One of the more important aspects of Francis’ Amoris laetitiae that has not attracted much attention yet in the ‘catholic’ media is his reference to the so-called ‘law of gradualness’, which he attributes to Pope John Paul II. But anyone who takes the trouble to analyze what Francis states comes up with a poorly veiled attempt to abolish the Law of God in relation the sixth and ninth Commandments of the Decalogue, as well as the teachings of Jesus regarding the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Matrimony. Let us have a better look at this, and let each one draw his own conclusions.
Francis speaks of a law of gradualness that he attributes to John Paul II (cited in the notes 323 and 324 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, published in the year 1981, numbers 34 and 9 (we will analyze these original texts further on). Let us examine Francis’ words first:
[Francis in Amoris Laetitia] 295. Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called ‘law of gradualness’ in the knowledge that the human being ‘knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth’. This is not a ‘gradualness of law’ but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law. For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being ‘advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life’.
After this excerpt, the following title is:
The discernment of ‘irregular’ situations
296. The Synod addressed various situations of weakness or imperfection.
He continues, mentioning a specific case, after a lengthy divergence already examined in another of our studies [see here]:
298. The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate’.
Putting aside the absurdity of what he calls ‘proven fidelity’ in relation to a ‘second spouse’ or to any other person on the part of one who is not in the state of grace, and, therefore, deprived of the divine assistance to maintain their fidelity – we must remember that Saint Thomas Aquinas clearly explains that no one may practice virtue stably without the help of divine grace stating: “Hence, Augustine (De Corrupt. et Grat. II) having stated that ‘without grace men can do no good whatever,’ adds: ‘Not only do they know by its light what to do, but by its help they do lovingly what they know;’ thus, in both states they need the help of God’s motion in order to fulfill the commandments, as stated above” (Summa Theologica I-II, q. 109, a. 4) — and also the possibility of ‘Christian compromise’ of the person that gives objective scandal in living in a state which is contrary to the perfect fidelity of Christ to his Church, let us examine how Bergoglio deals with the case.
First of all, in number 298, he recognizes that:
It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family.
But soon after he proposes a mysterious way out: ‘discernment’.
The discernment of pastors must always take place ‘by adequately distinguishing’, with an approach which ‘carefully discerns situations’. We know that no ‘easy recipes’ exist.
After another digression (perhaps to mislead the reader), he once again uses the term (in number 300), after the surprising declaration that one should not hope for a ‘new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.’ The reason for this declaration becomes clearer further on.
300. 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’, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.
The truth is that general norms already exist for the application of the principles of Catholic morals in particular cases. They are well researched documents reflecting great discernment, written by the most authorized sectors of the Catholic Church: the Dicasteries of the Vatican Curia. Francis doesn’t ignore them, for he even cites them as we shall observe. But he uses only parts of these documents, taking advantage of certain texts, so that in the name of ‘particular cases’ and ‘discernment’, to end up denying moral law!
After the protests that ‘in the same law there is no gradualness’ and that ‘this discernment may never overtake the requirements of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church’ he goes on to ‘attenuating circumstances in pastoral discernment’. Francis then begins to cite diverse sources (such as the Catechism and Saint Thomas) that point toward the diminishment of the subjective culpability of the concrete acts. These citations are so interesting that they deserve another study. Then, it clearly states (in number 301):
A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding its inherent values’, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. As the Synod Fathers put it, ‘factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision’.
This citation is the same no. 33 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio that we shall examine further on. The question of moral dilemma also deserves a special examination, where one could ‘be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.’ But for the moment we continue grope in search of the famous ‘discernment’.
302. For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved  .
This citation is from a Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Interpretation of Legislative Texts regarding ‘The admission to Holy Communion of the faithful who are divorced and remarried’! But, unfortunately…once again it is cited very selectively as we shall see later on.
And now comes the cherry on top:
303. Recognizing the influence of such concrete factors, we can add that individual conscience needs to be better incorporated into the Church’s praxis in certain situations which do not objectively embody our understanding of marriage.
Naturally, every effort should be made to encourage the development of an enlightened conscience, formed and guided by the responsible and serious discernment of one’s pastor, and to encourage an ever greater trust in God’s grace. Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.
For those who thought that the ‘responsible personal and pastoral discernment’ would help to ‘enlighten, form and guide the conscience’ to want to practice the Law of God, it now becomes clear… It really means to ‘recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel’ but also to ‘recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God’ and to ‘come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking AMID THE CONCRETE COMPLEXITY OF ONE’S LIMITS, WHILE YET NOT FULLY THE OBJECTIVE IDEAL.’
Soon after, we come upon one of the statements spread throughout the document that practically contradict what came immediately before, but not blatantly of course, in an attempt to not entirely unmask Francis’ intent: ‘In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.’ It is not clear whether these ‘new stages of growth’ that ‘enable the ideal to be more fully realized’ refer to all morality in itself. Or even, if this were the case, within what timeframe. Or still if it is possible to halt at a so to say intermediary stage of growth…
What is certain is that:
304. It is reductive simply to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule, because that is not enough to discern and ensure full fidelity to God in the concrete life of a human being.
Once again, discernment implies that the ‘concrete existence’ departs from the ‘general norm or law’. As we see in the same number 304:
 It is true that general rules set forth a good which can never be disregarded or neglected, but in their formulation they cannot provide absolutely for all particular situations. At the same time, it must be said that, precisely for that reason, what is part of a practical discernment in particular circumstances cannot be elevated to the level of a rule. That would not only lead to an intolerable casuistry, but would endanger the very values which must be preserved with special care.
The conclusion of this whole pseudo-reasoning is that: it is necessary to maintain the law in theory, while admitting that there are an enormous number of concrete situations – and it is worthwhile asking at this point which human situation is not ‘concrete’! – that serve as states that are intermediate (better put: sinful) wherein one may live very well, with a tranquil conscience that one is in some point along the line whose last end is the Law of God….AND ONE MAY RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS IN THIS STATE. In a word, the law exists for an ideal abstract world, but no one needs to apply it to real life.
Does anyone dare to draw a conclusion different from ours? It is sufficient to read that which comes directly after, in number 305 (after a citation of Francis himself and another restricted citation from a document about the Natural Law):
Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.
To make things absolutely clear, in the (in)famous note 351, Francis exemplifies what is the ‘help of the Church’: ‘IN CERTAIN CASES, THIS CAN INCLUDE THE HELP OF THE SACRAMENTS.’
Regarding this, Francis’ belief that the Precious Body and Blood of Christ should be administered to adulterers for their greater perdition, had already become evident to anyone who had ‘eyes to see’, when examining number 298, in which he speaks of the imaginary second unions of Christian commitment and ‘proven fidelity’. Once again, he adds an (incomplete) citation of Familiaris consortio:
298. One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations ‘where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate’.
But in this note 329, he cuts off the phrase pronounced by John Paul II. Let us examine what the selection really says, in its entirety:
The faithful who persist in such a situation may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution, which may be given only ‘to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’ (John Paul II, Homily on the Occasion of the Closure of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, no. 7).
Isn’t that interesting? Francis omits precisely what John Paul II says before and after the citation.
And then Francis completes the ill-fated note 329 with a reference to a conciliar document Gaudium et spes. Is it necessary to mention that here as well he does the same?
[Note 329] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio (22 November 1981), 84: AAS 74 (1982), 186. In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).
So then, these people in a ‘second union’ should not live as the Church (and God) orders, as ‘brothers and sisters’ that is ‘not more uxorio’ with the pretext that: ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ insinuating that this is what Gaudium et spes determined. But what did Gaudium et spes really say in number 51?
This council realizes that certain modern conditions often keep couples from arranging their married lives harmoniously, and that they find themselves in circumstances where at least temporarily the size of their families should not be increased. As a result, the faithful exercise of love and the full intimacy of their lives is hard to maintain. But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperiled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered. To these problems there are those who presume to offer dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life. But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love. (Vatican Council II. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 51, December 7, 1965)
The Council is speaking, once again, of a family that is well constituted by the Sacraments (and not of a situation of concubinage). And it is to these properly denoted ‘families’ that the Law of God is imposed upon by the Council. How far truth is from Francis’ ‘citation’!!
It is also noteworthy that Francis carefully and euphemistically avoids explaining what exactly are these ‘expressions of intimacy’ that he wishes to authorize indicating to the text of Gaudium et spes. But Gaudium et spes is a clear document: it clearly uses the word ‘procreation’ in the phrase immediately preceeding the citation above. Therefore, once again, Francis shows his intention to abolish the holy Law of God.
Let us examine an important section of John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio. It does not require much explanation because the text is clear, as opposed to Francis’ document that we analyzed in the first part of this study (see here). It clearly shows that John Paul II didn’t have anything to hide…
The law of gradualness cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law’
Since the moral order reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator, for this very reason it cannot be something that harms man, something impersonal. On the contrary, by responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person’s full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God Himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness.
But man, who has been called to live God’s wise and loving design in a responsible manner, is an historical being who day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.
Married people too are called upon to progress unceasingly in their moral life, with the support of a sincere and active desire to gain ever better knowledge of the values enshrined in and fostered by the law of God. They must also be supported by an upright and generous willingness to embody these values in their concrete decisions. They cannot however look on the law as merely an ideal to be achieved in the future: they must consider it as a command of Christ the Lord to overcome difficulties with constancy. ‘And so what is known as ‘the law of gradualness’ or step-by-step advance cannot be identified with ‘gradualness of the law,’ as if there were different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations. In God’s plan, all husbands and wives are called in marriage to holiness, and this lofty vocation is fulfilled to the extent that the human person is able to respond to God’s command with serene confidence in God’s grace and in his or her own will.’  (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 34, November 22, 1981)
There cannot be any split or ‘dichotomy’ between instruction and doctrine
Let us interrupt the reading of the text Familiaris consortio in order to examine citation 95, extracted from a homily of John Paul II at the closing of the V Synod of the Bishops, October 25, 1980. The citation in itself is quite clear, and even preceded by this pearl (was it perhaps directed to bishop Bergoglio? The bolding is ours):
Thinking of those who have pastoral care of married couples and families, the synod fathers rejected any split or ‘dichotomy’ between instruction (which is necessary for any progress in fulfilling the will of God) and doctrine (which the Church teaches with all its consequences and which includes the command to live according to that doctrine). It is not a matter of keeping the law as a mere ‘ideal’ to be obeyed in the future. It is a question of the mandate of Christ the Lord that difficulties should be overcome continually. (John Paul II. Homily at the Close of the Fifth Synod of Bishops, no. 8, October 25, 1980)
Alas! If Pope John Paul II had read Amoris Laetitia…what would he have said?
Continuing with Familiaris consortio, it is very clear that there are no ‘different degrees or forms of precept in God’s law for different individuals and situations’:
On the same lines, it is part of the Church’s pedagogy that husbands and wives should first of all recognize clearly the teaching of Humanae vitae as indicating the norm for the exercise of their sexuality, and that they should endeavor to establish the conditions necessary for observing that norm.
As the Synod noted, this pedagogy embraces the whole of married life. Accordingly, the function of transmitting life must be integrated into the overall mission of Christian life as a whole, which without the Cross cannot reach the Resurrection. In such a context it is understandable that sacrifice cannot be removed from family life, but must in fact be wholeheartedly accepted if the love between husband and wife is to be deepened and become a source of intimate joy.
This shared progress demands reflection, instruction and suitable education on the part of the priests, religious and lay people engaged in family pastoral work: they will all be able to assist married people in their human and spiritual progress, a progress that demands awareness of sin, a sincere commitment to observe the moral law, and the ministry of reconciliation. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 34, November 22, 1981)
Pardon one more interruption in our reading of Familiaris consortio, but we wish to emphasize one point in particular: Pope John Paul II points toward a ‘sincere commitment to observe the moral law’ from the beginning, as well as the sacrament of reconciliation to continually maintain oneself in the state of grace. And he continues:
It will be easier for married people to make progress if, with respect for the Church’s teaching and with trust in the grace of Christ, and with the help and support of the pastors of souls and the entire ecclesial community, they are able to discover and experience the liberating and inspiring value of the authentic love that is offered by the Gospel and set before us by the Lord’s commandment. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 34, November 22, 1981)
Intermediate states between sin and grace?
John Paul II makes an invitation to experience true interior liberation by following the doctrine of Christ with the help of his grace. That is, the teachings of the Holy Church, for two millennia, that it is necessary to practice the Law of God, and that this is not impossible for anyone with the help of grace, which God never fails to grant.
This means that John Paul II is not speaking about intermediate states between sin, where it is possible to come to a stop. On the contrary, the gradualness that he speaks of is a progressive path within virtue to obtain greater union with God.
This is very clear from the beginning: he is speaking of the family in the true meaning of the term: two people united by the sacrament and their legitimate children, not ‘second unions’, ‘civil marriage’ or other euphemisms for adultery.
The real interpretation of Familiaris consortio cannot have been unknown to Francis, for in 1997 (16 years after the publication of the document in question) the Pontifical Council for the Family published a Vademecum for confessors regarding some topics of conjugal morality, that also mentions the same part of Familiaris consortio cited by Francis regarding the ‘law of gradualness’, saying:
The pastoral ‘law of gradualness’, not to be confused with the ‘gradualness of the law’ which would tend to diminish the demands it places on us, consists of requiring a decisive break with sin together with a progressive path towards total union with the will of God and with his loving demands. (Pontifical Council for the Family. Vademecum for Confessors concerning some aspects of the morality of conjugal life, no. 9, February 12, 1997)
The teaching could not be clearer: the ‘law of gradualness’ refers to a ‘progressive path towards total union with the will of God’ following a ‘decisive break with sin’.
And, since we are analyzing ‘citations’ from the sources presented by Francis, let’s take a look at the Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts ‘Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are divorced and remarried’ (from the year 2000).
It is not licit to receive Holy Communion in mortal sin
The Code of Canon Law establishes that ‘Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion’ (can. 915). In recent years some authors have sustained, using a variety of arguments, that this canon would not be applicable to faithful who are divorced and remarried. It is acknowledged that paragraph 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, issued in 1981, had reiterated that prohibition in unequivocal terms and that it has been expressly reaffirmed many times, especially in paragraph 1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, and in the Letter written in 1994 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Annus internationalis Familiae. That notwithstanding, the aforementioned authors offer various interpretations of the above-cited canon that exclude from its application the situation of those who are divorced and remarried. For example, since the text speaks of ‘grave sin’, it would be necessary to establish the presence of all the conditions required for the existence of mortal sin, including those which are subjective, necessitating a judgment of a type that a minister of Communion could not make ab externo; moreover, given that the text speaks of those who ‘obstinately’ persist in that sin, it would be necessary to verify an attitude of defiance on the part of an individual who had received a legitimate warning from the Pastor. (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Declaration, Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are divorced and remarried, July 6, 2000)
Once again, we inquire: did the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts not have mind a certain Archbishop Bergoglio at the time of promulgating this document, when it mentions that some exclude in practice the situation of the divorced that has remarried of the prohibition to receive Holy Communion alleging subjective conditions?
The text deserves to transcribed in its entirety:
Given this alleged contrast between the discipline of the 1983 Code and the constant teachings of the Church in this area, this Pontifical Council, in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments declares the following:
- The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: ‘This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself.’
This text concerns in the first place the individual faithful and their moral conscience, a reality that is expressed as well by the Code in can. 916. But the unworthiness that comes from being in a state of sin also poses a serious juridical problem in the Church: indeed the canon of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches that is parallel to can. 915 CIC of the Latin Church makes reference to the term ‘unworthy’: ‘Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist’ (can. 712). In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.
- Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (cfr. can. 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance.
The phrase ‘and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable. The three required conditions are:
a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability;
b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.
c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin. (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Declaration, Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are divorced and remarried, July 6, 2000)
So then, why all the complex and heart-rending cases brought up by Francis, that drive us to tears?
These situations have always existed throughout the History of the Church. Let’s not forget that human nature is the same, and it was the Church that elevated it from the most wretched condition to the heights of morality demanded by God; within the degradation of the Roman Empire (denounced so astutely by Saint Paul in Romans 1, 26 – 27, and by Saint Augustine within his brilliant work the ‘City of God’, and by so many other saints) or in any other situation where Christ is not the center of human life, degraded in their nature by original sin. And the Church, as a tender Mother, has always known how to attend to these situations, as the document of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts demonstrates. Citing Familiaris Consortio, even using the moving example – mentioned by Francis also (but he uses it to arrive at an opposite conclusion) – of children born of a second union.
Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives – such as, for example, the upbringing of the children – ‘to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses’ (Familiaris consortio, no. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo. (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Declaration, Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are divorced and remarried, July 6, 2000)
Finally, the document of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts ends with words of true maternal solicitude that perfectly express how the Church thinks and acts in light of these problems:
Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. no. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.
5. The Church reaffirms her maternal solicitude for the faithful who find themselves in this or other analogous situations that impede them from being admitted to the Eucharistic table. What is presented in this Declaration is not in contradiction with the great desire to encourage the participation of these children in the life of the Church, in the many forms compatible with their situation that are already possible for them. Moreover, the obligation of reiterating this impossibility of admission to the Eucharist is required for genuine pastoral care and for an authentic concern for the well-being of these faithful and of the whole Church, being that it indicates the conditions necessary for the fullness of that conversion to which all are always invited by the Lord, particularly during this Holy Year of the Great Jubilee.(Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Declaration, Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of Faithful who are divorced and remarried, July 6, 2000)
Hopefully, after this study, some doubts created by Francis’ words have been cleared up. We shall continue on this topic in another study…
THIRD PART AND THE TEACHINGS OF THE MAGISTERIUM
In face of the confusion caused by the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and after having shown in two recent studies the lamentable incoherencies and falsities in the document (see here and here), and Denzinger-Bergoglio would like to remind its readers of the teachings that the Church has always conveyed to the ‘remarried divorced’ and to sinners in general.
Let’s not forget that the Church is a Mother and, as such, She has always looked out for her children, especially those in situations of risk to their eternal salvation. Her maternal care has never deceived them about their real situation of departure from Catholic teaching. She has always been able to indicate the path of salvation and provide the necessary means to rescue whoever accepts her help.
An efficacious medicine is often bitter; but when dosed by a mother’s hand, the child is grateful for it. Many of us have fond memories of the care our mothers gave during illnesses, and the tireless efforts they devoted to our speedy recovery.
Failure to administer an unpleasant medicine is not true love; love requires that the dose be accompanied by assuring words on the medicine’s wonderful effects. Let us be faithful to the enduring doctrine of the Magisterium of the Church and bear in mind that God doesn’t abandon his Church even when assailed by contrary winds.
Teachings of the Magisterium
I – How has the Church consistently considered the situation of the divorced who remarry? In her loving concern, the Church has never deceived nor failed to warn regarding the reality of irregular situations
The catechism clearly states that Christ condemns adultery
Adultery refers to marital infidelity. When two partners, of whom at least one is married to another party, have sexual relations – even transient ones – they commit adultery. Christ condemns even adultery of mere desire (cf. Mt 5:27–28). The sixth commandment and the New Testament forbid adultery absolutely (cf. Mt 5:32; 19:6; Mk 10:11; 1Cor 6:9–10). The prophets denounce the gravity of adultery; they see it as an image of the sin of idolatry (cf. Hos 2:7; Jer 5:7; 13:27). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2380)
The catechism does not hide the fact that divorce is a grave offense
Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery: If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself (St. Basil, Moralia 73, 1). Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2384–2385)
The Church declares: if the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law
If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1650)
Pastors and confessors have the serious duty to admonish the divorced for openly contradicting Church teaching
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 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. Pastors in their teaching must also remind the faithful entrusted to their care of this doctrine. (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. 4, September 14, 1994)
Divorce is so grave that even the judge who applies it commits a mortal sin
Every divorce, among living Christians, sin ce it implies the dissolution of the conjugal bond legitimately contracted and confirmed, is nothing other than a grave attempt, if not against the natural law (which the Scholastics dispute among themselves), at least against the positive written divine law, as the Holy Council of Trent clearly teaches (sess. 24, Doctr. de Sacr. Matr.), and copiously demonstrated by Benedict XIV in De Synodo Dioec. lib. XIII, cap. 22, § 3 and the following sections. Thus, every project of law, that affirms and disposes this attempt, is by its own nature, invalid and null, it is more of a violation than a law (D. Th. 12, q. 46, a. 4), more precisely a corruption of the law, since it treats of a question that is truly sacred by divine institution and, for this reason, superior, and, as such, outside of the ambit of any earthly power: which, consequently, manifestly contradicts the divine law, before which all human power should incline and yield. Thus, before all else, they abuse an authority they do not possess, no less the legislator from which this corruption proceeds, than the judge, who serves and applies it to the particular cases, and brings it to its fulfillment. This is to sin mortally, the former does so by usurpation of power, and the later, by usurpation of judgement (Leonard. Lessius De Iust. et Iur. Duben. Lib. 2, cap. 29, p. 288). (Pius VII. Instruction Catholica nunc, from the Holy Office to the Prefects of the missions of Martinica and Guadalupe, July 6, 1817)
Pius IX recalls the admonitions of St. John Chrysostom regarding the sin of contracting prohibited marriage
Lastly, St. John Chrysostom constantly teaches that matrimony is always indissoluble, when he promptly reproves, as contrary to the evangelical law, the civil laws that permit divorce. He writes: “For what would we say to He who will judge us, when He publicly reads the inspired law saying: I commanded you not to marry a repudiated woman, declaring that this is adultery. How, then, have you dared to contract a prohibited marriage?” (Pius IX. Instruction Difficile dictu, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Greek-Romanian Bishops, 1858)
All of the pastors should proclaim the paternal warnings of the Pope against divorce
His Most Reverend Excellency already knows of the Allocution of his Holiness, in the Consistory of the 16th of the present month; an Allocution directed to preserve Italy from the sad consequences of divorce, when it becomes permitted by law. Treating of a topic in intimate connection with the Catholic dogma and ecclesiastical discipline, my colleagues, the Most Emminent General Inquisitor Cardinals, have thought it well to call it to the attention of the sacred Pastors and to exercise their zeal so that there be no diocese in Italy where the teachings and paternal warnings of the Head of the Church have not found a worthy correspondence. And above all, it is appropriate to clearly explain to the people, how Jesus Christ, Son of God, Redeemer of the human race, abolished the costume of repudiation, and once again restored matrimony to how it was established by the Creator from the beginning: that it be one and indivisible. The divine Master alludes to this in teaching: ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.’ The principle is applied by St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, ‘A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whomever she wishes, provided that it be in the Lord.’ (Leo XIII. Letter Alla S. V. to the Bishops of Italy regarding the proposed law of divorce, December 24, 1901)
Pastoral help implies recognizing the Church’s doctrine, just as it is clearly expressed in the Catechism
The 1980 Synod of Bishops on the family considered this painful situation and gave appropriate pastoral guidelines for these circumstances. In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, taking the Synod Fathers’ reflections into consideration, I wrote: ‘The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation’ (n. 84). It is in this clearly pastoral setting, as you have explained in your presentation of the work of this plenary assembly, that the reflections of your meeting are framed, reflections aimed at helping families to discover the greatness of their baptismal vocation and to practise works of piety, charity and repentance. Nevertheless, pastoral help presupposes that the Church’s doctrine be recognized as it is clearly expressed in the Catechism: ‘The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom’ (n. 1640). (John Paul II. Address to the Pontifical Council for the Family, no. 2, January 24, 1997)
The Synod of Bishops confirms the Church’s practice of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments
If the Eucharist expresses the irrevocable nature of God’s love in Christ for his Church, we can then understand why it implies, with regard to the sacrament of Matrimony, that indissolubility to which all true love necessarily aspires. There was good reason for the pastoral attention that the Synod gave to the painful situations experienced by some of the faithful who, having celebrated the sacrament of Matrimony, then divorced and remarried. This represents a complex and troubling pastoral problem, a real scourge for contemporary society, and one which increasingly affects the Catholic community as well. The Church’s pastors, out of love for the truth, are obliged to discern different situations carefully, in order to be able to offer appropriate spiritual guidance to the faithful involved. The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, no. 29, February 22, 2007)
II – Considerations regarding the Church’s zeal for her children who find themselves in sinful situations with no easy way out
The Church cannot be indifferent to distressing problems which involve so many of her children
The Church cannot be indifferent to this distressing problem, which involves so many of her children. In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio I had already acknowledged that in dealing with a wound that is more widely affecting even Catholic environments, ‘the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay’ (n. 84). The Church, Mother and Teacher, seeks the welfare and happiness of the home and when it is broken for whatever reason, she suffers and seeks to provide a remedy, offering these persons pastoral guidance in complete fidelity to Christ’s teachings. (John Paul II. Address to the Pontifical Council for the Family, no. 1, January 24, 1997)
The missionaries attempted to make the natives feel that the yolk of Christ is easy and light
Because the motive through which that part of the world was granted since the beginning to your ancestors, was so that those who had not yet received the faith in Christ, in virtue of the laudable government of those who should direct them as also due to the good examples of those who should bring them to the Christian doctrine, feeling that the yolk of Christ is easy and light and not being oppressed by those who should care for them and nourish them, as though they were tender plants in the vineyard of the Lord, and even inflame and augment in them love for the Christian religion. Your Majesty may be certain that, by the propagation of religion, your kingdom shall, in these regions, through divine goodness and favor, also be consolidated and augmented, and will prepare for itself, through the merits obtained together with those peoples and before religion, a reward not only in this life as also in the other. (Pius V. Letter Cum oporteat nos to King Phillip II, August 17, 1568)
The missionaries are men in whom concern for the weak pulsates
Lessons of humanism, spirituality and effort to raise man’s dignity, are taught to us by Antonio Montesinos, Córdoba, Bartolomé de las Casas, echoed also in other parts by Juan de Zumárraga, Motolinia, Vasco de Quiroga, José de Anchieta, Toribio de Mogrovejo, Nóbrega and so many others. They are men in whom pulsates concern for the weak, for the defenceless, for the natives; subjects worthy of all respect as persons and as bearers of the image of God, destined for a transcendent vocation. The first International Law has its origin here with Francisco de Vitoria. (John Paul II. Homily, Independence Square, Santo Domingo, January 25, 1979)
The Church so wishes to help sinners that priests and religious are bound to offer sacrifices to appease God on their behalf
But God especially requires this of priests and religious. The same Saint used to say to her nuns: ‘My sisters, God has not separated us from the world, that we should only do good for ourselves, but also that we should appease Him in behalf of sinners;’ and God one day said to her, ‘I have given to you my chosen spouses the City of Refuge [i.e., the Passion of Jesus Christ], that you may have a place where you may obtain help for My creatures. Therefore have recourse to it, and thence stretch forth a helping hand to My creatures who are perishing, and lay down your lives for them.’ For this reason the Saint, inflamed with holy zeal, used to offer God the Blood of the Redeemer fifty times a day in behalf of sinners, and was quite wasted away for the desire she had for their conversion. (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Prayer: The great means of salvation and of perfection)
III – Two thousand years of the true ‘law of graduality’, or the pastoral care employed by the saints: one without harshness, but also without misleading concessions
Not to go forward in the way of God is to go backward
He who has a real desire of perfection fails not to advance continually towards it; and so advancing, he must finally arrive at it, On the contrary, he who has not the desire of perfection will always go backwards, and always find himself more imperfect than before. St. Augustine says, that ‘not to go forward in the way of God is to go backward.’ He that makes no efforts to advance will find himself carried backward by the current of his corrupt nature. They, then, who say ‘God does not wish us all to be Saints’ make a great mistake. Yes, for St. Paul says, This is the Will of God, your sanctification. (1 Thes 4:3). God wishes all to be Saints, and each one according to his state of life: the religious as a religious; the secular as a secular; the priest as a priest; the married as married; the man of business as a man of business; the soldier as a soldier; and so of every other state of life. (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, Ch. II, no. 1)
To reach perfection it is necessary to not commit faults on purpose
It will also aid us much towards growth in virtue and perfection to try never to commit faults on purpose. There are two sorts of faults and venial sins : the one sort is that into which those who fear God fall through frailty, ignorance and inadvertence, albeit with some carelessness and negligence. As to such faults as these, they who serve God and walk in His sight with an upright heart, know by experience that they cause no bitterness of heart, but rather humility ; nor do they find that on that account God turns away His face from them, but rather they experience new favour from the Lord and a new spirit by the humble recourse they have to God for them. Other faults and defects there are which they fall into with advertence and on purpose, who are tepid and remiss in the service of God ; and these faults are an obstacle to the great blessings we should receive if we did not commit them. For these faults the Lord will often turn away His face from us in prayer, and withdraw many favours. Thus if we wish. to thrive and receive many favours of the Lord, we must take care not to commit faults on purpose. (Alonso Rodríguez, SJ. Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, Part I, treatise I, ch. XII)
To advance in the spiritual life, do not pause along the path of virtue
St. Basil lays down another means for gaining perfection, and says it is an excellent way to advance much in a short time : it is, not to call halts on the road of virtue. There are those who make temporary efforts, and then stop. Go on as you have begun, and do not call these halts. On this road of spiritual life you will find yourself more wearied by making these halts than by not making them. In this there is a great difference from bodily exercises : the more the body works and labours, the more it is worn out; but the more the spirit works, the more strength it gathers : caro operando deficit, spiritus operando proficit (St. Basil). And says the proverb : ‘The bow that is kept strung breaks, but the soul unstrung decays,’ arcum frangit intensio, anitnam remissio. (Alonso Rodriguez, SJ. Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, Part I, treatise I, ch. XII)
Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP
The interior life presupposes the state of grace and is a struggle against what makes us fall back into sin
The interior life, as we said, presupposes the state of grace, which is the seed of eternal life. Nevertheless the state of grace, which exists in every infant after baptism and in every penitent after the absolution of his sins, does not suffice to constitute what is customarily called the interior life of a Christian. In addition there are required a struggle against what would make us fall back into sin and a serious tendency of the soul toward God.
From this point of view, to give a clear idea of what the interior life should be, we shall do well to compare it with the intimate conversation that each of us has with himself. If one is faithful, this intimate conversation tends, under the influence of grace, to become elevated, to be transformed, and to become a conversation with God. This remark is elementary; but the most vital and profound truths are elementary truths about which we have thought for a long time, by which we have lived, and which finally become the object of almost continual contemplation.
We shall consider successively these two forms of intimate conversation: the one human, the other more and more divine or supernatural. (Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. The Three ages of the Interior Life, Vol. 1)
The true ‘law of graduality’ of the interior life: man gradually frees himself from egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride
We can define the interior life as follows: It is a supernatural life which, by a true spirit of abnegation and prayer, makes us tend to union with God and leads us to it.
It implies one phase in which purification dominates, another of progressive illumination in view of union with God, as all tradition teaches, thus making a distinction between the purgative way of beginners, the illuminative way of proficients, and the unitive way of the perfect. The interior life thus becomes more and more a conversation with God, in which man gradually frees himself from egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride, and in which, by frequent prayer, he asks the Lord for the ever new graces that he needs. (Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. The Three ages of the Interior Life)
The universal way for delivering the soul, the royal way which alone leads to the kingdom
This is the religion which possesses the universal way for delivering the soul; for except by this way, none can be delivered. This is a kind of royal way, which alone leads to a kingdom which does not totter like all temporal dignities, but stands firm on eternal foundations. […] For what else is the universal way of the soul’s deliverance than that by which all souls universally are delivered, and without which, therefore, no soul is delivered? […] What is this universal way of which he acknowledges his ignorance, if not a way which does not belong to one nation as its special property, but is common to all, and divinely bestowed? Porphyry, a man of no mediocre abilities, does not question that such a way exists; for he believes that Divine Providence could not have left men destitute of this universal way of delivering the soul. […] this universal way of the soul’s deliverance […] the grace of God […] This way purifies the whole man, and prepares the mortal in all his parts for immortality. […] Except by this way, which has been present among men both during the period of the promises and of the proclamation of their fulfillment, no man has been delivered, no man is delivered, no man shall be delivered. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. The City of God, Book X, Ch. 32)
Due to their impenitent heart some treasure up wrath against the day of wrath
Will someone say, Why, then, was this divine compassion extended even to the ungodly and ungrateful? Why, but because it was the mercy of Him who daily ‘makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Mt 5:45). For though some of these men, taking thought of this, repent of their wickedness and reform, some, as the apostle says, ‘despising the riches of His goodness and long-suffering, after their hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds’ (Rom 2:4). (Saint Augustine of Hippo. The City of God, Book I, ch. VIII, no. 1)
One who submits to Christ’s sacraments obtains grace unless they enslaved themselves to sin through their own fault
But one who submits to Christ’s sacraments obtains grace from his power, so as not to be under the Law but under grace, unless they enslaved themselves to sin through their own fault. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Rom 6:11 – 18)
‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (Jas 4:6-8)
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