The theological and doctrinal method of Amoris Lætitia and Cardinal Schönborn’s presentation: an example of ‘modernist tactics’? Let each one judge for himself …
Ever since Fr. Federico Lombardi started accompanying Francis on his international journeys, he had never been as nervous as he was during the press conference on the return flight from Lesbos to Rome, on April 16, 2016.
The uneasy Vatican spokesman apprehensively bit his lips and wrinkled his forehead, while fumbling with the list of journalists who would pose questions. Would Francis commit another gaffe? Would he respond correctly?
In reality, he had every right to be anxious. At altitudes of over 20 thousand feet with a microphone in hand, Francis ends up creating considerable controversy with his adlibbing. As the old saying goes ‘in vino veritas’, but one could say that for Jorge Mario Bergoglio, ‘in volo veritas’. Effectively, it is during these ‘in flight’ press conferences that he says what he really thinks. This ‘communication phenomenon’ is the reason for the fancy footwork that Fr. Lombardi has to do as Director of the Holy See Press Office: he has been compelled to concoct new linguistic formulae to hush up multiple Bergoglian sordidities, or urgently convoke the media – having to assume the role of a defender of the Faith, the Magisterium and common sense – in an attempt to explain that which Francis affirmed, but which, in reality, he did not mean to affirm, according to the versions projected by the media.
As such, it will never be Fr. Lombardi who will explain how it is possible that during these past 39 months of the Bergoglian pontificate, such a shocking number of faux pas have accumulated. Some of them are of a political and diplomatic nature, (see examples), or worse yet, an even more appalling collection of theological, philosophical and doctrinal errors. They make up a veritable ‘summa’, which, in contrast with the Supreme Magisterium of the Church, the teachings of popes, saints and doctors, has been distilled into an incredible total of 139 analyses performed by the Denzinger-Bergoglio to date (see our collection of studies).
Has Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s staff of theological counselors realized this problem? Is Msgr. Victor Manuel ‘Tucho’ Fernández concerned about the grave historical precedent caused by this pontificate? What does Fr. Juan Carlos Scannone S.J., Francis’ ideological mentor, have to say about this controversial situation? Will the crescendo of incongruence and theological error continue? Everything seems to indicate that it will. However, we can affirm with all certainty that the Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded on the Rock, is indestructible in its unity, laws and doctrine (Mt 16:18). In effect, as always in the History of the Church, it will be Divine Providence itself that will one day disclose all things in a remarkable manner. How is it possible that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, elected to the position of Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, has committed so many political and diplomatic blunders? How can his theological and philosophical errors, in open contrast with the Magisterium of the Church, be explained? Is he really assisted by the Holy Spirit? Only at times and intermittently? Does the Holy Spirit abandon him now and again? Is the consideration of such eventualities heretical? Is it opportune to think in such terms? Clearly, these are questions that the Church itself will clarify in due time, in the near or distant future. As Our Lord Jesus Christ taught in the Gospel, ‘there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear’ (Mk 4:22-23).
The Lesbos-Rome flight: Two key questions
Let’s get back to the press-conference (Lesbos-Rome flight, April 16, 2016). It was only logical that since it was just eight days since the publication of Amoris Laetitia, some complicated issues would be brought up. What were these issues? Evidently, they were regarding the reception of communion by the divorced and remarried persons. Only two questions were allowed on this topic. The first was proffered by the journalist Francis Rocca, of the Wall Street Journal, and the second by Jean-Marie Guénois of Le Figaro, who we shall comment on in another study.
However, given the importance of the matter, it won’t be redundant to recall Francis Rocca’s question. All of the transcriptions presented within this text were obtained directly from the youtube video, since the official Vatican page presents an adaptation of the textual words.
[Minute 21:07] “Some claim that nothing has changed with respect to the discipline that governs access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried; that the law and the pastoral praxis, and obviously the doctrine, will remain as they are.”
[Minute 21:22] “Others claim that much has changed and that there are so many new openings and possibilities.” [At this point Francis smiles, evidently pleased]
[Minute 21:28] “The question for someone, for a person, for a Catholic who wants to know, are there new concrete possibilities that did not exist before the publication of the Exhortation or not?”
[Minute 21:40] “I could say yes: period. But, it would be a, eeeh, very small answer.”
[Minute 21:50] “I recommend that you all read the presentation made by Cardinal Schönborn, who is a great theologian. He has been secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and knows the doctrine of the Church very well. [At this point, Francis raises his arm with a categorical gesture and affirms] In this presentation your question will find a response…”
Cardinal Schönborn’s presentation: ‘In this presentation your question will find a response…’
The American Oxford dictionary defines the expression ‘hot potato’ as ‘a controversial issue or situation which is awkward to deal with.’
One has the impression that Francis passed the ‘hot potato’ on to another, diligently instructed to do so by Fr. Lombardi and his assistants, so as to prevent more media gaffes. In this sense we can understand the necessity for such warm words of praise from Francis when referring to Cardinal Schönborn. But was this the only reason? Why didn’t Francis answer this important question himself? Was this a strategy? A tactic?
Since Francis gave this laconic response, what exactly were the words proffered by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna in his celebrated presentation of Amoris Laetitia?
As may be observed, both the words of Cardinal Schönborn and the text of the aforementioned post-synod Apostolic Exhortation seem to follow a strange guiding thread; it consists in avoiding the exposition of the premises and theological doctrines in a methodical, clear and defined manner, thus creating uncertainty and confusion. How can this style of presentation be qualified? As a stratagem? A tactic? Each reader can judge for himself by taking the trouble to read the presentation by the Cardinal of Vienna.
Cardinal Schönborn’s words:
“Naturally this poses the question: what does the Pope say in relation to access to the sacraments for people who live in ‘irregular’ situations? Pope Benedict had already said that ‘easy recipes’ do not exist (AL 298, note 333). Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation, in keeping with Saint 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).”
(Press Conference for the presentation on the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Presentation by Cardinal Schönborn, April 8, 2016)
The Denzinger-Bergoglio comments: “Learn to call white ‘white’, and black ‘black’ – evil ‘evil’ and good ‘good’. Learn to call sin ‘sin”’
The line of discernment presented in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, no.84 clearly establishes the parameters that every pastor should follow: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations.” In effect, Our Lord Jesus Christ recommended: ‘Let your “Yes” mean “Yes,” and your “No” mean “No.” Anything more is from the evil one’ (Mt 5:37). Consequently, it would be good for Francis and Cardinal Schönborn to assimilate this important doctrine of Pope John Paul II, cited below, regarding ‘colors’:
‘Learn to think, speak and act according to the principles of evangelic simplicity and clarity: “Yes, yes; no, no”. Learn to call white “white”, and black “black’ – evil “evil” and good “good”. Learn to call sin “sin”, and not to call it freedom and progress, even if all fashion and propaganda says the contrary. Through this simplicity and clarity, the unity of the kingdom of God is constructed, and this unity is, at the same time, a mature interior unity of each man, it is the foundation of the unity of spouses and families, it is the strength of societies: of societies that perhaps already feel, and ever more so, as though they are being destroyed and decomposed from within, calling evil good, and sin the manifestation of progress and of liberation. Christ does not place the program of his Kingdom on appearances. He constructs it upon truth. And the liturgy of Lent, day by day, with the words of the Prophet – what ardent words! – reminds us of the truth of sin and the truth of conversion.’ (John Paul II. Homily to university students in Rome, no. 4-5, March 26, 1981)
Therefore, the problem is not in ‘believing that all is white and black’ but rather, in fidelity to the Gospel, consisting in the discernment between truth and error, vice and virtue. As Pope John Paul II himself aptly taught: “Man is able to recognize good and evil thanks to that discernment of good from evil which he himself carries out by his reason, in particular by his reason enlightened by Divine Revelation and by faith, through the law which God gave to the Chosen People, beginning with the commandments on Sinai” (Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, no. 44, August 6, 1993).
Also in the abovementioned no. 84 of Familiaris consortio, Pope John Paul II points out a pastoral dimension of great importance, which was not inaugurated by Francis, as some wish to conjecture: the pastoral solicitude toward remarried divorcees. Actually, Pope John Paul II manifested his desire for the salvation and merciful welcome for all of those in this situation: “Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope” (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 84, November 22, 1981).
Cardinal Schönborn’s words:
“He [Pope Francis] also reminds us of an important words he wrote in Evangelii gaudium, 44: ‘A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties’ (AL 304). 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 sayings: ‘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’ (EG 47)” (Press conference for the presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Presentation by Cardinal Schönborn, April 8, 2016)
The Denzinger-Bergoglio comments:
In reality, it is unclear why the thought about ‘great human limitations’, from no. 44 of Evangelii Gaudium is cited here. For, the topic of ‘via caritatis’ is dealt with in the next section. Is there some relation? It isn’t clear for the reader, for Schönborn immediately goes on to comment on the already ‘famous’ – but in his words, ‘humble’ and ‘simple’ – note 351. How moving! The ‘humble’ and ‘simple’ note 351. Well, it was regarding this ‘humble’ and ‘simple’ note 351 that Jean-Marie Guénois of Le Figaro had questioned Francis during the press conference (Lesbos – Rome flight), already commented on, above [minute 22:25]. On that occasion, Francis was quite sarcastic with the journalist (perhaps because the question was not to his liking…) “What a memory!” he said, forcing a laugh. Fr. Lombardi’s laugh was even more artificial, as he perceived what the question would lead to. Guénois, however, insisted, claiming that what he was asking was really important. [minute 22:49] “The question is: Why is such an important thing dealt with in a small note? Had you foreseen opposition, or had you wanted to say that this point is not so important?
Perhaps this French journalist has not yet realized the impact he caused. Fr. Lombardi, who soon perceived the perspicacity of the question [minute 23:07], looked on with visible consternation as Francis grasped at straws, struggling to respond. He affirmed that the problem of communion for the divorced and remarried was not the most important aspect. As is his custom during his improvised elucidations, Francis fell back on his specialty: common ground, branded ideas and affected arguments lacking any valuable theological or philosophical substance:
“Don’t people realize that the family, all over the world, is in crisis? And the family is the basis of society! They don’t realize that young people don’t want to get married. They don’t realize that the declining birth rate in Europe is enough to make us weep. They don’t realize that the shortage of jobs and employment opportunities is forcing fathers and mothers to take two jobs and children to grow up alone without learning how to grow up in dialogue with their mom and dad? These are the big problems!” [minute 24:05].
As can be seen, this flood of words, which could have been delivered by any social activist, adds nothing to the Magisterium of the Church. Are we exaggerating? Are we being irreverent? Dear reader, please re-read and try to discover a single Christian reference in Francis’ words. That the family is the basis of society? That it’s in crises? What novelties! Or the reference made regarding the falling birth rate in Europe? Definitely not, for it was Jorge Mario Bergoglio himself – unhappily for the families who have more than three children (which was the limit he stipulated) – who ended up deriding them with these harsh and offensive words: “Some people believe that – pardon my language – in order to be good Catholics, we should be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood” (In-flight press conference from the Philippines to Rome, January 19, 2015). (See our study regarding this affirmation)
Poor rabbit couples! What does Jorge Mario Bergoglio understand by ‘responsible parenthood’? We had better just keep on, without these digressions…
Soon after giving this ‘speech’, Francis went off on a tangent and simply did not answer the question formulated by Guénois: [minute 25:00]
“I do not remember that footnote, but surely if it is something that is in a footnote it is because it was said in the Evangelii Gaudium. I don’t recall the number, but surely…”
Just like that. ‘Surely’, ‘I do not remember that footnote’, ‘I don’t recall the number…’
Sorrow for sin and the intention of sinning no more: conditions for the validity of confession
Going back to Cardinal Schönborn’s words, which emphasized Francis’ affirmation regarding “the help of the sacraments ‘in certain cases’” for the divorced and remarried indicated in a ‘humble and simple manner’, it is necessary to emphasize the following notion. It is of great importance to insist on one of the essential points regarding the validity of the sacrament of confession. This vital dimension was forgotten or silenced in Amoris Laetitia. In effect, the sacramental praxis of the Church, as indicated in the Rite of Penance, establishes that:
“The follower of Christ who has sinned but who has been moved by the Holy Spirit to come to the sacrament of penance should above all be converted to God with his whole heart. This inner conversion of heart embraces sorrow for sin and the intent to lead a new life. It is expressed through confession made to the Church, due satisfaction, and amendment of life. God grants pardon for sin through the Church, which works by the ministry of priests. The most important act of the penitent is contrition, which is ‘heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more’ (cf. Council of Trent, Session XIV, De sacramento Paenitentiae, Ch. 4, DS 1676) (Rite of Penance, Introduction, no. 6)
This doctrine, emphasizing ‘the intention of sinning no more’, is so essential that it was recently recalled by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (‘Notitiae’ 2015/2, Rediscovering the Rite of Penance).
In summary, without this firm intention to abandon sin, the sacrament of confession is null and invalid, as all the Catholic moralists teach. Would it be necessary to explain such an essential point to Cardinal Schönborn, demonstrating that this is not part of ‘casuistic of recipes’?
“Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord” (1Cor 11:27)
There is an even more serious aspect regarding the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Apostle of the Gentiles was extremely categorical, as Pope John Paul II recalled:
“Saint Paul, testimony to certain divisions manifested in a scandalous way during the Eucharistic banquet in Corinth, proffered this warning, which would make not only those believers think, but also many other Christians: ‘Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself’ (1Cor 11:27-29). Thus, the Christian is invited, before approaching the Eucharistic table, to examine himself in order to know if his dispositions permit him to worthily receive communion” (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 2, June 15, 1983).
In a certain manner, no one is worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist, but those who are in the state of mortal sin may not receive communion.
Pope John Paul II continues:
“May we understand! In a certain manner, no one is worthy to receive the nourishment of the Body of Christ and at the moment of receiving communion, the participants in the Eucharist confess that they are not worthy to receive the Lord. But the unworthiness that Saint Paul refers to means something else: it refers to interior dispositions incompatible with the Eucharistic banquet due to the fact that they are contrary to the welcoming of Christ. To give greater security to the faithful, that they do not have these negative dispositions, the liturgy has foreseen a penitential preparation at the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration: the participants recognize themselves as sinners and implore divine pardon. Though they habitually live in the Lord’s friendship, they again show awareness of their faults and imperfections and that they are in need of the divine mercy. They wish to present themselves at the Eucharist with the greatest purity possible. But this penitential preparation would be insufficient for those who had a mortal sin on their conscience. It would then be necessary to have recourse to the Sacrament of reconciliation in order to worthily approach Eucharistic communion” (John Paul II. General Audience, no. 2, June 15, 1983)
The clarity of this doctrinal exposition dispenses any commentary. Once again, would it be necessary to remind Cardinal Schönborn that ‘anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself’ (1Cor 11:29)?
The state of life of the ‘divorced and remarried’, objectively contradicts the union of love between Christ and the Church, signified and effected by the Sacrament of the Eucharist
It is precisely the notion of ‘sin’ and ‘mortal sin’ that is one of the essential points silenced in the Amoris Laetitia. As a theological study of great worth has demonstrated, Francis erroneously cites Saint Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica I-II, q. 65, a.3, ad 2-3; De Malo, q.2, a.2), with the specific objective of mitigating or excusing the sin of the divorced and remarried. Could this be possible? The outstanding error in this pontifical document is found in number 301, notes 341-342 of the Amoris Laetitia. Did Cardinal Schönborn, who according to Francis, is highly familiar with the doctrine of the Church, realize this theological error?
It is evident that the prohibition to admitting the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion is not due to a lack of mercy. This negative response is also not founded on the fact that before Francis, the Church saw things in ‘black and white’, for now all has changed. Pope John Paul II was very clear in Familiaris consortio, no. 84:
“However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage” (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 84, November 22, 1981)
Since this is a document of the Magisterium based on the solid foundation of Holy Scripture, it could not be more precise.
Cardinal Schönborn’s words:
“Is it an excessive challenge for pastors, for spiritual guides and for communities if the ‘discernment of situations’ is not regulated more precisely? Pope Francis acknowledges this concern: ‘I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion’ (AL 308). However, he challenges this, remarking that ‘We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That is the worst way of watering down the Gospel’ (AL 311)” (Press conference for the presentation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Presentation by Cardinal Schönborn, April 8, 2016)
The Denzinger-Bergoglio comments:
These words reveal that Francis has adopted a particular method: the method of not regulating anything with respect to theological and doctrinal matters, thus giving way to ambiguities and confusions regarding pastoral praxis or in the ambit of the discipline of the sacraments. This observation is confirmed by reading number 3 of Amoris Laetitia:
“Since ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied’ ”
A first reading does not permit us to clearly perceive Francis’ philosophical thought when he contrasts ‘time’ as ‘greater than’ ‘space’. Does this mean that the ‘doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues’ like ‘time’ surpass or exceed ‘space’, that is, the Magisterium? Let’s read it calmly one more time, for it is Francis himself who clarifies the questions: “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.”
Therefore, we may come to the conclusion that by following a certain method or tactic, Francis ex-professo avoided the exposition of defined doctrinal, theological and moral principles in his Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. What was his objective? To favor “various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.”
A quick look at number 300 of Amoris Laetitia proves a persistence in this method, which ends up favoring the “various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching.”
“If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since ‘the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases’, (335) the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same” (336).
In note 335, Francis goes back to no. 51 of the Final Report of the Synod which, attempting to avoid emphasis on the notion of ‘sin’, dilutes the term pointing toward a ‘discernment’ of the circumstances attenuating the sinner’s ‘degree of responsibility’. Consequently, faithful to the praxis of seeking attenuating circumstances for sin, Francis deals with the topic of the discipline of sacraments in note 336, affirming: ‘since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation no grave fault exists. In such cases, what is found in another document applies: cf. Evangelii Gaudium 44 and 47.’
In summary, once again it is within a “humble and simple” footnote, that Francis tries to justify the inexistence of the ‘mortal sin’ of the divorced and remarried, thus opening access to sacramental communion. Is it possible to reconcile this sacramental praxis with the praxis of the Catholic Church? Paraphrasing the question made by Jean–Marie Guénois of Le Figaro, why has such an important topic been relegated to a simple footnote? Did Francis foresee objections among some of the faithful who found their beliefs on true Catholic Doctrine? Is it necessary to remind the Bishop of Rome of the aforementioned teachings of Saint Paul regarding ‘discernment’ at the moment of receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord?
“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1Cor 11:27-29).
In 1994, this strong Pauline doctrine of two millennia, patrimony of the Holy Church, was recalled by the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the express approval of the High Pontiff John Paul II.
What is the duty of confessors regarding the ‘divorced and remarried’?
What does the Doctrine of the Church teach regarding this specific grave matter?
“Members of the faithful who live together as husband and wife with persons other than their legitimate spouses may not receive Holy Communion. Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors, given the gravity of the matter and the spiritual good of these persons (cf. 1Cor 11:27-29) as well as the common good of the Church, have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching (cf. Code of Canon Law, 978 §2). Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine.” (Joseph Ratzinger. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful, no. 6, September 14, 1994)
Will we have to send Francis and Cardinal Schönborn the text of Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (11:27-29) and the norms established by the Code of Canon Law regarding the administration of the sacrament of penance, recalled by the then-Cardinal Ratzinger?
For more on this topic, see our study: ‘The exclusion of divorced people who contract a second marriage from communion is not a sanction. The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.’
In this study we have examined the main points of the presentation of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, regarding the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. These pronouncements of Cardinal Schönborn were the reference point which Francis indicated when answering the question posed by Francis Rocca of the Wall Street Journal, during the press conference on the Lesbos – Rome flight, on April 16, 2016: Are there new concrete possibilities for the divorced remarried to have access to confession and the Eucharist that did not exist before the publication of the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, or not?
Our analyses dealt with two essential aspects. In the first place, we attempted to demonstrate the method of doctrinal presentation implemented by Francis, the essential points of which were highlighted by Cardinal Schönborn. The peculiarity of this method consists in avoiding the presentation of ideas and pastoral, moral and sacramental proposals in a methodic, clear and defined manner, thus creating perplexity, disorientation or doubts among the clergy and the faithful. Specifically, Francis considers, “in certain cases”, the possibility of administering the sacraments to the divorced and remarried. It causes bewilderment that such an outstanding affirmation is relegated to a footnote (note 351). It is also perplexing that in another simple footnote (336), Francis declares that “since discernment can recognize that in a particular situation (of a divorced or remarried person) no grave fault exists.” Why this recourse to footnotes when presenting such significant theological-sacramental elements for his pastoral objectives? Did Francis foresee oppositions founded on Catholic Doctrine?
In the second place, we also analyzed the visible contrast between this pastoral, moral and sacramentary doctrine presented by Francis, and the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, brought to light by Pope John Paul II and the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Once this method of presentation has been detected in Amoris Laetitia, what shall we call it? Is it merely a method, or rather a tactic or strategy?
At the beginning of the 20th century, Pope Saint Pius X denounced this method of presenting ideas, and theological and philosophical assertions, qualifying it as a ‘tactic’. In his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, no. 3, he affirmed that this was a “very clever artifice” of the modernists, whose specific approach consists in presenting “their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement into one whole, scattered and disjointed one from another, so as to appear to be in doubt and uncertainty, while they are in reality firm and steadfast.”
In summary, this “tactic”, was amply applied throughout the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, as we have observed.
Let us be attentive, for as prominent analysts have pointed out, this last document of Francis contains numerous theological errors, erroneous citations from the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and even methodological mistakes. Let us also be vigilant, and before these grave errors may we follow the wise denouncement of Pope Saint Pius X, in order to detect them though they be “scattered and disjointed”. Are Francis and his followers “in doubt and uncertainty”or “in reality firm and steadfast”? As the title of this article suggests…let each one judge for himself…