The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope To Lead The World's Catholics

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – MARCH 13: Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pope Francis Refuses to Answer the Dubia – What Happens Next?

Written by  John F. Salza, Esq.

Pope Francis Refuses to Answer the Dubia – What Happens Next?

Now that it has been published (on November 14, 2016) that Pope Francis has refused to answer the dubia of the four Cardinals (Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner) issued to him on September 16, 2016 concerning his erroneous and even heretical teachings in Amoris Laetitia, many Catholics are wondering what happens next. Some may be tempted to jump the gun and declare, on their own authority, that Francis’ refusal to answer proves he is a formal heretic and thus has lost his office. Is that true? Does Francis’ refusal to answer the dubia mean he has “judged himself” a formal heretic? Does his refusal prove the element of pertinacity which is required for the crime of heresy and loss of office? No. Not yet. We have a way to go. But the canonical process that could eventually lead to a charge and conviction of the crime of heresy has indeed begun, and thus, we are no doubt entering into a very tumultuous time for the Church, as we approach the centenary of the Fatima apparitions. 

dubium is an official request for an authoritative and final response from the Holy See on a doctrinal, liturgical or canonical question. Dubia are customarily submitted by bishops to seek a definitive answer on a matter that pertains to the faithful in their diocese and the exercise of their apostolic ministry. It is not an accusation of heresy, and thus a Pope’s refusal to respond to a dubia, as extraordinary as that may be, does not establish the element of pertinacity necessary for the crime of heresy. Even in the secular legal process, one must be charged with a crime before he can be found guilty of it. That goes without saying. 

We might recall that John Paul II did not directly respond to Archbishop Lefebvre’s dubia, submitted in October 1985 concerning Vatican II’s erroneous teaching on religious liberty in Dignitatis Humanae, and it took the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a year and a half to issue a response (and which did little more than affirm the council’s teaching). For those who argue that Francis’ three month absence of a response proves his pertinacity and convicts him of heresy (even though the canonical norm for replying actually grants six months), does that mean John Paul II also lost his office after his three months of silence? What about his six months of silence? What about his year of silence? Or what about after the Congregation’s tardy response failed to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae’s novel teachings with Quanta Cura and the Syllabus of Errors? [1] These rhetorical questions underscore that a Pope’s failure to respond to a dubia does not prove him guilty of the canonical crime of heresy. That is because the Church has another means by which the crime of heresy is established: They are ecclesiastical warnings. 

The Pope Must Be Formally Warned by Church Authorities

Ecclesiastical warnings are issued by the Cardinals (who are the next highest authorities in the Church), which accusethe suspect of heresy and require him to respond with a correction of his errors within six months.[2] This is what Cardinal Burke was referring to in his interview with the National Catholic Register when he said: “There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correctionof a serious error.” If the Pope would fail to respond to these warnings, the Church would presume that the Pope is incorrigible and hardened in his heresy. 

As we explain in detail in our book True or False Pope?, the Church’s ability to warn and ultimately judge a Pope for heresy by establishing his pertinacity was taught by Pope Innocent III, Pope Adrian, St. Bellarmine,[3] Francisco Suarez, John of St. Thomas, the famous Decretal Si Papa,[4] and others, and remains the common teaching of the Church’s Doctors and theologians. Establishing a Pope’s pertinacity is more difficult than judging the matter of heresy (e.g., the teachings), because it involves something that exists within the internal forum (the realm of conscience). If a person does not openly leave the Church, or publicly admit that he knowingly rejects what the Church definitively teaches on faith or morals (neither of which Francis has done), pertinacity would need to be established another way. The other way, according to Divine law and canon law, is by issuing an ecclesiastical warning to the suspect or, as Cardinal Burke described it, a “formal act of correction.”

An ecclesiastical warning serves as an effective means for establishing pertinacity, since the response will determine, with a sufficient degree of certitude, whether or not the person who has professed heresy (not a lesser error) is truly pertinacious (he is consciously departing from a dogma of Faith), rather than merely mistaken – which still might be a sin, but not necessarily the sin of heresy. Because pertinacity is itself a necessary element of heresy, it does not suffice that its presence be presumed, especially by Catholics with no ecclesiastical authority; it must be proven, and by the Church’s authorities. The ecclesiastical warnings accomplish this by removing any chance of innocent ignorance.

This is why St. Robert Bellarmine said that a cleric “shows himself to be manifestly obstinate” in his heresy by virtue of the two warnings. Wrote Bellarmine:

“For, in the first place, it is proven with arguments from authority and from reason that the manifest heretic is ipso facto deposed. The argument from authority is based on Saint Paul (Titus, 3:10), who orders that the heretic be avoided after two warnings, that is, after showing himself to be manifestly obstinate…”[5]

In his Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus, St. Thomas Aquinas confirms that the admonitions spoken of in Titus 3:10 come from official, ecclesiastical authority, and not from any Catholic in the pew. Speaking of a person who has deviated from the Faith, St. Thomas wrote: “Such a person should be warned, and if he does not desist, he should be avoided. And he [the Apostle] says, after the first and second admonition, for that is the way the Church proceeds in excommunicating.”

In the Summa, St. Thomas confirms the same point when he notes that “the Church” condemns, not at once, but after the first and second warning, according to the teaching of St. Paul. He wrote:

“On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but ‘after the first and second admonition,’ as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death.”[6]

In a 1909 article published in The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Fr. Maurice Hassett also confirmed that the admonitions spoken of by St. Paul must come from the proper ecclesiastical authorities:

“From the earliest Christian times heresy was universally regarded as the most heinous of sins. The heretic, St. Paul instructs Titus, shall be admonished a first and a second time of the grave character of his offense; if he will not heed, he must be avoided by Christians as a man in evident bad faith, who stands self-condemned – Titus 3:10. (…) Heretics were consequently cut off from all association with the faithful, who must hold no relations with them so long as they obstinately refuse to heed the official remonstrances of the Church authorities.”[7]

Thus, in order to establish pertinacity (that the heretic is “manifestly obstinate”), canon law requires that the Churchissue warnings to a prelate before he is deposed for the crime of heresy.[8] As Bellarmine indicates, this aspect of canon law is founded upon Divine law, as revealed in Scripture (cf. Tit. 3:10), and is considered so necessary that even in the extreme case in which a cleric publicly joins a false religion (which Francis has also not done), he must be duly warned by the Church before being degraded.[9] Because the Church has no authority over the Pope, these warnings do not constitute an act of jurisdiction (as they would for other Catholics), but only an act of charity, as St. Thomas teaches in regard to fraternal correction.[10] Although the Pope is not subject to the positive law of the Church, because these warnings are rooted in Divine Law, and are afforded to lesser clerics in the hope of their amendment, they most certainly are afforded to the Vicar of Christ, both as a matter of justice as well as under the philosophical principle omne majus continet in se minus – “the greater includes the lesser.”

In fact, Cajetan says that it is because a Pope is not subject to canon law that ecclesiastical warnings are absolutely necessary for him before being declared a heretic. He explains that because other heretics may automatically incur latae sententiae excommunication (the censure) by operation of canon law[11] (to which the Pope is not subject), it is not absolutely necessary for the Church to issue warnings to these before declaring them excommunicated.[12]However, because the Pope is not subject to the ecclesiastical censure, the teaching of St. Paul to Titus should logically be followed to the letter. In Cajetan’s own words:

“The second consequence is that a heretic pope should not be deposed before the admonitions: for he is not excommunicated on account of heresy, but should be excommunicated by being deposed. Therefore, the apostle’s command concerning the double admonition, which need not be observed [to the letter] in the case of others, who are inferiors, on account of the addition of excommunication latae sententiae, which the Church imposes on heretics, should be observed to the letter with him.”[13]

The renowned eighteenth century theologian, Fr. Pietro Ballerini, who subscribed to Bellarmine’s famous Fifth Opinion on a heretical Pope,[14] explains how the warnings would serve to demonstrate pertinacity for a reigning Pope who publicly professed heresy, as well as who exactly in the Church would be responsible for issuing them, and the effect that they would produce:

“Is it not true that, confronted with such a danger to the faith [a Pope teaching heresy], any subject can, by fraternal correction, warn their superior, resist him to his face, refute him and, if necessary, summon him and press him to repent? The Cardinals, who are his counselors, can do this; or the Roman Clergy, or the Roman Synod, if, being met, they judge this opportune. For any person, even a private person, the words of Saint Paul to Titus hold: ‘Avoid the heretic, after a first and second correction, knowing that such a man is perverted and sins, since he is condemned by his own judgment’ (Tit. 3, 10-11). For the person, who, admonished once or twice, does not repent, but continues pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or defined dogma – not being able, on account of this public pertinacity to be excused, by any means, of heresy properly so called, which requires pertinacity – this person declares himself openly a heretic. He reveals that by his own will he has turned away from the Catholic Faith and the Church, in such a way that now no declaration or sentence of anyone whatsoever is necessary to cut him from the body of the Church. Therefore the Pontiff who after such a solemn and public warning by the Cardinals, by the Roman Clergy or even by the Synod, would remain himself hardened in heresy and openly turn himself away from the Church, would have to be avoided, according to the precept of Saint Paul. So that he might not cause damage to the rest, he would have to have his heresy and contumacy publicly proclaimed, so that all might be able to be equally on guard in relation to him. Thus, the sentence which he had pronounced against himself would be made known to all the Church, making clear that by his own will he had turned away and separated himself from the body of the Church, and that in a certain way he had abdicated the Pontificate…”[15]

Thus, before Pope Francis could be considered a public heretic, he would have to be issued “a first and second correction” (warnings) by “the Cardinals” (or other official Church authority, such as a “Roman Synod”), and would then have to “continue pertinacious in an opinion contrary to a manifest or defined dogma” after at least six months (such as his material heresies that no one is condemned forever or that intrinsically evil acts admit of exceptions). Because these warnings are public and issued by the proper authorities, a refusal to heed them would establish “public pertinacity” which is necessary to convict someone of public (that is, the crime of) heresy. That means we have a way to go with Pope Francis, because the authorities have not even issued the first warning. Not yet.

In the next installment, we will address what happens if the Cardinals issue the requisite warnings to Pope Francis and he still refuses to respond or fails to correct his errors.

Part II

In Part I of this feature, we saw that Pope Francis’ refusal to respond to the dubia issued to him by the four Cardinals (Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner) on September 16, 2016, as extraordinary as it was, does not prove Francis is a “formal heretic.” Rather, to be guilty of the crime of heresy, the Pope would have to refuse to correct his errors after two official warnings from the Cardinals, or as Cardinal Burke described it, a “formal act of correction of a serious error.” In this Part II, we address what happens if such an unprecedented circumstance were to occur. 

A Declaration of the Crime of Heresy

If Pope Francis were to persevere in his heresy after the Church’s issuance of the two necessary warnings, the common theological opinion is that the Church would then have to officially declare that the Pope is guilty of the crime of heresy before he would lose his office (and exactly when he would lose his office if that happens is subject to debate, as discussed below). The declaration would be necessary because the Pope’s pertinacity may have been established only privately, and the crime of heresy is a public matter for the Church (and thus must be communicated to the Church). It also provides a “point of no return” for the heretical Pope, whose repentance after the declaration would not allow him to regain his office. Again, this is the common opinion among the theologians who have addressed the matter of a heretical Pope.

For example, Suarez says:

“I affirm: if he were a heretic and incorrigible the Pope would cease to be Pope just when a sentence was passed against him for his crime, by the legitimate jurisdiction of the Church. This is the common opinion among the doctors.”[16]

John of St. Thomas also confirms the necessity of the declaration of the crime:

“By what power should a deposition happen with regard to the pope? The entire question hinges on two points, namely one, a declarative sentence, by which it is declared . . . that the pope has committed the crime… and two, the deposition itself, which must be done after the declarative judgment of the crime.”[17]

And a little later he says:

“The Church is able to declare the crime of a Pontiff and, according to divine law, propose him to the faithful as a heretic that must be avoided. (…) the deposition of the pope with respect to the declarationof the crime in no way pertains to the cardinals but to a general council.”[18]

As we can see, the Church’s formal sentence which officially declares the Pope is guilty of the crime of heresy is so important and necessary that John of St. Thomas says this declaration must come from a general council. The brilliant Dominican theologian also uses historical examples to prove his case:

“It must be said that the declaration of the crime does not come from the Cardinals, but from a general council. This is evident, firstly, by the practice of the Church. For in the case of Pope Marcellinus, who offered incense to idols, a synod was gathered together for the purpose of discussing the case, as is recorded in Distinction 21, Chapter 7, (“Nunc autem”)…Likewise, in the case of Pope Symmachus, a council was gathered in Rome to treat the case against him, as reported by Antione Augustine, in his Epitome Juris Pontifice Veteris (Title 13, Chapter 14); and the sections of Canon Law quoted above show that the Pontiffs who wanted to defend themselves against the crimes imputed to them, have done it before a Council. Second, it is commonly agreed that the power of treating the cases of popes, and that which pertains to his deposition, has not been entrusted to the cardinals. For the deposition belongs to the Church, whose authority is represented by a general council; indeed, only the election is entrusted to the cardinals and no more, as can be clearly shown by reading those things which we have drawn out from the law…”

The obvious question is: How can the Church convene a general council to oversee the deposition of a heretical Pope, when a general council must be convened and overseen by a Pope, either personally or through his legates? In answering this question, Cajetan makes the classical distinction between a perfect council and an imperfect council; or, as he puts it, an absolutely perfect council, and a perfect council in relation to the present state of the Church.
Cajetan explains that a perfect council absolutely is one in which the body is united to its head, and therefore consists of the Pope and the bishops.[19] Such a council has the authority to define dogmas and issue decrees that regulate the universal Church.[20] Cajetan then explains that “a perfect council according to the present state” of the Church (i.e., an “imperfect” council) is composed only of those members who can be found when the Church is in a given condition (e.g., with several doubtful Popes, or with one apparently heretical Pope) and can only “involve itself with the universal Church up to a certain point.”[21] Thus, an imperfect council cannot define doctrines or issue decrees that regulate the universal Church, but only possesses the authority to decide the matter that necessitated its convocation. Cajetan notes that there are only two cases that justify convoking such a council: “…when there is a single heretical pope to be deposed, and when there are several doubtful supreme pontiffs.”

In such exceptional cases, a general council can be called without the approval of, or even against the will, of the Pope. Cajetan explains:

“A perfect council according to the present state of the Church [i.e., an imperfect council] can be summoned without the pope and against his will, if, although asked, he himself does not wish to summon it; but it does not have the authority to regulate the universal Church, but only to provide for the issue then at stake. Although human cases vary in infinite ways … there are only two cases that have occurred or can ever occur, in which, I declare, such a council should be summoned. The first is when the pope must be deposed on account of heresy; for then, if he refused, although asked, the cardinals, the emperor, or the prelates can cause a council to be assembled, which will not have for its scope the care of the universal Church, but only the power to depose the Pope.”[22]

As we saw, John of St. Thomas referred to the Council of Sinuesso as an example of an “imperfect council” that was convened by the bishops to oversee the deposition of Pope Marcellinus (d. 304).[23] After Pope Marcellinus committed the grave public sin against the Faith by offering incense at the altar of Jupiter, a council was convened and the compromised Pope, through shame, deposed himself.[24] And although the council was initially called against the will of Pope Marcellinus, it produced great fruit because he repented of his sin. In fact, the bishops were so edified that they re-elected him to the papacy (following his resignation). Pope Marcellinus went on to die as a martyr for the Faith and is now a canonized saint. How different his end may have been if his fate were left to the private judgment of individual Catholics who simply wrote him off as an antipope, or his actions were praised as a great act of “ecumenism” as many in today’s modern Church would have done.

Another question on the minds of Catholics is how many Cardinals and bishops would be needed to convoke an imperfect general council that would declare Pope Francis’ crime, given that many of them (e.g., the clerical mafiosi from the “St. Gallen” group who conspired to elect Francis) are staunch supporters of the Pope and would vigorously oppose his removal? Would a majority of the Cardinals and bishops be required to call such a council? Or would a minority suffice? And would the refusal to participate of those who support Pope Francis result in a formal schism in the Church?

These are troubling questions for troubling times. Indeed, it appears that a material schism is already developing within the Church among the Cardinals and bishops over Francis’ attack on doctrine and morals, just as Our Lady of Akita prophesied. [25] There have been reports of high-ranking prelates publicly opposing each other, such as the recent exchange between U.S. Cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. [26] In a recent interview with TV Libertes, Bishop Athanasius Schneider plainly admitted that “we are witnessing today a strange form of schism,” and that “a certain kind of schism already exists in the Church” over Pope Francis’ teaching in Amoris Laetitia.[27]

However, it would not seem necessary that even a majority, much less all, of the Cardinals and bishops would be required to declare what the Pope’s incorrigibility would have already proven, namely, that he is guilty of the crime of heresy. Because a legitimate imperfect council has the authority to bind the faithful without the Pope’s approval, it follows that it would also not require the approval or participation of every single bishop either, or even a majority of them. Remember that Cajetan describes this type of council as “summoned according to the present state of the Church.” That means the council is composed of only those members who can be found in the current condition, who gather here “only to provide for the issue then at stake,” to declare that the Pope is guilty of the crime of heresy.

To reiterate, because, at this stage in the proceedings, the Pope’s pertinacity would have already been established by the Cardinals, it would not take a majority of the Cardinals or bishops to declare what has already been proven by the Church’s authorities. Further, as Cajetan explains, this council “will not have for its scope the care of the universalChurch,” and thus would not have to be “universal” in its representation, as would an “absolutely perfect council.” Thus, it does not matter whether a significant number of Cardinals and bishops would oppose the council; the Pope’s public heresy would have already been established by the authority of the Church, and would simply need to be declared (officially recognized and communicated) by those authorities. Further, those prelates who would refuse to submit to the council’s declaratory sentence and command to avoid the heretic Pope would separate themselves from the Church by formal schism, by remaining in communion with a heretic.

Further, it is quite possible that those who would ultimately support Francis and oppose his removal would be in the minority. That is because there are reports which indicate that there is currently an open revolt among the Curia and College of Cardinals over Francis’ teaching in Amoris Laetitia. For example, in a recent explanation on the Society of St. Pius X’s current relations with Rome, His Excellency Bernard Fellay revealed the following:

“The excesses of the present Pope have caused a startled reaction. It’s open now. It’s no longer hidden, or let’s say for people like were hiding themselves, now you have cardinals, you have bishops who have openly contradicted these new tendency, this new tendency of hitting the morals and even the doctrine. We have counted that there are between 26 and 30 cardinals who have openly attacked these modern positions.And numerous bishops.”[28]

Veteran Vatican reporter Edward Pentin also commented on the reaction to the Pope’s refusal to respond to the dubia, speculating that the majority of the Cardinals and Curia do not support Francis:

The reaction has been interesting so far: almost all the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia have remained silent,neither supporting the cardinals, nor, more importantly, coming out in support of the Pope and his decision not to respond. If silence is taken to mean consent for the dubia, then one could therefore argue that the vast majority are in favor of the four cardinals.That can only be speculative of course, but it could conceivably be true as for months one has heard from one significant part of the Curia that they feel great unease about what is happening. The phrases ‘reign of terror’ and ‘Vatican martial law’ are frequently bandied around.”[29]

In a recent tweet, Pentin also said he learned from a reliable source that Pope Francis has been asking various allies to publicly support Amoris Laetitia and oppose the dubia, evidently frustrated by their silence.[30] What all this suggests is that Francis may not have the support of the majority of Cardinals and bishops. And, thus, if and when the four Cardinals issue the formal warning of correction to Francis as Cardinal Burke has threatened, they may be joined by other brother Cardinals and bishops, which will put more pressure on the Pope. If the Pope would ignore the first warning as he did the dubia, it seems likely that the process would gain momentum, and he could find himself facing a second warning supported by many more prelates. And if he would ignore the second warning or refuse to recant his heresies, it is possible that even a majority of Cardinals and bishops would then take the next step and declare his crime, at a general (imperfect) council. Time will tell. God knows.

What Happens if the Church Declares Francis a Heretic?

What should be obvious by now is that we have a way to go before Pope Francis is considered a public heretic according to the Church’s judgment, although Cardinal Burke has said the process is upon us. Nevertheless, until it is completed, Francis still remains Pope, and no Catholic can claim otherwise without sinning against the Faith. Moreover, even if the Church were to ultimately declare Francis guilty of the crime of heresy after his refusal to correct his errors, exactly when he would lose the papacy after such a declaration is subject to a complex theological debate, although it’s largely academic for all intents and purposes. In our book True or False Pope?, we explain the two major opinions on this question, which we call the Jesuit Opinion (held by Bellarmine and Suarez), and the Dominican Opinion (held by Cajetan and John of St. Thomas).

Both opinions agree that: (1) the Church must declare the Pope guilty of the crime of heresy before he loses his office; and, (2) Christ deposes the Pope as Efficient Cause (because the Church has no coercive power over a Pope), with the Church being only the dispositive cause of the loss of office (but whose actions necessarily precede Christ’s deposition as Efficient Cause). The opinions differ only on when Christ actually deposes the Pope.[31] What act of the Church serves as the dispositive cause for the deposition? Is it the Church’s declaration of the crime? Or is the additional act of the Church commanding the faithful to avoid the heretic required, as St. Paul instructs Titus? After affirming that both schools require at least a declaration of the crime, John of St. Thomas notes precisely the heart of this debate:

“It cannot be held that the Pope, very fact of being a heretic, would cease to be pope antecedently to a declaration of the Church. (…) What is truly a matter of debate, is whether the Pope, after he is declared by the Church to be a heretic, is deposed ipso facto by Christ the Lord [Jesuit Opinion], or if the Church out to depose him [Dominican Opinion]. In any case, as long as the Church has not issued a juridical declaration, he must always be considered the Pope.”[32]

To further explain, the Jesuit Opinion held by Bellarmine and Suarez maintains that the heretical Pope falls ipso facto(immediately and “by the fact”) from the pontificate upon the Church’s declaration of the crime (which serves as the dispositive cause).[33] For example, Suarez says:

“If he is a heretic and incorrigible, the Pope ceases to be Pope as soon as a declarative sentence of his crime is pronounced against him by the legitimate jurisdiction of the Church. This is the common position held by the doctors.” And again: “Therefore on deposing a heretical Pope, the Church would not act as superior to him, but juridically and by the consent of Christ she would declare him a heretic and therefore unworthy of Pontifical honors; he would then ipso facto and immediately be deposed by Christ.”[34]

John of St. Thomas affirms that Bellarmine and Suarez believe the Pope immediately falls from office after the Church declares the crime:

“Bellarmine and Suarez, however, believe that the Pope, by the very fact that he is a manifest heretic and has been declared incorrigible [crime of heresy], is deposed immediately by Christ the Lord and not by any authority of the Church.”[35]

The Dominican Opinion held by Cajetan and John of St. Thomas maintains that the Pope falls from office, not when the Church establishes and declares the crime, but after an additional step. This extra step occurs when the Church, after declaring the crime, also commands the faithful, by the authority of a council, to avoid the heretic (vitandus), according to St. Paul’s instruction to Titus (Titus 3:10). This command, which is rooted in Divine law, is a juridical act (the dispositive cause of the deposition) which has coercive power over the faithful. Just as the Church (the ecclesia docens) necessarily tells the faithful (the ecclesia discens) who to receive as Pope, it must also necessarily tell the faithful who to avoid as Pope (a heretical Pope, judged as such by the Church). In the words of John of St. Thomas:

“It is necessary that, just as the Church designates the man and proposes him to the faithful as being elected Pope, so too is it necessary that the Church declares him a heretic and proposes him as one to be avoided. Hence, we see from the practice of the Church that this is how it has been done; for, in the case of the deposition of a Pope, his cause was handled in a general Council before he was considered not to be Pope, as we have related above. Therefore, it is not because the Pope is a heretic, even publicly, that he will ipso facto cease to be Pope, before the declaration of the Church and before she proclaims him as ‘to be avoided’ by the faithful.”[36]

In a nutshell, then, according to the Jesuit Opinion, the Pope separates from the Church by the Church’s declaration of the crime, and according to the Dominican Opinion, the Church separates from the Pope by the Church’s command to the faithful to avoid him as a vitandus, after the declaration of the crime. But these differences regard questions of speculative theology; both opinions require the Church to judge and declare the Pope guilty of the crime of heresy before Christ would remove him from office. And, as a practical matter, it seems clear that the Church could accomplish everything at once, that is, a council could issue a single document that: 1) declares that the Pope is guilty of the crime of heresy; 2) commands the Church that he must be avoided (vitandus); and, 3) declares the See to be vacant, and publicly excommunicates the former Pope. Of course, the exact procedure would be determined by the authorities of the Church, who will no doubt draw upon the wisdom of some of her greatest theologians.

What this means is that we have a way to go before Francis can be considered a public heretic who has lost his office. How long? As long as it takes for the Church to issue the two warnings and then convoke a council to declare his crime and command the faithful to avoid him if he refuses correction. We obviously pray that Pope Francis either renounces his heresies or resigns his office before it goes that far. However, as we now enter the centenary of the Fatima apparitions with Our Lady’s commands still unheeded, it is likely that the greatest confusion, division and suffering of the post-Vatican II Church, is still to come.

[1] I have a copy of the CDF’s March 9, 1987 reply which conspicuously fails to reconcile Dignitatis Humanae’s teaching with the perennial teaching of the Church. Furthermore, the Congregation admits the possibility of further study of the problem (“…demeure la possibilité d’une étude ultérieure de ce problème…”). If such matters were left to private judgment, one could have “convicted” of John Paul II for his failure to respond to Archbishop Lefebvre’s dubia.
[2] As we read from Fr. Augustine’s commentary on canon law: “If, after the lapse of six months, to be reckoned from the moment the penalty has been contracted, the person suspected of heresy has not amended, he must be regarded as a heretic, amenable to the penalties set forth in canon 2314. Whilst the penalties enumerated under (b) are ferendae sententiae, to be inflicted according to can. 2223, 3, the penalties stated under (c) are a iure and latae sententiae.” Augustine, A Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, vol. VIII, bk. 5, pp. 288-289. Fr. Henry Ayrinhac also notes: “A cleric should receive a second warning, and if this too remained fruitless he should be suspended a divinis. After inflicting these punishments, six months more may be allowed, and if at the end of this time the party suspected of heresy has shown no signs of amendment, he is to be considered as a heretic and punished accordingly.”
[3] Bellarmine wrote: “Firstly, that a heretical Pope can be judged is expressly held in Can. Si Papa dist. 40, and by Innocent III (Serm. II de Consec. Pontif.) Furthermore, in the 8th Council, (act. 7) the acts of the Roman Council under Pope Hadrian are recited, in which one finds that Pope Honorius appears to be justly anathematized, because he had been convicted of heresy…” (De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch. 30).
[4] “Let no mortal man presume to accuse the Pope of fault, for, it being incumbent upon him to judge all, he should be judged by no one, unless he is suddenly caught deviating from the faith”(Si Papa Dist 40). Latin found in Brian Tierney, The Crisis of Church and State (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1964)p. 124.
[5] De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2, ch. 30.
[6] ST, II-II, q. 11, a. 3, sed contra. As we can see, contrary to the teachings of Pope Francis, St. Thomas also affirms the justice of capital punishment to the extent it is in proportion to the severity of the crime (and the death penalty is proportionate to the crime of harming “the salvation of others”). See, for example, ST, II-II, q. 11, a. 3; q. 64, a. 3; Gen. 9:6; Lk 19:27; Rom 13:4.
[7] Hassett, “Church and State in the Fourth Century,” published in The American Catholic Quarterly Review, vol. 34, January – October, 1909, pp. 301-302.
[8] Canon 2314.1-2 says: “All apostates from the Christian faith and each and every heretic or schismatic: Unless they respect warnings, they are deprived of benefice, dignity, pension, office, or other duty that they have in the Church, they are declared infamous, and [if] clerics, with the warning being repeated, [they are] deposed.”
[9] “A cleric must, besides, be degraded if, after having been duly warned, he persists in being a member of such a society (non-Catholic sect). All the offices he may hold become vacant, ipso facto, without any further declaration. This is tacit resignation recognized by law (Canon 188.4) and therefore the vacancy is one de facto et iure (by fact and by law).” Augustine, A Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, vol. 8, bk. 5, p. 280 (emphasis added).
[10] On whether a man is bound to correct his prelate, St. Thomas teaches: “A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction.” ST, II-II, q. 33, a. 4.
[11] Here we can think of certain Catholic politicians who openly acknowledge and defy Catholic teaching (e.g., abortion) to the world, thereby establishing their pertinacity as notorious by notoriety of fact. As non-clerics, their excommunication may be recognized by the Church without the need for ecclesiastical warning or censure.
[12] “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” (De Lugo, disp. XX, sect. IV, n. l57-158, cited in “Essay on Heresy,” by Arnaldo da Silveira).
[13] De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, p. 103.
[14] See Silveira, “La Nouvelle Messe de Paul VI: Qu’en penser,” p. 168.
[15] De Potestate Ecclesiastica, (Monasterii Westphalorum, Deiters, 1847) ch. 6, sec. 2, pp. 124-125 (emphasis added).
[16]De Fidedisp. X, sect. VI, nn. 3-10, p. 316 (emphasis added).
[17] Cursus Theologici II-II, John of St. Thomas, De Auctoritate Summi PontificisDisp. II, Art. III, De Depositione (emphasis added).
[18] Ibid (emphasis added).
[19] De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, p. 67.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid., p. 68.
[22] Ibid., p. 70. Cajetan explains that the second case is when one or more Popes suffer uncertainty with regard to their election, and he uses the Council of Constance during the Great Western Schism as another historical example of an “imperfect council.”
[23] In a letter to the Emperor Michael in 865, Pope Nicholas wrote: “In the reign of the sovereigns
Diocletian and Maximian, Marcellinus, the Bishop of Rome, who afterwards became an illustrious martyr, was so persecuted by the pagans that he entered one of their temples and there offered incense.” (Rev. Reuben Parsons, Studies in Church History, vol. II, (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: John Joseph McVey, 1900), p. 510.
[24] See Hidgen, Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden maonachi Cestrensis, vol. 5 (London: Longman, 1865), p. 107.
[25] “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see Cardinals opposing Cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who compromise and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord”(Our Lady of Akita, to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa, October 13, 1973).
[26]For example, the U.S. Cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell publicly reprimanded Archbishop Charles Chaput over his refusal to give Holy Communion to public adulterers (contrary to the Francis program). Chaput responded by saying the words of Jesus are clear and that Farrell did not understand the Philadelphia guidelines (NB: the revelation of Jesus Christ) he was questioning. See http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews /2016/bishops-need-shared-approach-to-amoris-laetitia-new-cardinal-says.cfm.
[27] https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-schneider-we-are-witnessing-today-a-strange-form-of-schism-within-th.
[28] See video and transcription of talk at https://sarmaticusblog.wordpress.com /2016/09/03/satanic-council-the-end-game/.
[29] See https://sarmaticusblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/state-of-play-rise-of-the-copraphagians/.
[30] Ibid.
[31]Theologically, as used here, the term “deposition” means that Christ, as Efficient Cause, severs the bond that joins the man (the matter) to the papacy (the form).
[32] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologicus, Tome 6.  Questions 1-7 on Faith.  Disputation 8., Article 2.
[33] Regarding the declaratory sentence, some theologians who hold to the variation of the Jesuit Opinion teach that the fall from the pontificate would occur after the Church established the crime, but before the crime was declared by the Church. This position is intended to avoid any issues with the Church inappropriately judging the Pope. The more common opinion, however, is that the Church is not only able to establish the crime of heresy, but also able to issue a declaratory sentence, since a merely declaratory sentence does not involve coercion or punishment. See, for example, Wernz-Vidal, Ius Canonicum. Rome: Gregorian 1943. 2:453; and, Cajetan, De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii, ch. XXI.
[34]De Fide, disp. X, sect. VI, nn. 3-10, pp. 316-317. This is why Bellarmine wrote: “Jurisdiction is certainly given to the Pontiff by God, but with the agreement of men [i.e., the election] as is obvious; because this man, who beforehand was not Pope, has from men that he would begin to be Pope, therefore, he is not removed by God unless it is through men … in the case of heresy, a Roman Pontiff can be judged.” De Romano Pontifice, bk. 2 ch. 30.
[35] Cursus Theologici (Theological Courses), II-II, De Auctoritate Summi Pontificis, Disputatio, Disp. II, Art. III, De Depositione Papae, p. 138.
[36] John of St. Thomas, Cursus Theologici II-II, On the Authority of the Supreme Pontiff, Disp. 2, Art. 3.


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Settimo Cielodi Sandro Magister 

16 gen 17

The Doubts of the Pope and Cardinal Caffarra’s Certainties




Among the four cardinals who have asked Pope Francis to bring clarity to the five “dubia” generated by “Amoris Laetitia,” Carlo Caffarra is the one for whom Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself has repeatedly shown his esteem, among other ways by calling him to participate in the two synods on the family.

This makes it all the more striking how frankly, with what “parrhesia” Caffarra expresses himself in regard to the pope – albeit with full respect for him – in the first big interview he has given since the publication of the “dubia.”

The interview, conducted by Matteo Matzuzzi, came out on Saturday, January 14 in the newspaper “Il Foglio”:

> Caffarra: “Solo un cieco può negare che nella Chiesa ci sia grande confusione”

In English:

> “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusiuon in the Church”

Cardinal Caffarra, 78, is archbishop emeritus of Bologna and a theologian of acknowledged expertise, who has specialized precisely in the questions raised by the “dubia.” From 1981 to 1995, he was head of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

The whole interview is a must-read. In part because it could signal a turning point in the controversy underway in the Church between the different and opposing interpretations of “Amoris Laetitia,” perhaps to the point of inducing Pope Francis to break the silence he has maintained so far.

The following is an overview of what the cardinal said in the interview, which is five times as long.



We cardinals have the grave duty of advising the pope in the governance of the Church. It is a duty, and duties are obligatory.


Only a blind man could deny that in the Church there is great confusion, uncertainty, insecurity caused by some paragraphs of “Amoris Laetitia.” In recent months it has been happening that on the same fundamental questions concerning the sacramental economy – marriage, confession, and Eucharist – and Christian life, some bishops have said A, and others have said the opposite of A. With the intention of giving a good interpretation of the same texts.


There is only one way to get to the bottom of this: to ask the author of the text that has been interpreted in two contradictory ways what is the correct interpretation. There is no other way. Next came the problem of the way in which to approach the pope. We chose a way that is very traditional in the Church, what are called “dubia.” […] This was done in a private manner, and only when we were certain that the Holy Father would not respond did we decide to publish.


The problem is precisely this: that on fundamental points there is not a good understanding of what the pope is teaching, as demonstrated by the conflict of interpretations among bishops. We want to be docile to the pope’s magisterium, but the pope’s magisterium must be clear.


The division already existing in the Church is the cause of the letter [of the four cardinals to the pope – editor’s note], not its effect.


To conceive a pastoral practice not founded and rooted in doctrine means founding and rooting pastoral practice on inclination. A Church that pays little attention to doctrine is not a more pastoral Church, but a more ignorant Church.


The evolution of doctrine has always accompanied Christian thought. [But} if there is one clear point, it is that there is no evolution where there is contradiction. If I say that S is P and then I say that S is not P, the second proposition does not develop the first, but contradicts it. Already Aristotle had correctly taught that enunciating a universal affirmative principle (for example: all adultery is wrong) and at the same time a particular negative proposition having the same subject and predicate (for example: some adultery is not wrong), this is not making an exception to the former. It is contradicting it.


Can the minister of the Eucharist (usually the priest) give the Eucharist to a person who lives “more uxorio” with a woman or a man who is not the wife or husband, and does not intend to live in continence? […] Has “Amoris Laetitia” taught that, given certain specific circumstances and after going through a certain process, the faithful could receive the Eucharist without resolving to live in continence? There are bishops who have taught that this is possible. By a simple deduction of logic, one must therefore also teach that adultery is not evil in itself and of itself.


Conscience is the place where we come up against the central pillar of modernity. […] One who saw this in the most lucid manner imaginable was Blessed John Henry Newman. In the famous letter to the duke of Norfolk, he says: “All through my day there has been a resolute warfare, I had almost said conspiracy against the rights of conscience.” Further ahead he adds that in the name of conscience, true conscience is destroyed.

This is why among the five “dubia” doubt number five [the one on conscience – editor’s note] is the most important. There is a passage in “Amoris Laetitia,” at no. 303, that is not clear; it seems – I repeat: it seems – to admit the possibility that there may be a true judgment of conscience (not invincibly erroneous; this has always been admitted by the Church) in contradiction with that which the Church teaches as having to do with the deposit of divine Revelation. It seems. And that is why we raised the doubt with the pope.

Newman says that “did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet.” These are matters of breathtaking gravity. Private judgment would be raised up as the ultimate criterion of moral truth. Never say to a person: “Always follow your conscience,” without always and immediately adding: “Love and seek the truth about the good.” You would be putting into his hands the weapon most destructive of his humanity.

(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)

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Fixing things the wrong way

By Edward Peters, J.D.


January 17, 2017

I see now an editorial note from CRUX admitting the misquotation and subsequent correction. My objections to Ivereigh’s essay as being irrelevant to the Amoris debate in light of his omission stand, but the journalistic mistake (correcting an important error without noting it is a correction) I accept as remedied.

On January 15 CRUX contributing editor Austen Ivereigh penned a mellifluous essay on the role of conscience in regard to holy Communion for divorced-and-remarried Catholics under Amoris laetitia in which essay he mentioned, but fatally misquoted, the central canonical norm in this debate, Canon 915, by leaving out the crucial qualifier in Canon 915, the word “manifest”, which word moves the question of Communion distribution out of the realm of conscience (where Ivereigh wants to leave it) and into the realm of public conduct where ecclesiastical tradition has always located it.

On January 16 I called Ivereigh on his misrepresentation of the law, pointing out that no discussion of the ecclesial values behind Canon 915 is possible if the word “manifest” is omitted from its text. I did not speculate as to why Ivereigh left out the crucial word, but at least two possibilities presented themselves: (1) Ivereigh was unaware that the word “manifest” was in the norm, in which case he could plausibly, if still incorrectly, opine away about the role of conscience as if that were the only criterion at issue here; or (2) Ivereigh knew the word “manifest” was there but, not realizing its importance, he forgot about it on his to way to plausibly, if still incorrectly, opining away about the role of conscience as if that were the only criterion at issue here. Either explanation, in my view, disqualifies Ivereigh’s CRUX essay from being taken as a serious contribution to this debate, but neither theory calls into question his motives for writing as he did.

On January 17, however, I see that Ivereigh (or CRUX?) has quietly slipped the word “manifest” back into the Canon 915 quote but, as far as I can tell, the rest of Ivereigh’s essay remains untouched—as if to say, Okay, fine, the word “manifest” is in the law, and yes, it’s apparently important enough to repair the quote, but no, I (or CRUX) don’t care that it renders essentially pointless the original essay for its failure to grapple with the now obviously crucial implications of the word “manifest” in Canon 915 regarding Communion distribution questions. I ask, is this how one rights journalistic wrongs?

My objection to Ivereigh (or CRUX) adding the word “manifest” to the essay, is not, I need hardly say, an objection to repairing a false quote per se. Electronic media lends itself to fixing typos and besides, accuracy before the reading public is to be valued over avoiding authorial embarrassment. But, quietly adding an omitted, yet absolutely crucial, word to a key quotation, without admitting that it was originally misrepresented (besides making CRUX readers unfairly question their own correct recollections of the essay) implies that such misstatements, in the midst of a tempestuous debate no less, are on a par with spelling mistakes or awkward auxiliary verb tenses. Sorry, but Ivereigh’s misrepresentation of Canon 915 went far beyond the typo stage.

In short, Option One for accounting for Ivereigh’s original phrasing is gone. He clearly knows the word “manifest” is in the law. That leaves, I suppose, Option Two, Ivereigh still does not realize the importance of the word (in which case he needs to do some serious study of this matter) or, I fear, it suggests an Option Three, Ivereigh doesn’t care about the implications of the law’s focus on public acts (instead of on personal conscience assessment) in Communion distribution questions (in which case other things Ivereigh might wish to say about the role of law in the Church should be questioned).

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Conscience can’t be the final arbiter on who gets Communion

Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland, Maine. (Credit: CatholicTV.com.)

Conscience can’t be the final arbiter on who gets Communion

Typical pastors reading ‘Amoris’ are likely to stumble into accepting its central flaw, namely, assuming that an individual Catholic’s assessment of his or her own conscience is the sole criterion that governs a minister’s decision to give holy Communion to a member of the faithful.


[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum }


[Editor’s note: On Jan. 6, Crux published a piece by Father Paul Keller describing a hypothetical set of circumstances in which he would administer Communion to a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic based on Pope Francis’s document “Amoris Laetitia.” Distinguished American canonist Edward Peters responded on his “In the Light of the Law” blog, and Crux asked permission to use that response, in a version reworked by Peters at our request.]

In trying to apply Pope Francis’s document Amoris Laetitia to a hypothetical but plausible request for holy Communion by a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic, Father Paul Keller’s “Case study in communion for the divorced/remarried” makes a number of serious errors.

Correcting even some of those errors will take time, but it would be time justified in that Keller’s essay illustrates very well how typical pastors reading Amoris according to its plain sense (and not, lawyer-like, parsing various problematic phrases just narrowly enough so as to support a more traditional interpretation) are likely to stumble into accepting what I view as the central flaw in Amoris, namely, assuming that, in the final analysis, an individual Catholic’s assessment of his or her own conscience is the sole criterion that governs a minister’s decision to give holy Communion to a member of the faithful.

That assumption, however it arose and no matter who promotes it, is wrong.

Canonically, the case Keller posits is straightforward: his fictitious “Irma” entered into a presumptively valid marriage, her husband “Francisco” wrecked it, and Irma (probably justifiably on these facts) divorced him. While I agree with Keller that little about Irma’s story suggests that her marriage to Francisco was canonically invalid, tribunals are better at spotting potential grounds of nullity than are typical parish priests, and they know how to proceed in so-called ‘unlocatable respondent’ cases.

Still, Keller is right not to get Irma’s hopes up for an annulment but, as matter of canon law, nothing prevented Irma from receiving holy Communion to that point. Irma, however, recently entered a civil marriage with “Tony” and has been living with him, sexually actively, for some time.

Her current situation, according to unanimous Catholic tradition, is adultery (indeed, given the civil marriage, it is “public and permanent adultery”) and again, according to hitherto unquestioned Catholic principles, renders Irma ineligible to approach for holy Communion and, should she approach for it anyway, prevents Catholic ministers from giving her Communion.

Now on to some of the mistakes Keller makes in assessing Irma’s situation and advising her otherwise.

First mistakeKeller writes, “As I respond [to Irma’s request for Communion], I must follow the guidelines that Pope Francis described in Amoris Laetitia, issued after the discussions and discernment of two Synods of Bishops on family life.”

Wrong. In administering holy Communion to a member of the faithful, Roman Catholic ministers are bound not by “guidelines” supposedly fashioned from a single, ambiguous, and highly controverted papal document, but instead by the plain and dispositive text of another papal document, one called the Code of Canon Law, and by the common and constant interpretation accorded such norms over many centuries.

Equipped only with Amoris, however, it is not surprising that Keller would not advert to these norms in his discussion. Amoris never mentions them, either.

Second mistake: Keller writes that Irma “told me that Tony thought the idea [of their living as brother and sister] was crazy. As they were only 26 years old, Irma was afraid of what might happen to their relationship if they were no longer able to grow in their love through physical intimacy.”

Keller accepts, apparently without demur, Irma’s description of her objectively adulterous sexual relations as a way “to grow in love.” He thus radically fails to speak the truth in love to a child of God consulting him as a priest of the Church and minister of Christ’s sacraments.

Any priest so acting, let alone one acting in confession, would have to account for such a failure at Final Judgment. Moreover if, as a confessor, Keller approved Irma’s choice to engage in sexual relations with Tony, he has committed the crime of solicitation in confession.

Third mistake: Keller says that Irma “didn’t think Tony could handle the prospect of committing to complete celibacy for the next 70 years. Plus, both she and Tony wanted to have at least two or three more children.”

Setting aside 26-year-old Irma’s callow estimate of human life-spans and the sexually active period therein, Tony is not bound to observe “celibacy” at all. Nothing in Keller’s essay suggests that Tony is not free to marry immediately. Granted, he is not free to marry Irma because, as Keller admits, Irma is already married, but Keller’s point regarding Tony as not free to marry is simply wrong.

Granted, as a single man Tony is morally bound to practice continence and Keller should clarify this point for those who routinely confuse “celibacy” and “continence” (although Keller himself seems not to know the difference), but we need to be clear: Tony is not bound to celibacy based on Irma’s situation.

Fourth mistake: Keller writes, “Although I have not said so to Irma, I have wondered if it would be better for her to attend a non-Catholic church.”

Thank God a priest of the Catholic Church has not made such a reprehensible suggestion to a lay Catholic coming to him with urgent moral questions. Still, as Keller mentions this idea twice, he needs immediately to eliminate from his mind any notion about advising a penitent to commit some other objectively grave sins (e.g., ceasing to attend Mass on Sundays or even joining another faith) so as to ‘sooth’ guilty feelings experienced over an earlier grave sin.

Good grief, should we even have to say this?

Fifth (and central) mistake: “If [Irma] were to just come up for communion, I couldn’t deny her. First of all, everything I know about her relationship has come from within the sacrament of Confession. Outside of the sacrament, I can’t ‘use’ that information in any way, certainly not by publicly denying her communion.”

There are numerous errors here.

For starters, if (I say if) the only knowledge Keller has of Irma’s situation is her confessing, albeit not repenting of, an adulterous civil marriage, then of course he cannot withhold holy Communion from her. But then, had Irma, under the seal of confession, admitted to – I don’t know – killing the pope, Keller could not publicly withhold Communion from her either, though I doubt Keller would want to “accompany” Irma to the point of justifying her deed in conscience.

By invoking the ‘seal of confessional card’ Keller makes his sample case even more pastorally useless than it essentially was from the outset.

That said, while Keller’s information might be solely confessional matter, it is all but certain that others (Keller says Irma’s relatives moved to America too) know about her situation, as will her friends over time, and they will come to know how “the Church” responds to it. If Keller thinks earlier, foreign country marriages will never come to light, and that priests’ actions during the time they knew about such marriages will not later be questioned, he’s terribly naive.

Finally, and central to the operation of the routinely ignored Canon 915, Irma’s status as canonically-civilly married to Francisco in El Salvador and as civilly married to Tony in the USA is a matter of public record-even if some of the public records are difficult to access in this unusual case-and public records are sufficient bases upon which to take public actions such as withholding holy Communion from certain Catholics in accord with law.

Even beyond questions of Keller’s actionable knowledge, we now begin to see the fundamental problem of his approaching Communion distribution questions for divorced-and-remarried Catholics as Amoris seems to approach them, that is, without any reference to the requirements of the Church law, specifically Canon 915, which, as has been stated many times, requires Catholic ministers of holy Communion to withhold the sacrament from those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.”

There is no question that Irma’s case fits the classic situation of “public and permanent adultery” in canon law. Ministers confronted with such public facts should withhold the sacrament upon pain of dereliction of their duties under Canon 915.

But, dear reader, do you see how pastors, relying only on the import of Amoris, could walk right into Keller’s error?

Amoris assumes, without ever exactly stating it, that individual consciences (which can be very complex, often deal with hard cases, might be only partly informed, are never fully knowable to another, and so on) are the final arbiter of whether a would-be communicant must be given the sacrament.

Amoris, never mentioning Canons 915 or 916, seems to think that some process of pastoral “discernment” or “accompaniment” can lead divorced-and-remarried Catholics, even those not committed to a continent relationship as befits all non-married persons, to the point where, having satisfied themselves that they are not sinning, may approach for holy Communion, and the minister, irrespective of the communicant’s objective public status, must distribute it to them.

In other words, Canon 915, the central, historically uncontested, and canonically unambiguous norm controlling ministerial decisions to distribute holy Communion in such cases, is simply ignored.

It is the pervasive and steadfast refusal of nearly all “Amoris supporters” (I dislike the term, but it saves time) to face squarely the ancient tradition behind, and the unambiguous interpretation of, Canon 915 that dooms virtually all defenses of Amoris so far to irrelevance at best and to pastoral and even doctrinal disasters at worst. One cannot coherently discuss reception of holy Communion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics while ignoring the plain text of Canon 915.

Sixth mistake: Keller rephrases his claim that he is ‘constructively ignorant’ (my term) about Irma’s situation (in that he supposedly knows her situation only from Confession, so canonically he doesn’t “know” about it) so as to claim that it be wrong for him to withhold holy Communion from Irma.

But may I suggest that the opposite is true: Keller (not to mention the community, both now and over time) can have ‘constructive knowledge’ of Irma’s objectively irregular status in virtue of the fact that she has entered two public ceremonies each purporting to be weddings.

At the least, Keller’s phrasing of his dilemma might lead some to think that the canonically public status of a marriage, even of a civil marriage, is insufficient for action in the external forum unless such marriage status is also actually known by some unspecified portion of the community. That view of how law operates here is incorrect in itself but, by Keller’s own narration, a number of other people do in fact know about Irma’s first wedding and others will certainly come to know of it.

Seventh mistake: “Based on everything I know as a priest concerning sin, conscience, hope, Jesus, the teaching of the Church, and particularly the instruction the Church has received from Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, I tell Irma, ‘If you sincerely believe in your conscience that this is how Christ can aid your growth in holiness, then, yes. You may go to communion.’”

That advice is wrong (even as matter of Canon 916 on the communicant’s examination of conscience), but notice how Keller makes his decision to distribute holy Communion (under Canon 915, though Keller seems not to know about it) depend on Irma’s assessment of her conscience, and not his own duties as a minister faced with canonically public behavior.

I grant, perhaps based on things that Keller clearly does not know about “sin, conscience, hope, Jesus, the teaching of the Church, and particularly the instruction the Church has received from Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia,” he might have innocently reached his conclusion and offered his advice, but his conclusions and advice are still wrong.

A man in Keller’s position, moreover, having been alerted to the possibility of so many errors in his thinking, and of such serious errors at that, is, I suggest, required to study these matters more deeply to bring his approach into line with Church teaching.

Final thoughts.

For readers who hoped that Keller’s essay might prove how wonderful it would be if we all read Amoris the way Keller and others think it should be read, four reactions to my post seem possible.

First: Peters has substantially misstated the law in regard to the reception of holy Communion by divorced-and-remarried Catholics and so he may be disregarded. To such persons, I extend the invitation to show me where I have substantially misrepresented the law controlling these situations.

Second: Peters is a heartless Pharisee who does not care about the pastoral problems of real people and so he may be disregarded. To such persons I say, that’s a rather tiresome ad hominem arising from the current antinomianism in the Church, but it leaves open the possibility that I might be correct. (Aside: why are critics of Amorisalways being labelled ‘Pharisees’? Weren’t the Pharisees the ones trying to allow for divorce and remarriage?)

Third: Peters has stated the law correctly, but the law needs to change significantly. To such persons I say, please show us how the law can be changed without doing doctrinal-disciplinary damage to several aspects of matrimony, Confession, and the Eucharist.

Fourth: Peters has stated the law correctly, and the law’s general connection to pastoral integrity is evident. To such persons I say, we need to bring individual sacramental administration better into line with universal Catholic doctrine and discipline.

And a final, final thought.

Keller made up a plausible hypothetical to illustrate the advantages of his giving holy Communion to Irma, so may I offer a plausible hypothetical to illustrate its dangers?

One day, our civilly remarried and regularly communicating Irma’s doorbell rings. Francisco is standing there. His life bottomed out in prison, but by the grace of God and after pondering some hard truths heard from faithful Catholic ministers along the way, he has gone to Confession and now comes to beg forgiveness from Irma, being committed to resuming his spousal duties, chastened, humbled, and grateful for a second chance.

At which point he learns that Keller has smoothed the path for Irma to live in a false union with the apparent blessing of the Church. How does one compare Francisco’s failures (per Keller, failures arising out of pervasive poverty and drug-enhanced gang pressures) with Keller’s failure to speak rightly to a penitent while being safe in America, and faced only with questions from a confused Catholic woman?

Edward Peters is an American canon lawyer and an adviser to the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. He is a professor of canon law at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Detroit and maintains a canon law blog here.

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In Light of Malta: Further Questions on the Müller Position

But at least two demurring voices have thus come to us now, one from Germany, and one from the United States. First, let us consider – and here I translate the entire post – what the German pro-life activist and book author, Mathias von Gersdorff, has politely written. On Sunday, January 15, he published a comment entitled: “The Guidelines of Malta Concerning Communion Refute Cardinal Müller’s Statement”:

Not a week after the Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, has openly criticized the dubia Cardinals and has described Amoris Laetitia as clear and as not being dangerous for the Faith, the Bishops of Malta publish guidelines which contradict Müller in this matter completely. For, the Bishops’ Conference of Malta interprets Amoris Laetitia in an especially liberal way: if a remarried divorcee is of the opinion that he is at peace with God, then he may permissibly receive Holy Communion. Thereby, not only the remarried divorcees are being admitted to the Table of the Lord, but, at the same time, the subjective conscience of the individual person is being established as decisive authority. Is there still any difference with regard to Protestantism? The initiative of Malta shows just how little Cardinal Müller’s influence is anymore. Because, Cardinal Müller always upheld that Amoris Laetia is to be interpreted according to tradition, especially according to the clear rules of Familiaris Consortio. In this Apostolic Exhortation promulgated by Pope John Paul II, the remarried divorcees are denied access to Communion should they not live in continuous continence. The guidelines of the Bishops of Malta could have now a weighty impact and heighten the crisis within the Church. Because, by now it should be clear that Pope Francis has no problem with the admittance of remarried divorcees to Communion. Likewise, the pope seems not to be worried that in different regions there are being established now different guidelines. However, this would mean nothing else but that the traditional moral teaching on sexuality is not any more universally valid. Can one then justly speak any more of one single Church? In this context, the warning from Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider – himself a decisive supporter of the dubia cardinals – against a coming schism is far from being an exaggeration. One has to consider that the problem of Communion for the remarried divorcees is not at all “merely” a problem of discipline. This topic touches upon three Sacraments (Eucharist, Matrimony, and Penance) as well as Church teaching on Grace and on Christology (in addition to her moral teaching, as has already been mentioned). Should the initiative of Malta now catch on (which is to be expected), we are heading into troubling times.

In a similar vein, the U.S. canon lawyer Dr. Edward Peters is now saying that “The Maltese Directive Makes Answering the Dubia Urgent.” He himself now also brings into this discussion once more the role of Cardinal Müller himself when he says:

This ability of Amoris simultaneously to sustain orthodox, non-committal, and heterodox interpretations in matters of the gravest ecclesiastical import is exactly why the Four Cardinal’s dubia [sic] so urgently need answering—if not by Francis himself (and no one can force Francis’ hand) then at least by Francis’ right-hand man in matters of faith and morals, Cdl [Gerhard] Muller of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to whom the dubia was [sic] also (few seem to have noticed) addressed. Of course, the stakes involved in the dubia jumped dramatically over the weekend, not simply by the Maltese bishops making plain what sort of sacramental abuses Amoris could tolerate within its terms, but by the decision, taken at who-knows-what level, to publish the Maltese document in L’Ossevatore Romano, that [very same] “instrument for spreading the teachings of the successor of Peter.” [my emphasis]

Dr. Peters brings out an important fact – namely, that with the publishing of the Maltese guidelines in the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, the pope gives his own indirect approval of the novel teaching as it concerns the matter of the “remarried” divorcees.

In the meantime, Edward Pentin, the well-informed Rome Correspondent, has published an update concerning Cardinal Müller’s recent 8 January critique of the Four Cardinals’ dubia:

Update 12 January 2016: A spokesman for Cardinal Müller told the Register that he [Müller] was “speaking out of his authority as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and was not advised by anyone to do so.” He also said that a “recent interview with Carlos Granados published in Spanish entitled ‘Informe sobre la esperanza‘ (Madrid 2016) is [soon to be] forthcoming in English and entitled ‘The Cardinal Müller Report‘ (Ignatius…2017). In this book the third chapter is entitled ‘What can we hope for from the family?’ This will be an excellent point of reference regarding the Cardinal’s comments on the Sacrament of Marriage.”

Here we see that Cardinal Müller continues his own policy of showing that he interprets Amoris Laetitia in a more traditional way. Not long ago, I was able to publish a book review of that same 2016 book on Hope written by the German cardinal. When double checking the third chapter of that book as recently referred to by the spokesman for Cardinal Müller, one important aspect can be seen: Müller repeats in detail the teaching of Familiaris Consortio 84 concerning the divorced and “remarried” who are continuously bound to live chastely if they still wish to have access to the Sacraments. Here is an excerpt of these aspects, as summarized by me from the third chapter on hope and the family:

  • [Cardinal Müller] insists that, since the Church’s duty is to lead people to heaven, she has “never any authorization to dispense man (because of a purported compassionate or well-meaning attitude) from obeying God’s Commandments” (p. 194); [my emphasis]
  • reminds us that “marriage is a gift from the Lord,” that God will help us with the Sacrament and His Grace to live it, and that He thereby never fails any marriage. “He [God] promised us that His Grace will help us.” And he says that marital love “is a gift from God which has to be selflessly lived and daily preserved as the finest gift that one will ever hold in one’s hands” (p. 180; pp. 190-193); “With Jesus, a love is possible that lasts for the whole lifetime” (p. 205); [my emphasis]
  •  claims that gender theory is the essence of “the idea that man can create himself,” and without the Creator; thus the danger that “we turn our own desires into an idol and decide ourselves what is good and what is evil” (pp. 183-184); [my emphasis]
  •  importantly points out that the “fragmentation of man” and an “extreme individualism” is the twin of the totalitarian ideologies (p. 186);
  •  calls us not to accept “the different ‘family models’” which the “seemingly crazy Western society wants to impose upon us,” and also importantly says that there exists no human right to do what is wrong (p. 175); [my emphasis]
  •  speaks about the negative consequences of artificial birth control on marriage and the family – especially since it turns human sexuality into a mere self-serving idea, instead of seeing a “path to accept the Gift of Life” (p. 202-203);
  •  criticizes the Orthodox Church’s allowance of a second marriage, because he does not see it at all in accordance with the Gospels – “When I consider the words of Jesus about the indissolubility of marriage, I do not see how this [Orthodox Christian] practice [of allowing a second marriage] can be deduced from the Will of God” (p. 206);
  •  insists upon Familiaris Consortio’s teaching concerning the “remarried” divorcees and their not being able to access to the Sacraments, unless they practice continuous chastity; says that this document “confirms explicitly the dogmatic teaching of the Church on marriage” (pp. 208-209); [my emphasis]
  •  re-states that “the individual conscience cannot be separated from the Church’s Magisterium, just as the pastoral practice cannot be separated from the Church’s doctrine” (p. 211). [my emphasis]

And so, while Cardinal Müller presents – especially in the third chapter of his 2016 book on hope (which will be published in English in spring of 2017, according to Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., editor of Ignatius Press) – many beautiful and helpful statements and reflections, they will not likely bear good fruit as long as he is not also publicly resisting those irregular prelates – and even the pope – who now teach, and more laxly implement, guidelines concerning the “remarried” divorcees and their possible access to the Sacraments that all-to-clearly oppose the Church’s long-standing and articulate traditional Doctrine.

All things considered, it is my ardent prayer now to Our Lady and to Our Lord that the good cardinal may now receive the Graces necessary for a direct, public, and strong defense of Christ’s uncensored and merciful teaching – before it is too late to avert more confusion and ruin.

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The Hardening of Hearts Caused by the Deceit of Sin

January 15, 2017 • 
 Last week at daily Mass (Thursday of the First Week of the Year) we read from the Letter to the Hebrews. In it was an important admonition, especially appropriate for our times:

Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today, so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin (Heb 3:12).

Collectively speaking, we been hardened by the deceit of sin. Many of us who are older remember times when sins that are openly practiced (and even celebrated) today were considered shameful a mere fifty years ago. Pre-marital sex (fornication), living together before marriage (which many called “shacking up”), and divorce were considered scandalous. “Gay” was a word that meant happy or joyful, and condoning (let alone celebrating) homosexual acts would have been inconceivable to most Americans. The concept of same-sex marriage was foreign and not even imaginable to most. Up through the 1950s, even contraception was considered by most Americans to be a loathsome practice and was often associated with prostitution.

This is not to say that it was a sinless time; it was not. There were indeed some who transgressed. Young, unmarried girls who got pregnant were generally sent to live with relatives or taken into the care of religious sisters until they gave birth; children born under such circumstances were usually given for adoption. But those cases were relatively rare and handled discreetly. There certainly weren’t child care centers in public high schools! So while some did stray, there was general agreement that such behavior was wrong.

Many of these attitudes began to shift in the cultural revolution of the 1960s.Although the tumultuous change of that decade was already brewing in the 1950s it is rightly said that we entered the 1960s through one door and came out a very different one.

The cultural revolution had different aspects. There was a revolution against authority and tradition, including religious faith; a steep drop in church attendance began. There was the feminist revolution, proper in some of its concerns, but also beset by a growing radicalism that ridiculed motherhood and men. And there was the rampant use of hallucinogenic drugs, which devastated the intellect and judgment of many young people. The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was underway.

The most long-lasting and devastating aspect of the 1960s was the sexual revolution.The spread of revolutionary sexual attitudes was facilitated by the availability of “the pill.” Thus there arose the evil and erroneous notion of “sex without consequences.” This notion has ultimately led to widespread fornication, consumption of pornography, adultery, abortion, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, and large numbers of children being raised by single mothers.

The resistance to divorce rooted in religious concerns and the common-sense notion that divorce was harmful to children, had been eroding through the decade as many celebrities began flying to foreign countries in order to be divorced. Slowly, the shock that divorce once caused, began to give way. Prior to 1969, obtaining a divorce was a difficult, lengthy, legal process. But due to growing pressure, states began to pass “no-fault” divorce laws, making marriage one of the easiest contracts to break. The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was growing worse. Jesus Himself attributed the desire to divorce to hard hearts (See Matt 19:8).

A nation increasingly hypnotized by fornication and the evil deception of sex without consequences began to show a decline in the rightful indignation at killing babies in the womb. Legal maneuverers to permit abortion had already been underway, but abortion remained illegal in most of the United States until 1973, when the dreadful, immoral Roe v. Wade decision of the Supreme Court made abortion the “law of the land.” The hardening of hearts by the deceit of sin was by now full.

Things have generally worsened over the decades that followed. And the hardening of hearts has seen added to it the darkening of our intellects (see Romans 1:21). Rational conversations about moral topics are becoming nearly impossible.

Added to all of this the is the recent, bewildering rise in the outright celebration of homosexual acts and subsequent approval of same-sex “marriage,” along with the latest cause célèbre, “transgenderism.”

And thus the words of the Letter to the Hebrews ring true:

Encourage yourselves daily while it is still today, so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin (Heb 3:12).

Sin hardens the heart and darkens the intellect. Many people today hold deeply and stubbornly to errors and are lost in moral confusion. Attempts to disabuse them of such deceptions often leads to venomous accusations of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred. The hardness is deep; the deception is dark. When one grows accustomed to the darkness, the light seems harsh and painful in comparison. The protests get louder as the years go by because as the darkness deepens, the light seems increasingly intolerable.

The text says that it is the deceit of sin which does this. The Latin roots of the word “deceive” present a picture of being pick up and carried off (de (from) + capere (to take or carry away)). The image of one who has been deceived is that of a small animal hanging limply from the jaws of a predator. To be deceived is a very dangerous thing. It means that the devil has us in his grasp; the end will come soon unless we can unlock the jaws of the evil dragon through the grace of mercy that comes from repentance. {EMPHASIS BY ABYSSUM}

Our age, like few others, demonstrates just how bad things can get when we are individually and collectively hardened by the deceit of sin. This has happened to us fairly quickly. It was not that long ago when we were still shocked by the things that many celebrate today with “pride” parades and divorce “parties.” Fornication and shacking up were once considered scandalous. A sex scene in a movie was considered indecent. Many other sins today, such as greed and disrespect for elders and leaders, are also glamorized. That this no longer shocks or surprises us shows the hardening that the deceit of sin can bring.

Ask the Lord for a sensitive conscience. It is a precious gift that is not to be confused with scrupulosity. A sensitive conscience is one that loves what God loves, that values what God values, and that shares His priorities. A sensitive conscience loves God’s law and His truth, and is saddened and productively mournful at the reality of sin, whether personal or collective.

Ask also for the gift to mourn. Scripture says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mat 5:4). Who are those who mourn? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people (that they do not know God or glorify Him in their lives and that they are locked in sin and its deceptions) and are motivated to pray and speak the truth. They will even endure suffering in order that some may be snatched away from the evil dragon and from the hardening that comes from the deceit of sin.

Lord, heal our land; for we are surely hardened by the deceit of sin. Help us to turn to you. May you use our holy tears to wash away our sins and give us new and tender hearts.


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The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope To Lead The World's Catholics

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – MARCH 13: Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


Discussing law with people who don’t know what it actually says

January 16, 2017

Austen Ivereigh, in a Crux essay that adds little of substance to what has been said over and over again in regard to Amoris laetitiafatally misquotes the central canon at issue in the Amoris debate. His misrepresentation of the law illustrates better than anything I could say here about why the Amoris debate is becoming, to use Ivereigh’s term, so infuriating for defenders of ecclesiastical tradition. The ‘pro-Amoris’ wing simply does not know, or care, what the law in question actually says.

Ivereigh writes:

“Amoris never questions either Canon 915, which demands that Communion be withheld from those who “obstinately persevere in grave sin,” nor the following canon, that people conscious of grave sin should not present themselves to receive Communion… But while Amoris is very clear about not wanting to create new norms or laws, it is also very clear about fostering a new attitude.”

First Amoris never “questions” Canon 915 because it never mentionsCanon 915!, but much more importantly—and crucially for his essay—Ivereigh misquotes the text of Canon 915 in regard to the central issue here. Canon 915 does NOT say that holy Communion must be withheld from those who “obstinately persevere in grave sin”, it says that holy Communion must be withheld from those who “obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin”.

The difference, as has been explained copiously, is night and day.

Canon 915, controlling a minister’s decision to give holy Communion to a would-be communicant, is not, not, not, about reading communicants’ personal consciences (as if ministers could do that anyway), it is about assessing a would-be communicants’ public behavior (such as their having entered civil marriage subsequent to divorce). Thus, virtually all of the Amoris discussions about individual assessments of conscience or, as the Maltese bishops put it, about “being at peace with God” (points that might figure in the application of Canon 916), is irrelevant to the operation of Canon 915, the modern canon resting on ancient roots that prevents ministers from giving holy Communion to Catholics in these circumstances. But it’s impossible to discuss the implications of the legal qualifier “manifest” in Canon 915 if public figures such as Invereigh don’t even admit the word is there.

Misrepresenting the plain text of canon law on the central point at issue in the Amoris debate is not, I suggest, how should one go “about fostering a new attitude” toward law.


The Maltese directive makes answering the ‘dubia’ urgent, Catholic World Report Dispatch (15 Jan 2017)  here.

The Maltese disaster, Catholic World Report Dispatch (13 Jan 2017) hereEWTN Great Britain (14 Jan 2017) here.

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Break Your Silence: Speak About Amoris Laetitia!


It has been 600 days since I last composed a blog post, but this is so important I am breaking my hiatus.

Almost exactly 1600 years ago, in the midst of the Pelagian heresy which threatened to engulf the Church, St. Augustine wrote that when Rome has spoken, the case is closed (paraphrased: “Roma locuta est, causa finita est”).

Today, precisely because the pope has not spoken, the Church is facing a crisis, and the case remains open.

I refer of course to the confusion surrounding how to interpret Chapter 8 of Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia (AL) concerning Communion for the divorce-and-remarried.

This confusion escalated with the release of the directive of two bishops in Malta which says in plain English (emphasis mine):

“If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).”

The bishop of San Diego and bishops in Argentina have taken a similar stance, but never in quite-so-plain terms.

Meanwhile, numerous other bishops, including Archbishop Chaput and Archbishop Sample, following the teachings of Saint John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio and Veritatis Splendor, and Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF in 1994, disagree that AL allows for Communion for the divorce-and-remarried, as Carl Olson writes.

There are now dozens of bishops across the world telling their priests contradictory things about what the Church holds when it comes to Communion for the divorce-and-remarried.

There are now thousands of priests around the globe who are telling the Catholic faithful contradictory things about this same disputed question.

There are now millions of Catholics worldwide who are living in a parish where there is a contradiction between what the pope has written recently about marriage and what is preached by the pastor.

As Cardinal Caffarra poignantly said, “only a blind man could deny there’s great confusion, uncertainty and insecurity in the Church.”

The fact that there is deep and widespread disagreement about what the teaching is represents a real and present crisis, because the truth matters, and only the truth will set us free.

Thus the Roman Pontiff has a responsibility to articulate the Catholic faith in a knowable way.

And as Cardinal Caffarra also pointed out, how can we be obedient if we don’t know what the teaching is?

That’s why we have to keep asking the pope to clarify what he means, and in the meantime share our own opinion about AL in whatever mediums are available to us.

Conversely, this is why Fr Antonio Spadaro and Austen Ivereigh are so wrong when they call for the debate over AL to end. It is impossible for this debate to end before the pope more clearly defines what he means.

I don’t understand why the “latitudinarians” (as I call the “reformers” who want to see the Church’s teaching interpreted with wide and inconsistent latitude) don’t want the pope to clarify his teaching. If they are so confident he shares the exact same beliefs as them, why hide this light under a bushel, or, in this case, a footnote?

Instead, the latitudinarians are focused on shouting down those who continue to ask questions.

That leads to my next point: I am dismayed that so many of the JPII-generation and Pope Benedict-loving Catholics remain silent on the sidelines. The debate over AL is, if not the most important, at the very least, the most contentious theological dispute of the past half-century …and yet so many under-40 Catholics have seemingly nothing to say or share.

If the pope is waiting to find out who is more passionate about forming the Church’s future, silence speaks volumes, and what those volumes say is not reassuring.

That’s why I’m urging more young priests, religious and theologians to speak up about AL.

You were formed under the papacies of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. You went to school for this. You serve as pastors, teachers and counselors. So, speak up!

My father, the canonist Ed Peters, wrote yesterday that the Maltese directive makes answering the dubia issued by the four cardinals even more urgent.

I would add that it makes our responsibility to speak up and ask the pope to clarify his teaching even more urgent as well, and to share our own opinion in the meantime.

So, I’m breaking my silence. Now it’s your turn.

(You can begin by sharing this post and adding your view in the comments below – I will read them.)

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


Thomas Peters, 31, grew up in Southern California and attended college in Michigan. He has two graduate degrees in theology. He began his award-winning American Papist blog in 2006, which went on to become one of the most popular Catholic blogs in America. He was one of a handful of Americans invited to the Vatican’s first-ever Bloggers’ Meeting in Rome. Peters has appeared in dozens of TV, radio and online media outlets over the years discussing the intersection of Catholicism and political activism, debating topics related to life, family and religious freedom, in addition to writing and speaking about the future of social media and online organizing. Since 2010, he has served as an advisor to CatholicVote.org. He and his wife Natalie live in Washington DC. You can follow him on Twitter @AmericanPapist.

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Almighty ever-living God,

who govern all things,

both in heaven and on earth,

mercifully hear the pleading of your people

and bestow your peace on our times.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit, One God,

for ever and ever.


It is comforting that the opening prayer for today’s Mass asks God to bestow peace on our times.

It is comforting because while we are entering a period which seems to offer us  peace in terms of the Federal government, at the same time we seem to be entering a period of controversy and division in our mother, the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

I am referring to the controversy over the proposal of some Cardinals to allow priests to give Holy Communion to individuals who are living in an invalid marriage, even a same-sex ‘so-called’ marriage.

Such proposals fly in the face of the explicit teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Gospel and the 2,000 years of magisterial teaching by His Church.

We must trust the Lord to help His Church through this crisis.  We have been blessed up until now that since the First Vatican Council in the last quarter of the 19th Century the Church has been free from internal division.  We have not had any of the turmoil that characterized the Fourth Century during the Arian controversy, or the 16th Century with the schisms caused by the Protestant Reformation.

 Now every Catholic must begin to strengthen their faith in the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ through prayer and the reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.

Above all, we must deepen our trust in the Lord and be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel of today’s Mass makes a pointed reference to the role of the Holy Spirit. We are shown this in the relation between Jesus Christ and Saint John the Baptist.

In Luke 1:41-42 we read:  No sooner had Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, than the child (Saint John the Baptist) leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Spirit …. and cried out “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb….no sooner did I hear your voice than the child in my womb leaped for joy!

In the Prologue to his Gospel Saint John the Evangelist told how Saint John the Baptist preceded Jesus as His witness.

In today’s Gospel Saint John the Evangelist wrote of the relationship of the Holy Spirit between Saint John the Baptist and Jesus Christ:

I (John the Baptist) saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon Him (Jesus Christ)….He (God the Father) who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He (Jesus Christ) is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

The present crisis in the Church began initially with the widening of the intellectual gap between those who placed the emphasis on the doctrinal teaching of Jesus Christ regarding the permanence of sacramental marriage and the pastoral practice of Jesus in forgiving (having mercy) on sinners and the pastoral teaching of Saint Paul regarding receiving the Eucharist unworthily.

Saint John the Baptist had his head cut off by Herod because he condemned Herod’s taking of his brother’s wife as his own.

Our Lord Jesus Christ had not yet given us the Eucharist and so unworthy reception of the Eucharist was not an issue, and Jesus had perhaps not yet spoken about the permanence of marriage, so Saint John the Baptist, prompted by the Holy Spirit, condemned Herod under God’s law as revealed by the prophets in the Old Testament.

We do have the benefit of traditional teaching of the Church as expressed clearly in two documents written by Saint John Paul II:

The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio

and the Encyclical Veritatis Splendor.

Guided by the Holy Spirit and those two documents which sum up the doctrinal teaching of the Church on the subjects of marriage and the moral law, we must resist pastoral innovations such as giving Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics who had previously entered a sacramental marriage.

Come O Holy Spirit,

beloved of my soul, I adore You.

Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me,

and console me.

Tell me what I must do.

Inspire me with what I must say.

Give me your orders.

I promise to submit myself to You

in all that You ask of me and I accept all

that you permit to happen to me.

Let me only know Your will,

and I will do Your will.

Amen !!!

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The Conclave Of Cardinals Have Elected A New Pope To Lead The World's Catholics

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN – MARCH 13: Newly elected Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the 266th Pontiff and will lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


Is The Pope Assuming Dictatorial Attitudes?


Let’s see now.  There was the thinly-disguised manipulation of the two synods on the family during the past two years.  There was his dismissal of the Pontifical Academy of Life.  There was the heavy-handed treatment meted out to Cardinal Burke and others.  There was him flat out telling Cardinal Muller “because I’m the pope” when the latter asked why he was ordered to dismiss three good priests from the CDF.

Now, in the wake of him trying to meddle in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, we see this from Catholic News Service. (HT to Vox Cantoris for alerting us to this).  This commission claims their authority relates “to the authority he exercises directly and immediately over all baptized faithful, whether lay or clerical“.

There is no such authority, save for matters having to do with Catholic faith and morals.  Are we bloggers obliged to submit to “investigations” owing to our concerns regarding Amoris Laetitia?  Progressives tend to snoot and carry on about “freedom”, but when they assume positions of authority, they quickly abuse their powers; take the “politically correct” speech codes on liberal campuses for example.  Also consider the draconian treatment meted out to Father Guarnizo almost five years ago by the Archdiocese of Washington.  Progressives, since they really don’t adhere to the Faith and to the Author of that Faith, also acknowledge no moral bounds nor restraints upon their whims.  Therefore they have no problem arrogating to themselves authority that isn’t their’s, while at the same time eschewing responsibility that is their’s.

We see that happening at the Vatican, all the way to the top.  We laity do have rights that clergy do not have; thus we have responsibilities that they may not be able to exercise.  Let’s do it.

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