Saturday, 14 January 2017

Quick thoughts on the Maltese Bishops' Guidelines on Amoris Laeitita-UPDATED

1. The original text is published in English and in Maltese. The English text can be downloaded from the website of the Catholic Church in Malta. The paragraphing and numbering make it much easier to read than the text as published in Italian in Osservatore Romano. It should be noted that the Italian represents a translation from an original released initially in two other languages. I am not able to comment on the Maltese text.

2. Note the observation in the preamble to the Guidelines themselves that:
It is important that the following guidelines be read in the light of the indicated references.
The references which occur in the Guidelines are to the text/footnotes of Amoris Laetitia itself.

3. Much of the Guidelines document does follow closely Amoris Laetitia itself. The Guidelines nn. 5-8 provide a good example of this, particularly the suggested examination of conscience, which is not going to be a soft touch in any circumstances.

4. The Guidelines at n.3 clearly indicate that those who are cohabiting should be encouraged towards living the full reality of marriage. Those at n.4 are clear in suggesting that, for those who are now living in a new union and where a reasonable doubt is seen as to the validity or consummation of their original marriage, should be directed to seek a declaration of nullity or dissolution.

5. Paragraph 9:
Throughout the discernment process, we should also examine the possibility of conjugal continence. Despite the fact that this ideal is not at all easy, there may be couples who, with the help of grace, practice this virtue without putting at risk other aspects of their life together. On the other hand, there are complex situations where the choice of living “as brothers and sisters” becomes humanly impossible and gives rise to greater harm (see AL, note 329).
...needs to be read in the light of a footnote - number 329 - to Amoris Laetitia that does not characterise living as brother and sister as "humanly impossible" nor make any comparative judgement as to greater or lesser harm:
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 Council, Pastoral Constitution in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes n.51).
[It is incidentally useful to also follow through and read the texts of Familiaris Consortio n.84 and Gaudium et Spes n.51, to gain the full context of the references being made to them in the footnote. The context of the phenomenological observation about the endangering of faithfulness and the good of the children suffering is very different in Gaudium et Spes than in Amoris Laetitia, though that does not invalidate the referencing.]

6. And the problematical n.10. The English makes use of the term "cannot be precluded" where the Italian of Osservatore Romano uses a term which, in my translation is, "cannot be prevented from". There is a very subtle difference here. The English text suggests "cannot be ruled out from" rather than "must be allowed to" - which is, in essence, what the controversial Amoris Laetitia footnote indicates. (I am not able to comment on the Maltese text.)
If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it” (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).
The Italian text from Osservatore Romano:
....non le potra essere impedito di accostarsi ai sacramenti della riconciliazione e dell’eucaristia....[...they cannot be prevented from approaching the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist...]
And, of course, read the paragraph in the light of the three indicated references to Amoris Laetitia, particularly the text of n.300. Reading it out of that context gives a completely different impression of the intent of the bishops of Malta with their guidelines.

I would observe that:
 - the Maltese bishops are giving an instruction here to their pastors with regard to the admission or otherwise of the faithful to the sacraments; they are not saying that it is for the faithful in these situations to come to their own decision
- the situation of not being precluded from the sacraments only arises when objective conditions are met, and not just from the subjective sense of peace with God of the faithful (and perhaps the reference to peace with God should be read, too, in the sense of the situation for making a good choice of state of life of the Spiritual Exercises, rather than in a purely subjective sense); the conditions include love for the teaching of the Church; and the conditions arise within a process of discernment, whose terms are indicated in previous sections of the Guidance
- it is quite misleading, and, it appears to me, deliberately mischievous, to simply headline coverage of the Maltese Bishops' Guidelines as unconditionally admitting those in second unions to the sacraments.

[ This characterisation at EWTN , for example, seems to me quite false, however learned its author or acclaimed the site publishing it:
The bishops of Malta, in a document that can only be called disastrous, repeatedly invoking Pope Francis’ Amoris laetitia, have directly approved divorced and remarried Catholics taking holy Communion provided they feel “at peace with God”. Unlike, say, the Argentine document on Amoris which, one could argue, left just enough room for an orthodox reading, however widely it also left the doors open for abuse by others, the Maltese bishops in their document come straight out and say it: holy Communion is for any Catholic who feels “at peace with God” and the Church’s ministers may not say No to such requests.]

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Aunty on Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Mueller on Francis and Benedict XVI

I do think Aunty has expressed an approach to Amoris Laetitia that I share - and has probably expressed it more clearly than I could, and with the benefit of a lived experience that I do not have.

See The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith...

The view that I have already expressed on this blog is that, if Amoris Laetitia is read for what it actually says, rather than for what commentators think others might think it says, it is fine both from the doctrinal point of view and from the point of view of pastoral practice. See the first paragraphs here and here.

The original source, in Italian, of Cardinal Muller's remarks is here. Cardinal Muller's remarks about Amoris Laetitia occur at the end of a wider conversation, starting at about 06:00 in the video clip, considering Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis in relation to each other. Cardinal Muller argues that, though they have their own individual personalities and life experiences, it is wrong to put them in contrast with each other. We should accept the missions of both the Pope Emeritus and Pope Francis to the Church, "both are a gift to the Church". Cardinal Muller highlights one example where Pope Francis takes up a theme from Pope Benedict - the idea that evangelisation does not involve an imposition of the Gospel but an effort to draw or attract people to the Christian faith.

I like the idea of a "hermeneutic of continuity" between Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

We come like the shepherds who followed the call of the angel ....

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher to the Pontifical Household, and has been so for many years. One of the tasks associated with this office is that of preaching the sermons to the Holy Father and his co-workers in the Vatican during Advent. The text of his fourth sermon for Advent 2016 is at the Vatican Radio website, and is worth reading. The prayer offered below the extract from Fr Cantalamessa's homily is one that I used one Christmas with children and families in a parish several years ago.

St. Augustine distinguished between two ways of celebrating an event in salvation history: as a mystery (in sacramento) or as a simple anniversary. In the celebration of an anniversary, he said, we only need to “indicate with a religious solemnity the day of the year in which the remembrance of the event itself occurs.” In the celebration of a mystery, however, “not only is the event commemorated, but we do so in a way that its significance for us is understood and received devoutly."
Christmas is not a celebration in the category of an anniversary. (As we know, the choice of December 25 as the date was chosen for symbolic rather than historical reasons.) It is a celebration in the category of a mystery that needs to be understood in terms of its significance for us. St. Leo the Great had already highlighted the mystical significance of the “the sacrament of the Nativity of Christ” saying, “Just as we have been crucified with him in his passion, been raised with him in his resurrection, . . . so too have we been born along with him in his Nativity.”

A prayer for a visit to the Crib during Christmas time
[This prayer was adapted from a meditation of St Edith Stein]

Dear Jesus, your hands reach out to us as we come to the Crib.
We come like the shepherds who followed the call of the angel.
We come like the wise men who followed the star.
“Follow me” say your little hands.

May we always listen to you when you call us.
Keep us together in faith and in hope.

Dear Jesus, your open hands welcome us, and they ask us at the same time.
They ask us to be at the service of your Peace.

Open our hearts to people who are suffering.
May each of us offer signs of friendship and welcome to people who are less well off than us.

Dear Jesus, your open hands welcome us, and they ask us at the same time.
They ask us to give our lives to you.

May we choose the way in life that you want us to follow.
In the light of Christmas, may we face the problems of life today, together with people of other Churches and religions.

Mary, you are the Mother of Love.
You praised the great things done by the Lord.
You sang about how God kept his promises to the people of Israel.

Mother of Love, protect our families.
Help them to stay together.
Give them the happiness of loving and passing on life.


Fr Cantalamessa: The Holy Spirit and the Charism of Discernment

This is the title of the second of Fr Cantalamessa's Advent sermons for 2016, delivered in the presence of the Holy Father and those who work at the Vatican.

It is a most interesting read, and, if I say that that the titles of its two main sections are "Discernment in ecclesial life" and "Discernment in our own lives", you will perhaps readily see why.

This sermon's explanation of discernment as a charism, and its indications of how this should be exercised in practice (with particular reference to Ignatius Loyola), can shed considerable light on Pope Francis' reference to discernment in Amoris Laetitia.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Pope Francis to the Curia 2016

The part of Pope Francis' address during the exchange of Christmas greetings with those employed in the Curia and their families that I enjoyed most was the following, the reflection offered at the beginning:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to begin this meeting of ours by offering cordial good wishes to all of you, superiors and officials, papal representatives and staff of the Nunciatures worldwide, all those working in the Roman Curia and to your families.  Best wishes for a holy and serene Christmas and a happy New Year 2017!
Saint Augustine, contemplating the face of the Baby Jesus, exclaimed: “immense in the form of God, tiny in the form of a slave”.  To describe the mystery of the Incarnation, Saint Macarius, the fourth-century monk and disciple of Saint Anthony Abbot, used the Greek verb “smikryno”, to become small, to reduce to the bare minimum.  He says: “Listen attentively: the infinite, unapproachable and uncreated God, in his immense and ineffable goodness has taken a body, and, I dare say, infinitely diminished his glory”.
Christmas is thus the feast of the loving humility of God, of the God who upsets our logical expectations, the established order, the order of the dialectician and the mathematician.  In this upset lies all the richness of God’s own thinking, which overturns our limited human ways of thinking (cf. Is 55: 8-9).  As Romano Guardini said: “What an overturning of all our familiar values – not only human values but also divine values!  Truly this God upsets everything that we claim to build up on our own”.  At Christmas, we are called to say “yes” with our faith, not to the Master of the universe, and not even to the most noble of ideas, but precisely to this God who is the humble lover.
Blessed Paul VI, on Christmas of 1971, said: “God could have come wrapped in glory, splendour, light and power, to instill fear, to make us rub our eyes in amazement.  But instead he came as the smallest, the frailest and weakest of beings.  Why?  So that no one would be ashamed to approach him, so that no one would be afraid, so that all would be close to him and draw near him, so that there would be no distance between us and him.  God made the effort to plunge, to dive deep within us, so that each of us, each of you, could speak intimately with him, trust him, draw near him and realize that he thinks of you and loves you… He loves you!  Think about what this means!  If you understand this, if you remember what I am saying, you will have understood the whole of Christianity”.
God chose to be born a tiny child because he wanted to be loved.  Here we see, as it were, how the logic of Christmas is the overturning of worldly logic, of the mentality of power and might, the thinking of the Pharisees and those who see things only in terms of causality or determinism.
The thought of this last paragraph reminds me of the particular charism of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity - the "I thirst" of Jesus on the Cross seen as a call that he should be loved.

And I laughed heartily when, at the end, Pope Francis referred to the reaction of one participant at the corresponding occasion in 2014:
When, two years ago, I spoke about the illnesses, one of you came to say to me: “Where must I go, to the pharmacy or to confession?”  “Well… both!” I replied.  And when I greeted Cardinal Brandmüller, he looked me in the eye and said: “Acquaviva!”  I, at the time, did not understand, but later, thinking about it, I remembered that Acquaviva, the third general of the Society of Jesus, had written a book which we students read in Latin; the spiritual fathers made us read it, and it was entitled:  Industriae pro Superioribusejusdem Societatis ad curandos animae morbos [roughly translates as "Guidance for Superiors of the Society for the care of illnesses of the soul"], that is, the illnesses of the soul.  Three months ago, a very good edition came out in Italian, done by Father Giuliano Raffo, who died recently, with a good prologue which indicates how to read the book, and also with a good introduction.  It is not a critical edition, but it is a really beautiful translation, very well done, and I believe it could be useful.  As a Christmas gift, I would like to offer it to each one of you.  Thank you.

NOTE: The Italian text includes extensive footnotes that have not been included in the English translation.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The end of Traditionalism?

Traditionalists have always risked the following temptations:

1. That of being "cafeteria Catholics", but ones who pick different bits of the Catholic whole than do the liberal minded to whom at one time the Traditionalists would have applied this epithet. Isn't this the import of the discussion of the "non-magisterial" nature of those recent exercises of the office of the Successor of Peter that are not amenable - and this appears now to extend beyond Pope Francis?

2. That of making absolute for all time those things that are relative to their own particular time or place. Isn't this what lies behind the insistence on the "Traditional Latin Mass", even though Pope Benedict indicated that the Ordinary Form, celebrated according to the Missal of Paul VI, should be considered an authentic expression of the tradition of the Church?

3. That of becoming an alternative to the present day teaching office of the Church, with its own respected authorities and defining axioms. Do we not see this in the replacing of the "non-magisterial" in the exercise of the office of the Successor of Peter with the teaching of the Traditionalist "blogisterium", something that the internet has enabled in a way not seen before? And isn't there an irony in its claim to authentication by the support in the media of Catholic intellectuals* when it was precisely such a display of intellectuals in the media that they blame for undermining catechetics in the 1960s and 1970s?

4. That of living in a permanent state of contestation with others in the Church. Do we not see this in the critique of "conservatives" now, when in the past that contestation might have been directed only towards the liberal minded in the Church? Where other movements in the Church  can find their origin in a founding charism, an individual gift of grace given at a time and place but with a value for the Church as a whole, does not the Traditionalist movement only find its definition in contestation with the contemporary life of the Church in favour of a concept of "Tradition"?

5. That of siding with a concept of Tradition over and against the Successor of Peter. Do we not see this in the discussion of "conservatives" who have "sided with the Pope against Tradition"? When one moves aside from the exercise of the office of the Successor of Peter - and, indeed, from that of an ecumenical council - does not Tradition become something of the past rather than something that has its living expression in the exercise of office in the Church? Are we not seeing a certain legitimisation here of the stance taken by the Society of St Pius X at the time of their illicit episcopal ordinations?

When I read something like this, from a spokesman of the Traditionalist movement, and I cut through its apparent credibility and its pigeon-holing of others, do I not in reality see Traditionalism arriving at a destination that is inherent in its risks highlighted above? A move away from a living of a Catholic whole towards an isolated corner, in a permanent state of "against" and adhering to a certain concept of Tradition as its prime source of judgement? means is that a very large proportion of our conservative Catholic voices have been forced to reconsider the narrative, which has been a favourite of their school of thought, that everything which has gone wrong has gone wrong because of people misunderstanding or mis-implementing Vatican II or the post-Conciliar popes. When a pope has made it clear that his personal view is something nor really consistent with the Tradition--Paul VI on the liturgy, John Paul II on the death penalty or the authority of the husband over the family--they have tended to side with the Pope against Tradition, despite the fact that the Papal statements on the subject tended to lack magisterial weight....
...What happens to ultra-montanist Catholic conservatives** who finally realise that some at least of the Church's problems go right to the top--who take, as the metaphor of the hour has it, the red pill?
Ask a Traditionalist. Almost all us have gone through this process personally: I certainly have.
That move from the "conservative" to the "Traditionalist". Isn't it telling that the terms are "conservative" and "Traditionalist", and not "Catholic"?
Are we not instead called to live according the Catholic "whole", in which Tradition lives in its context of Scripture and the living teaching office, the Magisterium?

*... but are these intellectuals in large part from among the "usual suspects" of Traditionalism?
** .... the irony of this when Pope Francis has been accused of setting up "straw men"!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Amoris Laetitia nn.304-306

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. [AL n.305]
In context, this refers to "irregular" marital situations such as those of the person who has divorced and re-married. In this situation, the Church's discipline does not allow the person to receive Holy Communion.

But I do think we need to be careful in how we understand the grounds for the Church's discipline in this regard. It represents a particular application of Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law:
Those ....  obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. 
The key words here are, firstly, persevering. For the person who is re-married, their situation is one that persists and is not going to foreseeably end, it is one in which they perservere, continue. Secondly, the word manifest. Their situation is a visible situation, one that can be seen in the public record and practice of life, that can give scandal in the technical sense of the word.  And the third word is grave (sin). Divorce and re-marriage constitutes what is termed "grave matter", and this not only because of the injustice it represents to the nature of marriage seen in its human dimension but also because it denies its irrevocable representation of the union of Christ and his Church, that is, the love of God towards mankind.

In other words, it is the "objective situation of sin", to use the words of n.305, that is the ground for not admitting the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, and this remains in place independently of any judgement or discernment that might be made with regard to mitigating factors.

The teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on mortal sin is found in n.1855 ff (my italics added):
Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. .... Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation.... For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.".... Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God's law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice.
It is clear from this that a person who is divorced and remarried might be in an objective situation of sin - and therefore be unable to receive Holy Communion - but not in a situation of mortal sin. Equally, if the conditions of knowledge and consent are met, they might be both in a situation of objective sin and unable to receive Holy Communion for that reason, and in a situation of mortal sin and unable to receive Holy Communion for that reason too (cf Canon 916), though it is unlikely to be publicly visible.

When Amoris Laetitia n.305 refers to the possibility that someone living in an objective situation of sin can nevertheless be "living in God's grace" it is referring to the first of these two possibilities. Charity might be wounded in that case, but it is not destroyed as would be the case in the second of the two possibilities.

This then makes complete sense of Amoris Laetitia n.306:
In every situation, when dealing with those who have difficulties in living God's law to the full, the invitation to pursue the via caritatis must be clearly heard. Fraternal charity is the first law of Christians ....
Where "the vital principle within us - that is, charity -" has not been broken, then the pastoral discernment of the particular situation should arrive at that style of charitable engagement that is appropriate to the individual situation and which will lead to a growth in grace. It is this growth in charity that is the first object of pastoral discernment and accompaniment.

It also makes sense of the reference in the preceding n.303 to the role of conscience, suggesting that it will firstly recognise the objective wrong of the situation and then prompt towards a progress along the way of charity:
...conscience can do more than recognise that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognise 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 is what God himself is asking ...
Much of the comment that is critical of Amoris Laetitia, and of these paragraphs in particular, lazily conflates the "objective situation of sin" to being one of "mortal sin", and with similar laziness identifies the mortal sin as the canonical ground for the Church's discipline of refusing the divorced and remarried Holy Communion. Having done these two, it is then natural to accuse these paragraphs of Amoris Laetitia and their urging of pastoral discernment - utterly  inaccurately - of having overturned the Church's discipline on Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried.