Christopher A. Ferrara, Amoris Laetitia: Anatomy of a Pontifical Debacle. 6: The Poison Pill Footnote.

Moses, Bol

(6)       The Poison Pill Footnote; admission of public adulterers and other habitual sexual sinners to the sacraments (305-312); the Pope confirms.

Finally, in paragraph 305 we encounter the poison pill the entire document and the entire “Synodal process” were clearly designed to administer to the Church: authorization for the admission of public adulterers, and by implication any sort of habitual public sinner, to Confession and Holy Communion in “certain cases.” This means, in short order, every case. For as Francis revealed last November to his trusted friend, the militant atheist Eugenio Scalfari, in another interview whose contents neither Francis nor the Vatican denied: “This is the bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.”

Reaching the crescendo of his three-year-long demagogic assault on the Church’s imaginary pharisaical “rigorism,” including that of John Paul II, Francis now announces: “a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.” Quoting his own previous eruption of ire at the conservative prelates who dared to stand up to him during Synod 2015, Francis opines that merely to apply moral laws would “bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, ‘sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families’.” What a strange accusation to hurl at the very prelates who opposed Francis’s relentless drive for a neo-Mosaic return to the Old Testament dispensation respecting divorce, but rather defended its perpetual abolition by Christ, whose vicar Francis is supposed to be. But then Francis has spent much of the past three years doing exactly what he condemns in the members of his flock—above all, publicly deriding observant Catholics he deems inadequate, almost every day, while railing against judgmentalism on the part of others.

Francis will have none of this “hiding behind the Church’s teachings,” for by “thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.” Yes, the Roman Pontiff has actually promulgated a document whose very theme is the slogan of the empty modern mind: “Well, you see, not everything is black and white.” No, there are many shades of grey—probably at least fifty.

And then the outcome the faithful have been dreading since the “synodal journey” began. With little fanfare and a buried footnote, the synod train at last reaches its destination. Paragraph 305 declares: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin… a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.And what does Francis mean by the “Church’s help”? He means Confession and Holy Communion, as fateful footnote 351 states:

In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).

The phrase “prize for the perfect” is taken directly from the intervention by Cardinal Kasper with which Francis began the whole charade of a “Synod on the Family”: Kasper’s speech to the consistory of February 2015 in which he unveiled the “Kasper proposal”—the only address Francis permitted, which he later hailed as “beautiful and profound.” The circle of manipulation is completed as Francis finally reveals that the “Kasper proposal” was his proposal all along.

Leaving no doubt of the matter, Cardinal Lorenzo (“the book thief”) Baldisseri and the other Modernist subversives Francis tapped for the occasionmade this clear even to the most obtuse observer at the press conference where they presented Amoris Laetitia to the public. Co-presenter Cardinal Schönborn, continuing the systematic misrepresentation of the teaching of John Paul II on “discernment” in Familiaris consortio 84, put the matter thus in his presenting speech:

Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation, in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (84) (AL 298). “Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God” (AL 205)….

In the sense of this “via caritatis” (AL 306), the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given “in certain cases”. But for this purpose he does not offer us case studies or recipes, but instead simply reminds us of two of his famous phrases: “I want to remind priests that the confessional should not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (EG 44), and the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” …

So, the confessional is a “torture chamber” unless some—meaning ultimately all—unrepentant public adulterers are, at least eventually, allowed to enter without repentance, avoid any commitment to amendment of life, and leave with a declaration of absolution for a continual mortal sin they will simply continue committing because their “weakness” is now being “integrated”. Otherwise, everything would be “black and white.”

Is this for real? Indeed it is. And now we know from Francis himself just how real. During the inflight press conference on his return from the trip to Greece, Francis was pressed on whether, contrary to those who say nothing has changed, Amoris Laetitia authorizes “new concrete possibilities for the divorced and remarried that did not exist before the publication of this exhortation.” Punctuating the answer with an emphatic hand gesture and a nod of the head, he replied: “I can say yes. Period.” (“Io posso dire sì. Punto.”) He also recommended that everyone read Schönborn’s presentation in which “your question will have an answer.” And Schönborn answer is: “the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given ‘in certain cases.’” So Francis told the reporter to consult Cardinal Schönborn concerning what Francis affirms in his own document—a runaround and a passing of the buck one would expect from a politician, not a Pope.

In answer to subsequent question on footnote 351 specifically, however, Francis answered: “I don’t remember that note.” That is a rather astonishing lapse of memory concerning a crucial element of the document on which the whole Catholic world is now focusing and Schönborn mentioned specifically in the very presentation Francis urged everyone to read for “the answer” to the question about Holy Communion for public adulterers. He then proceeded to duck the question by suggesting the media are overly concerned with it when the “the real problems” are the decline in the number of marriages, parents with two jobs and no time for their children, young people avoiding marriage, etc. It seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that sheer cunning is at work here: Francis says yes, but in a manner that still leaves the barest sliver of space for doubt. Meanwhile, however, yes it is, and everyone is to proceed accordingly.

Consider the moral catastrophe Francis has just unleashed: A public adulterer in a second “marriage” is admitted to Holy Communion as part of a process of “discernment” that allows “integration” while he “gradually” moves toward an acceptance of Church teaching that may never come. Yet once he is made aware by the priest conducting this “discernment” that the Church teaches that his condition constitutes adultery—as if he didn’t know this before!—how can he continue to claim inculpable ignorance of the moral law? Of course he cannot. But, as we saw above, Francis has the answer: even those who know the law are now to be excused from compliance by way of pastoral “discernment” because they find it “very difficult to act differently (302)” on account of “mitigating factors (301-302).”

This logic obviously leads to the de facto elimination of mortal sin as an impediment to Holy Communion on the part of any and all habitual sinners who find it “very difficult” to change their behavior. In which case, as Fr. Schall wonders, why would anyone need to go to Confession at all? “If this conclusion is correct,” he writes, “we really have no need for mercy, which has no meaning apart from actual sin and its free recognition….Therefore, there is no pressing need to concern oneself too much with these situations.”

So, there we have it: Francis calls for an unprecedented new regime of “pastoral discernment” that would bizarrely presume subjective inculpability in the face of endemic conduct objectively constituting public and habitual mortal sin, but now suddenly reduced to mere “irregularities.” In a pair of strategic footnotes sacramental absolution and the Holy Eucharist are recommended to “integrate” and “help” these objective mortal sinners without a prior amendment of life —but only in “certain cases,” as if that constituted a real limitation.

On the other hand, as the new “discernment” is supposedly discretionary with local priests acting under the authority of local bishops, outcomes would vary from parish to parish, region to region, and nation to nation. To recall Robert Royal’s assessment: “In concrete terms, around the globe, what looms ahead is chaos and conflict, not Catholicity.”

With exquisite irony, Sandro Magister summarizes this whole epochal travesty and the massive insult it represents to all the faithful who have obeyed the Church’s teaching throughout their lives:

The eighth chapter of the exhortation “Amoris Lætitia,” on the divorced and remarried and related matters, is the one that is most astonishing.

It is an inundation of mercy. But it is also a triumph of casuistry, although this is so execrated in words. With the sensation, after reading it, that every sin is excused, and so many are its attenuating factors, and therefore it vanishes, leaving room for meadowlands of grace even in the context of objectively grave “irregularities.” Access to the Eucharist goes without saying, it is not even necessary for the pope to proclaim it from the rooftops. All it takes are a couple of allusive footnotes.

And those who have obeyed the Church until now and have identified with the wisdom of its Magisterium? Those divorced and remarried who, with such good will and humility, for years or even for decades, have prayed, gone to Mass, given their children a Christian upbringing, done works of charity, in spite of being in a second and non-sacramental union, without receiving Communion? And those who have agreed to live with the new spouse “as brother and sister,” no longer in contradiction with the previous indissoluble marriage, and have thus been able to receive the Eucharist? What about all of them, after the “free for all” that many have read in “Amoris Lætitia”?

As we shall see below, however, Francis apparently thinks he can limit his veritable ecclesial amnesty on mortal sin to sins of a sexual variety, making this “apostolic exhortation” an even more bizarre development.

Some neo-Catholic first responders to the scene of this disaster argued desperately that footnote 351 (ignoring footnote 336) means only that people living in sin can go to Confession, be absolved, and receive Communion so long as they have a firm purpose of living chastely. But this time not even the usually indefatigable Jimmy Akin was willing to labor in denial of the obvious. He simply admitted the truth—at least in part. In answer to the question “Does the document foresee any possibility for sacramentally absolving and giving Communion to people who are civilly remarried if they are not living as brother and sister?” Wrote Akin:

It does…. The document thus envisions administering sacramental absolution and holy [sic] Communion to those living in objectively sinful situations who are not mortally culpable for their actions due to various cognitive or psychological conditions. Since they are not mortally culpable, they could be validly absolved in confession and, being in thestate of grace, they could in principle receive Communion. Nothing in this is new.

Nothing in this is new? Akin certainly knows better. He knows that Francis has just overthrown—or rather attempted to overthrow, as this document cannot possibly bind the Church—the teaching of Benedict XVI, John Paul II, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law and all of Tradition on the impossibility of public adulterers being admitted to the sacraments on account of their objective state in life. Yet Akin blithely pretends nothing of the sort has happened.

But even worse than this, Akin joins Francis in pronouncing the practical elimination of mortal sin itself as an impediment to Holy Communion, for what mortal sinner could not claim to be subjectively inculpable based on “various cognitive or psychological conditions” which (to quote paragraph 302) make it “very difficult to act differently…” And if some habitual mortal sinners are granted admission to the sacraments under that nebulous criterion, on what ground besides a purely arbitrary “pastoral discretion” could the Church’s pastors stand to deny the sacraments to anyone at all, no matter what his “objective” sin? The floodgates are open to mass sacrilege.

Here we see the most dramatic confirmation yet of what this newspaper has contended all long: In order to maintain their niche and a modicum of prestige, there is absolutely nothing certain neo-Catholic opinion leaders are not prepared to swallow in defense of the ever-expanding postconciliar regime of novelty.

Moreover, to admit that Amoris Laetitia is indeed “a subversive document,” as Philip Lawler says, would be to admit the entire traditionalist critique of the regime to which they themselves belong, this document being the lowest point yet on a continuous downward trajectory traditionalist writings have accurately tracked and rightly opposed for decades while the neo-Catholic establishment did nothing but applaud the latest novelty. Having been so wrong for so long, they would rather go down with their sinking ship, which is not to be confused with the unsinkable Barque of Peter. Their vessel is the ghost ship that came out of the fog of Vatican II and will inevitably disappear beneath the waves of history as the ephemeral thing it is. But what calamities the Church must endure until then!

Mission accomplished, Francis brings Chapter 8 to an end with the same rhetorical tricks he has employed incessantly over the past three years: caricature, demagoguery and self-quotation:

It is true that at times “we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.” (310)

We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. (311)

This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues. (312)

Questions abound: Was the Church not the house of the Father, where everyone was welcome, before Francis became Pope? What exactly are these “many conditions on mercy” that rob it of meaning and significance? What is a “cold bureaucratic morality” as opposed to morality simpliciter? What distinguishes “more sensitive” moral issues from merely sensitive ones? Is it just sexuality?

But of course there will be no answers.

(7)       A Selective Amnesty for Sins of the Flesh

The preceding analysis demonstrates that we are now confronted with an unprecedented pontifical debacle. Citing nothing but his own previous statements, blatantly misrepresented sources, and the declarations of a Synod he tightly controlled and stacked with handpicked Modernist progressives, while ignoring the directly contrary teaching of his two immediate predecessors in harmony with all of Tradition, Francis now attempts to introduce a mitigated form of situation ethics as pastoral practice throughout the universal Church.

To recall what Prof. Echeverria observes in Catholic World Report: “So, with all due respect to Francis, I think that he does imply support for the ‘gradualness of the law’ and hence by implication opens the door to a ‘situation ethics.’” More than that! Francis opens wide the door, steps inside, makes himself at home, and suggests that all the pastors of the Church join him in building a new moral order for the Church. The very hallmark of heretical German moral theology, exemplified by Francis’s personal favorite, Cardinal Kasper, amounts to a de facto amnesty on sexual immorality.

BUT NOTE WELL: Nothing in Amoris Laetitia indicates that Francis would extend his amnesty for sexual sinners to the other sorts of sinners he never ceases to denounce, including Mafiosi, arms traders, greedy capitalists, polluters of the environment, opponents of uncontrolled immigration, supporters of the death penalty and, lest we forget, the “rigorist” Catholics who oppose his notion of “mercy.” Would Francis, for example, tell the pastors of the Church that because of “various cognitive or psychological conditions” that make it “very difficult to act differently” greedy billionaires, wealthy arms dealers or “rigorist” Catholics are subjectively guiltless and cannot be expected to change their ways in conformity to “the ideal”? The question answers itself.

Antonio Socci, as he has done so often during the tempests provoked by what he dubbed “Bergoglianism” early on, exposes the heart of the matter:

This “revolution” is being carried out by cancelling the notion of “mortal sin” … In compensation, Bergoglio introduces new grave sins.  Those of the so-called “rigorists”, guilty of remembering God’s law, but most of all, those [of individuals] who don’t share his political ideas on social questions.

So this entire years-long, dismal affair comes down to an “amnesty” extending only to sins of the flesh. But, as Our Lady of Fatima warned, these are the sins that send more souls to Hell than any other. We are reminded that Sister Lucia of Fatimawarned Cardinal Caffarra, one of the foremost opponents of the Kasper proposal, that “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” Did she know that a Pope would be leading the enemy forces?

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