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June 20th, 2017

Courage, Clarity and Collegiality

I see that the Four Cardinals, having had no reply to their dubia about Amoris Laetitia have asked for an audience with Pope Francis. I hope he agrees, but I’m not holding my breath.

Fr Hunwicke has a very helpful blogpost, in which he points out that “collegiality” did not wait to be invented by Vatican II.  In the 1950s Pope Pius XII wrote to every Catholic bishop to ask whether he believed in the Assumption of Our Lady, and whether he considered it opportune for the dogma to be defined. The positive response to both questions was overwhelming.

More than a year has passed since the emergence of the divisive and poorly drafted document called Amoris laetitia. In this time, many Bishops and  episcopal conferences have issued guidelines making clear that nothing has changed since S John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, and Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis, reemphasised the Church’s immemorial discipline: ‘remarried’ divorcees who will not repent of their adultery and undertake either to separate or at least to try, with the help of God’s grace, to cohabit chastely, exclude themselves from the Sacraments during the time of their impenitence.

A few conferences and Bishops have issued statements understood as meaning that the thusly impenitent may, by virtue of Amoris laetitia, receive the Sacraments. Yet other conferences, such as that in England and Wales, have been manifestly unable to agree among themselves. It is clear that the Universal Episcopate is not united behind a ‘German’ interpretation of Amoris laetitia. Very far from it.

In the context of the Unity of the Una Catholica and of the collegial nature of the Universal Episcopate, cum et sub Petro, the time has surely come for this ‘dialogue’ to be moved to a new stage. Manifestly, if we are to persist with the embarrassing notion that we belong to one Church with one Teaching about the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, steps must be taken to move in the direction of coherence, harmony, and united witness. The idea that someone who is excluded from the Sacraments by his own impenitent rejection of the Gospel needs only to walk across the border between Poland and Germany, or from one American diocese to another, to be welcomed enthusiastically as a communicant in good standing, is obviously a profoundly unCatholic absurdity which needs speedily to be resolved.

The time has surely come for the Four Cardinals who intervened last year with their Dubia to revisit the question. And the time for Bishops, Successors of the Apostles according to the teaching of Leo XIII and of Vatican II and not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, to speak with courage, clarity and unanimity. And for clergy, laity, and academics to do the same. Remember that, at the height of the Arian Crisis, it was not among the Bishops or even in Rome that the Faith was most conspicuously preserved and defended.

Fr H. adds that parrhesia, boldness in witnessing to the Truth—a virtue which was once  incessantly on the lips of the current occupant of the Roman See—is still an obligation for all faithful Catholics. And as he says,  the more people speak boldly, the more difficult it will be for individuals to be put under unsympathetic pressure.

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