After expressing astonishment that a Pope should reduce the precepts of the natural law to the equivalent of a set of traffic regulations, Christopher Ferrara concludes that—just as at the time of the Arian heresy—the number of bishops refusing to repudiate the teaching of their own Church will be very small indeed:
Finally, in paragraph 305 we encounter the poison pill the entire document and the entire “Synodal process” were clearly designed to administer to the Church: authorization for the admission of public adulterers, and by implication any sort of habitual public sinner, to Confession and Holy Communion in “certain cases.” This means, in short order, every case. For as Francis revealed last November to his trusted friend, the militant atheist Eugenio Scalfari, in another interview whose contents neither Francis nor the Vatican denied: “This is the bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted.”
Reaching the crescendo of his three-year-long demagogic assault on the Church’s imaginary pharisaical “rigorism,” including that of John Paul II, Francis now announces: “a pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.” Quoting his own previous eruption of ire at the conservative prelates who dared to stand up to him during Synod 2015, Francis opines that merely to apply moral laws would “bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings, ‘sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality difficult cases and wounded families’.”
What a strange accusation to hurl at the very prelates who opposed Francis’s relentless drive for a neo-Mosaic return to the Old Testament dispensation respecting divorce, but rather defended its perpetual abolition by Christ, whose vicar Francis is supposed to be. But then Francis has spent much of the past three years doing exactly what he condemns in the members of his flock—above all, publicly deriding observant Catholics he deems inadequate, almost every day, while railing against judgmentalism on the part of others.
Francis will have none of this “hiding behind the Church’s teachings”, for by “thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.” Yes, the Roman Pontiff has actually promulgated a document whose very theme is the slogan of the empty modern mind: “Well, you see, not everything is black and white.” No, there are many shades of grey—probably at least fifty.
And then the outcome the faithful have been dreading since the “synodal journey” began. With little fanfare and a buried footnote, the synod train at last reaches its destination. Paragraph 305 declares: “Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin… a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.”
And what does Francis mean by the “Church’s help”? He means Confession and Holy Communion, as fateful footnote 351 states. In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 , 1038). I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039).
The phrase “prize for the perfect” is taken directly from the intervention by Cardinal Kasper with which Francis began the whole charade of a “Synod on the Family”: Kasper’s speech to the consistory of February 2015 in which he unveiled the “Kasper proposal”—the only address Francis permitted, which he later hailed as “ beautiful and profound.” The circle of manipulation is completed as Francis finally reveals that the “Kasper proposal” was his proposal all along.
Leaving no doubt of the matter, Cardinal Lorenzo (“the book thief”) Baldisseri and the other Modernist subversives Francis tapped for the occasion made this clear even to the most obtuse observer at the press conference where they presented Amoris Laetitia to the public.
Co-presenter Cardinal Schönborn, continuing the systematic misrepresentation of the teaching of John Paul II on “discernment” in Familiaris consortio 84, put the matter thus in his presenting speech: “Pope Francis reiterates the need to discern carefully the situation, in keeping with St. John Paul II’s Familiaris consortio (84) (AL 298). ‘Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits. By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God” (AL 205)’…In the sense of this ‘via caritatis’ (AL 306), the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given ‘in certain cases’. But for this purpose he does not offer us case studies or recipes, but instead simply reminds us of two of his famous phrases: ‘I want to remind priests that the confessional should not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy’ (EG 44), and the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’ …”
So, the confessional is a “torture chamber” unless some—meaning ultimately all—unrepentant public adulterers are, at least eventually, allowed to enter without repentance, avoid any commitment to amendment of life, and leave with a declaration of absolution for a continual mortal sin they will simply continue committing because their “weakness” is now being “integrated”. Otherwise, everything would be “black and white”.
Is this for real? Indeed it is. And now we know from Francis himself just how real. During the in-flight press conference on his return from the trip to Greece, Francis was pressed on whether, contrary to those who say nothing has changed, Amoris Laetitia authorizes “new concrete possibilities for the divorced and remarried that did not exist before the publication of this exhortation.” Punctuating the answer with an emphatic hand gesture and a nod of the head, he replied: “I can say Yes. Period” (“Io posso dire sì. Punto.”) He also recommended that everyone read Schönborn’s presentation in which “your question will have an answer.” And Schönborn answer is: “the Pope affirms, in a humble and simple manner, in a note (351) that the help of the sacraments may also be given ‘in certain cases.’” So Francis told the reporter to consult Cardinal Schönborn concerning what Francis affirms in his own document—a runaround and a passing of the buck one would expect from a politician, not a Pope.
Consider the moral catastrophe Francis has just unleashed: A public adulterer in a second “marriage” is admitted to Holy Communion as part of a process of “discernment” that allows “integration” while he “gradually” moves toward an acceptance of Church teaching that may never come. Yet once he is made aware by the priest conducting this “discernment” that the Church teaches that his condition constitutes adultery—as if he didn’t know this before!—how can he continue to claim inculpable ignorance of the moral law? Of course he cannot. But, as we saw above, Francis has the answer: even those who know the law are now to be excused from compliance by way of pastoral “discernment” because they find it “very difficult to act differently (302)” on account of “mitigating factors (301-302).”
This logic obviously leads to the de facto elimination of mortal sin as an impediment to Holy Communion on the part of any and all habitual sinners who find it “very difficult” to change their behavior. In which case, as Fr Schall wonders, why would anyone need to go to Confession at all? “If this conclusion is correct,” he writes, “we really have no need for mercy, which has no meaning apart from actual sin and its free recognition….Therefore, there is no pressing need to concern oneself too much with these situations.”
So, there we have it: Francis calls for an unprecedented new regime of “pastoral discernment” that would bizarrely presume subjective inculpability in the face of endemic conduct objectively constituting public and habitual mortal sin, but now suddenly reduced to mere “irregularities.” In a pair of strategic footnotes sacramental absolution and the Holy Eucharist are recommended to “integrate” and “help” these objective mortal sinners without a prior amendment of life —but only in “certain cases,” as if that constituted a real limitation.
On the other hand, as the new “discernment” is supposedly discretionary with local priests acting under the authority of local bishops, outcomes would vary from parish to parish, region to region, and nation to nation. To recall Robert Royal’s assessment: “In concrete terms, around the globe, what looms ahead is chaos and conflict, not Catholicity.”
BUT NOTE WELL: Nothing in Amoris Laetitia indicates that Francis would extend his amnesty for sexual sinners to the other sorts of sinners he never ceases to denounce, including Mafiosi, arms traders, greedy capitalists, polluters of the environment, opponents of uncontrolled immigration, supporters of the death penalty and, lest we forget, the “rigorist” Catholics who oppose his notion of “mercy.” Would Francis, for example, tell the pastors of the Church that because of “various cognitive or psychological conditions” that make it “very difficult to act differently” greedy billionaires, wealthy arms dealers or “rigorist” Catholics are subjectively guiltless and cannot be expected to change their ways in conformity to “the ideal”? The question answers itself.
So this entire years-long, dismal affair comes down to an “amnesty” extending only to sins of the flesh. But, as Our Lady of Fatima warned, these are the sins that send more souls to Hell than any other. We are reminded that Sister Lucia of Fatima warned Cardinal Caffarra, one of the foremost opponents of the Kasper proposal, that “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” Did she know that a Pope would be leading the enemy forces?
Every Catholic worthy of the name has a duty to resist this attempted overthrow of the perennial Magisterium by a wayward Pope who clearly has no respect for the teaching of his own predecessors—having misrepresented the crucial contrary teaching of one of them, along with other sources—and who descends to demagoguery by appealing to a “mercy” that would be the worst kind of spiritual cruelty. It is unthinkable that the leadership of the Church, as a pastoral programme no less, could leave souls at risk of damnation in the very condition that places them at risk, even encouraging them to compound their guilt by sacrilegiously partaking of Holy Communion while they consider whether they will cease their continuing adultery or fornication.
This is madness never before seen in the history of the Church. And where are the members of the hierarchy to lead us in the midst of this madness? As it was during the time of the Arian crisis, when Saint Athanasius was almost alone among hierarchs publicly defending the faith, so will it be today: the prelates who stand fast and refuse to repudiate the teaching of their own Church will be very few in number, perhaps so few they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.