was officially endorsed by Pope Francis. It stated:
2. Can Pope Francis’ response to the question from the pastoral section of the diocese of Buenos Aires, given that the text was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, be considered an affirmation of the ordinary magisterium of the Church?
[Answer:] As indicated in the rescript accompanying the two documents on the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, these are published “velut magisterium authenticum,” that is, as authentic magisterium (teaching).
3. Is it a decision of the ordinary magisterium of the Church based on the document Amoris Laetitiae?
[Answer:] As the Holy Father recalls in his letters to the delegate of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires, Amoris Laetitia was the result of the work and prayer of the whole Church, with the mediation of two synods and the Pope. This document is based on the magisterium of previous popes, who already recognized the possibility for divorced people in new unions to access the Eucharist, as long as they assume ‘the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples,’ as it was proposed by John Paul II or to ‘commit (themselves) to living their relationship ... as friends,’ as proposed by Benedict XVI. Francis maintains the proposal of full continence for the divorced and remarried in a new union, but admits that there may be difficulties in practicing it and therefore allows in certain cases, after adequate discernment, the administration of the sacrament of reconciliation even when they fail to be faithful to the continence proposed by the Church.
9. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the entire issue to be explained better in the text of your competent dicastery?
[Answer:] Based on the words of the Holy Father in the letter of response to the delegate of the Buenos Aires pastoral region, in which it was stated that there are no other interpretations, it seems that the issue is sufficiently explained in the aforementioned document.
Pope Francis’s letter to the pastoral region of Buenos Aires was a response to a statement issued by the bishops of the Buenos Aires region on September 5, 2016, on the application of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The statement gave the following directions for the application of Amoris Laetitia:
6) En otras circunstancias más complejas, y cuando no se pudo obtener una declaración de nulidad, la opción mencionada puede no ser de hecho factible. No obstante, igualmente es posible un camino de discernimiento. Si se llega a reconocer que, en un caso concreto, hay limitaciones que atenúan la responsabilidad y la culpabilidad (cf. 301-302), particularmente cuando una persona considere que caería en una ulterior falta dañando a los hijos de la nueva unión, Amoris laetitia abre la posibilidad del acceso a los sacramentos de la Reconciliación y la Eucaristía (cf. notas 336 y 351). Estos a su vez disponen a la persona a seguir madurando y creciendo con la fuerza de la gracia....
9) Puede ser conveniente que un eventual acceso a los sacramentos se realice de manera reservada, sobre todo cuando se prevean situaciones conflictivas. Pero al mismo tiempo no hay que dejar de acompañar a la comunidad para que crezca en un espíritu de comprensión y de acogida, sin que ello implique crear confusiones en la enseñanza de la Iglesia acerca del matrimonio indisoluble. La comunidad es instrumento de la misericordia que es «inmerecida, incondicional y gratuita» (297).
10) El discernimiento no se cierra, porque «es dinámico y debe permanecer siempre abierto a nuevas etapas de crecimiento y a nuevas decisiones que permitan realizar el ideal de manera más plena» (303), según la «ley de gradualidad» (295) y confiando en la ayuda de la gracia....
6) In other, more complex cases, and when a declaration of nullity has not been obtained, the above mentioned option may not, in fact, be feasible. Nonetheless, a path of discernment is still possible. If it comes to be recognized that, in a specific case, there are limitations that mitigate responsibility and culpability (cf. 301-302), especially when a person believes they would incur a subsequent wrong by harming the children of the new union, Amoris Laetitia offers the possibility of access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist (cf. footnotes 336 and 351). These sacraments, in turn, dispose the person to continue maturing and growing with the power of grace....
9) It may be right for eventual access to sacraments to take place privately, especially where situations of conflict might arise. But at the same time, we have to accompany our communities in their growing understanding and welcome, without this implying creating confusion about the teaching of the Church on the indissoluble marriage. The community is an instrument of mercy, which is “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” (297).
10) Discernment is not closed, because it “is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized” (303), according to the “law of gradualness” (295) and with confidence in the help of grace. [The number references are to the paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia.]
Pope Francis wrote an official letter dated the same day to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy of San Miguel, a delegate of the Argentina bishops’ Buenos Aires Region, stating that the bishops of the Buenos Aires region had given the only possible interpretation of Amoris Laetitia:
Recibí el escrito de la Región Pastoral Buenos Aires «Criterios básicos para la aplicación del capítulo VIII de Amoris Laetitia». Muchas gracias por habérmelo enviado; y los felicito por el trabajo que se han tomado: un verdadero ejemplo de acompañamiento a los sacerdotes... y todos sabemos cuánto es necesaria esta cercanía del obíspo con su clero y del clero con el obispo . El prójimo «más prójimo» del obispo es el sacerdote, y el mandamiento de amar al prójimo como a sí mismo comienza para nosotros obispos precisamente con nuestros curas. El escrito es muy bueno y explícita cabalmente el sentido del capitulo VIII de Amoris Laetitia. No hay otras interpretaciones.
I received the document from the Buenos Aires Pastoral Region, ‘Basic Criteria for the Application of Chapter Eight of Amoris Laetitia.’ Thank you very much for sending it to me. I thank you for the work they have done on this: a true example of accompaniment for the priests ... and we all know how necessary is this closeness of the bishop with his clergy and the clergy with the bishop. The neighbor ‘closest’ to the bishop is the priest, and the commandment to love one’s neighbor as one’s self begins for us, the bishops, precisely with our priests. The document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. There are no other interpretations.]
This letter to the Bishops of Buenos Aires was then published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis of October 2016, with a note saying that Pope Francis had ordered their publication as an act of the authentic magisterium. This note does not assert that the statements of Amoris Laetitia or of the Buenos Aires bishops themselves constitute part of the authentic magisterium; it states with magisterial authority that the Buenos Aires bishops’ understanding of what Pope Francis meant to say in Amoris Laetitia is correct.
4. Theological reflection is therefore called to a turning point, to a paradigm shift, to a ‘courageous cultural revolution’ (Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, 114) that commits it, first and foremost, to be a fundamentally contextual theology, capable of reading and interpreting the Gospel in the conditions in which men and women daily live, in different geographical, social and cultural environments, and having as its archetype the Incarnation of the eternal Logos, its entering into the culture, worldview, and religious tradition of a people. From here, theology cannot but develop into a culture of dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian denominations and different religions, openly confronting everyone, believers and non-believers alike. ...
5. This relational dimension connotes and defines, from the epistemic point of view, the status of theology, which is urged not to close itself in self-referentiality, which leads to isolation and insignificance, but to grasp itself as embedded in a web of relationships, first and foremost with other disciplines and other knowledge. This is the approach of transdisciplinarity, that is, interdisciplinarity in a strong sense, as distinct from multidisciplinarity, understood as interdisciplinarity in a weak sense. The latter certainly promotes a better understanding of the object of study by considering it from multiple points of view, which nevertheless remain complementary and separate. Instead, transdisciplinarity should be thought of ‘as the placement and fermentation of all knowledge within the space of Light and Life offered by the Wisdom that emanates from God’s Revelation’ (Apostolic Constitution Veritatis gaudium, Proem, 4c). Hence the arduous task for theology to be able to make use of new categories elaborated by other knowledges, in order to penetrate and communicate the truths of faith and transmit the teaching of Jesus in today’s languages, with originality and critical awareness.
8. It is a matter of the pastoral ‘stamp’ that theology as a whole, and not only in one of its particular spheres, must assume: without opposing theory and practice, theological reflection is urged to develop using an inductive method, which starts from the different contexts and concrete situations in which peoples are inserted, allowing itself to be seriously challenged by reality, in order to become discernment of the ‘signs of the times’ in the proclamation of the salvific event of God-agape, communicated in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is necessary that the knowledge of people’s common sense, which is in fact a ‘locus theologicus’ in which so many images of God dwell, often not corresponding to the Christian face of God, only and always love, be privileged first of all.
4. La riflessione teologica è perciò chiamata a una svolta, a un cambio di paradigma, a una «coraggiosa rivoluzione culturale» (Lettera Enciclica Laudato si’, 114) che la impegni, in primo luogo, a essere una teologia fondamentalmente contestuale, capace di leggere e interpretare il Vangelo nelle condizioni in cui gli uomini e le donne quotidianamente vivono, nei diversi ambienti geografici, sociali e culturali e avendo come archetipo l’Incarnazione del Logos eterno, il suo entrare nella cultura, nella visione del mondo, nella tradizione religiosa di un popolo. A partire da qui, la teologia non può che svilupparsi in una cultura del dialogo e dell’incontro tra diverse tradizioni e diversi saperi, tra diverse confessioni cristiane e diverse religioni, confrontandosi apertamente con tutti, credenti e non credenti. ...
5. Questa dimensione relazionale connota e definisce, dal punto di vista epistemico, lo statuto della teologia, che è spinta a non chiudersi nell’autoreferenzialità, che conduce all’isolamento e all’insignificanza, ma a cogliersi come inserita in una trama di rapporti, innanzitutto con le altre discipline e gli altri saperi. È l’approccio della transdisciplinarità, cioè un’interdisciplinarità in senso forte, distinta dalla multidisciplinarità, intesa come interdisciplinarità in senso debole. Quest’ultima favorisce sicuramente una migliore comprensione dell’oggetto di studio considerandolo da più punti di vista, che tuttavia rimangono complementari e separati. La transdisciplinarità va invece pensata «come collocazione e fermentazione di tutti i saperi entro lo spazio di Luce e di Vita offerto dalla Sapienza che promana dalla Rivelazione di Dio» (Costituzione Apostolica Veritatis gaudium, Proemio, 4c). Ne deriva l’arduo compito per la teologia di essere in grado di avvalersi di categorie nuove elaborate da altri saperi, per penetrare e comunicare le verità della fede e trasmettere l’insegnamento di Gesù nei linguaggi odierni, con originalità e consapevolezza critica.
8. Si tratta del ‘timbro’ pastorale che la teologia nel suo insieme, e non solo in un suo ambito peculiare, deve assumere: senza contrapporre teoria e pratica, la riflessione teologica è sollecitata a svilupparsi con un metodo induttivo, che parta dai diversi contesti e dalle concrete situazioni in cui i popoli sono inseriti, lasciandosi interpellare seriamente dalla realtà, per divenire discernimento dei ‘segni dei tempi’ nell’annuncio dell’evento salvifico del Dio-agape, comunicatosi in Gesù Cristo. Perciò occorre che venga anzitutto privilegiato il sapere del senso comune della gente che è di fatto luogo teologico nel quale abitano tante immagini di Dio, spesso non corrispondenti al volto cristiano di Dio, solo e sempre amore. La teologia si pone al servizio della evangelizzazione della Chiesa e della trasmissione della fede, perché la fede diventi cultura, cioè ethos sapiente del popolo di Dio, proposta di bellezza umana e umanizzante per tutti.
 The documents mentioned in this paragraph have been collected in a single volume, together with the lists of their signatories, and can be consulted there: see John R. T. Lamont and Claudio Pierantoni, eds., Defending the Faith Against Present Heresies: Letters and Statements Addressed to Pope Francis, the Cardinals, and the Bishops, with a Collection of Related Articles and Interviews (Waterloo, ON: Arouca Press, 2021).
 “Theological Censures of Amoris Laetitia,” in Defending the Faith, 49–73.
 “Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis,” in Defending the Faith, 75–123.
 “Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church,” in Defending the Faith, 125–59.
 “An Appeal to the Cardinals of the Catholic Church,” in Defending the Faith, 161–65, first published in First Things.
 “La communion, faite en état de faute matérielle, est par elle-même un très grave sacrilège, puisque, objectivement parlant, il y a profanation du corps et du sang de Jésus-Christ”: DTC III, Communion eucharistique, col. 505.
 Cardinal Juan de Lugo, Disputationes scholasticae et morales; de virtute fidei divina, disp. XX, sect. V, 157-158 (Lyon, 1546), p. 769.
 See e.g. Thomas de Vio Cajetan, De Comparatione auctoritatis papae et concilii cum Apologia eiusdem tractatus (Rome: Angelicum, 1936); Melchior Cano, De Locis theologicis, book 6, chapter 8; Bañez, In IIaIIae q. 1 a. 10; John of St. Thomas, Cursus theologici II-II, De auctoritate Summi Pontificis, d. 8, ad. 3, ‘De depositione papae’; Suarez, De fide, disp. 10; St. Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice, book 2 ; Billuart, Cursus theologiae, Pars II-II ; St. Alphonsus Liguori, Vindiciae pro suprema Pontificis potestate adversus Iustinum Febronium; Cardinal Charles Journet, L’Église Incarné, vol. 1: l’hiérarchie apostolique (Éditions Saint-Augustin, 1998), pp. 980-83.
 Francisco Suarez S.J., Tractatus de fide divina, disp. 10, sect. 6, in R. P. Francisci Suarez opera omnia (Paris: Vivès, 1857) vol. 12, p. 317, §7.
 Vatican News translation at https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2023-10/pope-francis-responds-to-dubia-of-five-cardinals.html.
 Catholic News Agency article, Oct. 2nd, 2023, at https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/255540/vatican-releases-pope-francis-responses-to-pre-synod-dubia-criticizes-cardinals.
The individual committing Heresy like this needs to be excommunicated ....
Francis is an utter disgrace.
Why is this catholic mumbo jumbo occupying bandwidth on a site devoted primarily to politics and mainline culture? Not an issue for 99% of users. Might be an issue for cardinal staff or graduates of some catholic seminary?
If it must be here then condense all the nonsense and make it germane to those leading ordinary life and ordinary level of religious understanding. Few have time to slobber in a corner over details such as this arcane minutia.
What part of "Religion Forum" do you not understand?
Short answer is that the pope, any pope, cannot be a heretic. He can be an apostate, meaning he has gone against the church. Francis is an apostate.
Sure they can.
A heretic is one who obstinately rejects one or more revealed truths of the Faith.
Can you explain why a Pope cannot become a heretic? (Not, you understand, why a heretic cannot remain Pope. That's different.)
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