Vatican doctrine chief: Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that refutes previous teachings of popes

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said that Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that contradicts magisterial teachings of previous popes and councils.

In his December 1, 2016 interview with the domradio.de, the radio station of the Diocese of Cologne, Germany, the Vatican’s doctrine chief said:

The binding declarations of the popes, of the Councils of Trent and of the Second Vatican Council and of the Congregation for the Faith on the essential characteristics of marriage and on the precondition for a fruitful reception of the Sacraments in the state of justifying [i.e., sanctifying] grace may not be pushed aside by anyone under the pretext that marriage is, after all, merely an ideal which only can be reached by a very small number of people.

Regarding Communion for “remarried” divorced Catholics, Muller cites a 1994 letter by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which denied the possibility for bishops to permit Communion for the couples in question. The letter  by Cardinal Ratzinger was a response to a 1993 Pastoral Letter of three progressive German bishops (one of them being the then-Bishop Walter Kasper) who were then already pushing for Communion for the “divorced and remarried.”

The indissolubility of marriage must be “the unshaken foundation of teaching and of every pastoral accompaniment,” Müller emphasizes.

Cardinal Müller likewise said:

The Holy Father, at the same time, wishes to help all people whose marriages and families are in a crisis to find a path in accordance with the ever-merciful will of God. We can always assume that the just and merciful God always wants our salvation in whatever need we find ourselves. But it does not stand in the power of the Magisterium to correct God’s Revelation or to make the imitation of Christ comfortable.

As a follow-up question, the interviewer asked Muller: “Would the bishops’ conferences thus then be asked to help? Francis himself, after all, writes in Amoris Laetitia that not all questions need to be clarified in Rome….”

When answering this pertinent question, the German Cardinal first explains that bishops’ conferences “are merely working groups with certain competences” and, thus, are not of “Divine Law.” He continues:

Only in fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles, to the whole of the revealed Faith, can the bishops of a conference speak, for example, about the pastoral application of Amoris Laetitia. Otherwise, the Church would disintegrate into national churches and, in the end, would atomize. The Sacrament of Marriage, however, is in Korea just as valid as it is in Germany.

When asked whether the individual bishop may make his own independent decision as a response to Amoris Laetitia, Muller responded that  “Nor can the individual bishops do whatever they want according to their own private taste. They are servants, not masters of the Faith.”

Muller emphasized that marriage is not an “ideal” to which we aspire to, but rather a Sacrament founded by God Himself:

Marriage is in truth not a wishful image produced by ourselves, but, rather, a Sacrament, that is to say a reality founded by God Himself. It is an expression of the Mercy of the Creator and of the Redeemer. God does not put excessive demands upon us so that he then can show His Mercy toward us in the face of our own failure. With the help of Grace, we are able to fulfill the Commandments – among them the Sixth Commandment – and thus find peace of heart in a life in accordance with God’s will. ∎

by Paul Michaels, Veritas

Vatican doctrine chief: Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that refutes previous teachings of popes

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said that Amoris Laetitia cannot be interpreted in a way that contradicts magisterial teachings of previous popes and councils.

In his December 1, 2016 interview with the domradio.de, the radio station of the Diocese of Cologne, Germany, the Vatican’s doctrine chief said:

The binding declarations of the popes, of the Councils of Trent and of the Second Vatican Council and of the Congregation for the Faith on the essential characteristics of marriage and on the precondition for a fruitful reception of the Sacraments in the state of justifying [i.e., sanctifying] grace may not be pushed aside by anyone under the pretext that marriage is, after all, merely an ideal which only can be reached by a very small number of people.

Regarding Communion for “remarried” divorced Catholics, Muller cites a 1994 letter by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which denied the possibility for bishops to permit Communion for the couples in question. The letter  by Cardinal Ratzinger was a response to a 1993 Pastoral Letter of three progressive German bishops (one of them being the then-Bishop Walter Kasper) who were then already pushing for Communion for the “divorced and remarried.”

The indissolubility of marriage must be “the unshaken foundation of teaching and of every pastoral accompaniment,” Müller emphasizes.

The interview was Muller’s first – and so far only – public response to the issue of the four Cardinal’s Dubia addressed to the Pope. Muller said that his Congregation cannot answer the four Cardinals’ Dubia without the express authority of the Pope.

Cardinal Müller stated in the interview that the “Holy Father, at the same time, wishes to help all people whose marriages and families are in a crisis to find a path in accordance with the ever-merciful will of God. We can always assume that the just and merciful God always wants our salvation in whatever need we find ourselves. But it does not stand in the power of the Magisterium to correct God’s Revelation or to make the imitation of Christ comfortable.”

As a follow-up question, the interviewer asked Muller: “Would the bishops’ conferences thus then be asked to help? Francis himself, after all, writes in Amoris Laetitia that not all questions need to be clarified in Rome….”

When answering this pertinent question, the German Cardinal first explains that bishops’ conferences “are merely working groups with certain competences” and, thus, are not of “Divine Law.” He continues:

Only in fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles, to the whole of the revealed Faith, can the bishops of a conference speak, for example, about the pastoral application of Amoris Laetitia. Otherwise, the Church would disintegrate into national churches and, in the end, would atomize. The Sacrament of Marriage, however, is in Korea just as valid as it is in Germany.

When asked whether the individual bishop may make his own independent decision as a response to Amoris Laetitia, Muller responded that  “Nor can the individual bishops do whatever they want according to their own private taste. They are servants, not masters of the Faith.”

Muller emphasized that marriage is not an “ideal” to which we aspire to, but rather a Sacrament founded by God Himself:

Marriage is in truth not a wishful image produced by ourselves, but, rather, a Sacrament, that is to say a reality founded by God Himself. It is an expression of the Mercy of the Creator and of the Redeemer. God does not put excessive demands upon us so that he then can show His Mercy toward us in the face of our own failure. With the help of Grace, we are able to fulfill the Commandments – among them the Sixth Commandment – and thus find peace of heart in a life in accordance with God’s will.

Cardinal Burke: we will make ‘formal act of correction’ if Pope doesn’t issue Amoris clarification

by  Dan Michaels

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said it may be necessary to make a “formal act of correction” if Pope Francis doesn’t answer a letter from four cardinals asking him to clarify aspects of Amoris Laetitia.

He is one of four cardinals who have written to the Pope asking for a clarification of Amoris Laetitia. They say that the document could be read as contradicting Church teaching on the moral law and on the question of Communion for the remarried. The Pope has declined to reply to the letter.

The September 19 letter, signed by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner, asked the pope 5 short questions which call for ‘yes or no’ answers that would immediately clarify the meaning of the confusion-plagued document on precisely those points where theologians, priests and even bishops have offered contradicting interpretations.

In an interview with Edward Pentin of National Catholic Register published last November 14, Cardinal Burke said that if the Pope were to teach error or heresy, “It is the duty in such cases, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.”

In the interview, Burke emphasizes that the cardinals have sought to act for “the good of the Church,” which, he says, “is suffering from a tremendous confusion” on the points they have raised especially. He notes, for example, that priests in different dioceses are being given contradictory directions on how to handle the question of access to Communion for those in adulterous unions.

“We, as cardinals, judged it our responsibility to request a clarification with regard to these questions, in order to put an end to this spread of confusion that is actually leading people into error,” he says.

Asked what would happen if the Pope remained silent, Cardinal Burke replied: “Then we would have to address that situation. 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 correction of a serious error.”

Burke goes on to insist that in a case of conflict between the pope and Church Tradition, the Tradition is binding. “Ecclesial authority exists only in service of the Tradition,” Burke explains. “I think of that passage of St. Paul in the [Letter to the] Galatians (1:8), that if ‘even an angel should preach unto you any Gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.’”

Historically, in the rare cases where popes have taught heresy, Burke explains, “It is the duty…, and historically it has happened, of cardinals and bishops to make clear that the Pope is teaching error and to ask him to correct it.”

Such an act of formal correction would be extremely unusual. One example is the challenge to Pope John XXII in the 1330s. He had publicly taught – though only as his personal opinion – that souls in heaven would not actually see God until the Final Judgment, a teaching contrary to Church doctrine.

In response, several theologians challenged Pope John. A few were punished, but the Pope backed down after a joint letter by theologians from the University of Paris, under the leadership of Paludanus, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. The letter professed total obedience to John, but affirmed that the teachings being attributed to him were contrary to the Catholic faith. Before his death John withdrew his heretical opinion.

Cardinal Burke’s suggestion of a “formal correction” comes after a debate over whether the remarried can receive Communion while in a sexually active relationship outside marriage. The Church has taught that this is contrary to the dogma of the indissolubility of marriage.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Pope made no direct reference to the question, but some bishops have interpreted his words as meaning that some remarried people can receive Communion, even if they are still in a sexual relationship. This is the interpretation of the Buenos Aires bishops, which the Pope has appeared to privately favour.

In a probable allusion to the Buenos Aires bishops, Cardinal Burke said: “Even diocesan directives are confused and in error.” He added that there was ”tremendous division” in the Church over Communion and other related points, concerning the moral law and marriage.

He said the four cardinals had intervened “because so many people are saying: ‘We’re confused, and we don’t understand why the cardinals or someone in authority doesn’t speak up and help us.’”

Famed Catholic philosopher: How can Christ and Our Lady read Amoris Laetitia without weeping?

In a recent article for the Italian news platform “Corrispondenza Romana”, renowned Catholic philosopher Josef Seifert strongly criticizes Pope Francis for statements in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Seifert, a longtime ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and a close associate of St. John Paul II, explains that he criticizes the document because instead of invoking joy – as stated in the exhortation title – the papal document would actually make Jesus and his mother cry.

Many of the passages which seem merciful turn the teachings of the Church on their heads, according to Seifert. “In my opinion, they risk an avalanche of consequences which would be very harmful to the Church and to souls,” he writes.

He continues, comparing passages from the Gospels to paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia (AL).

Seifert begins with Jesus’ encounter with an adulteress. The Son of God does not condemn she who would have deserved death in Mosaic law, but shows himself to be merciful. Still, His forgiveness comes with a condition: “Go and sin no more.”

Seifert argues: “In citing the synod, His successor Francis tells the adulterous woman that even if she continues to sin gravely, she should not feel herself excommunicated, and he does not deem it necessary for her to convert from her sinful ways, but to feel as ‘a living member of the Church’” (AL, 299).

What Francis says here, the philosopher explains, is not false, and it can be comforting to couples that the mercy of God is present with them. “Nevertheless,” he says, “the ‘go and sin no more’ is completely absent.”

He argues, therefore, that the document leaves out the core: the call for conversion.

The words of Pope Francis’ close collaborator, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, shed a better light on these statements.  Spadaro says, “Francis has removed all the ‘limits’ of the past, even in the ‘sacramental discipline’ and for the so-called ‘irregular’ couples: and these couples ‘become recipients of the Eucharist’.”

Further, Seifert points out that Jesus explicitly warns his flock 15 times of the peril of eternal damnation as the consequence of mortal sin; whereas his successor on the chair of Peter states: “No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” (AL, 297).

While St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (6:9) states that no adulterer (who has not converted) enters the kingdom of God and therefore is doomed forever, Pope Francis “tells the adulterers that it is possible to live in the grace of God; through the Holy Eucharist they can grow in grace even without turning away from their adulterous life in conversion,” explains Seifert.

The philosopher recalls the Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (11:27-29) once more. Here, receiving Communion despite one’s state of unworthiness is clearly linked to condemnation: “So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the Body and Blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”

“In other words, this is an act of sacrilege which puts one’s own soul in danger,” says Seifert. “Pope Francis, who does not even once mention the possibility of sacrilege or peril for the soul of a person who receives Communion unworthily, tells adulterers that in certain circumstances, which are to be considered individually, it is possible for those who live in adultery or in other ‘irregular’ unions to receive Holy Communion without changing their lives, and so to continue living as adulterers,” Seifert writes.

He notes that Pope Francis, in the text, interprets the commandments given by Christ – which are in and of themselves clear – only as expressions of an ideal which few can reach, as if they are mere evangelical suggestions, applicable only to those who seek a superior perfection, rather than as commandments valid for all.

“The Pope says that if the adulterous woman cannot separate herself from the adulterer, but lives together with him as sister and brother, then they would practice a style of life which could lead to ‘infidelity’ by her or her partner. According to the Pope, where there is a threat of infidelity between two adulterers who live as brother and sister, it would be better for the woman to have intimate relations with the man. In this case, therefore, it would be better to continue to live in adultery than as brother and sister,” concludes Seifert, citing AL 329 and a related footnote.

“How can Jesus and His most holy Mother read and link these words of the Pope with those of Jesus Himself and of His Church without crying? Therefore, let us cry with Jesus, with deep respect and affection of the Pope and with the deep pain that is born out of the obligation to criticize him in his errors,” Seifert writes.

The philosopher adds that his criticism is not unwarranted as the Pope himself called for a discussion and an open arena to express opinions.

“Someone could ask me how I, a wretched lay person, can criticize the Pope. I respond: the Pope is not infallible if he does not speak ex cathedra. Various Popes (such as Formosus and Honorius I) have been condemned for heresy. For the love and mercy of many souls, it is our holy duty to criticize our bishops, and therefore even our dear Pope, if they stray away from truth and if they damage the Church and souls. This duty was recognized by the Church since the beginning.”

Josef Seifert grew up in Salzburg, Austria. He was rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Irving, Texas and director of the International Academy for Philosophy in Liechtenstein. From 2004 to 2011, he was director of the Catholic University of Chile. He is married and has six children.

 

by  Jan Bentz, Lifesite News

Theologians Formally Petition Rome for Condemnation of Errors of Amoris Laetitia

On July 11, 2016, a prominent international group of Catholics, academics, theologians and pastors announced that they have formally petitioned Rome to address serious theological problems with the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.  “We request that the Cardinals and Patriarchs petition the Holy Father to condemn the errors listed in the document in a definitive and final manner, and to authoritatively state that Amoris Laetitia does not require any of them to be believed or considered as possibly true,” the signatories wrote.

Among the 45 signatories of the petition are leading Catholic prelates, scholars, professors, authors, and clergy from various pontifical universities, seminaries, colleges, theological institutes, religious orders, and dioceses around the world.  The group submitted an appeal to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome, requesting that the Cardinals and Eastern Catholic Patriarchs petition His Holiness, Pope Francis, to repudiate a list of erroneous propositions that can be drawn from a reading of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia.  A copy of the letter to Cardinal Sodano, together with the thirteen-page theological critique, was sent to all of the 218 Cardinals and Patriarchs around the world.

Describing the exhortation as containing “a number of statements that can be understood in a sense that is contrary to Catholic faith and morals,” the signatories submitted, along with their appeal, a documented list of applicable theological censures specifying “the nature and degree of the errors that could be attributed to Amoris Laetitia.”

The signers announced the existence of the letter so that “Catholics who are troubled by some of the statements in Amoris Laetitia be aware that steps are being taken to address the problems it raises,” said Dr. Joseph Shaw, an Oxford academic and the group’s spokesman.

Shaw also said: “We consider that numerous propositions in Amoris laetitia can be construed as heretical upon a natural reading of the text. Additional statements would fall under other established theological censures, such as scandalous, erroneous in faith, and ambiguous, among others.”

The thirteen-page document quotes nineteen passages in the exhortation which seem to conflict with Catholic doctrines. These doctrines include the real possibility with the grace of God of obeying all the commandments, the fact that certain kinds of act are wrong in all circumstances, the headship of the husband, the superiority of consecrated virginity over the married life, and the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The document also argues that the exhortation undermines the Church’s teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics who have made no commitment to continence cannot be admitted to the sacraments while they remain in that state.

Amoris Laetitia ‘can mislead Catholics into believing what is false and doing what is forbidden by divine law’

“The apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, issued by Pope Francis on March 19th, 2016 and addressed to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful, has caused grief and confusion to many Catholics on account of its apparent disagreement with a number of teachings of the Catholic Church on faith and morals. This situation poses a grave danger to souls,” the letter begins. It cited the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that “inferiors are bound to correct their superiors publicly when there is an imminent danger to the faith” and the Latin Code of Canon Law’s affirmation that “the Catholic faithful have the right and at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to make known their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.”

The theologians contend. “The problem with the document is that it can mislead Catholics into believing what is false and doing what is forbidden by divine law. … What is important about the document is the damaging effect it can have on the belief and moral life of Catholics.”

Using Sacred Scripture and a number of authoritative Church teachings, particularly from the Council of Trent, the document also condemned suggestions from Amoris Laetitia that:

  • Living according to the teachings of the Gospel may be impossible for some people
  • No one is condemned to hell
  • “The divorced and civilly remarried who choose their situation with full knowledge and full consent of the will are not in a state of serious sin, and that they can receive sanctifying grace and grow in charity,”
  • “A Catholic believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin as a result of this action”
  • “A person with full knowledge of a divine law can sin by choosing to obey that law”
  • One’s conscience can “truly judge” that sexual sins explicitly condemned by the Gospel “can sometimes be morally right or requested or commanded by God”
  • “Our Lord Jesus Christ wills that the Church abandon her perennial discipline of refusing the Eucharist to the divorced and remarried and of refusing absolution to the divorced and remarried who do not express contrition for their state of life and a firm purpose of amendment with regard to it”
  • “Absence of grave fault due to diminished responsibility can permit admission to the Eucharist in the cases of divorced and civilly remarried persons who do not separate, nor undertake to live in perfect continence, but remain in an objective state of adultery and bigamy”

“Catholic theologians have a strict duty to speak out against the apparent errors in the document,” the signatories wrote. “This statement on Amoris Laetitia is intended to fulfil that duty, and to assist the hierarchy of the Church in addressing this situation.”

The spokesman said, “It is our hope that by seeking from our Holy Father a definitive repudiation of these errors we can help to allay the confusion already brought about by Amoris laetitia among pastors and the lay faithful.  For that confusion can be dispelled effectively only by an unambiguous affirmation of authentic Catholic teaching by the Successor of Peter.”

Dr Joseph Shaw, an Oxford academic and a signatory to the appeal, is acting as spokesman for this group of Catholic scholars and pastors. The group has set up the email address appealtocardinals@gmail.com to answer press enquiries about the appeal.